If you are wondering what you can do with a psychology degree, you have come to the right place. Psychology is the study of human behavior and the mind. Psychology degree programs offer students the chance to explore unanswered questions about the brain like how it learns language, how it functions under stress, how mental illness can affect the way it works, and how it remembers facts. Most psychology degree programs allow students to choose an area of specialization such as forensic, sport and exercise, neuro, counseling, occupational, research, educational, clinical, or health psychology. Depending on the concentration area chosen, there are many different career options available.
Why Should I Pursue a Career in Psychology?
Prospective students who are on the fence about earning a psychology degree should know that there are many solid reasons to do so. These programs help students develop a flexible yet fundamental skill set that they can apply to many different types of industries and fields. Some of the major occupational groups where psychology graduates may find work include education, sales and marketing, administrative services, and human services.
So how does psychology offer so many options for graduates? Those who earn a psychology degree can expect to build oral and written communication skills through class participation, group projects, and essays as well as develop a background in data analysis and collection by mastering the scientific method. Students also gain critical thinking skills through the study and application of different psychological paradigms and complete coursework that focuses on how animals and people behave and think in both extreme and ordinary situations.
Developing these fundamental skills produces well-rounded applicants. Having a psychology background prepares graduates for positions in nearly any industry as well as for positions that revolve around guiding and understanding human behavior like social services, teaching, counseling, and business. In addition, the increasing availability of distance education programs in psychology allows for greater flexibility as more students have access to post-secondary programs. Below we will look at different psychology-related careers that one can pursue based on the degree level he or she has completed.
What is the Job Outlook for Psychologists?
Generally speaking, psychology is not only one of the most popular majors on many college campuses, but it also boasts a positive employment outlook. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of psychologists is expected to grow 14 percent between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, growth will vary by occupation. Employment of school psychologists will increase due to a growing awareness of the relationship between learning and mental health and because of the increased need for mental health services in schools. Similarly, employment of school, counseling, and clinical psychologists is projected to grow due to a greater demand for psychological services in social service agencies, mental health centers, hospitals, and schools.
What Can I Do With a Psychology Degree?
Earning a psychology degree prepares graduates not only for careers as psychologists but also for positions in a variety of other industries. To help provide a more in-depth look into what you can do with this degree, we have listed several popular occupations as well as their job descriptions, helpful skills, salary information, and common tasks that you can expect to undertake in each position. As you will see, there are many options available, allowing you to find a job that meets your salary expectations, values your strengths, and fits your interests.
Psychology Careers for Graduates With an Associate Degree
Social Work Assistant
Most social work assistants have earned an associate degree in psychology or in the behavioral sciences. These professionals typically work in residential settings, particularly in elder care. In these instances, social work assistants help clients with day-to-day activities that can be difficult if not impossible for their clients to perform alone. They also take on a role that is not only one of a professional but also a counselor and friend. Social work assistants are supervised by a licensed or qualified social worker. Social work assistants frequently seek licensure by the state in which they work and/or certified by national agencies. According to the BLS, social and human service assistants earned $33,750 per year as of May 2018. Employment of these professionals is projected to increase 13 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Psychiatric technicians are part of a team made up of mental health professionals like medical doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Psychiatric technicians typically work with patients who have been psychiatrically hospitalized, the elderly, and those with developmental disabilities. These professionals help with many different tasks like documenting patients’ conditions, providing updates to physicians, and observing and helping patients with day-to-day functions and activities. They may also be tasked with administering medications and therapeutic aid. The BLS indicates that psychiatric technicians and aides earned $30,860 per year as of May 2018. Job employment is expected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Police officers are responsible for enforcing the laws that protect the property and people in their respective jurisdictions. Specific job duties will vary depending on an officer’s rank as well as the size of the department in which he or she works. Officers might spend a great deal of time performing investigations, making arrests, and patrolling the areas to which they are assigned. Most police agencies prefer candidates with at least some level of college experience, typically in a concentration like criminal justice or psychology. Police officers with more experience in the field or a higher level of education or training may be tasked with more responsibilities and be able to command higher salaries. The BLS reports that police officers and detectives earned $63,380 per year as of May 2018. Employment of police and detectives is projected to grow 5 percent between 2018 and 2028.
The primary duty of a correctional officer is to safeguard prison inmates. Correctional officers are responsible for participating in inmate rehabilitation, supervising inmates’ activities, and providing counseling services when necessary. Aside from working directly with offenders, correctional officers who have completed a psychology degree program may be able to make suggestions regarding the environmental psychology of the prison, jail, or facility in which they are employed. This could include factors like inmate choices, activities, and officer and inmate interactions as well as the general physical environment. Correctional officers and bailiffs earned $44,400 per year as of May 2018, according to the BLS. Employment is projected to decline 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, mainly due to local and state budget constraints.
