So you've decided to major in psychology, but what exactly do you plan to do after you graduate? Competition for many jobs has increased dramatically and in order to compete in today's market, it pays to carefully consider your career options and select a field that is in high demand. One exercise you may find helpful is to look through a list of psychology careers to see what your options are and then narrow down the list to those in which you are most interested.
There are also lots of career paths in psychology beyond some of the "typical" options such as clinical or counseling psychology. In fact, some of the most interesting job options might be those that you do not hear much about such as aviation psychology or traffic psychology.
Obviously, the best job is the one that you truly love, whether it involves providing therapy, conducting research, or solving real-world problems. Before you decide on a career, spend some time thinking about what really interests you and the type of work setting you would most likely enjoy.
While salaries can vary, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a faster than average growth for psychologists. The demand for psychologists is expected to grow by 19 percent through the year 2024.
While this is not a comprehensive list of every single psychology career out there, the following are just a few of the psychology-related jobs that have a strong projected employment outlook or are considered an up-and-coming field with opportunity for growth.
We highlight a few of these careers to help convey the enormous variety of employment opportunities within the field of psychology. Some of these career options are specifically in psychology while others are less related but still rely on the knowledge and skills acquired while earning a psychology degree.
Consider some of these options as you plan your career path.
Art therapists utilize the expressive and creative arts to help clients cope with psychological distress and to enhance emotional well-being. People who work in this field are trained in both psychotherapy and art. By using art, clients can communicate feelings, express creativity, explore different aspects, of personality, and cope with stress.
Art therapy is often used in a variety of situations, including with:
- Adults suffering from chronic or severe stress
- Children with disabilities
- People who have suffered brain injuries
- People who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event
Aviation psychology is a relatively little known sub-specialty area of human factors psychology that involves the study of pilots, air traffic controllers, and other flight crew members. According to the Association for Aviation Psychology, people who work in this field perform a number of different duties including:
- Evaluating prospective employees
- Designing flight decks
- Selecting and training pilots
- Assessing cabin safety
- Investigating aviation accidents
- Conducting research on aviation safety
Career or Vocational Counselor
Thanks to the rapidly changing job market, many people are searching for a new job in their chosen field or even changing careers entirely.
Career counselors help individuals make career decisions and utilize tools including personality assessments, interest inventories, and other evaluation measures.
They often start by looking at a client's interests, job history, education, skills, and personality characteristics in order to determine which careers are a good match. They also help clients work on building skills, practicing interviews, improving resumes, and locating job openings. Assisting clients who are dealing with job loss or employment-related stress is also common.
Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose and treat clients suffering from psychological disorders.
These professionals typically work in hospital settings, mental health clinics, or private practices.
Clinical psychology is the single largest employment area within psychology, but there are still plenty of jobs available for qualified professionals. In order to become a clinical psychologist, you must have a doctoral-level degree in clinical psychology and most states require a minimum of a one-year internship. Most graduate school programs in clinical psychology are fairly competitive.
In a struggling economy where retailers and businesses are concerned with attracting new customers, the need for psychologists to research consumer behavior and to develop effective marketing campaigns has grown. Consumer psychologists not only study how and why people purchase goods and services, they also analyze how family, friends, culture, and media messages affect buying behavior.
Some tasks that a consumer psychologist might perform include:
- Working with consumer focus groups to determine how appealing a particular product might be
- Developing advertising and marketing campaigns to appeal to a target audience
- Conducting theoretical research on shopping and buying behavior
Counselors help a people with a wide variety of problems, including marriage, family, emotional, educational, and substance abuse issues. Nearly half of all counselors work in health care or social welfare settings, while another 11-percent work for state and local governments. While requirements vary, almost all states require at least a master's degree in order to become a licensed counselor. Typical work settings include K-12 schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, mental health clinics, and private practice offices.
Engineering psychologists use psychology to investigate how people interact with machines and other technology. These professionals use their understanding of the human mind and behavior to help design and improve technology, consumer products, work settings, and living environments.
For example, an engineering psychologist might work as part of a team to redesign a product to make it more efficient and easier to use in a work situation. Those working in academic settings report the lowest earnings, while those working in the private sector report higher salaries.
Do you love creating psychology experiments? Experimental psychologists use scientific methods and design research studies that explore many different topics within psychology. Social behavior, cognitive processes, personality, and human development are just a few of the topics that experimental psychologists might investigate.
People working in this field often specialize in a particular area such as cognitive psychology, educational psychology, or personality psychology. They may also be employed in a variety of settings ranging from universities, government agencies, research centers, and nonprofit organizations.
Forensic or Criminal Psychologist
Forensic psychologists apply psychology to the fields of criminal investigation and law. This has rapidly become one of the hottest psychology careers thanks to numerous portrayals in popular movies, television programs, and books.
While the field may not be as glamorous as it is depicted in the media, forensic psychology is still an exciting career choice with a lot of potential for growth. Forensic psychologists often work with other experts to resolve child custody disputes, scrutinize insurance claims, perform child custody evaluations, and investigate suspected child abuse.
