Psychology is a complex discipline that can lead to a variety of different careers and jobs. The rigorous education requirements help individuals acquire skills in communication and language, customer service, research, conflict resolution, teaching, and teamwork, among many others.
The job market is exceptionally welcoming for individuals who pursue psychology degrees. Over 1.5 million people who hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology are active members of the workforce. In addition, of the 129 occupational categories present in the United States, 88 are held by people who studied psychology.
In addition to this, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that psychology-related jobs will grow 3 percent over the next decade.
In addition to the numerous career opportunities and positive job outlook available for someone with a psychology degree, there are many rewards that come with the territory. In addition to a lucrative salary in most areas, the jobs come with the ability to make positive changes in people’s lives.
Let’s take a look at some of the top psychology careers and jobs.
Before you can acquire a career in psychology, there are several educational requirements you will need to fulfill. The path is challenging, with multiple years of post-secondary education, an advanced degree, internships, and certain career paths have licensing, and accreditation requirements.
Although it is possible to get an associate degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most psychology jobs. A B.A. degree in Psychology can emphasize general psychology, humanities, and social sciences. A B.S. in Psychology will focus more on science, math, as well as research and analytics.
Although there are some jobs available for people with undergraduate psychology degrees only, most positions require a master’s or higher. A traditional master’s program takes approximately two years to complete, although they can often be combined with a doctorate in an accelerated program.
PhD or PsyD
If you plan to practice psychology at the clinical level a Doctorate in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is required in order to obtain a license. A Doctorate program will focus more on research and methodology, while a PsyD degree focuses on the practical application of psychology.
Both programs take between five to seven years to complete. They also include an internship that lasts for a minimum of one year. The American Psychological Association has a list of accredited degree programs on their website to help with your search.
Careers in Psychology
Once you have acquired the appropriate amount of schooling, a degree in psychology will open you to dozens of different career paths available in the field of psychology to choose from. The path that is best for you will depend on the areas of psychology you are most interested in as well the types of people you want to work with on a daily basis.
Clinical psychology is what most psychology majors think of when they think of a traditional psychologist. However, clinical psychology as a specialty is a broad one that covers numerous physical and mental disorders and addresses complex problems human beings go through.
One of the ways in which clinical psychologists utilize their skills is through the diagnosis and treatment of patients that have a variety of psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety disorders. They also work with individuals who have experienced trauma as well as people with chronic conditions like stress.
Clinical psychologists often work in a variety of fields, including hospitals or mental health clinics, however, they are not found in these institutions exclusively. Some have their own private practices, some work in research facilities and others work in schools or government offices. They also have the opportunity to work with people of all ages and backgrounds, depending on their chosen path.
People with athletic aptitudes or interests might consider pursuing a career in sports psychology. This job applies the individual’s knowledge of psychology to assist athletes with improving their performance and mental wellbeing.
There are several different kinds of sports psychologists including educational sports psychologists, clinical sports psychologists, and exercise psychologists.
Educational sports psychologists help teach athletes techniques like positive self talk and goal setting to help them perform better during games or matches.
Exercise psychologists, on the other hand, don’t typically work with athletes. Instead, they use physical movement, exercise, and mindfulness techniques to help people make working out a part of their everyday lives. Long-term health and longevity through exercise is their main focus.
All areas of sports psychology utilize visualization and motivation techniques while focusing on building self-confidence. The ultimate goal of any sports psychologist is to help athletes reduce performance anxieties, deal with the outcome of injuries, and help keep them in both mental and physical shape.
A licensed counselor focuses on helping patients, ranging from individuals and couples to families, all of whom are struggling with emotional and mental health issues. They are equipped to handle a variety of topics, including stress, trauma, substance abuse, anger management, depression, and relationships.
In addition to the variety of issues counseling psychologists can encounter, they also see plenty of variety in where they work and who they work with. For example, counselors can work in hospitals and health clinics, family services, or outpatient rehabilitation programs. There are spaces for counselors in government and the legal system as well.
Career counselors use their knowledge of psychology and psychological techniques to help people find jobs. This may include helping people who are new to the job market find employment. People transitioning to new careers may enlist the help of a career counselor as well to help them acquire the necessary education and skills required to make the change.
Career counselors do plenty of research for their clients, and have a plethora of resources at their disposal to help clients make their career choices.
Art therapy uses psychotherapeutic techniques to help people struggling with medical issues, mental health problems, or searching for emotional and spiritual fulfillment. Art therapy is an important tool that combines making art, celebrating the creative process, and human psychology to support patients.