Psychology Careers for Graduates With a Bachelor’s Degree
Victim advocates are responsible for promoting and supporting the rights of their clients who have been witnesses or victims of a crime. These individuals are often involved in trial proceedings and need someone who can keep their best interests at the forefront. A victim advocate explains legal rights to an affected person, acts as an intermediary between the witness or victim and the court, and provide emotional support as needed. Although most victim advocates are employed by district attorneys, they can also seek positions in private law firms. A psychology degree can be useful because advocates need to understand how to effectively guide a victim or witness through the court process, how traumatic experiences affect others, and how to provide appropriate emotional support. Career advancement opportunities may be available in politics, government, and law.
Teachers who have earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a psychology-related field can seek employment at all levels of the education system. This includes teaching all grades ranging from kindergarten to high school as well as working in post-secondary universities and colleges. While some pursue careers as psychology teachers at the high school or collegiate levels, others follow the more traditional educational path and become teachers. However, a background in psychology can allow teachers to better understand human communication and development. As a result, they can improve their teaching methods and styles to better prepare their students for lifelong learning. According to the BLS, kindergarten and elementary school teachers earned $57,980 per year as of May 2018, while high school teachers earned $60,320 the same year. These occupations are expected to grow 3 and 4 percent, respectively, from 2018 to 2028.
Human Resources Specialist
Human resources (HR) specialists are tasked with helping an organization recruit new employees. This includes searching for applicants, screening initial applications and candidates, conducting interviews, and placing new hires into appropriate positions. These professionals either work directly in an HR office or within a supplemental HR department like employee training and relations. Companies may also hire outside HR specialists who can help with hiring needs and recommend new or altered organizational goals. A psychology degree can be useful because it helps HR specialists to better communicate with employees and understand the needs of workers. Knowledge of the field also allows HR specialists to improve the quality of the company’s work environment. HR specialists earned an average yearly salary of $60,880 as of May 2018 and can expect employment to increase 5 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the BLS.
Community Service Manager
Community service managers are typically responsible for managing, coordinating, and organizing community-based organizations and service programs. They usually accomplish this while overseeing a staff that provides social services to the local community. As such, the job duties of community service managers tie in strongly to psychology and social work. Both urban and rural communities of all sizes need community service managers. These professionals may be employed by a private social service company or find a position in a not-for-profit government agency or social service organization. The BLS groups community service managers with social service managers, who earned $65,320 per year as of May 2018. According to the BLS, employment of social and community service managers is expected to grow 13 percent between 2018 and 2028.
Market Research Analyst
A psychology degree can be extremely useful for market research analysts who frequently find employment in consumer psychology. Market research analysts are responsible for understanding why customers buy certain products or services and make the choices they do. They also examine what business can do to positively influence those choices. For example, a market research analyst might investigate how different messages, marketing slogans, or types of packaging impact the behavior of consumers. They may also use data and statistics to determine which messages best appeal to consumers and also meet their company’s short-term and long-term business goals. To find these answers, market research analysts typically design research studies, evaluate data, and draw conclusions for their employers. They may work in political parties, non-profit organizations, businesses, corporations, and other settings in which a solid understanding of consumer behavior is needed. The BLS reports that market research analysts saw an average yearly salary of $63,120 per year as of May 2018. Employment in this occupation is expected to grow 20 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Psychology Careers for Graduates With a Master’s Degree
Most graduates who earn a master’s degree in psychology advance to doctoral-level studies. However, some do find employment with a master’s degree. Though it might not be required for the position, a master’s degree helps to set a student apart from other applicants, thus increasing the competitiveness of candidates and improving opportunities for jobs in the field. Earning a master’s degree in psychology might enhance one’s effectiveness as well as his or her chances of landing a job in the following areas:
- Product design, as in human engineering and human factors psychology
- Investigators, sheriffs, and police chiefs, as in criminal psychology
- Human resources management, as in business or industrial-organizational psychology
- Training and coaching, as in sport psychology
Psychology Careers for Graduates With a Doctoral Degree
As we have seen, there are many career options at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s level for students who have earned a psychology degree. However, most students who wish to work in this field obtain a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Psychology. These students will be equipped to either teach psychology at a college or university, or they may choose to practice as a clinical psychologist. In order to become a psychologist and treat patients in a clinical capacity, obtain licensure as a counselor, or conduct independent psychology-based research projects, a Psy.D. or a Ph.D. is required.
What Are the Responsibilities of a Psychologist?
The ultimate goal of the psychologist is to help their patients better understand their environments and themselves. They have many duties and responsibilities that can help them to reach this goal, including testing, surveying, interviewing, and observing their clients. During any given day, psychologists can expect to conduct controlled laboratory experiments to gather information, test different theories of behavior, and collaborate with physicians, social workers, and other professionals.