If you are interested in this area of psychology, you might want to also consider the related field of criminal psychology. Criminal psychologists perform a variety of duties such as developing psychological profiles of criminal suspects, assessing convicted criminals to determine their risk of re-offending, and helping law enforcement catch online predators.
Genetics counselors help provide information about genetic disorders to couples and families. These professionals typically have graduate training in both genetics and counseling, and many have undergraduate degrees in areas such as psychology, social work, biology, nursing, and public health.
Genetics counselors often work with a team of medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, and geneticists to offer support, guidance, and assistance to families who have a family member with a genetic disorder or who may be at risk of passing down an inherited disorder to their offspring.
As the population of older adults continues to grow, the demand for professionals to attend to their mental health needs also increases. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), adults over the age of 65 made up 12 percent of the population in 2004. By the year 2050, 21 percent of the population will be age 65 or older.
"Geropsychologists do everything from keeping older adults mentally and physically healthy and vibrant, to working with those who are frail and have cognitive impairments," explains Deborah DiGilio, director of APA's Office on Aging. Geropsychologists can work in a wide range of areas, from providing mental health services to aging adults to designing products that make life easier for the elderly.
Health psychologists are focused on helping people living healthier lives. They study how psychological, biological, and social factors influence health. Two important areas of health psychology include helping people avoid illness and promoting healthy behaviors. Educating people about the causes of illness and teaching healthier habits are just two things that a health psychologist might do on a regular basis.
These professionals often work in settings such as hospitals, universities, health care centers, and government agencies. Some of the job duties they may perform include helping people to lose weight, stop smoking, eat healthy, and decrease stress.
Industrial-organizational psychologists focus on workplace behavior, often using psychological principles to increase worker productivity and select employees that are best-suited for particular jobs. There are several different specialty areas within industrial-organizational psychology. For example, some I-O psychologists train and assess employees, while others evaluate job candidates. While there are some job opportunities at the master's-degree level, those with a doctoral-level degree in industrial-organizational psychology are in greater demand and command significantly higher salaries.
One sub-specialty area of the field involves working in human resources management to screen and hire job applicants. These professionals are often involved in designing and administering employment screening tests and selecting job candidates that are the best fit for particular positions within a company.
School psychologists work in educational settings to help children deal with emotional, academic, and social problems. Thanks to increased interest in the mental health of children and federal education legislation, school psychology has rapidly become one of the fastest growing fields. The demand for qualified school psychologists exceeds the number of candidates available, which means that job opportunities are plentiful.
Special Education Teacher
While slightly outside of a traditional psychology career, the field of special education offers a great deal of opportunity for those who enjoy helping children. Special education teachers work with students with a variety of disabilities. In order to become a special education teacher, you must have at least a bachelor's degree and complete a teacher training program in special education. Because of the increased enrollments in special education programs and a shortage of qualified teachers, job demand is strong and expected to grow.
Sports psychologists focus on the psychological aspects of sports and athletics, including topics such as motivation, performance, and injury. The two major areas within sports psychology are centered on helping improve athletic performance or using sports to improve mental and physical health. Sports psychologists work in a wide variety of settings including universities, hospitals, athletic centers, private consulting practices, and research facilities.
Traffic psychology is an emerging field that involves applying psychological principles to understanding driver behavior. Some areas in this field include:
- Studying the relationship between driver behavior and traffic accidents
- Designing vehicles that are safer and more ergonomic
- Searching for ways to improve traffic safety and prevent auto accidents
- Researching how people use transportation
Traffic psychology often involves a multidisciplinary approach, combining fields such as social psychology, behavioral psychology, and cognitive psychology. For example, traffic psychologists might assess how perception and cognition influence performance during a driving task. They might also look at how individual personality affects a driver's emotions, attitudes, and risk-taking behavior while driving.
More Psychology Career Options
Did one of the careers highlighted above catch your eye? Or are you still looking for something that matches your interests and goals? After earning your psychology degree, the specific career you pursue will depend largely on your educational background. Some entry-level jobs are open to those with an undergraduate degree in psychology, while others require advanced or graduate-level study.
The following are just some of the many psychology-related job titles that you might want to explore. Some are directly in the field of psychology, while others require additional training in another field or specialty area.
In either case, having a solid understanding of the human mind and behavior can be beneficial in any of these careers.
