Reasons Not to Major in Psychology

Portrait Of Thoughtful Young Woman Standing Against Yellow Background
  Phongthorn Hiranlikhit / EyeEm / Getty Images 

Psychology is one of the most popular college majors throughout the world. Despite the popularity of the degree, many people wonder exactly how to make a living after majoring in psychology. The degree can lead to an almost endless array of career paths, which some students can find intimidating and even a little frightening.

Is psychology a good degree? The answer to that questions depends on:

  • Whether you understand all your options
  • What you plan to do with your degree
  • What you expect to get out of a degree

Psychology can be a fascinating topic and rewarding career choice, but that doesn't mean that it's the best major for everyone. Even if you've had a lifelong love for the subject, you might find that a future in psychology is not necessarily the best choice for you.

There are plenty of great reasons to earn a psychology degree. Before you commit, take a closer look at some of the reasons why psychology might not be the right choice for you.

Psychology Is People-Oriented

By its very nature, psychology is a person-oriented profession. Not all career paths in psychology involve counseling clients, but nearly every job option does involve a significant amount of interaction and collaboration with other people. If you are more of the solitary, independent type, you might find the social aspect of psychology to be a real challenge.

This doesn't mean that you can't work in the field of psychology if you tend to be more of a loner. There are still plenty of career options outside of the mental health professions that are not necessarily focused on working directly with clients.

Experimental research, industrial-organizational psychology, and engineering psychology are all examples of professions that tend to be more research-focused and less people-oriented.

Grad School Is Often Necessary

There are plenty of entry-level job options with a bachelor's degree. The fact is, however, that if you want better job opportunities and higher pay, then you are going to need a graduate degree. A master's degree is considered the minimum for many career paths such as counseling, industrial-organizational psychology, school psychology, and health psychology.

Careers in clinical psychology require a doctorate degree plus a supervised internship and passage of state exams. The educational and training requirements are certainly nothing to sneeze at, so ask yourself if you have the commitment and drive to pursue a graduate degree.

One of the greatest things about psychology is the huge range of specialization options. Forensic psychology, social psychology, counseling psychology, school psychology, and developmental psychology are just a few that you might want to consider. No matter what your interest might be, there is probably an area of psychology that would appeal to you. The key is to carefully research your chosen field to determine how much education and training you will need to enter that field.

Many Jobs Can Be High Stress

Psychologists face stress from a variety of sources. Deadlines, irregular hours, mountains of paperwork, and clients dealing with major life crises are just a few of the things that might put a drain on your emotions. Good stress management skills are essential. While there are things you can do to improve your coping skills, this might not be the best profession for you if emotionally-charged situations make you overly anxious.

This does not mean that you need to feel discouraged if you struggle to deal with stress. There are plenty of ways to build resilience, and you might actually find that helping other people might make you feel calmer and more capable.

If becoming a psychologist is your dream, explore strategies that will help you cope with the stress of the job.

It Requires a Passion for the Subject

People often stress the importance of pursuing a career that is best for the current situation or economy. You might feel pressured to pursue a college major or a job path simply because it appears to be the most practical or financially rewarding option. But you should feel excited and passionate about the field you are pursuing.

If you don't love the subject and the profession itself, you probably shouldn't be majoring in psychology. It is never too late to switch gears and change direction. If you suddenly realize that chemistry or microbiology is more in line with your interests and goals, don't hesitate to pursue your dreams.

If you do decide to make a change, the first thing you need to do is go talk to your academic advisor right away. Your advisor can help you devise a plan of action, figure out which courses will fill core requirements for your new major, and help you determine an academic plan that will allow you to accomplish your goals.

Salary Can Be a Concern

One of the biggest misunderstandings among students planning on majoring in psychology is that they expect to start making big bucks immediately after earning their undergraduate degree. Yes, there is certainly the potential to earn a high salary in certain fields. Are those wages the norm? No, and especially not for those without a doctorate degree.

The reality is that there are many professions within psychology that are low- to mid-salary. Actual salaries depend on a wide variety of factors, including the specialty area you choose, the sector in which you work, where you choose to live, and the degree and experience level you have. The lowest paying careers on the spectrum might pay around $20,000 a year, while those on the highest end might pay over $250,000 per year.

One advantage of a psychology degree—strong predicted job outlook. Demand for psychologists is expected to grow at a rate faster than the average for all careers over the next decade.

If the salary is one of your greatest motivations for majoring in psychology, you need to spend some time carefully researching some of the high-paying options.

A Word From Verywell

If psychology is your passion, then you should absolutely pursue it with all your heart. But if you're not sure if you're cut out for the educational and professional challenges that this career path presents, then don't hesitate to start looking for other options. This might involve switching to a related field like counseling, social work, or education. Or it might even mean shifting to an entirely different path altogether. No matter what you decide to do, remember that only you can determine what the best choice is for your unique situation.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. PsychologistsOccupational Outlook Handbook.

  2. Simpson S, Simionato G, Smout M, et al. Burnout amongst clinical and counselling psychologist: The role of early maladaptive schemas and coping modes as vulnerability factorsClinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. 2018;26(1):35-46. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01897

  3. Lin L, Christidis P, Stamm K. Salaries in Psychology: Findings from the National Science Foundation’s 2015 National Survey of College Graduates. Center for Workforce Studies.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."