Career Options With a Psychology Degree
If you’re wondering what careers are possible with a psychology degree, the short answer is that there are many. One of the benefits of having a psychology degree is that it prepares you for many different types of careers in many different fields of work. That’s due in part to the wide variety of knowledge and skills that one acquires while studying psychology.
It’s also due to the fact that so many different jobs depend on an understanding of human behavior on some level. Whether it’s working as a counseling psychologist, a forensic psychologist, a college professor, or something in between, a degree in psychology is a good way to prepare for many different fields of work. Below is a list of 31 careers you might pursue with a background in psychology.
Aviation psychologists combine their studies of human behavior and aviation to provide services to airports, airlines, and government agencies that make flying safer. This might include working for an airline to conduct behavioral assessments on pilots or devising stress tests for government agencies like the FAA, or aiding in the design of airports to facilitate improved travel. According to a April 2020 report by PayScale, psychologists earn an average of $77,158 per year.
Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselor
With a master’s degree in psychology, one can pursue a career as a behavioral disorder and mental health counselor. Counselors in this field treat people that have any number of mental health difficulties, from eating disorders and behavioral disorders (i.e., attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) to mood disorders (i.e., depression) and personality disorders (i.e., schizoaffective disorder). Though the needs of each client might vary widely, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors approach treatment by evaluating their client’s needs, developing goals for treatment, and helping clients develop the skills they need to function better, among other things. As of May 2019, workers in this field earn an average yearly wage of $46,240.
Career Counselors are professionals who are trained to assist people identify an area of the workforce or particular job that will be fulfilling to them based on their interests, goals, and abilities. Career Counselors work with individuals who are at a variety of life stages. They may be ready to enter a higher education program, seeking to change careers at midlife, or planning for a future job change to meet new goals. The median salary for career counselors, as of May 2019, is $57,040 per year.
A career as a case manager can begin with as little as a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Workers in this field act as liaisons that coordinate services for people that cannot do so themselves, like children or the elderly. For example, a case manager might help an elderly client fill out paperwork for Medicaid and find financial assistance to pay for rent. As of 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the median annual salary for case managers was $67,150.
Child Life Specialist
The primary role of a child life specialist is to prepare children and their families for major medical events like chronic illness or hospitalization. For example, they might teach pediatric patients coping strategies that help them deal with the stress of being severely ill. Child life specialists typically work in a hospital setting as a member of a larger medical team. In general, child life specialists make between $40,000 and $63,000 per year, with the median falling at about $51,000, reported as of early 2018.
Child Protection Specialist
An entry-level position for people with a bachelor’s degree in psychology is a child protection specialist. These workers investigate reports of child neglect or abuse, usually on behalf of a state agency like Child Protective Services. In this role, child protection specialists interview families, assess the level of danger for the child, help families build skills to break the cycle of neglect, and work with law enforcement to remove children from abusive homes. As of May 2019, PayScale reported that workers in this field earn an average of $53,842 per year.
Community Service Manager
A common line of work for individuals with a background in psychology is as a community service manager. In this position, workers coordinate with different stakeholders to improve the well being of different community members. For example, if homelessness is identified as a problem, a community service manager might spearhead the development of a program that helps homeless people find work or mental health care. As of 2019, the median yearly wage for this career was $67,150.
Correctional Treatment Specialist
A correctional treatment specialist is responsible for evaluating people on probation or parole, with the specific goal of developing a rehabilitation plan aimed and helping the probationer or parolee to avoid further run-ins with the law. For example, they would play an important part in developing job training programs in prisons so individuals have skills that will help them gain employment upon their release. According to a 2019 report by the Bureau of Labor statistics, correctional treatment specialists earn $54,290 per year, on average.
Counseling psychologists typically work in private practice or in an institutional setting where they provide counseling services to clients with mental health needs. This often takes the form of individual therapy to treat a host of mental disorders, from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. Through the counseling process, psychologists help their clients recognize the issues that are impacting their ability to function, identify strengths they can rely on to improve their life situation, and develop resources to cope with the difficulties that arise from having a mental health issue. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that counseling psychologists, as of May 2019, make on average $78,200 per year.
Typically, developmental psychologists are employed in the research sector, where they evaluate the processes involved in human development across the lifespan. In addition to exploring how things like behavior and personality develop in the childhood and adolescent years, psychologists that work in this field also examine topics related to adulthood like the development of relationships, aging, and death. Some developmental psychologists work in a clinical capacity as well. For example, they might provide counseling services to developmentally disabled children or consult with other professionals to develop programs that help older adults stave off mental decline. According to PayScale, as of April 2020, developmental psychologists make an average of $63,500 per year.
An educational counselor is a highly trained psychological professional who provides a number of services to children, teachers and parents in a school setting to help students achieve academic and social success usually in an academic setting. An educational counselor spends most of their time providing direct services to the student. While these services can vary quite a bit depending on the setting and a student’s needs, generally an educational counselor will provide services along three continuums: academic, social/developmental and career. The median salary for educational counselors, as of May 2019, is $61,000 per year.
