I have always wanted to go into a line of work that involves helping people. For a long time, though, I didn’t really know what I meant by that. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in high school, and once I got to college, I kept changing my major and latching onto different ideas–never for very long.
Until now! Now I feel like I finally know what I want to do, and I’ve felt that way for a while and don’t think I’ll be changing my mind. I want to help people with their mental health. I’m not talking about serious mental health issues (at least, not necessarily)–I mean the kinds of anxieties and worries that we all deal with.
The problem is this: I graduate soon, and I don’t think I have the right academic background to be a psychiatrist or anything. What can I do?
Training as a psychiatrist is a serious commitment: psychiatrists are medical doctors, which means that you’d have to go to medical school to become one. And that is indeed difficult to do if you haven’t taken the proper classes as an undergraduate–but it’s not impossible!
You could supplement your undergraduate studies with a post baccalaureate program that will give you the background you need in order to apply to medical school and become a psychiatrist. It won’t be easy, but if you want to work with the mentally ill from a medical perspective, it may be your best option.
But, with that said, you described something–speaking with people and helping them with anxieties–that you don’t necessarily need to be a psychiatrist to do. Psychologists also do this sort of work. Becoming a psychologist isn’t easy, either, but it’s possible that your academic background matches that career path better.
And don’t forget about therapists and counselors, either. Perhaps you should pursue a master’s degree in school counseling and take on a role at a school counseling students–a job that includes providing both practical help and support for emotional and mental health needs.
No matter which of these careers you choose, you’ll be able to help people in the way that you describe in your letter. And with a wealth of options to choose from, you should be able to find a career that fits your needs as well as your academic background and current situation.
And your options don’t end here. Your career is important, and while the advice we’ve provided here should be helpful, it’s far from complete. You should keep researching options on your own, and you should consider speaking with a career counselor, too. Career counselors are experts in helping people navigate through precisely the sort of dilemma that you’re having now!
“There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. Pursue these.” — Michael Nolan