Sue Frantz

What people do with a bachelor's degree in psychology: Class activity

Blog Post created by Sue Frantz on Nov 17, 2017

Here are some survey data your students may find interesting. This will be most compelling for your psychology majors.

The American Psychological Association (APA) mined the data from the 2015 National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG) and learned some interesting things about psychology’s bachelor’s degree recipients (American Psychological Association, 2017). The NSCG estimates that there are about 58 million people in the United States with a bachelor’s degree; that probably includes you. The NSCG sampled 135,000 of them in 2015 (National Science Foundation, 2017).   

After covering survey research in, say, Research Methods, ask students to work in groups to take a few minutes and think of what variables they would include in such a survey and why. Ask each group, in turn, for one variable that no other group has yet mentioned. Write the variables on the board (or computer screen) as groups report out. Keep rotating through the groups until all variables have been reported or as time allows. Next, share with students this list of key variables (scroll to 2.h.) included in the NSCG survey.

 

Ask students if there are any groups they would exclude from the survey. The NCSG excludes people who are institutionalized, who live outside the U.S., and who are 76 years old or older (scroll to 3.b).

Ask students what kind of sampling design they would use. The NCSG used stratified sampling on “demographic group” (with “an oversample of young graduates), “highest degree type,” and “occupation/bachelor’s degree field” (scroll to 3.c.).

 

Researchers started with a web survey. For those who didn’t respond to that, researchers sent them a survey in the mail. And for those who didn’t respond to that, they got a phone call for “computer-assisted telephone interviewing” (scroll to 4.a.).

 

What did APA find in that 2015 survey data about those of us with bachelor’s degrees in psychology (American Psychological Association, 2017)?

  • 4 million people in the U.S. have at least a bachelor’s degree in psychology
  • 2% got a master’s degree in psychology
  • 8% got a master’s degree in psychology first and then went on to complete a doctorate/professional degree in psychology
  • 3% got a master’s degree in something else and then a doctorate/professional degree in psychology
  • 7% directly earned a doctorate/professional degree in psychology, bypassing the master’s degree

 

Adding up those numbers, that’s 13%. What about the other 87% of psychology bachelor’s degrees holders?

  • 30% earned a masters or doctorate/professional degree in something other than psychology
  • 57% did not earn a graduate degree

 

Those 30% who earned a graduate degree in something else is nice evidence that a psychology degree is a good all-purpose sort of degree. The father of one my students took his bachelor’s in psychology to law school. He is now a judge. I wish all judges had degrees in psychology!

 

Those 57% who did not earn a graduate degree are undoubtedly putting their psychology degrees to good use, no matter what they are doing. Although some of them aren’t fully cognizant of what their education is doing for them now. Give students a copy of the American Psychological Association Guidelines for the Major. Divide students into groups, and give each group two possible jobs a person might have. Drew Appleby’s list is a nice one to choose from. Ask each group to put a checkmark for each job on their Guidelines for the Major the knowledge and skills (outcomes) that would be useful to have in their assigned jobs. For each outcome have one person in each group raise their hand if the group thought the outcome was important for one of their jobs. Have two persons in each group raise their hands if they the outcome was important for both of their jobs. Tally the number of hands for each outcome. Give students an opportunity to share why they thought particular knowledge and skills (outcomes) is important and how the psychology major is helping them achieve that knowledge and skills. For any holes in your students' observations, let them know where in the curriculum students are gaining that knowledge and those skills.

Outcomes