A family therapist is a trained and credentialed psychotherapist with a masters or doctoral degree, plus a minimum of two years’ of clinically supervised experience. They are licensed to diagnose and treat mental health and substance abuse problems. Studies have shown that family therapists are often very helpful in the treatment of depression. One of the core perspectives of a family therapist is based upon systems theory: no one individual operates in isolation; family members are interdependent and one person’s actions and behaviors influence those of another person within the family system.
Therefore, if one person changes, this change affects the other people within the system and the dynamics of their inter-personal relationships change accordingly. “Family” is defined as those people with whom a client has strong connections and feels supported by; they are not necessarily bound together by blood. A family therapist will treat individuals, couples or families. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2019, the average salary for marriage and family therapist is $54,590 per year.
Typically, forensic psychologists have a master’s degree or doctorate in psychology with a specialization in forensics. This training allows workers in this field to assess individuals that are part of the legal system. This typically involves tasks like evaluating defendants to determine fitness for trial, consulting with law enforcement agencies on the potential characteristics and motivations of a criminal that’s being pursued and serving as an expert witness in court proceedings in which their testimony paints a picture of the defendant’s mental state or capacity. According to PayScale, as of April 2020, forensic psychologists earn a median yearly wage of $69,596.
Grief counselors specialize in counseling people that have experienced a loss, be that a spouse, a child, or another loved one. Typically, grief counseling is done in a one-on-one setting, though group therapy is common as well. The purpose of grief counseling is to help the bereaved work through their pain and emotions and return to normalcy. According to PayScale, as of April 2020, the median annual wages for a grief counselor stood at $48,229.
A guidance counselor usually works in a high school to provide testing and support services for students to prepare for their post-secondary lives. For example, a guidance counselor might help a college-bound student to determine which college to apply to or help students that wish to join the military to fill out the proper paperwork or arrange a meeting with a local recruiter. Guidance counselors earned an average of $61,000 per year as of May 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The primary role of a health educator is to teach specific populations about health-related issues that impact them. For example, a health educator might work with teens to teach them about safe sex. Likewise, they might develop educational materials for people suffering from obesity about how to improve their diet. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2019 that the annual yearly salary for health educators was $46,910.
Though psychology is the study of human behavior on the individual level, industrial-organizational psychologists focus on human behavior within the context of organizations, most often, the workplace. Industrial-organizational psychologists most often work in areas related to human performance, career development, organizational development, and similar topics, and use their knowledge to address workplace issues like improving employee morale, developing employee training and recruitment programs, and restructuring organizations to improve their efficacy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that based on 2019 salary data industrial-organizational psychologists can expect to earn around $111,150 per year, on average.
Workers with a bachelor’s-level education in psychology may find many work opportunities as a laboratory assistant. Psychology research is a popular field for workers with more advanced education and experience, and they need assistants to help them conduct research into a variety of psychological topics. Laboratory assistants might be responsible for anything from interviewing potential subjects for an experiment, managing the tasks related to the experiment itself, collecting and analyzing data, and writing reports on the findings of the research. The median income for laboratory assistants, as of April 2020, is $41,171, though the pay range extends from a low of $29,281 per year up to $49,060 per year.
Market Research Analyst
Businesses don’t just devise a new product and put it to market. Instead, the development of a product (or service) requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work from many different stakeholders. One important person in that process is the market research analyst. These workers collect data to determine everything from what consumers want to buy, the specific age ranges of consumers that would be interested in a product, to how much a company should charge for a product or service. Market research analysts often collect and analyze data on a company’s competitors and the consumer marketplace as a whole as well. The median salary for market research analysts, as of May 2019, is $71,570 per year.
In their duties to protect citizens and property, many police officers have to rely on psychological principles to not only understand the behavior of criminals but to communicate effectively with criminals and victims alike. As such, a background in psychology can be highly useful, particularly in high-stress situations like responding to emergency calls and interviewing suspects. Likewise, the meticulous nature of collecting evidence and writing detailed reports are made easier with the research and reporting emphasis in undergraduate psychology studies. The median salary for police officers, as of May 2019, is $63,150 per year.
The role of a probation officer is to oversee the rehabilitation of individuals that have been convicted of a crime. The rehabilitation process involves many aspects that are closely related to psychology, including arranging basic social services like job training, providing educational opportunities for skill building like improved decision-making, and coordinating with other specialists like psychologists to ensure the client receives the support that’s needed to stay on the right side of the law. As of May 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, probation officers earn an average yearly wage of $54,290.
Licensed psychologists must have a doctorate in psychology or a related field. This background in human behavior can be used for different types of careers as a psychologist. Some psychologists work directly with clients, providing therapeutic services to people with emotional, behavioral or mental disorders. This might be done in the context of individual therapy, couples therapy, or even group therapy.