- Academic Counselor
- Advanced Psychiatric Nurse
- Advertising Agent
- Animal Trainer
- Animal Researcher
- Aviation Psychologist
- Case Worker
- Child Care Worker
- Child Psychologist
- College Admissions Counselor
- Comparative Psychologist
- Community Counselor
- Counseling Psychologist
- Correctional Treatment Specialist
- Criminal Investigator
- Crisis Counselor
- Cognitive Psychologist
- College Admissions Officer
- College Recruiter
- Customer Service Agent
- Developmental Psychologist
- Education Administrator
- Educational Psychologist
- Elementary School Teacher
- Employment Interviewer
- Employment Recruiter
- Environmental Psychologist
- Experimental Psychologist
- Family and Marriage Therapist
- Financial Aid Counselor
- Grief Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Human Factors Psychologist
- Human Resources Advisor
- Human Resources Manager
- Library Assistant
- Market Researcher
- Mental Health Coordinator
- Military Psychologist
- Music Therapist
- Occupational Therapist
- Police Officer
- Public Opinion Surveyor
- Probation Officer
- Psychiatric Social Worker
- Psychiatric Technician
- Psychosocial Rehabilitation Worker
- Public Relations Agent
- Publishing Agent
- Psychiatric Aide
- Recreational Therapist
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Research Assistant
- School Counselor
- Secondary School Teacher
- Science Writer
- Social Psychologist
- Social Services Specialist
- Social Worker
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- Technical Writer
- University Psychology Professor
- Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
- Youth Counselor
Before Choosing a Career
Based upon this list of psychology careers, you can see that employment opportunities can be quite diverse. Some careers require only a bachelor's degree in psychology, while others will require more advanced degrees such as a master's or doctorate. Spend some time researching different options and learn more about what you will have to do to enter those fields. Ask yourself if you have the commitment and resources to pursue the educational training you will need.
As you examine the variety of psychology careers that are available, think about some of the following questions.
- How well does the career fit your personality?
- What kind of training and education are required to enter the field?
- Are the average salaries in a particular field satisfactory?
- What kinds of things do people in that particular career path do on a daily basis?
- Does the career sound interesting, challenging and rewarding?
Finding the right career in psychology takes some careful planning. It is important to start thinking about what you might want to do early on. This way you can start planning your educational map in order to achieve your vocational goals.
A Word From Verywell
The jobs options listed in this article are just a few of the many different career paths that are available within psychology. Do you feel like you've spotted your dream job? Or are you disappointed that your chosen specialty area isn't on this list?
Either way, just remember that no list of predicted "hot jobs" can ever highlight all of the many options that are available within psychology. The important thing is to pick a career that is right for your, your interests, and your long-term goals in life.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Psychologists; 2015.
Hartman, K & Stewart, T. Investing in Your College Education: Learning Strategies With Readings. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning; 2010.
Psychology careers span across many fields, including criminal justice, education, business, and mental health, to name a few. Not only is psychology one of the most popular majors on college campuses, but it also has a positive outlook, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting job growth of 19% for psychologists through 2024, with similarly positive outlooks for many related careers.
Table of Contents
- Why Pursue a Career in Psychology?
- Jobs You Can Get with a Psychology Degree
- Associate’s Degree Level
- Bachelor’s Degree Level
- Master’s Degree Level
- Doctorate Degree Level
- Specialization Fields with a PhD or PsyD
- Psychology Schools by State
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Additional Resources
Why Pursue a Career in Psychology?
There are many good reasons to pursue this career, as the degree requires a fundamental but flexible skill set that can be applied in various fields and industries. A graduate with a degree in psychology may successfully find employment in the field of psychology or in a wide range of careers that are related to psychology. In fact, in 2008, only 5% of graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology were working in psychology or in an occupation directly related to psychology.
What is it about the field of study that provides such broad range of options? Students who study psychology:
- Take coursework on how people and animals think and behave in various situations, in both ordinary and extreme cases.
- Are exposed to the scientific method of data collection and analysis (essentially applied quantitative statistics) that has very practical application in many occupations (for example, business analytics).
- Gain critical thinking skills by studying and applying various psychological paradigms to problem-solving, as well as a background in data analysis using the scientific method.
- Build written and oral communications through essays, group projects, and class participation.
Mastery of these skills creates the well-rounded candidates that employers seek. A background in psychology can be applied to jobs in almost every industry and in roles that involve understanding or guiding human behavior such as business, counseling, teaching, and social services. Increasing interest in undergraduate degrees in psychology has also led to growth in online bachelor’s programs in psychology, which can prepare students for entry-level jobs or graduate study to train for specialized psychology careers. Continue reading to learn more about psychology-related careers by degree level.
Jobs You Can Get with a Psychology Degree
A degree in psychology can prepare you for a psychology career and for jobs in many other fields. To learn more about what you can do with a psychology degree, review the following job descriptions that provide salary information, helpful skills, and common tasks associated with each job. With the numerous options available, you can pursue a job that is a good fit for your interests, strengths, and salary requirements.
Psychology Careers with an Associate’s Degree
Correctional officers are responsible for safeguarding prison inmate populations. This responsibility includes supervising inmates’ activities, participating in rehabilitation, and providing counseling to inmates, which makes corrections work particularly suitable for psychology degree holders. Demand for correctional officers with psychology backgrounds is related to the growing total population of the incarcerated and as interest in appropriate offender management and rehabilitation has increased.10 In addition to working directly with offenders, correctional officers with a background in psychology may have opportunities to make recommendations related to the environmental psychology of the facility where they are work.11 This includes the physical environment as well as factors such as inmate and officer interactions, activities, and inmate choices. Correctional officers earn a median annual salary of $38,970 per year, with a projected increase in job growth of 5% from 2012 to 2022.
