Competition is fierce in many careers, for example, lawyer, environmentalist, and yes, psychologist. One way around it is to choose an under-the-radar niche. Here are examples:

Alternatives to clinical psychology

A client yesterday came in saying she wanted to be a clinical psychologist, which is highly competitive. By the time, she walked out, we had discussed the following:

Prison psychologist

Homicide detective

Police/FBI/CIA psychologist

Military psychologist/profiler/hostage negotiator

Forensic counselor

Crime scene investigator

Mental hospital psychologist

Mental hospital administrator

Psychologist specializing in schizophrenia

Psychologist specializing in autism

Psychologist specializing in eating disorders

Psychologist working for a community mental health agency

Psychologist working for an HMO such as Kaiser

Marketer (whether of psychologically-oriented products or not)

Employee Assistance Psychologist

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Marriage and family therapist

Child protective services social worker

Psychiatric social worker

Clinical social worker

School psychologist

Occupational therapist

Speech and language pathologist

Fundraiser for the a mental illness organization

Conference planner for a mental illness organization

Counselor at a residential program for teens with problems

College counselor

College academic advisor

Sports psychologist

Engineering/User Interface Psychologist


Genetic counselor

Geriatric counselor

Special educator teacher

Alternatives to teaching

A couple days ago a burned-out teacher came in. We explored these options:

Teacher trainer

Specialist teacher: computer, art, music

Assistant principal

School district or county curriculum developer

School psychologist

School counselor

Curriculum developer for a textbook company

Salesperson of educational materials to school districts

Manager at a teacher’s store

Activity director at an assisted-living facility

Activity director on a cruise ship

Director at a day care or preschool


Salesperson (good sales people of complex products do much teaching to individual prospects and groups.)

Trainer for corporations, nonprofits, or government

Administrator for the district, county, state, or federal education bureaucracy.

Administrator for the teacher’s union

Technical writer.

Teaching in a school with a less challenging student population

Teaching in a private school, where there are fewer bureaucratic mandates.

College admissions officer.

Under-the-radar options for you

Now think of the career you’re interested in pursuing. What aspects of it most appeal? Is there a less competitive niche?

For example, if you’re thinking of being a doctor because you want to heal people, in addition to obvious alternatives such as nurse or physical therapist, how about massage therapist or body worker? 

If you’re thinking of being a lawyer because you like to argue, how about preparing to be a lobbyist or politician?

If you’re thinking of being an environmentalist because you care to save the planet, how about a niche like smart-grid demand management or a less popular source of clean energy such as nuclear.

You don't need to come up with the alternatives yourself. Google is your friend: Try Googling terms like "careers for biology majors" or "artist careers."

The Bigger Picture

People tend to follow the crowd, whether in choosing careers, ideological positions, or what label to wear on their butt. It’s often wise to at least consider less popular options.

Marty Nemko’s bio is in Wikipedia.

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