Other psychologists focus on research and developing a better understanding of human behavior by conducting experiments, collecting data, interpreting data, and reporting their findings. The wages psychologists earn is highly dependent upon their specific field of work and their level of education. However, the average yearly salary for all psychology occupations is $80,370.
Working as a psychiatric technician usually requires just a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. Typical job duties revolve around providing care for patients that have developmental disabilities, behavioral disorders or psychiatric illnesses. Psychiatric technicians often monitor patients’ vital signs, provide assistance with activities of daily living (i.e., bathing, dressing, etc.), administer medication, and oversee therapeutic and recreational activities for patients. However, the duties performed by psychiatric technicians can vary widely, especially if they work in a specialized area like in a psychiatric ward in a hospital or an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2019, workers in this field make an average of just under $33,710 per year.
Psychometrists are responsible for designing psychological assessments, administering them to clients, scoring them, and analyzing the data. Primarily, psychometrists function to assist others in the field of psychology by providing them with evidence-based data on individual clients. This might be done by administering and scoring an intelligence test or an IQ test, which can be used to help develop a patient profile or treatment plan. Likewise, information garnered from psychological assessments can be used to determine a person’s fitness for a particular job, such as a police officer or member of the military. Psychometrists are master’s level workers, with many holding a doctorate. As of April 2020 the yearly pay range for workers in this field is anywhere from $31,000 to $62,000.
Many people with a master’s degree or doctorate in psychology work in the education field as a psychology professor, most often after completing a career in another area of psychology. For example, a clinical psychologist that practiced for 20 years can use their education and work experience to transition into teaching college students that wish to pursue a career in clinical psychology. Likewise, someone with experience in experimental psychology can find employment teaching and conducting research at a college or university, again, drawing on their education, skills, and work experience to teach the next generation of psychologists. According to the American Psychological Association, tenured psychology professors earn an average of $94,218 per year.
Rehabilitation counselors are tasked with assisting people that have developmental disabilities, emotional disabilities, or physical or mental disabilities to live as independently as possible. In that context, rehabilitation counselors provide counseling to individuals and groups that help clients build skills required to adjust to their disability. Likewise, workers in this field are responsible for evaluating each client’s abilities, developing appropriate treatment plans, and making arrangements for clients to receive needed services, like occupational therapy, speech therapy, and job training. With a master’s degree in psychology, workers in this field earn an average annual wage of $35,950.
Sports psychologists are trained professionals who work with professional athletes, helping them to improve and maintain various aspects of their life and athletic performance. They usually work one to one with athletes in a variety of sporting fields, but may also be involved with specific teams or sports.
Sports Psychologists focus on providing therapy, physical training, and consulting with athletes who want to improve their performance. However, they also work with athletes off the field, assisting them with rehabilitation or helping them to transition out of athletics. Some sports psychologists also specialize in research, studying new ways to help athletes achieve success. According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA), the salary for sports psychologists can vary significantly. Most professionals can expect to earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year, with some annual salaries reaching $100,000.
Social and Human Services Assistant
A bachelor’s degree in psychology is good preparation for a career as a social and human services assistant. These workers provide critical services such that their clients have the resources they need to live healthy, comfortable lives. Social and human services assistants often meet with clients to assess their needs, develop a treatment plan for their clients, and research services that might provide their clients needed assistance, like Medicaid or rent subsidies. Often, workers in this field must coordinate with other professionals, like social workers, to ensure the spectrum of the clients’ needs are met. As of May 2019, social and human services assistants make, on average, $35,060 per year.
Social and Community Service Manager
The duties of a social and community service manager entail oversight of programs that provide social services and community services to the public. Community service managers can draw on their studies in a psychology degree program to better serve their community through effective communication, robust research and writing skills, and the ability to analyze and interpret data to draw evidence-based conclusions. Workers in this career field often conduct outreach activities to raise community awareness of critical problems or programs to address those problems, write grants to procure funding for community programs, and advocate for groups that are underserved as well. Workers in this field can expect to make $67,150 per year, on average.
Substance Abuse Counselor
Substance abuse counselors typically need a master’s degree in psychology or a related field. This career draws on an understanding of human behavior, how substances like alcohol and drugs influence behavior, and effective methods to treat substance abuse in various populations.
Substance abuse counselors not only evaluate their clients’ current mental and physical state, but they also work with their client to explore their addiction, reasons why it might have begun, and the ramifications of their addiction on their social, mental, emotional, and physical health. A significant part of this job is developing a treatment plan and working with the client to help them achieve the treatment goals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2019, substance abuse counselors earn a median annual wage of $46,250.
Because there are heavy requirements for research and writing in most psychology undergraduate and graduate programs, they are ideally suited for preparation as a writer. In this line of work, there are virtually unlimited possibilities, with some writers working for themselves and self-publishing books, eBooks, and so forth, while other writers work for publications creating content for a specific audience, like writing self-help articles on psychology-related topics. With such a variety of possible employment in this field, there is also a wide variety of salaries. On average, writers earn $63,200 per year, though the pay range extends from a low of well under $30,000 per year to well over $115,000 per year.