Arts & Sciences

Revised undergraduate psychology options tied to potential careers

February 18, 2016 by Cindy O'Dell

head gears2What can you do with a psychology degree?

It’s a question students applying to Brandman often ask, and it’s a question the School of Arts and Sciences had in mind when faculty members began revising the undergraduate psychology program.

“When it was time to review the program, we started looking at the areas of concentration,” said Dr. Kat Ringenbach, who with Dr. Michael McGuire spearheaded the effort to revise the concentrations and classes offered. “I did a ton of research on the APA (American Psychological Association) website on where the up-and-coming jobs would be.”

This year, the university added child psychology, industrial psychology and community psychology concentrations. A gerontology concentration begins in 2017.

The program continues to offer a preclinical concentration, a term Ringenbach considers somewhat misleading because clinical practice requires a person to have a master’s or doctorate. It provides students interested in pursuing graduate education with the prerequisites needed in many programs.

But for students eager to be in the workplace with an undergraduate degree, the new concentrations offer additional courses that will help them gain the skills employers want in addition to the many skills a general psychology degree offers.

Those skills, including analytical/critical thinking, interpersonal skills, oral and written communication skills and the ability to work in a team, are what make the foundations of a liberal arts degree adaptable to so many occupations, said Ringenbach.

Recent grad makes use of her degree

Brandman psychology grad Crystal Castellanos tosses her gap for the camera following commencement ceremonies in May on the Chapman University campus.

Brandman psychology grad Crystal Castellanos tosses her gap for the camera following commencement ceremonies in May on the Chapman University campus.

Although the new concentrations weren’t available to Crystal Castellanos, who graduated in May, she says she felt fully prepared to work in her field immediately.

Castellanos works at Pacific Child and Family Associates as a direct service provider to children with mental disabilities, mainly autism.

“I felt really prepared when I interviewed for the job. They basically gave me a description of a behavior and I was able to talk about it and define it. The person who interviewed me was very impressed that I really could define it correctly,” she said.

The course “Human Development across the Lifespan,” one of the core requirements, gave her a solid foundation in understanding how people change over time.

“Every class I learned something new,” she said, adding that psychology students should be prepared to write numerous papers. She said she amazed at the difference between the papers she wrote while attending community college before enrolling in Brandman and those she wrote after taking a class in research methods. “It really showed me a way to find articles that helped me construct a great paper.”

Best of all, she said, was the support she got from the faculty and staff at the Antelope Valley campus. “You always have a mentor when you attend Brandman. They really do care.”

More career choices

Brandman Professor Kat Ringenbach

Professor Kat Ringenbach

The new areas of concentration will open up more career opportunities, said Ringenbach. The industrial psychology concentration prepares students for the business environment, including careers in human resources, training, evaluations and sales.

“Industrial psychologists do a lot of testing, so that’s built in,” said Ringenbach. Other courses emphasize leadership and career development.

The child psychology concentration is for students interested in working in variety of fields including in a day care or Head Start setting, group homes or health education. It’s also an excellent foundation for those who want to pursue an advanced degree in applied behavior analysis and work with children as a therapist.

The community psychology program readies students for working in community mental health programs and in case management. Government agencies,nonprofits and organizations in need of advocates policy changes are potential sources of jobs. Specific courses required include case management and cross cultural psychology.

The gerontology emphasis will give students interested providing services for an aging population. “The data showed us there would be a great need,” said Ringenbach.

The new set of concentrations provides students with more electives, she said. Since many students enroll with their general education classes completed at the community college level, they have more opportunity to take advantage of the increased variety.

“The APA’s report about where careers are going really laid out what programs we need to have to be a good strong program. So we worked hard to make sure those were included. It was a very thoughtful way to develop a program and makes it richer,” said Ringenbach about the review process that preceded adding the new concentrations.

When the psychology department was first formed, elective classes were often offered based on the interests of the faculty. “People like to teach to their strengths,” said Ringenbach. “But now we have things built into the program that the APA says are important.

And, if after working for a while, students want to return for an advanced degree, they’ll be prepared for that as well.

“Everything I need to do to go for my master’s is done. I have a great portfolio and resume,” said Castellanos.

The undergraduate psychology degree is available at 22 campuses and online.

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