A police officer’s primary duty is to enforce the laws that protect people and property in the jurisdiction in which he or she is working.8 Depending on the size of the department of employment and the officer’s rank, the specific responsibilities of a police officer may vary. Officers may spend significant time patrolling assigned areas, making arrests, and performing investigations as necessary.8 Recently, hiring criteria for police officers have become more rigorous, with most police commissioners and administrators looking for applicants who have completed at least some college, preferably in a concentration such as psychology or criminal justice.9 Qualified police officers may receive increased responsibilities as well as a salary commensurate with experience, in addition to opportunities for advancement. According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, police officers and detectives will see job growth of 4% between 2014 and 2024, and earned $60,270 per year in 2015.
As part of a team of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and medical doctors, psychiatric technicians assist clinical professionals and patients with a variety of tasks. Psychiatric technicians usually work with special needs populations, including the elderly and those with mental or emotional illnesses or developmental disabilities.1 Daily responsibilities for psychiatric technicians include observing patients, providing updates, including written reports, and overseeing physicians.2 Psychiatric technicians may also be responsible for administering therapeutic aid and medications.2 The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that psychiatric technicians and aides earned $28,320 per year in 2015, with the areas of highest demand in residential living and correctional facilities.
Social Work Assistant*
Social work assistants generally have acquired a degree in the behavioral sciences 3, such as a psychology degree. Many social work assistants work in residential settings, especially in elder care; in such circumstances, these professionals assist clients with performing day-to-day activities while forming relationships with clients that remain professional while combining the functions of a friend and counselor.3 Social work assistants are frequently certified by national agencies and/or licensed by the state(s) in which they work.4 The care that a social work assistant provides is supervised by a qualified or licensed social worker in accordance with an established plan of care for the client.5 The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that social and human service assistants, with whom social work assistants are grouped, made a median salary of $30,830 per year in 2015, and can anticipate a job growth rate of 11% between 2014 and 2024.
*Education requirements vary by employer for this position, from a high school diploma to a certificate to a two- or four-year college degree. Proximity to a major metro area tends to correspond to higher education requirements and subsequently higher pay.
Psychology Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree
Administrative Service Manager
The primary responsibilities of administrative service managers center on coordinating and directing an organization’s support services to employees. These professionals can be found working in the public sector as well as the private sector, meaning that the types of services that an administrative service manager may provide with vary. Common tasks include planning and distributing supplies, supervising administrative workers, and records coordination and management. Administrative service professionals working in management may have the responsibility of budgeting, managing contracts, and departmental goals planning. Facilities planning and management may also fall under the purview of the administrative service manager. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that administrative service managers earned an annual median salary of $86,110 in 2015, and can expect a job growth of 8% between 2014 and 2024.
Community Service Manager
Community service managers organize, coordinate, and manage community-based service programs and organizations, typically while managing a staff providing social services to the public. As such, the work that community service managers do has strong ties to social work and psychology. Communities of all sizes and in both rural and urban settings can benefit from the work of community service managers. Typically, these managers will work for not-for-profit organizations or government entities, although private social services companies will also hire community service managers. Community service managers are grouped with social service managers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The growth rate for these occupations is expected to reach a rate of 10% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the average projected growth for all occupations. Social and community service managers made an annual median salary of $63,530 in 2015.
It might be surprising to learn that psychology graduates have opportunities in computer programming, but with the technology focus shifted to user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), this career track makes sense to a growing number of students with a psychology background. Computer programmers develop and execute programs for an end user or group of end users, and also work to improve and broaden programs that have already been built. Programming professionals frequently help write step-by-step user guides for new programs and features. The critical thinking skills and understanding of user psychology that psychology majors can bring to this field are especially helpful.2 Computer programmers earned a median of $79,530 per year in 2015, but should expect a negative job growth rate of -8% between 2014 and 2024 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Health educators typically work in community-based programs creating, deploying, and analyzing education programs designed to assist individuals from different populations in understanding personal health and well-being. These professionals focus on community outreach and may take on roles as instructors or facilitators to help individuals access available health and wellness programs. Health educators must be familiar with topics such as nutrition and physical fitness as well as stress management and mental health.14 In addition to knowledge of psychology, the ability to speak a second language may be helpful in this career.15 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health educators and community health workers earned a median annual salary of $51,960 in 2015, with job growth expectations of 13% between 2014 and 2024.
Human Factors Specialist
A human factors specialist uses design to influence the behavior of people in certain situations. Human factors, also known as ergonomics or human engineering, is a scientific discipline that uses principles of psychology to design products and equipment for maximum safety, effectiveness, and satisfaction. Human factors specialists may work on the design of an airplane cabin to increase passenger satisfaction or develop a workplace ergonomics program to reduce employee injuries. An ergonomist can hold an undergraduate degree in psychology although some practitioners also have a master’s or doctorate in human factors engineering or a similar degree. See our related Human Factors Psychology Degree Guide.
