Guest Blog: Career Paths for Psychology Majors

Alan Carniol (C ’05)

It was probably around this time in my senior year that I started to panic. As a psychology major, I didn’t know what my career options were or how my education could help me get a job.  Worse, when I shared my major at career fairs, I often received, “When we need a therapist, we’ll call you,” or the quickly overplayed, “So you can read minds. What am I thinking right now?”

The good news is that there are a ton of jobs that benefit directly from psychological know-how and the skills learned in a psychology major. I’ll discuss some here.

Marketing: Understanding what different people want and connecting products to these wants. The work is rarely developing advertising slogans. More often it’s about data. Qualitative data includes running focus groups or following people in daily life and recording actions. Quantitative data includes collecting surveys, tracking purchases, or measuring online activities.

With this data, products are designed, prices are set, sales channels are selected, and branding is chosen. Straight out of college, you can land a job in market research. From there, you can enter marketing strategy and design marketing campaigns.

Talent Management: How to make an organization stronger by making people happier, better incentivized and more productive. This field includes: hiring, training, executive coaching, structuring compensation (e.g. to make employees collaborative or competitive), building cultures (e.g. connecting cultures of two recently merged companies), and teaching managers to be more effective.

Entry-level jobs include recruiter, human resources analyst or human capital consultant (like at Deloitte or Philly local Gap International). Some jobs require more education. Columbia has a Master’s in Organizational Psychology, and there are other Master’s and PhD programs in Organizational Behavior.

Product Development and Design: Creating products to fill human needs. Building a new product requires design, engineering and understanding of human behavior. The number of opportunities is limited for non-technical experts, but design firms such as IDEO hire people into positions with titles like Human Factors Specialist.

Consulting and Finance: Using data and analysis to determine the value of resources and to make recommendations about these resources. At this point, on-campus recruiting may have finished, but know that the analytical skill set you’ve developed through psychological research can be strong preparation for jobs in these fields.

Entrepreneurism: Building something out of nothing. The web and new web technology, some tailored to non-techies, have made starting a company pretty low cost. As an entrepreneur, you may be called upon to do any or all the other jobs I’ve described.

Education: Education is an industry hungry for innovation and talent. Yes, Teach for America, NYC Teaching Fellows, and individual charter schools would love you in the classroom. In addition, national charter school management organizations like Achievement First or KIPP need help identifying methods to improve education and launching new schools.

Counseling and Therapy: You are probably familiar with some, but not all, of these opportunities. These include social work, family counseling, and clinical psychology. There is a growing field known as life coaching where you enable psychologically healthy individuals to achieve their life goals. Some opportunities exist straight out of school, though often you need additional training.

Wrapping Up

If any of these opportunities intrigue you, reach out to career services and ask for companies who have recruited Penn students in the past. Also, contact Penn alums in these fields and ask for a 20-minute phone call to learn about their experiences.

At the end of each call, don’t ask for a job. Instead, ask for the names of two or three more people to speak with in this industry. Eventually, from these conversations, you will be invited for interviews.

To your success,

Alan Carniol C’05 is the founder of two companies Career Cadence and Interview Success LLC. There, he uses his psychology major training to design new products, develop marketing strategies, and analyze data qualitatively and statistically. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Alan received an MBA from Yale School of Management and worked as a municipal financial consultant for Public Financial Management Inc.

Day in the Life: Non-Profit dedicated to Scientific Research

November 7th through 11th focused on Careers in Science.  To aid and wrap up those resources, we are excited to have alum Kelsey Dashiell talk about her career at DebRa of America on Wednesday, November 16th on @PennCareerDay.  She’ll share what it’s like to work in an area that you may not have considered before in the world of science – non-profits work.  There’s more to research in this industry, there are also relationships!  Read more about Kelsey below and remember to follow her on the 16th!