Art therapy is commonly used to help improve cognitive functions, enhance social skills and emotional resilience, and help people develop positive self-esteem. It integrates the mind, body, and emotional well-being of the individual patient to help them express themselves in a therapeutic way.
Art therapists can be found in a wide variety of work locations, from hospitals and schools to rehabilitation facilities and crisis centers. They also work with a diverse population of people. Some work with groups and families, others work with people suffering from an accident, long-term medical issue, or substance abuse problem.
Music therapists don’t typically teach their patients how to play a particular instrument. The goal of music therapy is not to instruct, but rather to allow patients to express themselves through music. This is often helpful for individuals who struggle with verbal communication, have behavioral issues, or live with mental health disorders.
Music therapists help people with a wide range of conditions, including neurological conditions, physical or mental disabilities, emotional problems, and more. People of all ages can benefit from musical therapy as well, and in dozens of social and healthcare locations.
This type of therapy is a holistic approach to physical and mental health. As such, music therapists are often a part of a larger care team for a patient, with music therapy being one aspect of their treatment plan.
A newer field in psychology is that of a forensic psychologist. This role applies knowledge of human psychology in a legal setting, particularly by assessing, treating, consulting, and evaluating forensic settings. In other words, they are responsible for assessing people who are involved with the legal system in some way, including criminal investigations.
There are many skills required to be a forensic psychologist, including research and investigation, clinical, verbal communication, and public speaking. A forensic psychologist must be well-spoken and be able to think critically and fairly in high-stress situations.
Throughout their career, they may be called to testify in court for a variety of situations, such as at child custody hearings or PTSD trials involving law enforcement personnel.
People who work in forensic psychology may also work in a counseling-type environment, offering counseling services to people who have been victims of a crime or who have lost a loved one through a criminal act. Forensic psychologists are also called upon to study jury behavior for criminal trials.
The annual wage for a forensic psychologist is $71,588.
Experimental psychologist spends their days conducting research on both humans and animals to answer posed psychological questions. These research studies often take years, after which the experimental psychologist would publish their findings.
Problem-solving, a critical yet open mind, and a passion for exploring the inner workings of the mind are necessary skills to have as an experimental psychologist. Patience and tenacity are also important skills to have, as the research phase of a study can last for a long time, as can the publication and peer-review process.
Experimental psychologists typically work in university and government settings to conduct their research, although there are some that work in research labs and the private sector. They typically have a graduate degree and work at the doctoral level.
Social psychologists often work for colleges or universities as well as government agencies to conduct their research. Many social psychologists also teach at these institutions. Corporate entities often use social psychologists to help them conduct employee training and intervention programs, as well as act as a mediator in cases of conflict.
Ultimately, a social psychologist is interested in groups of people and how they act in different situations.
The median salary for a school psychologist is $79,768.
Understanding how a person’s unique personality develops, as well as its influence on the way we think and act, is the bread and butter of a personality psychologist. They study not only what a personality is and how it affects an individual, but also the various factors that play a role in building that personality.
A personality psychologist is, understandably, an expert in personality and personality theories and can thus predict the values and behaviors of a person. They are frequently called upon to assess, diagnose, and treat personality disorders as well, such as borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder.
Common personality tests, such as the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test were created by psychologists to help individuals get a better sense of themselves. Similar tests can be used to identify personality disorders, while others are meant just for entertainment and knowledge.
Ultimately, a personality psychologist is interested in using their knowledge of personality to help people live their lives better. They are good at identifying problems that may arise in a person’s life because of certain personality traits, and teaching them how to navigate and cope with those issues.
The core job functions of a social worker are to identify and help people experiencing problems, be a resource for people in need of basic necessities such as food stamps, housing, or access to mental healthcare, and treat mental illnesses. They are advocates for their patients above all else and often work with social services.
They can also provide psychotherapy services and counseling. This can occur in one-on-one therapy or group therapy, with the goal being to help the patient or patients develop skills to help them cope with whatever the problem may be.
As such, they are often found in hospitals and schools, private practice, government offices, legal institutions, and more. They are frequently a part of a larger care team that helps develop treatment plans for an individual and to help carry out their part of said plan through various types of therapy.
The job of a social worker is a demanding one, but it can also be very rewarding. The job outlook for social workers is positive. As of 2020, there is an expected 12% growth over the next ten years, which is faster than average job growth.
To become a licensed clinical social worker requires an additional educational requirement of at least 2-years of post master’s experience in a clinical setting under supervision. There are many skills required of a social worker, including organization and record-keeping, strong aptitude for crisis management, good written and verbal communication skills among many others.