Human Resources Specialist
Human resources specialists are typically responsible for assisting in the recruiting process for an organization. This includes screening initial applications and applicants, interviewing, and new hire placement. Many human resources specialists also work in supplemental areas of a human resources department, such as employee relations and training. These professionals may consult with an organization on hiring needs and make recommendations to further organizational goals. Knowledge of psychology can be helpful to those working in human resources, as this qualification allows professionals to understand and communicate with employees meaningfully while improving the quality of the work environment in which they work.12 The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth of 5% for human resources specialists between 2014 and 2024. Human resources specialists make a median salary of $58,350 per year.
Management analysts, also known as management consultants, are professionals who make recommendations to organizations on organizational efficiency and behavior. In most cases, an organization calls upon management analysts to identify and correct organizational issues related to management structure and operations. The recommendations that a management analyst makes may include suggestions for departmental reorganization, process changes, or systems changes. Because management analysts rely on quantitative skills in statistics and analysis to perform their work efficiently, a degree in areas of psychology such as experimental, psychometric, or cognitive psychology can be especially useful for those on this career track.2 The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that management analysts will see faster than average job growth of 14% between 2014 and 2024, with the median salary for management analysts coming in at $81,320 per year.
Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts frequently work in consumer psychology, seeking to understand why consumers make the choices they do and what organizations can do to influence those choices. Market research analysts might analyze how different types of packaging or different marketing slogans or messages impact consumer behavior.2 They may also use data to determine what types of messaging are most effective in achieving the goals of the organization for which they are working.2 In many cases, market research analysts are responsible for designing effective research studies to find the answers to an employer’s market questions.2 These employers may be corporations, businesses, non-profit organizations, political parties, or a variety of other entities that might benefit from a better understanding of the market. Market research analysts earned a median annual salary of $62,150 in 2015, and can expect a much faster than average job growth of 19% between 2014 and 2024.
Public Relations Specialist
When a person or organization wants to understand how people interact with a brand, what they would like to see, and what can be done to encourage more interaction, that person or organization turns to a public relations specialist. The primary focus of a public relations specialist is creating and maintaining a positive public image for the client. This includes work such as writing and publishing press releases, arranging media appearances and responding to media inquiries, and coaching clients on public communication tactics. Due to the focus of this work, public relations specialists frequently have backgrounds in social psychology, which has been defined as “the study of how people interact with each other and the social environment.”2 Job growth for public relations specialists is projected to reach 6% between 2014 and 2024, with the median annual salary for these professionals in 2015 reported at $56,770 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A team of sales representatives typically reports to a sales manager, who is responsible for hiring, training, and guiding the sales team in a manner that helps the team meet established sales goals. In most cases, a sales manager does little direct selling; his or her primary objectives are related to ensuring that the sales team is reaching its full potential. Sales managers with a background in psychology may be better equipped to understand workplace behavior and apply psychological knowledge to management principles and activities.13 A background in psychology can be a further benefit because an understanding of psychological research and analysis can help sales managers choose the right data on which to base their decisions.2 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for sales managers will reach 5% between 2012 and 2022, with a median annual salary of $113,860.
Sales representatives are tasked with selling goods and services to a specific marketplace and can be found in all types and sizes of organizations working in both wholesale and retail operations. Sales representatives rely heavily on consumer psychology in order to understand consumer needs, prepare effective sales pitches and presentations, and successfully reach their sales goals. Knowledge of organizational behavior can also be helpful to sales representatives looking to make major sales at the enterprise level. Whether working in business to business or business to consumer sales, sales representatives use psychology skills on a daily basis.2 Sales representatives earned a median annual salary of $55,730 in 2015 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and should experience job growth of 7% between 2014 and 2024 according to current estimates.
Guidance Counselor/Career Advisor
When students and young adults need advice on making a transition, they often turn to a guidance counselor or career advisor. Guidance counselors and career advisors typically work within a school’s guidance or counseling departments. These professionals stay up-to-date on education and workforce developments so they can provide informed guidance to individuals making school and career choices. Guidance and career counselors also participate in career development programs, school visits, technical skills development, and other enrichment activities to help students or clients make informed choices. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that job growth for school and career counselors will reach 8% between 2014 and 2024, with the median salary for these professionals reported at $53,660 per year as of 2015.
Human Services Professional
Human services professionals help clients respond to a variety of life pressures, including psychological, health, social, and financial challenges. These professionals work with individuals from all walks of life and backgrounds, including those who are victims of abuse, and help these clients access available aid programs and services. More specific career paths within the human services profession include social and human service assistants, who earn an average of $30,830 per year and have projected job growth between 9 and 13% through 2024; community and social service specialists, who earn an average of $41,890 per year and are expected to see job growth between 5 and 8% through 2024; and community health workers, who earn an average of $36,300 per year and have faster than average projected job growth, estimated at 14% through 2024.
