What Kind of Jobs Can I Get in the Field of Psychology?

The future looks bright for degree-seekers.

Posted May 31, 2019

Opportunities are blossoming every year. In a time when the growth of countless occupations has been in question, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 14 percent expansion in careers for psychologists between 2016 and 2026, double the average growth rate of all careers. Download our Careers in Psychology guide to learn about some of these exciting opportunities.

Psychology Today
Source: Psychology Today

For those with a bachelor’s degree, new avenues of understanding human behavior, through social media, marketing, and sales, are evolving. Bachelor’s degree holders can find opportunities in public relations, business administration, market research, residential counseling, admissions counseling, rehabilitation assistance, and youth advocacy.

Graduate degrees are necessary to practice as a clinical psychologist. Doctoral training is the standard in most states, but school psychology or behavioral analysis can be practiced at the master’s level. The master’s degree in psychology can lead to work as a school counselor, career counselor at a university, sports counselor, substance abuse counselor, or social worker, including case management. Careers for mental health professionals in schools are projected to grow by upward of 20 percent, according to the American Psychological Association. The destigmatization of mental health concerns creates jobs for those willing to take a clinical, social, and personal approach to the study of the mind.

For those with a Ph.D. in psychology, medical advancements coupled with technological changes in society are opening new frontiers—deciphering the effects of cell phones, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence on the human mind. Psychometricians are needed to assess individual abilities in SAT testing, workplace interaction, and other dimensions of social and personal achievement. The median pay for a psychologist in 2017 was $77,030 per year. Job opportunities are greatest for those with a doctoral specialty.

The need for addiction treatment continues to grow. Cognitive-behavioral techniques are being used to help patients with chronic pain. The burgeoning field of pain psychology needs fresh minds to increase both viability and effectiveness. Nutritional psychology often overlaps with life coaching. Sports psychology is an increasingly valuable resource for players dealing with brain injury, stress, sexual assault, and problems relating to culture on and off the field.

In the areas of artificial intelligence and the application of personal tech such as smartphones, psychologists can provide unique insight into the effects on us and what problems they can cause. Designing new technology to be in tune with recent psychological evidence can foster mental well-being and aid in the assessment of disorders resulting from potential misuse. Applications for statistical methods in psychology have been greatly expanded by digital tech. A brief survey delivered via smartphone can provide data on millions of people, leading to enormous sample sizes in new studies. The research of the mind is just getting started. At all levels of education, the science of consciousness, behavior, mental faculties, and decision making is among the most complex in the universe. It is unlikely that psychology will ever run out of new frontiers to examine, and anyone can become a part of that investigation.

What to expect

We asked Katharine S. Brooks, Ed.D., Executive Director at the Vanderbilt University Career Center, questions on career options.

What are some good career options for the increasingly popular bachelor’s degree in psychology?

Many undergraduate psychology majors who enjoyed their education but choose not to continue on to graduate school apply their learning in careers outside of psychology—in business, law, public relations, marketing and market research, sales, education, or social media specialties. Those who have taken statistics or data-related courses may find new opportunities in data analytics. Focus on the type of work you want to do, rather than the specific title. Ask yourself whom you want to work with (as client, colleague, or customer); what work do you want to do (counsel, write reports, analyze data, conduct research.); and where you want to do this (hospital, private agency, community program.). Most important, why are you doing this? What is your purpose in pursuing this career?

What types of jobs can one find in psychological research, on the more neurological and psychometric end of the job spectrum?

Katharine S. Brooks, Ed.D.
Source: Katharine S. Brooks, Ed.D.

The field of data analytics as enhanced by new technology has opened up many opportunities for psychology majors who specialize in statistics. Every company from Google to your local department store relies on data to understand their customers and market their products. Medical advances, particularly related to genetics, neurology, and neuroimaging, have opened new avenues for research and clinical therapies, including pharmaceutical treatments. Industrial psychology also continues to grow as a specialty as more corporations see the value of psychologists, whether in the data analytics area or in marketing research. Psychologists can enhance almost any field of study whether it’s rising levels of obesity, crime and rehabilitation, the social effect of technology, online learning, or sports-related brain injuries. The positive psychology movement has also opened up new wellness programs at virtually every workplace and will likely continue to grow.

Quick Stats

  • 1 in 3 doctorates in Psychology in 2016 were earned by minorities
  • Nearly 23.9% of psychologists were self-employed in 2016
  • Psychology is the fourth most declared major with approximately 117,000 students
  • 83% of psychiatrists would choose their career again if they could get a do-over
  • The average salary of psychologists employed by local government is $123,570

Download our Careers in Psychology guide to learn more about degrees and salary potential.