What Can I Do With a PhD in Psychology? – PhD in Psychology Career Options

Last Updated: June 25, 2024

Professionals who earn their Ph.D. in psychology have many more career options available to them than Masters level and Bachelors prepared individuals.

Not only are incomes generally higher with a Ph.D. but jobs are more plentiful and varied after the completion of doctoral level training. Also, in order to actually be considered a psychologist, a doctoral degree in psychology is generally mandatory.

Doctoral prepared professionals generally choose between applied psychology careers and research oriented careers. Applied psychology careers consist of the professional delivering psychological services directly to clients.

Psychologists deals with the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health disorders. They also frequently provide preventative services for various entities. Some psychologists also apply psychological theories to help businesses overcome challenges and improve workplace productivity.

Other doctoral level professionals choose to dedicate their careers to conducting research. In many universities, doctoral level faculty only spend a small amount of time teaching classes as they spend the majority of their time engaged in research. They often manage laboratories, recruit research trainees, and publish their findings in academic journals.

Research psychologists also spend a lot of time giving talks about their research findings, attending conferences, and more experienced professionals are sometimes called upon to give peer reviews for well-respected academic and professional journals.

Additionally, many research psychologists also find themselves writing grant applications to get funding for their research projects.

What are the Career Options With a PhD in Psychology?

Listed below are some of the popular career options that you can pursue with a PhD in psychology:

  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Industrial Organizational Psychologist
  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Rehabilitation Psychologist
  • Experimental Psychologist
  • School Psychologist
  • Sports Psychologist
  • Educational Psychologist
  • Social Psychologist
  • Child Psychologist
  • Mental Health Psychologist

Clinical Psychologist

Clinical psychologists often work in private practice providing evaluations and treatment for individuals who are experiencing mental health issues. However, you will also find a significant amount of these professionals working in hospitals, clinics, residential facilities, and other institutions that provide mental health services. A clinical psychologist in these settings might be a practitioner or an administrator.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, clinical psychologists earn an average mean wage of $102,740 annually, as of May 2023.

Industrial Organizational Psychologist

Companies hire industrial-organizationalpPsychologists to develop strategies to increase productivity and improve employee retention rates. These professionals focus on organizational structure, employee recruitment and selection, job satisfaction, and the development of better machines and systems for employee comfort. Industrial-organizational psychologists identify methods that work best in the workplace and make recommendations for improvement.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, industrial-organizational psychologists earn an average mean wage of $144,610 annually, as of May 2023.

Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychologists take psychological insights and apply that to legal matters. This specialized area of psychology focuses on criminal and civil matters to include law enforcement, jury selection, probation and parole, victim advocacy, family law, mental status competency, risk assessments, civil commitments, juvenile delinquency, insurance claims, and many other areas of the justice system.

Careers for forensic psychologists are diverse and can include functioning as a court consultant, providing mental health services in correctional facilities, working with law enforcement, or providing victim advocacy.

Although a specific wage for a forensic psychologist was not noted, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Forensic Science Technicians who also serve as Expert Witnesses, earn an average mean wage of $147,585 annually, as of January 2024.

Rehabilitation Psychologist

Rehabilitation psychologists work with people who have suffered a significant loss or are struggling with adjusting to life with a disability. These professionals focus on the psychological aspects of loss, disability, and rehabilitation.

Typical clients could include someone who has recently become a paraplegic, is dealing with cancer, or is experiencing a chronic medical condition. Practitioners give their clients the support that they need as they adjust to their new life with the condition.

Researchers in the field of rehabilitation psychology explore how various factors, including biological, social, and environmental issues, affect people with disabilities and other chronic illnesses.

According to ZipRecruiter, the related field of rehabilitation counselor earns an average mean wage of $95,854 annually, as of January 2024.

Experimental Psychologist

Experimental psychologists are professionals who specialize in the study of human behavior and cognition. Their research generally explores thinking, learning, attention, motivation, and other cognitive functions. Although they do work with humans, they also study animals such as rats, monkeys, and pigeons.

Experimental psychologists can work in research settings, as consultants for businesses, and are even called upon to develop strategies to help lessen the psychological impact of high intensity training on military personnel.

School Psychologist

School psychologists are employed by public school districts, private schools, and learning centers to help students overcome challenges related to disabilities, emotional issues, social adjustment, or other behavioral problems that impede learning. They evaluate the effectiveness of the educational process for students and use available resources as well new strategies to help students improve performance.

School psychologists also help students indirectly by working with teachers, parents, and school administrators to create individualized educational programs for students who are struggling to learn.

In many school districts, they also help administrators with the development of programs for Gifted learners. The goal of school psychologists in this role is to support teachers and parents in implementing individualized instructional strategies for students.

Some professionals specialize in working with specific groups of students such as children with Learning Disabilities, Gifted learners, or Adult learners.

According to ZipRecruiter, school psychologists earn an average mean wage of $92,813 annually, as of January 2024.

Sports Psychologist

Sports psychologists are qualified professionals who help athletes to overcome problems, improve performance and achieve their goals. They draw their knowledge from many fields such as physiology, biomechanics, psychology, and kinesiology.

Sports psychologists explore the link between the psychological and physical factors that affect performance and try to establish what issues are preventing athletes from performing at full potential.

Their role may also involve acting as a consultant, a trainer or a therapist. Therapy may be needed for issues such as career transitions, eating disorders or off-field problems that effect on-field performance.

Working as a trainer may include assistance with rehabilitation after an injury. Athletic teams often consult with sports psychologists or employ one to help with various issues such as group dynamics and leadership issues.

Some sports psychologists become researchers who explore issues such as factors that lead to success, the effects of athletic participation on individuals or the psychological effects of a physical injury.

According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA), sports psychologists can expect to earn between $60,000 and $180,000 a year, with some annual salaries reaching $100,000.

What is the Job Outlook for Psychology Careers?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that although the employment growth of psychologists is expected to grow by 6 percent from 2022 to 2032, career prospects are far better for those who have a doctoral degree in psychology.

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