Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Top 20 Jobs That Psych Majors Want but Don’t Know About

Counseling and child-related careers garner interest while others go overlooked.

Key points

  • Psychology majors are largely unaware of the more than 300 psychology-related careers available to them.
  • Ninety-two percent of psychology majors know about counseling. Less than half are aware of applied careers with children, business, or research.
  • Eighteen of the top 20 careers of interest to psychology majors involve mental health or working with children.

Approximately 3.5 million people have a bachelor’s degree in psychology. After undergraduate work, more than half of psychology graduates choose to enter the workforce. A national survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) revealed that among psychology graduates with a bachelor’s degree, only 4 percent are unemployed, while 72 percent are employed, and 24 percent chose not to work.

Yet psychology majors are often on the receiving end of questions and comments from friends and family regarding the employability of their degrees. They might hear things like, “You can’t do anything with a psychology degree” or “You have to go to graduate school to get a job.”

These comments, which are undoubtedly well-intentioned, are unfounded.

Earning a graduate degree only marginally improves employability. Approximately 76 percent of psychology graduates with a master’s degree and 82 percent with a doctorate are employed.

National surveys of graduates with a bachelor’s degree show that psychology graduates land jobs all over the place. According to the National Science Foundation, psychology graduates were employed in 92 out of 129 different occupational categories. No single job category was selected by more than 5 percent of psychology graduates–with management, social work, and administration tied for the most popular.

Other surveys, which use a broader classification system, again show how broad psychology graduates’ career options are. The most common employment areas for psychology graduates were in sales (20 percent), professional service (17 percent), management (16 percent), teaching (11 percent), finance (9 percent), employee relations (5 percent), and research (3 percent).

What psych majors can do with their degrees

Psychologist Drew Appleby compiled a list of approximately 300 psychology-related careers. (It's now available online.) Each career links to its job description, education level needed, anticipated job outlook, and salary.

Of these 300 psychology-related career options, which are psychology majors most interested in? And more importantly, which do psychology majors most want but don’t know about?

To answer these questions, my colleague and I conducted two studies. First, we led focus groups of current psychology majors regarding which careers they believe are available to psychology graduates. We found that 92 percent of psychology majors thought careers were available in counseling. Applied careers were only listed half of the time. Applied careers related to children (42 percent), business (25 percent), and research (25 percent) were listed even less often. Only three specific careers — school counselor, professional clinical counselor, and marriage/family therapist — were listed by at least half of the focus groups.

Thus, psychology majors tend to be largely unaware of the many career options available to them. To identify which specific careers psychology majors tend to be interested in but are unaware of, we conducted a second study.

We presented hundreds of psychology students with a list of approximately 300 psychology-related career options. We asked them to rate their interest in each career from 1 (Not at all interested) to 5 (Extremely interested).

Findings revealed that students’ career interests varied widely. But some careers were much more popular than others. Following is a “top 20” list of the careers that psychology majors were most interested in.

  1. Psychologist
  2. Child psychologist
  3. Adolescent psychologist
  4. Child development specialist
  5. Counseling psychologist
  6. Child abuse counselor
  7. Child psychiatrist
  8. Clinical psychologist
  9. Pediatric psychologist
  10. Marriage & family therapist
  11. Developmental psychologist
  12. Mental health counselor
  13. School psychologist
  14. Child life specialist
  15. Criminal psychologist
  16. Family counselor
  17. Depression counselor
  18. Personality psychologist
  19. Psychiatrist
  20. Psychotherapist

Interestingly, psychology majors were most interested in counseling and child-related careers, with 18 of their top 20 careers of interest involving mental health or working with children. In the earlier focus groups, few mentioned child-related careers, thus revealing blind spots for applied careers in developmental psychology.

Psychology majors are often unaware of career options in psychology beyond counseling. Yet they tend to be most interested in careers related to counseling and children, particularly careers involving children's mental healthcare.

Which psych-related career is right for you?

Unlike other majors, like nursing or accounting, which tend to have a singular career path, psychology majors have many options. This can be both a blessing and a curse. So, how do you discern which career path is best? In short, learn your options. Check out online career resources. Chat with psychology faculty members and alumni. Reflect on your strengths, interests, and passions–especially as they may overlap with psychology. For instance, if you enjoy counseling and healthcare, consider a career as a child life specialist, genetic counselor, or psychiatrist. Or, if you enjoy helping people with research, consider applied careers as an institutional researcher, army research psychologist, or market research analyst.

Most universities and psychology departments also have internship opportunities available, so you can try various career options before you commit to graduate school or a specific career.

Finally, for graduates who may fear their psychology degree did not prepare them for life after undergrad, consider how your psychology coursework and experiences align with the outcomes and skills promoted by the APA. Psychology programs, in general, tend to foster psychological knowledge, critical thinking, social responsibility, communication, and professional development. Recently, the APA Committee on Associate and Baccalaureate Education listed specific cognitive, communication, personal, social, and technological skills that psychology graduates often develop that apply to various careers.


Collisson, B. & Eck, B. E. (2021). “Oh, the places you can go.” Gen Z psychology students perceived career options and interests. Teaching of Psychology, 49(3), 245-257.

More from Brian Collisson Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today