Teachers with degrees in psychology work at all levels of the US education system, from kindergarten to high school as well as in colleges and universities. These schools may be public or private, but the responsibilities of teachers in all environments are largely the same. A teacher with a psychology degree may teach psychology in a high school setting, but this degree can be helpful at all grade levels. Such a background can allow a teacher to better understand human development and communication, improving the effectiveness of their teaching in preparing students for life and lifelong learning. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that kindergarten and elementary school teachers earned a median salary of $54,550 per year in 2015, with job growth expectations of 6% between 2014 and 2024. High school teachers earned a median annual salary of $57,200, and are projected to experience job growth of 6% between 2014 and 2024.
Victim advocates support and promote the rights of people who have been victims or witnesses of a crime and are involved in a trial proceeding. An advocate explains to an affected person what his or her rights are while providing emotional support and acting as an intermediary between the victim or witness and the court.16 Advocates frequently work in district attorney’s offices, but can also be found working for other court bodies as well as private practice law firms. Knowledge of psychology can be helpful in this career because advocates work directly with victims and witnesses who may have been subjected to traumatic experiences and need emotional support in addition to guidance in navigating court processes. Victim advocates have strong prospects for career advancement with a variety of career options in law, government, and politics.16
Psychology Careers with a Master’s Degree
While most students in master’s degree programs for psychology go on to pursue a PhD or PsyD (terminal degrees for psychology), some do enter the field with a master’s degree. A master’s degree, though it may not be required for a career in psychology, could improve opportunities for and increase the competitiveness of candidates applying for jobs in the field. A master’s in psychology might increase one’s chances of being hired and enhance one’s effectiveness in the following areas:
Psychology Careers with a Doctorate Degree
The vast majority of students obtaining a PhD in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) will go on to practice as a clinical psychologist or will teach the subject at a university. Conducting independent research projects in psychology, procuring a license as a counselor, or treating patients in a clinical capacity as a psychologist requires a doctorate in the form of either a PhD or PsyD.
Psychologists have a wide range of duties, with the ultimate goal of helping their clients better understand themselves and their environments. The American Psychological Association notes that they are also scientists who follow basic scientific principles in their work. Specifically, psychologists might observe, interview, survey and/or test their clients. Some of their specific duties include:
- Studying a client’s behavior through scientific studies and finding patterns
- Helping clients change their behavior
- Diagnosing disorders (emotional, behavioral or mental)
- Developing treatment plans
- Prescribing medicine for psychological disorders
- Developing programs for schools, companies and workplaces
- Collaborating with other professionals, such as social workers or physicians
- Testing theories of behavior
- Gathering information through controlled laboratory experiments
In order to be successful, psychologists should also possess a number of specific qualities that will help them better perform their duties. Those include analytical and observational skills, reliability, trustworthiness, excellent communication skills, and patience. It can be difficult to remain calm when faced with clients who have behavioral or mental disorders, so a calm and patient demeanor is essential.
Many psychologists can create their own work schedules, especially if they work in private practice. Some choose to offer after-hours sessions – on weekends or evenings – to accommodate the needs of their clients. Psychologists who work in nursing homes or hospitals may be required to work on evenings or weekends. Those who are employed by schools, clinics, or government agencies tend to work regular business hours.
Licensure Requirements for Psychologists
Every state, as well as the District of Columbia, requires that independently practicing psychologists be licensed. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, those licensing laws differ from state-to-state and by the type of job. Most psychologists who work in a clinical or counseling setting must have a doctorate in psychology as well as have completed an internship, one to two years of experience, and received a passing grade on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
Specific licensure or certification is required for school psychologists. The exact requirements vary from state to state, but many accept certification from the National Association of School Psychologists as a route to licensure or certification. A supervised 1,200-hour internship and a passing grade on the School Psychologist Praxis Examination are two of the main requirements.
Specialty certification is also available through the American Board of Professional Psychology. The body recognizes 13 different types of psychology and is useful in demonstrating expertise in a specialty. Some employers require this certification.
To find out more about licensure requirements for psychologists in your state, click on your state on our How to Become a Psychologist page.
Psychologist Salary and Career Outlook
Psychologists earned a median salary of $72,5800 in 2015 with the top 10% earning more than $118,310 per year. Employment for all psychologists is expected to grow by 19% in the decade from 2014-2024, which is higher than average. The growth will vary for specialties from 20% for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists to 19% for industrial-organizational psychologists. Continue reading below to find out more about psychology specializations for those with a PhD or PsyD.
Specialization Fields with a PhD or PsyD
Among those who hold a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or a PhD in Psychology, there are plenty of fields of specialization to choose from. As mentioned, school psychologists, clinical psychologists, and industrial-organizational psychologists are just a few of the specialties within the field. For most of the following jobs, you will need to get licensed in your state once you have obtained your doctorate in order to practice. As there are many areas of specialization in the field, those specific jobs are described below.