A health psychologist understands how social, biological, and psychological factors influence a person’s overall health. They are experts in how behavior impacts public health. They are also trained in what motivates human beings to implement healthy behavior and make positive choices with the end goal of preventing long-term illness.
Physical and mental wellness are complex topics. Although people are usually aware of what the healthy choice is, it can be incredibly difficult for them to break old unhealthy habits and replace them with better ones. That is where health psychologists come in.
For example, health psychologists may assist with helping a person quit smoking. Health psychologists are also trained to help people manage conditions like cancer, emotional eating, and rehabilitation after an injury. They provide patients with the necessary skills to combat negative behaviors and manage their health in the best possible way.
The work that health psychologists do benefits the individual patient, but it also benefits their families, their job, and their community. Skills required for this career path include problem-solving, patience, research, communication, and critical thinking.
A cognitive psychologist is an expert on the mental processes of the human mind. They primarily study memory, perception, and how people process and learn new information, such as languages.
Cognitive psychology is the study of neuroscience, statistics, cognitive learning, and social psychology. They apply this knowledge in environments like research facilities, university classrooms, and government offices. They also frequently work alongside individuals with similar education and areas of study, such as linguists, neuroscientists, or computer scientists.
A common career choice for a cognitive psychologist is working with patients affected by Alzheimer’s or those that have memory loss. Studies have shown a positive correlation between cognitive interventions and helping individuals with signs of early dementia retain their memories for longer periods of time.
Other potential jobs a cognitive psychologist might land include researching the way humans think at a college or university setting, teaching, consulting work for corporations, or understanding how people use computers.
Similar to a cognitive psychologist is the neuropsychologist. A clinical neuropsychologist also studies the relationship between the brain and how it impacts a person’s behavior. They primarily focus on cognitive and behavioral problems, such as memory loss, concentration, reasoning, coordination, or mood and personality changes.
They also frequently address developmental concerns, such as epilepsy, concussions, autism, and attention disorders that have an impact on learning. A neuropsychologist also works with people who have suffered a stroke or have dementia.
A neuropsychologist may be asked to help diagnose and determine the extent of Parkinson’s disease as well. In this instance, the neuropsychologist would provide an exam that helps identify how the disease is likely to progress, as well as how that would impact the individual’s basic functions.
Neuropsychologists often work in clinics and hospitals, and work with other medical professionals to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients. They frequently look at brain scans from an MRI or CT scan, and can help translate the results of the scans or a particular exam to the patient.
Developmental psychology looks at how human beings grow and develop from infancy through adulthood. This includes studying a patient’s personality and emotional growth, as well as physical, social, and cognitive development.
A developmental psychologist is typically responsible for understanding the different stages humans go through at different points in life, as well as how changes in those stages can affect a person later in life. They can also identify ranges for what is normal and what may be outside the normal developmental range.
Many developmental psychologists study a particular age group, such as the elderly or children. They can research topics like moral reasoning, language acquisition, and developmental disorders or issues that occur as a result of the natural aging process.
The work developmental psychologists do has an impact on a variety of other disciplines, including sociology, biology, and anthropology. They can be found in places like assisted living homes, psychiatric clinics, hospitals, rehab clinics, and colleges or universities.
Grief is a destructive force that can affect every aspect of an individual’s life. Grief counselors are trained mental health counselors that help navigate the emotions surrounding the loss of a loved one, be they a pet, a parent, a child, or a romantic partner.
Many different disciplines of psychology and therapy offer grief counseling as part of their service offerings. However, some people are grief counselors exclusively. These are typically empathetic people who are trained in a variety of therapeutic techniques to handle grief in all of its forms.
A grief counselor can help a patient process and express their emotions, learn how to cope with the loss, and rebuild their lives. Healing is the goal of grief counseling, as is understanding, acceptance, and improved self-awareness.
The average salary for a grief counselor is $42,500.
Human Resources Specialist
Psychology plays a huge role in Human Resources. People who work in human resources can benefit from studying the basics of human behavior, as well as social and cultural issues that affect human beings.
Human resource specialists are found in office settings of all kinds as they are responsible for screening applications, recruiting, interviewing, and hiring job applicants. They frequently have an understanding of employee benefits, conduct mandatory employee training, and are skilled at conflict resolution and communication.
Many organizations use human resource specialists to help them increase productivity and boost company morale. These can be either full-time, in-house positions, or they can come in as temporary consultants.