Kelsey Dashiell is a Program Manager at DebRA of America (, the only national non-profit dedicated to funding research into a cure while providing programs and services to people suffering from Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB).  EB is a rare genetic disease characterized by chronic, painful blistering inside and outside the body.

As Program Manager, Kelsey is responsible for maintaining and evaluating DebRA’s existing programs while developing new ones.  She ensures that services meet patient needs, communicates with families and health providers, and looks for gaps in existing EB care where DebRA could be of aid.

Prior to working for DebRA, Kelsey was an intern at GBCHealth and volunteered in Peru designing health programs.  She graduated from the School of Arts and Sciences in 2009 with a BA in Health and Societies, concentrating in Health Care Markets and Finance.

Linking In

I have links on my mind today.

No.  Not those kind of links.

Not those either.

Ah yes.  That’s the ticket.

I hope everyone has been following Penn alumna Ada Chen as she live Tweets her day as an employee of LinkedIn today on our @PennCareerDay feed!

Ada has been working with us all month to highlight opportunities at LinkedIn and also telling us about her career working in (and then creating her own) start-ups!  She wrote a great guest blog about it a few days ago that you really have to read.

Our friends at (who recently named us one of the Top 25 College Career Center Blogs) wrote a great article today about how you can use LinkedIn’s Classmates Tool that I think will be of interest to anyone who has been reading Ada’s day-in-the-life tweets today.  You can catch it here.

The Holiday Onslaught Begins: Parallels between OCR & Christmas hype

By Claire Klieger


Walking into Wawa today and hearing “Silver Bells” reminds me that yet again, it’s time to launch into the holiday season, whether I’m “beginning to feel a lot like Christmas” or not. I mean, don’t get me wrong; I like Christmas as much as the next Yule-tider, but can’t we take our time and celebrate one holiday at time?

Courtesy of Laughter is Good for the Soul

This year I even started to see holiday decorations for sale in stores before Halloween. As I was thinking about this, it struck me that there are actually some parallels between the early onset of Christmas mania and the OCR phenomenon on Penn’s campus. So, here they are:

It happens before I’m necessarily ready for it. We all know it—each year those songs come on during your grocery store or CVS runs earlier and earlier and OCR can feel the same way. Whether you’re talking full time positions or summer internships, OCR starts the first week of classes before you’ve even had a chance to catch your breath. And for seniors, especially, how many of you are really ready to start your post-graduation job search the second you step foot back on campus? It can be a little overwhelming.


It’s not for everyone. On-campus recruiting is great and offers lots of really wonderful opportunities for students in a convenient package but just like figgy pudding, fruit cake or the Justin Bieber Christmas album, it may not appeal to everyone. Employers from only a few industries participate in this style of recruiting and so for students not interested in banking, consulting, consumer products, retail or tech, then OCR is not for you, which is just fine.


Via Flickr

It’s everywhere. The sea of suits that appear on campus in September and October are a little like light-up animatronic reindeer lawn ornaments or huge inflatable snow globes lining the neighborhoods of American suburbia—impossible to ignore. This can also make you feel like everyone must be interviewing and getting their job offers in the fall but that’s not the case. For students in the College, only 30% of the class of 2010 received their job offers by the end of December.


Sometimes the best deals happen last minute. I’m not sure how this idea gets planted and spreads but there is a fairly pervasive notion among Penn students that if you don’t have a job by a certain date (often winter break) or if you don’t get a job through OCR, you won’t be left with anything “good,” interesting, or otherwise prestigious. The truth is that there are many really interesting things out there and just like that great holiday gift that you scored on clearance the day before Christmas Eve, often some of the coolest positions get posted closer to or even after graduation.


So sit back, relax, and roast those chestnuts over an open fire at your own pace. Even in this economy, jobs are out there and neat opportunities will be there for you to apply to whenever you happen to get into the spirit of the job hunting season. When you’re ready to deck the halls with your resume, we’ll be here to help you make your list, check it twice, and find employers who are not naughty, but nice.  Oh wait, I mean gobble, gobble!