Use your brain: Psychologists across the country unite to defend their field

By Molly Seaman
April 6, 2016

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Grpahic by Molly Seaman

What happens when the governor of your state trash talks your major?

That’s exactly what happened in Florida. This is what Governor Rick Scott had to say about psychology majors:

“You know, we don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state. It’s a great degree if people want to get it, but we don’t need them here. I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering and math degrees. That’s what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on. Those type of degrees. So when they get out of school, they can get a job.”

Scott recently created a plan that would virtually abolish the funding of all social science and liberal arts programs at major universities in Florida.

“Allowing funds for a degree in psychology is important especially since there is so much more to learn about why we are who we are and act the way we do,” sophomore psychology major Amy Collins said. “There are so many people who deal with constant symptoms like anxiety or depression, but are afraid to get help or get diagnosed because people don’t always see mental illness as important as a physical illness.”

Psych is one of the most popular fields of study in the United States.

According to a recent study by Dr. Jane S. Halonen, professor of psychology & dean of the College of Arts & Sciences University of West Florida, psychology is one of the most popular undergraduate degrees in the country. In fact the major is ranked in the top three most popular areas of study nationwide.

“Simply having a degree in psychology I feel has opened my mind to better life satisfaction. Understanding my relationships, understanding myself regardless with what I ended up doing with my degree is so beneficial,” chair and associate professor of psychology, Melissa Terlecki, said. “I think just being exposed to psychology whether you turn into a psychologist or not is helpful for your own mental health and the understanding of other’s mental health and well being.”

Terlecki graduated from the College of New Jersey with her Bachelor in psychology and later went on to receive a Ph.D in cognitive neuroscience from Temple University.

Psychology is the fourth most popular program of study at Cabrini College. Not only is it one of the most popular, but one of the most respected and advanced departments on campus.

“The Cabrini psych department is so popular due to the amazing professors who go out of their way to make sure all of the students are getting the best education possible,” sophomore psychology major Francesca Digregorio said. “They are all so encouraging and the program is really preparing you for attending graduate school or even entering a career right after graduation.”

However, some politicians such as Scott seem to disagree that students with a degree in psychology will be able to find a job.

“If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education then I’m going to take that money to create jobs,” Scott said. “I want that money to go to degrees where people can get jobs in this state. Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so,” Scott said.

According to Dr. Halonen’s study, fewer than 25 percent of students work directly in a psychology field following graduation. This is because with a bachelor’s degree, the average salary is $30,000. However, with a Ph.D a psychologist can make $70,000 annually.

“There are certainly some degrees that are money makers from the get-go. You can have a degree in certain areas and be employed straight after your undergraduate career,” Terlecki said. “Psychology is not necessarily in that category because in Psychology we assume that you need to go on to further your education either through a masters, Ph.D or other related fields. This is because we are a more applied discipline.”

Not only has Scott insulted psychology majors across the country, he has called their profession and their dreams, well, useless.

However, Halonen’s study found that psychology students are going on to work for a wide variety of employers. The list included children’s homes, social service agencies, the juvenile division of a superior court as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“Our degree at Cabrini can really be applied to a lot of different career paths. Students don’t just become psychologists they work in human resources, business, we’ve even had majors become police officers,” Terlecki said. “So really the skills that we teach in our discipline can be applied to a wide range of career opportunities as well as provide life satisfaction. Understanding other people and yourself is important.”

Cabrini College students such as sophomore psychology major Amy Collins find this statement to be true.

“Personally I was interested in psych because I am exposed to mood disorders including bipolar disorder in my family and wanted to learn how to help people who have this disorder as well as learn how it is developed,” Collins said.

Despite certain politicians efforts such as Scott’s to decrease interest in the major interest in the major has only grown.

“Once everyone went to high school, a high school diploma was not as valued. Same goes for college, not everyone went to college so a degree was highly valued. Now everyone goes to college whether you’re ready for it, prepared for it, or if you’re college material or not,” Terlecki said. “So in a way, graduate school is the new college. We prepare our students to take their college education to the next level which sets them apart from other students.”

Molly Seaman

Managing Editor of the Loquitur at Cabrini University. Colorado Born and Raised. 21 years old with a deep love for people, travel and education.

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