Students interested in helping others through mental or social change should consider careers in psychology or sociology, two growing fields that aim to diagnose and treat mental illness or emotional disorders. Most colleges and universities in the United States offer programs in sociology and psychology, and students may elect to major in one field or both. Advanced degrees, such as master's and doctoral degrees, also help improve a sociology or psychology graduate's competitiveness in the job market.
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Students with a strong interest in psychology can pursue a career as a psychologist. These trained professionals diagnose, treat and evaluate patients who suffer from mental illness, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and eating disorders. Psychologists generally meet with patients several times a month and work in home or office settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 34% of psychologists are self-employed as private practitioners or as independent consultants. Students of psychology can pursue careers as clinical, health, school or counselling psychologists or might choose to become geropsychologists, who deal with the elderly, or neuropsychologists, who study the relationship between the brain and human behaviour. Psychologists must hold doctoral degrees. A psychologist with a PhD or Doctor of Psychology degree might also pursue a careers in teaching, research, counselling and clinical treatment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a psychologist was £41,600 in 2010.
Sociologists study human culture, groups, organisations and social institutions. They also study human behaviour, crime and interaction in society and social situations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most sociologists find employment as teachers or in niche markets as research assistants, writers or policy analysts. A sociologist must hold a master's degree or PhD in sociology or a related field, and many have ample work experience in the field. Sociologists generally work in office settings, keep regular hours and are encouraged to conduct research and write for publication. Sociologists who work in university settings often experience greater pressure to publish. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 9,000 employed sociologists in 2009, and employment of sociologists is expected to grow faster than average. The median annual salary for sociologists in May 2008 was £44,570, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A student with an interest in both psychology and sociology may consider pursuing a career as a criminologist. These trained professionals work with state and federal authorities, including police and detectives, in the assessment, diagnosis and evaluation of criminals. Criminologists often work in police stations, jails and courts or may work in private practice or federal justice agencies. These professionals work to evaluate the criminal's mental stability and predict the criminal's mental state at the time of the crime. Criminologists generally hold a bachelor's degree in sociology, psychology or a related field and a master's degree or PhD in criminology, crime studies or a related field. Students often study victimology, theoretical criminology, drug addiction, correctional behaviour and psychology while pursuing advanced degrees. The average annual salary for a criminologist in 2010 was approximately £35,750, according to Legal Criminal Justice Schools.
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