They may also be responsible for developing programs for workplaces, companies, and schools, prescribing medication for various psychological, behavioral, and mental disorders, and developing treatment plans based on the needs of each individual patient. Other job functions include diagnosing disorders as mental, behavioral, or emotional, helping clients turn negative behaviors into productive behaviors, and using scientific studies to evaluate a client’s behavior and find patterns.
Some of the most successful psychologists have other qualities in common that allow them to better perform these and other functions. These include patience, strong communication skills, trustworthiness, reliability, and excellent observational and analytical skills. In particular, a patient and calm demeanor is critical, especially when treating patients with mental and/or behavioral disorders.
What is the Salary Potential and Career Outlook for Psychologists?
The BLS reports that psychologists earned $70,010 per year, or $37.99 per hour, as of May 2018. The highest 10 percent of psychologists earned more than $129,250, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $43,800. The BLS breaks down these figures even further, reporting that the occupation of “psychologists, all other” earned $100,770 per year, while industrial-organizational psychologists brought home $97,260. Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists reported earnings of $76,990 per year.
In addition, the overall employment of psychologists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, this growth will depend on occupation and discipline. For instance. Industrial-organizational psychologists will see 13 percent growth during this period, while employment of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is projected to increase 15 percent. Keep reading to learn more about several specializations that a graduate student can pursue in a Psy.D. or Ph.D. program.
What Specializations Are Available in Psy.D. or Ph.D. Programs?
Students who are pursuing a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree can choose from a number of specialization areas in which to practice. As mentioned above, industrial-organizational psychologists, clinical psychologists, and school psychologists are just a few of the many specialties. Depending on the specific career, a student may need to sit for and pass his or her state’s licensing examination as well as hold a doctorate to practice.
Clinical psychologists are responsible for the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of emotional, behavioral, and mental issues. Their goal is to improve the behavior of their clients while also helping them to adapt to their surroundings. Some clinical psychologists are called upon to help with short-term issues over the span of several months, while others spend years helping clients with chronic or severe disorders. Clinical psychologists may find employment in many different settings like the insurance industry, private practices, the U.S. military, correctional institutions, hospitals, clinics, and universities. In addition, clinical psychologists may specialize in an area of psychology like neuropsychology or health psychology. According to the BLS, which groups clinical psychologists together with counseling and school psychologists, clinical psychologists earned $76,990 per year as of May 2018. Employment is projected to increase 15 perfect from 2018 to 2028, mainly due to a surge in managed care across the U.S.
Psychology professors can be found teaching courses at universities and colleges, publishing academic papers, and conducting research studies. They may also be hired as consultants for government agencies, non-profit organizations, and businesses. Overall employment is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. This can be attributed due to the increasing student enrollment numbers at universities and colleges. In addition, the popularity of the psychology major means that more postsecondary psychology teachers will be needed to teach these students. However, more schools are beginning to replace full-time professors with part-time and adjunct faculty, which could ultimately decrease the demand for full-time psychology professors who hold a doctoral degree. According to the BLS, postsecondary psychology teachers earned $76,710 as of May 2018.
Health psychologists aim to help individuals avoid and overcome health issues, typically in a clinic, hospital, or another medical setting. These professionals may also work in corporations, government agencies, and universities, researching and providing solutions for various health conditions, complications, and problems. Health psychologists are able to run research studies, lead group therapy sessions, educate others about healthy behavior, and administer behavioral tests. Many health psychologists focus on a specific area such as occupational health, community health, public health, or clinical psychology. Most health psychologist positions require candidates to hold a doctorate in psychology.
One of the most well-known career options in psychology is that of the counseling psychologist. These professionals work closely with their clients to help them understand the underlying cause(s) of their problems and guide them to take active measures to resolve them. Counseling psychology is unique in that it focuses on both typical developmental concerns as well as more complex problems like mental, physical, or emotional illnesses. However, most counseling psychologists work with psychologically stable patients rather than those with severe illnesses like schizophrenia. These professionals may find employment in settings like private organizations, schools, health clinics, universities, or government agencies. While they are usually well-trained in all psychological practices and principles, they may specialize in one or more areas like depression, drug abuse, or alcoholism. The BLS groups counseling psychologists with school and clinical psychologists, reporting that this group earned $76,990 per year as of May 2018. Employment of counseling, school, and clinical psychologists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Other careers one can pursue with a doctoral degree in psychology include:
- Child Psychologist
- School Psychologist
- Educational Psychologist
- Health Psychologist
- Forensic Psychologist
- Counseling Psychologist
- Sport Psychologist
Since psychology majors develop a broad range of skills and learn about the function of the human brain as well as how people think and why they act the way they do, psychology degree-holders have many employment opportunities. While some become clinical psychologists, others may choose to work in fields like criminal justice, education, business, or mental health, to name a few. They may pursue careers in sport psychology, school psychology, or even business psychology. Above all, career options will depend on many factors like level of experience in the field, the location in which one intends to work, area of specialization, and the level of the degree itself, such as whether it was earned at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level.
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