Returning to New York, she would earn a Master's Degree in political science from Columbia University.
After college, she worked as the Supervisor of Recreation in the New Deal WPA before becoming the Executive Secretary of the Harlem Tuberculosis and Health Committee of the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association.
In the Fall of 1944, the US Navy opened the doors of officer's candidacy to women of African descent and Lieutenant Pickens, along with Ensign Wills, became the first woman of African descent to become officers in the US Navy.
Lieutenant Pickens would lead the physical training sessions for all further WAVES recruits.
Lieutenant Harriet Ida Pickens died in 1969.