Questioning the Sufficiency of an Undergraduate Psychology Degree

As a learner and student, the question would ring up again whenever I succumb to simultaneous mind-wandering and self-reflection mode – what can I do with just a bachelor’s degree in psychology after graduation? It has been very clear that despite the popularity of the psychology major in universities, there are limited career options for holders of only an undergraduate degree in this discipline.

Unemployed after graduation not a public concern?

It still comes as a surprise to me that this is a long-standing problem for graduates, yet voices are not heard about the issue. In the broader sense, this limited employment issue has not reached the level of public concern as it has with the future shortage of physicians and healthcare professionals (Japsen, 2016). At this rate, it would be a sure fantasy to envision a world which faces a shortage of psychologists. Psychology is one of the disciplines with the highest unemployment rate, per the National Center for Education Statistics (Cherry, 2016). Ironically, a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology ranked first in unemployment with a rate of about 20 percent (APA, 2011). Are we coming to a crisis in psychology, with a question of whether this trend is due more to the increasing number of its degrees being awarded or to the lack of demand for graduates in the field by the society in general? While there is a greater number of graduates with degrees in the health discipline than that of psychology, the former’s unemployment rate is not very much affected, at less than 1 percent for physicians and surgeons (Cherry, 2016; Hargreaves, 2013).

Perhaps, students who will be graduating soon should give some thought on their next path before they would be left on their own to deal with it. Institutions and organizations that promote the teaching, learning and research of psychological science should get the conversation started on how to ease the transition process of their students graduating to become professionals with a fulfilling career against all odds. Can we make it a goal and responsibility of experts to make psychology a more competitive and specialized degree? This can be helped by expanding the choice of courses which offer more in-depth concentration in certain subdisciplines. Take the highly competitive field of medicine as an example which holds a long list of subspecialties, the number of specializations for psychology, being a younger field, pales in comparison. Additionally, the creation of more combined programs of Bachelor’s/Master’s or Master’s/Ph.D. in psychology can make up for the insufficiency of a general bachelor’s degree. The focus should also be on a diversification of the potential career options in addition to directing the spotlight towards research and teaching positions in post-secondary institutions. Another suggestion is for institutions to offer more combined major programs in psychology and a related field so that a future career route alternative to psychology alone could provide more security and ease the transition from an undergraduate to a graduate program that can be completely unrelated to psychology.

Is psychology functioning for the world’s needs?

Looking at the situation from the perspective of the common society, it can be doubtful at times whether the goals of psychology as an independent discipline appear to align with the needs of the community and the world-at-large. Is psychology and its curriculum offered by institutions to undergraduates functioning at their best in providing practical applications for the world today? How will its future be determined by its progress? There seems to be an imbalance between an oversupply of talents and an underdemand of such expertise. Perhaps, it is time to start thinking of ways to further bridge the gap between theoretical psychological knowledge and avenues of their specific application in the community so that their necessity can be fully realized. The great pioneers of psychology in the past century has laid remarkable foundations of theories for us to expound on, yet whether they can withstand the test of time to be of practical benefit for the world of 21st century still remains to be questioned and explored.

Is the issue being addressed?

There is the impression that with the general lack of discussion, institutions are not explicitly addressing the core of the issue that leads to jobless psychology graduates. In consideration that psychology will continue on its path to being a popular undergraduate degree, it may persist in making up a greater proportion of unemployed university graduates in the near future. Yet, more public attention is paid to medical school graduates in the event of unemployment lamenting their wasted talent despite having a greater number of jobless experts from psychology (Blackwell, 2015). Psychology students could be pressured more strongly to develop interests and skills that are secondary to their degree and must work doubly hard on earning recognition from activities beyond the area of academics. It is saddening to realize that owning a degree does not grant you a better advantage over the majority as you are already part of the unemployed majority. The message is now clear that merely relying on academic achievements and a single degree in the field of psychology will not take you anywhere near guaranteed success in terms of employment and career. We are already aware that there should be something else that we could fall back on should we come to meet with failures and refused opportunities along the way. It is hoped that with the consideration of institutions at large, psychology as a progressive field could perpetuate its influence and fully accommodate and sustain the aspirations of its graduates.


American Psychological Association. (2011, November 14). APA issues clarification on psychology employment data. Retrieved from

Blackwell, T. (2015, June 12). Untrained and unemployed: Medical schools churning out doctors who can’t find residencies and full-time positions. Retrieved from HYPERLINK “”octors-who-cant-find-residencies-and-full-time-positions

Cherry, K. (2016, October 3). What is the job market for psychology majors? Retrieved from

Hargreaves, S. (2013, January 7). Jobs with the lowest (and highest) unemployment. Retrieved from

Japsen, B. (2016, December 30). U.S. faces doctor shortage despite specialist growth. Retrieved from

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