Psychology program preps grads for diverse career paths both inside and outside field

February 28, 2017

Lisle, Illinois ~ Benedictine’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program provides students with a strong foundation in the biological, cognitive, social and emotional underpinnings of human behavior.

They gain in-depth knowledge of the mental health system, its continuum of care for a wide variety of disorders, developmental issues in children and adults, and how to write and properly analyze research, which makes them strong candidates for a number of jobs both within and outside core psychology fields.

“Our program creates an environment in which individual development, as well as civic engagement and social responsibility, are fostered,” said Pat Somers, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Sociology, Criminal Justice and Clinical Psychology. “With this background as a foundation, students are well equipped to enter a number of positions in many different fields.”

Graduates from the program are prepared for careers in administration and management, sales, human resources, training, business, marketing, real estate and law enforcement, and as psychiatric technicians, substance abuse counselors, social work assistants or as health educators.

“There is hardly an industry out there that doesn’t have a need for a graduate with a strong psychology background,” said Jane Boumgarden, associate professor. “We also constantly ask ourselves, ‘How are we best preparing our students for the jobs of the future that will require the application of psychology?’”

Students in the program study the behavior of individuals, groups, society and organizations and learn both the theories of psychologists and how the theories are applied in real situations. They learn to work with people effectively in a range of careers in health, public affairs, administrative support, business, sales and the service industry.

“We have faculty members in clinical practice who are out there working in the field,” said Boumgarden. “We also have faculty with extensive research backgrounds in academia, so we are pretty eclectic in terms of practice and research, which is a nice blend for our students in terms of what they can be exposed to and who they can be mentored by while they are here.”

Students also benefit from guest lecturers who come to campus to share their expertise on a wide variety of cross-disciplinary topics and issues central to the fields of psychology and sociology. 

Graduates from the undergraduate program are well prepared to start the Master of Science in Clinical Psychology program at Benedictine, which features extensive field experience in various mental health settings as an essential part of the program’s requirements.The curriculum prepares students to take state examinations to become licensed professional counselors or licensed clinical professional counselors, and is an excellent foundation for further doctoral study.

Graduates are also well suited to start master’s programs in social work and counseling psychology, continuing through to the doctoral level in psychology.

A majority of graduates have found employment in private practice, public mental health centers, hospitals, residential treatment facilities and social service agencies serving individuals and families.

Job prospects for psychologists are expected to be in high demand through 2024, with employment growing at 19 percent (faster than the average for all occupations), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Three of the top careers in this field include industrial-organizational psychologists, clinical or counseling psychologists and school psychologists.

Recent events also suggest enhanced career opportunities for those with psychology backgrounds as more communities see a need to provide increased mental health services and diversion programs to more adequately serve the 44 million American adults who struggle with mental illness (including nearly half who go untreated).

The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, which was recently signed into law, introduces reforms to make insurance companies cover mental illness more extensively, and emphasizes prevention, early intervention and care integration, as well as criminal justice reform and support for law enforcement and others who respond to people with mental illness.

“We’ve already started to see some of this locally as well with the new warden of the Cook County Jail,” said Boumgarden. “She is one of the first clinical psychologists to run a major jail in the United States. “You have to ask, ‘Why do we have so many nonviolent people in the criminal justice system with mental issues today?’ That is a huge issue we need to address as a country,” Boumgarden added. “Part of our job is staying on top of these issues and making sure our students are receiving a curriculum that is relevant to what they might see as professionals in the areas of mental health or social work.”

Students who meet the requirements (3.000 minimum GPA and a “C” or better in Clinical Practicum Lab) can apply for on-the-job field placements with 40 local agencies to obtain practical work experience. The placements include working on a crisis hotline, in a large clinical practice, at an inpatient psychiatric unit in a hospital setting, in police departments and at several other social service and rehabilitation agencies.

“The major thing I see that draws students to this field of study is that they want to work with people and they want to make a difference in people’s lives,” Boumgarden said.

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Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 9,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. A 2016 PayScale Inc. report ranked BenU one of the top 10 colleges in Illinois for return on investment and in the top 20 percent nationally. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.

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Ryan Blackburn
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(630) 829-6070
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