Child psychologists must possess exceptional communication skills since connecting with young clients can be particularly challenging. They should be empathetic and compassionate toward patients and enjoy helping the youngest members of our society. Some psychologists in this field focus more on research, necessitating the ability to remain objective and detached in their work. The BLS does not offer specific child psychologist salary information; however, the BLS reports that psychologists earned a median annual wage of $72,580 in May 2015. Many professionals who choose to specialize in child psychology go on to work as school psychologists. The Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology offers a number of resources to help its members advance their training and professional experience, as well as a psychology career center that links to job opportunities across the country. See our related Child Psychology Degree Guide for more information.
Clinical psychologists focus on assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. Their goal is to improve their clients’ behavior and effectiveness while helping them adapt to their immediate environment, according to the Council of Specialities in Professional Psychology. While they may only be called upon to assist with short-term problems, they may also work long-term with clients who have severe or chronic disorders. Clinical psychologists can be employed in universities, clinics, hospitals, correctional institutions, the military, private practice, or the insurance industry. According to the American Academy of Clinical Psychology, the surge in managed care across the US has increased the demand for clinical psychologists to review and provide specialty mental health services. Some clinical psychologists may choose to specialize in certain areas of psychology, including health psychology or neuropsychology.18 Clinical psychologists earned a median wage of $72,580 in 2015. In November 2009, CNN Money listed clinical psychologists as having the 23rd best job in the US (out of 50). The report listed the median salary for an experienced clinical psychologist as $81,100, with some professionals earning as much as $172,000. CNN also gave the job a grade of “A” for personal satisfaction and “B” grades for job security and future growth.
Counseling psychologists work very closely with their patients, helping them understand the cause of their issues and take steps to solve them. This specialty of psychology is unique in that it focuses both on average developmental problems and more complex concerns, such as emotional, physical, or mental illnesses. However, counseling psychologists tend to focus more on psychologically stable patients, as opposed to those with more severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. Counseling psychologists can work in a wide variety of settings, including government agencies, universities, health clinics, schools, or private organizations. They are typically very well trained in psychological principles and practices but often focus their work on one or a few different areas of interest, such as drug abuse or depression. Those who specialize in this profession tend to earn approximately the same amount as general psychologists. According to the BLS, counseling psychologists earned a median annual salary of $70,580 in 2015. See our related Counseling Psychology Degree Guide for more information.
Educational psychologists tend to focus on the bigger educational picture. According to the American Psychology Association, they apply theory and methodology to broader issues concerning learning, teaching, and training. In many cases, they study student performance as well as cultural and socio-economic factors that have an impact on the classroom. The APA reports that educational psychologists are responsible for a great deal of the research done on learning in general. As part of their regular duties, educational psychologists might work on program development and evaluation, consult with teachers, parents, and school administrators, and implement intervention programs for students. The BLS does not list specific salary information for educational psychologists, but reports that school psychologists made a median wage of $70,580 in May 2015.
The field of forensic psychology involves the use of psychological principles and methods to assist legal professionals such as attorneys and judges. Forensic psychologists help those in the legal system understand the psychological aspects of a case and the people involved in the proceedings. In many cases, forensic psychologists are called upon to testify in court as an expert witness, but they can also be called upon to assess the testimony of eyewitnesses or jury behavior. Forensic psychologists can specialize in criminal, civil or family cases. They are not only familiar with psychological principles and practices, but also with the details of the justice system. While the average salaries for forensic psychologists can vary widely, they generally fall in line with those of traditional psychologists. See our related Forensic Psychology Degree Guide for more information.
Gerontologists focus on assisting elderly patients in a wide range of settings, including senior centers, public health centers, nursing homes, and hospitals. In many cases, they work with other professionals – such as attorneys, physical or occupational therapists, dietitians or counselors – to help the needs of their clients. Applied gerontologists tend to work one-on-one with their elderly clients, as well as their families. Research gerontologists use their experience and expertise to investigate the aging process and learn how to better meet the needs of the elderly population. Gerontologists come from a wide range of backgrounds, including nursing or sociology. As the baby boomer generation ages, gerontologists are expected to be in high demand. However, the earning potential for gerontologists is not as high as for other professionals in psychology.
A health psychologist focuses on helping individuals overcome and avoid health problems, often in a medical setting such as a hospital or clinic. Health psychologists can also be employed by universities, government agencies, and corporations to research and provide solutions for health problems. They can administer behavioral tests, provide education about healthy behavior, lead group therapy sessions, or run research studies. Health psychologists may focus in a specific area of the health field such as clinical psychology, public health, community health, and occupational health. Most employment opportunities in health psychology require a doctorate-level degree in psychology.See our related Health Psychology Degree Guide.