Many individuals who served in the military suffer from emotional and mental stress as a result of their experiences. A military psychologist works with both retired and active-duty military personnel, as well as their families, to help them navigate the physical and mental health problems that may arise.
Each branch of the U.S. military has psychologists on staff that are specific to their branch, including Air Force psychologists, Navy psychologists, and Army psychologists.
Regardless of the branch, a military psychologist may evaluate, diagnose, and implement a treatment plan for military personnel. They commonly treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as sleep disorders, anger management, anxiety, and depression.
Military psychologists also work with new recruits to help identify their strengths and weaknesses and ensure they are mentally stable. This can help their particular branch by putting people in jobs that will lead to the highest levels of productivity.
Substance Abuse Counselor
People who struggle with addiction often enlist the help of a substance abuse counselor. Substance abuse counselors are trained to listen to their client’s problems, help them identify behaviors that feed their addiction, and set them on a path to recovery.
A substance abuse counselor meets regularly with patients to evaluate and discuss the status of their addiction, leads group therapy sessions, teaches specific techniques and therapies, and works with the legal system.
An academic career in psychology is a great path for those with degrees in psychology and psychology-related fields. Teaching psychology is a broad field that can include a variety of disciplines and materials.
Psychology professors are responsible for designing a curriculum to teach the appropriate course content to students, lead lectures, design and facilitate exams, and assess assigned coursework. Psychology professors may teach on a variety of subjects, from clinical to developmental.
Many psychology professors also participate in research through the college or university they teach at. The research they complete and publish is not only helpful for the educational institution but offers excellent learning opportunities for students as well.
The annual salary for a psychology professor is around $54,261, depending on the state.
Marriage and Family Therapist
Marriage and family therapists typically work with married couples or families to address issues affecting the relationship dynamics between individuals. They also address how mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and other psychological problems affect the members of a couple or family.
This type of therapy is generally short-term, with an average of 12 to 20 sessions per couple or family. The therapy is a holistic approach to health that usually involves a variety of other healthcare practitioners in a larger treatment plan.
A marriage and family psychologist is an expert on the family system, as well as health, human behavior, and mental and emotional disorders. Sometimes they work one-on-one, other times they work with a group. They need to have good communication skills, empathy, and critical thinking abilities to be successful in their jobs.
A couples therapist conducts job duties similar to that of a marriage and family therapist, however, their primary focus is on couples. This relationship can be between a married couple, although it does not have to be.
Couples therapy is typically sought after by partners who are having difficulties in their relationship and want to work on them to ultimately improve their relationship. These issues can include recurring conflicts, work stressors, sex, affairs, and more.
A couples therapist will work with a couple for a short period of time. They apply several different proven therapy types, such as emotionally focused therapy (EFT) or behavioral therapy to help couples identify problems and learn to communicate their needs and emotions in a more constructive manner.
Behavioral specialists specialize in helping treat patients with emotional, mental, or behavioral disorders. Often, behavioral specialists will work with individuals who are dangerous to themselves or others through the behaviors that they exhibit.
Behavioral specialists are found in a variety of workplace environments, including healthcare clinics, hospitals, schools, and government offices. They are skilled at nonverbal communication, are excellent teachers, and have lots of patience and empathy. A good behavioral specialist is also highly analytical and resourceful.
The responsibilities of a behavioral specialist often include observing a patient’s behavior, designing treatment plans, recording a patient’s progress throughout the duration of their treatment, and periodically performing tests that help evaluate how a patient is progressing.
Both children and adults can benefit from seeing an occupational therapist. Some children require an occupational therapist’s help for learning how to play and socialize. Adults with arthritis, brain injuries, neurological disorders, or chronic illnesses may also benefit from having an occupational therapist teach them how to do everyday activities.
While this may mean simply helping struggling individuals approach tasks in a different, more helpful way, occupational therapists may also periodically train other caregivers or family members and teach people how to use assistive technology.
An occupational therapist is a creative thinker and problem solver who is familiar with the latest technological equipment and exercises. They spend most of the day on their feet physically interacting with patients and other people. Facilities like hospitals, schools, nursing care facilities, and home healthcare services often hire occupational therapists.
Psychology is not only an interesting field of study, it can lead to a variety of incredibly important careers and jobs. Psychology careers require an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the mind, but also require an understanding of social factors, human relationships, and more.
There are dozens of different job opportunities and lucrative career paths for a person with a degree in psychology to pursue. When deciding what path you’d like to take, ask yourself what kinds of people you want to work with, what type of facility or industry you’d like to work in, and whether or not that potential job will bring you joy.