Succeeding in Graduate School: The Career Guide for Psychology Students

By Steven Walfish; Allen K. Hess | Go to book overview

1
Choosing a Career in Psychology
Steven Walfish
Allen K. Hess

In the mid 1970s psychology was the most popular major on U.S. campuses. Students hoped to “change the world, ” and psychology was a favored path toward that goal. However, cultural changes led to the rise of other majors. In the 1980s business became the most popular major. Levine and Levine (1992) suggested that political tenor of the times relates to the way problems are defined in our society. Under conservative administrations, individuals are viewed as the cause of their own problems, it is assumed that they must help themselves out of their difficulties. Under liberal administrations, environmental approaches and social safety nets are seen as the way to improve the human condition.

Today psychology is once again among the most popular majors at colleges and universities. Murray (1996) pointed to a rise in the numbers of psychology majors of almost 50% and compared this to a growth of 18% in education and only 6% in business majors. One psychologist she interviewed indicated that he saw no reason for this pace to slowdown before 2010 or 2020. Another opined that the influence of the media has increased awareness that major social problems are fundamentally related to human behavior, and that psychological science may help people, through research and practice.

Murray (1996) also noted that many of the new psychology majors are women. Kohout and Williams (1999) reported that more than two-thirds of the doctorates in psychology in 1997 were awarded to women. This proportion contrasts with figures of 15% in 1950 and 25% in 1970, respectively. Similarly, there has been an exponential increase in the proportion of ethnic minorities who entered the field from the 1970s to the late 1990s. The impact that such demographic changes will have on the profession is unclear at this time, but there is no doubt that the profession will evolve to incorporate the characteristics and values of these previously under represented groups.

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