Industrial Organizational or Business Psychologist
An industrial-organizational psychologist, I/O psychologist, or business psychologist, is a fast-growing specialty of psychology that focuses on providing solutions for workplace problems and increasing worker productivity and performance. Specific tasks can include developing employee training programs, conducting research studies of the workplace environment, studying consumer reaction to new products, and assessing individual employees to provide managers with information for placement or promotion. Almost all I/O psychologists earn a master’s or doctorate degree before working in this field. Job growth for psychologists who work in industrial or business environments is predicted to grow at a faster than average rate. However, the BLS reports the total number of new jobs will likely not exceed 500 over the next decade because it is still a relatively small segment of the psychology job market. See our related Business Psychology Degree Guide.
Because they focus on the relationship between behavior and the brain, neuropsychologists often work with clients who have suffered from a stroke, dementia, or a brain injury. However, they may also work with patients who have psychiatric, medical, or developmental issues, according to the American Board of Professional Psychology. In addition to neurological methods, neuropsychologists use psychological and physiological methods to assess their clients’ emotional state and cognitive abilities. That information is often paired with assessments from other healthcare providers to diagnose a patient’s disorder and implement a treatment plan. Neuropsychologists tend to earn higher salaries than psychologists in other specialties. The BLS reports that while psychologists earn about $72,000 a year, “other” psychologists, which would include neuropsychologists, can earn nearly $95,000 annually and a 2011 report notes that professionals in the field of neuropsychology are likely to be in very high demand.19
Psychology professors conduct research studies, publish academic papers, and teach courses at colleges and universities. They may also consult for businesses, non-profits, or government agencies. The projected job growth for postsecondary teachers from 2014-2024 of 13% is higher than the average occupation as student enrollment at colleges and universities continue to grow. The popularity of psychology as a college major means there will be demand for professors of psychology to fill teaching positions; however, many colleges are looking to replace full-time faculty with more adjunct and part-time faculty, which is expected to decrease demand for full-time professors who have their terminal degree. The median annual salary for psychology postsecondary teachers is about $70,260.
Psychometricians design exams, then score and analyze the information. The tests they design are engineered to measure a client’s psychological attributes. The job requires skill in mathematics and statistics, as well as good communication skills. Psychometricians can work for testing companies, government, mental health clinics, universities, hospitals, or large corporations. While the BLS does not compile data on average salaries for psychometricians, the Psychometric Society estimates that they generally earn between $50,000 and $100,000.20 Salaries are high in this field because of the specialized training psychometricians must pursue to enter the profession.
School psychologists help their clients change their behavior in an effort to improve their ability to learn. They can also apply their education and experience toward improving education issues that affect a wide range of students. They may help schools address bullying, drug abuse, and improve programs for students with special needs or disabilities. Psychologists in school settings might also work with teachers and other administrative staff to shape learning strategies for specific students or groups. They can also be called upon to counsel family members and evaluate student performance. School psychologists can find employment in a wide range of settings, including universities, public and private schools, day-treatment facilities, residential clinics, school-based health centers, juvenile justice facilities, and private practice. The National Association of School Psychologists found that its full-time members with 180-day contracts earned approximately $64,188 in the 2009-2010 school year.17 NASP members with 200-day contracts earned more, making a mean salary of $71,320.17 According to the BLS, school psychologists earned a mean annual wage of $70,580 in May 2015. In addition, the BLS predicts that demand for school psychologists will increase in tandem with growing school populations across the country. According to the BLS, clinical, counseling, and school psychologists have the best long-term employment prospects in the field. The BLS predicts that as school populations grow, “https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-6” target=”_blank”>more school psychologists will be needed to help assess students – especially those with behavioral issues or learning disabilities. They may also be called upon to study how learning is affected by factors within the school and outside the school environment. See our related School Psychology Degree Guide for more information.
Sport psychologists work with athletes of all ages to help them meet their goals, stay motivated, and deal with sports-related fears or anxieties. The job may require travel, as some sport psychologists travel with an athlete or team. Those who enter this specialized field can also find employment in the military, which has become the largest employer of sport psychologists. The military uses sport psychologists to help soldiers face adversity and increase their resiliency. Sport psychologists can earn anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 a year, with those in private practice earning even more.21See our related Sport Psychology Degree Guide.
Psychology Schools by State
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a psychologist in your state, click on one of the links below. There you will find information including facts about psychology schools, profiles of graduate programs, and a comprehensive directory of psychology degree programs in your state.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some careers for psychology majors?
Since psychology majors learn a broad range of skills including understanding how the human mind works, how people think, and why they act the way they do, psychology degree holders have many opportunities for employment. If they do not want to be clincial psychologists, they may choose to work in fields such as business, schools, or technology, to name a few. Read more about careers for psychology majors with an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctoral degree.
What kind of degree do I need for a career in psychology?
Psychology jobs require all different types of degree levels, from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree to a master’s degree to a doctoral degree. Before you decide on the degree level that is right for you, you should examine your career goals and decide on the type of psychology career you want to target. Then, you should pursue the degree level needed to land that job. Find out more about psychology degrees on our Degrees page.
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