Help me find a job with a B.A. in psychology.
November 9, 2008 7:05 PM   Subscribe

I recently graduated (this year) with a B.A. in psychology from UC Riverside and would like to escape my current retail job in favor of something in the field before I apply to grad school.

I have been with my current job here in southern Riverside county for almost four years, now. I earn a few dollars above minimum wage (~$12/hour), work 40 hours a week, have a HMO health insurance plan, six paid holidays every year, vacation time, personal time and sick time as well as a 401K program.

However, I'd really like to find a (preferably local) job that will give me some experience in the field and look good on a resume (and on a grad school application). I've already looked at three local county health department websites and they all require masters degrees and previous experience.

I'd like to find something that has benefits close to what I have at my current job, though the main criteria is that it needs to pay as well or better than the job I have now because I do have bills (car payments, insurance, cell phone, etc.) to pay. I really don't know where to start looking, apart from maybe inquiring at some of the local hospitals.

Any suggestions or advice would be much appreciated!
posted by digitaldraco to Work & Money (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What type of grad schools are you applying to? There is a huge difference with clinical psych, for example. PhD vs. MA matters too.

In general though for a PhD program, find a job that will allow you to:
- Continue to get research experience. If you weren't an RA as an undergrad, do anything possible to get that resolved by being one now, even re-enrolling as an undergrad. It is so important when applying to PhD programs.
- Work with professors who can write LoRs for you. The more "famous" the professor, the better (generally).
- Potentially get you some publications.
- Potentially get you to get to some conferences to present your work.
- Allow you to keep up on the literature in your field.

So keep your eyes peeled for university jobs that fit these criteria.

And, as always, this would also be a good thing to post on LiveJournal's applyingtograd community.
posted by k8t at 7:20 PM on November 9, 2008


Sorry I wasn't more specific but while I'd like to leave the possibility of a PhD open, right now I am only looking to get a M.A. degree (probably in counseling/clinical psych, with an emphasis on positive psychology). I don't have any real desire to do research, and teaching is only a "maybe".

Unfortunately, I don't really have the funds or time to re-enroll for undergrad coursework.

Here are some more details:

I am looking at San Francisco State, San Diego State, and Sonoma State. I am considering adding a couple more to the list, "just in case" but I'd like to get out of the Los Angeles area.

Also, I have had some limited RA experience, mostly doing data entry, and have promises of LoRs from Dr. Funder, my supervisor in the counseling center's biofeedback program, and the grad student who I did my RA work with.

Thanks for the LJ link. I'll check that out.
posted by digitaldraco at 7:52 PM on November 9, 2008

Personally, I don't know if you need to get a job to help you get into an MA program. I may be wrong, but I'm under the impression that most terminal MA programs will take people based on GRE/GPA.
posted by k8t at 8:02 PM on November 9, 2008


That brings up another question I have: is there a good/best way to prep for the GRE? Should I take classes or buy some study materials?

I graduated with a 3.48 cumulative GPA.
posted by digitaldraco at 8:09 PM on November 9, 2008

Take a practice GRE to see where you score "naturally" - and then set your goals from there. Some schools have 1000 or 1200 cutoffs. You can memorize vocab for verbal and learn the math skills and verbal skills from books.

Hopefully your in-major GPA was better than 3.48! Good stats grades especially can make up a bit for poor GRE math scores.
posted by k8t at 8:18 PM on November 9, 2008

Check Craig's List - any job working with a disabled or troubled population will be good experience. Also consider volunteer work that lets you help people (Girl Scout leader, crisis hotline etc.) You might also want to check out San Jose State. They have a small program and they favor recent college graduates with a BA psychology (as opposed to some programs which prefer life experience over class work).
posted by metahawk at 8:26 PM on November 9, 2008

Get a job as a case manager with a mental health agency, a BA in psych is plenty to get you an entry level position.
posted by The Straightener at 8:31 PM on November 9, 2008

k8t: Sounds like a good idea, thanks. My in-major (upper division) GPA was 3.52, but stats was one of my weaker points.

metahawk: SJSU is a bit south of where I'd like to be, but I'll give them a look. Thanks for the tip.

Straightener: What kind of mental health agencies are you speaking of?
posted by digitaldraco at 8:36 PM on November 9, 2008

Oops. My upper-div GPA was around 3.7, not 3.5. This is just an estimate; I haven't done the exact math.
posted by digitaldraco at 8:42 PM on November 9, 2008

Who are your area major mental health providers? Cities will normally have a central mental health department that both provides services and makes referrals to networks of nonprofit mental health agencies that provide an array of services in the community. So for instance in Philadelphia there is Community Behavioral Health or CBH which is a branch of the city's health and human services division. They provide some services but mostly operate the referral network where clients going into or coming out of the psychiatric inpatient facilities are linked to community agencies (Horizon House, Comhar, CATCH, PMHCC, etc, etc, etc) who provided day to day care, counseling services, home based social services, and so on.

Jobs at these nonprofits are generally a little easier to get than the city jobs and they're usually good starting points for new psych grads because, well, they're often trial by fire jobs that can be super intense and occasionally risky and have a huge turnover rates. However, if you're new it's a great way to see what mental illness is really like, start interacting with other mental health professionals including psychiatrists and mental health nurses, and counselors and get to know the range of medications generally prescribed for various illnesses, etc. You could work at an long term care facility, you could work with a community mental health team, you could work in a hospital, correctional or judicial setting. There's a lot of different options out there for new grads to get some clinical experience, you just need to figure out what's available to you and what you're interested in if you want to go this route.
posted by The Straightener at 8:48 PM on November 9, 2008


I live in a (relatively) small suburban area, many miles from the nearest "major" city. My city's population is under 100k.

I'll do some investigating and see what we offer around here, though, thanks!
posted by digitaldraco at 8:58 PM on November 9, 2008

In that case you can substitute "county" for city, the structure and its constituents will likely be very similar. Even rural areas have mental health provider networks.
posted by The Straightener at 9:01 PM on November 9, 2008

Well, the county departments I've investigated wanted M.A.'s, so hopefully there's something more local with lower requirements.
posted by digitaldraco at 9:06 PM on November 9, 2008

Have you considered working for a Child Protective Services department?

You could also serve as a guardian ad-litem for children in custody cases.

It's not quite on point, but it's a position that benefits from understanding psychology.
posted by abdulf at 9:13 PM on November 9, 2008


No, I hadn't considered those options, but I will add them to the list. Do you know who I would contact in regards to that?

posted by digitaldraco at 12:28 AM on November 10, 2008

A letter of recommendation from a grad student is pretty useless, so I'd keep looking on that front.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:31 AM on November 10, 2008

After I graduated with my BS in psych I worked full-time as a telephone counselor for a crisis hotline. I started volunteering with the organization when I was in my last year of school and they happened to have a full-time position open up not long after I graduated. My salary and benefits were pretty close to what you're getting now... so I'm not sure if that's exactly what you're looking for. Of course, that was five years ago and in Tallahassee, FL where the cost of living wasn't that high. I did that for a year before I went to grad school (for a PsyD).
posted by Nolechick11 at 7:29 AM on November 10, 2008

You might give Craigslist a whirl--do a search for the word "psychology" under the jobs section to see if any jobs are specifying "B.A. in psychology" or "psychology majors," or what have you.
posted by corey flood at 9:02 AM on November 10, 2008

Hey digitaldraco, sorry I didn't check back on this question.

To be a guardian-at-litem you need to talk to the family court judges. Generally schedule an appointment with the court coordinator of a court to meet with the judge. Bring your resume and talk about your education and training. If you're someone the judge trusts, you can start getting court appointments. Usually the parties involved pay you, so you'll need to figure out a way to collect from them.
posted by abdulf at 9:13 PM on January 3, 2009

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