Alternative Careers for Psychology Majors
Earning a psychology degree doesn’t mean that you must work in a psych-based job–in fact, a psychology degree is useful in a wide variety of fields. The skills acquired during psychology studies are desirable across a variety of industries, from clinical roles to education and even law enforcement. Psych students may also choose to continue their education further, rather than entering the workforce straight away.
Why Psychology Majors are Desirable in Other Fields
According to research from the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AASU), 91% of employers agree that a candidate’s ability to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve problems is more important for success than their undergraduate major is.
It’s not unusual for psych majors to work across a variety of industries–in fact, it’s the norm. It may surprise you to learn that only 27% of students go on to work in psychology or a field “closely related” to their major, according to the APA Center for Workforce Studies. The survey also found that 35% said their job was “somewhat related” to their major, while the 38% stated their job was not at all related to it.
What Does a Psychology Major Learn?
A wide variety of transferable skills can be gained while earning a psychology degree, including:
- Communication and empathy: Any psych major needs to be an excellent communicator and have empathy towards others. These qualities can prove beneficial in almost any career. According to AACU research, 96% of employers agree that college students should learn how to solve problems with people whose views are different from their own.
- Critical thinking: Thinking critically can make psych students better problem solvers and more considerate workers. A 2018 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) discovered that surveyed employers unanimously deemed critical thinking and problem-solving to be essential skills–but only just more than half considered recent graduates to be proficient in these areas.
- Ethics: Psychologists are held to a strong code of ethics and conduct by the American Psychological Association (APA), which can be applied across other fields to ensure high standards.
- Understanding of diversity: Having learned the importance of diversity during their studies, psych majors may be better prepared to respect, value, and understand individuals’ differences. This is a rare quality to have, with only 21% of employers saying that recent graduates are highly-skilled in this area.
- Understanding of trauma: Psych students have a deeper understanding of the impact trauma can have, making them well-equipped to navigate difficult situations carefully.
Why Should I Get a Psychology Degree if I Don’t Want to be a Psychologist?
Perhaps psychology doesn’t interest you as a career choice, but you’re intrigued by the subject and want to learn more. This is fine–the major you choose at college doesn’t have to directly relate to your future career.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average twenty-something switches jobs once every three years, with two or three career field changes over their lifetime. Studying a subject that interests and excites you may increase engagement, which can lead to better grades and a higher chance of success.
Jobs with Psychology Degree
The following are just a few of the career choices in various industries available to people with a psychology degree.
Jobs in Education for Psychology Majors
These jobs may require an alternative teacher certification, which will usually get you into the classroom quickly and focuses more on practical knowledge than educational theory.
Daycare worker: These positions may range from being an assistant, right to running entire facilities as a director. Each day you’ll inspire and support children’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being–all tasks which could benefit from a background in psychology.
- Predicted job growth from 2018-2018: between 2% (general daycare workers) and 7% (directors)
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median salaries range from $23,240 (childcare workers) to $47,940 (directors)
K-12 teacher: A successful teacher must do more than teach lesson plans. They also guide and mentor young children, which requires empathy, an understanding of diversity, and many other skills while earning a psychology degree. You may teach at a variety of grade levels, subjects, and settings–from kindergarten right through to high school, where you could specialize in being a psychology teacher.
- Predicted job growth for 2018-2018: between 3% (kindergarten, elementary and middle school teachers) and 4% (high school teachers)
- According to the BLS, median salaries range from $57,980 (kindergarten and elementary teachers) to $58,600 (middle school teachers) and $60,320 (high school teachers)
School counselor: Becoming a school counselor requires dedication, an advanced degree, completion of licensure requirements, and continuing education. However, the satisfaction may be worth the extra effort as you help students conquer issues related to academic performance, social anxieties, problems at home, and questions about the future. Having a background in psychology can provide counselors with a better understanding of their students and how they can assist them.
- Predicted job growth for 2018-2028: 8%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for school and career counselors is $56,310
Business Jobs and Psychology
Advertising and marketing: Psychology and advertising are closely related, as they require skills such as negotiation, mediation, and understanding what motivates people–to promote products and services. Advertisers and marketers should also keep ethical practices in mind to ensure they conduct their business in a fair and honorable way.
- Predicted job growth for 2018-2028: 8%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers is $132,620
Human resources: Human resources teams plan, direct, and coordinate the administrative functions in organizations to ensure employees are treated fairly. They work across almost all industries and employ a variety of psych-based skills in their day-to-day work, including mediation, an understanding of diversity, and empathy.
- Predicted job growth from 2018-2028: 7%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for human resources managers is $113,300
User-experience designer: At its core, being a UX designer is about understanding people and creating products that provide meaningful and relevant online experiences to them. So, a background in psychology, with skills such as empathy and an understanding of motivation, can be ideal.
- Predicted job growth between 2018-2028: 13%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for user experience designers is $69,430
Criminal Justice Careers for Psych Majors
Probation officer: Probation officers assist in the rehabilitation of law offenders on probation or parole. This includes ensuring offenders follow the conditions of their release and providing the support they need to reintegrate into society. Skills such as empathy, diversity awareness, and communication can be put to good use in this role.
- Predicted job growth between 2018-2028: 3%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for probation officers is $53,020
Detective: Like other law enforcement workers, detectives are tasked with pursuing and apprehending criminals–but unlike regular police officers, a detective typically specializes in a specific type of crime. They may be responsible for investigating serious offenses, such as sex crimes or homicides. Due to the extremely sensitive nature of their work, a background in psychology and can significantly benefit those looking to pursue a career as a detective.
- The predicted job growth between 2018-2028: 5%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for police officers and detectives is $63,380
Lawyer: While law and psychology may seem like very different disciplines, the American Psychological Association notes that the two share an interest in people’s actions. Lawyers may deal with the effects of criminal activity, and understanding human behavior can be very beneficial, as may other related skills, such as mediation.
- The predicted job growth from 2018-2028: 6%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for lawyers is $120,910
Psychology Degrees and Medical Careers
Doctors: Doctors diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses in a variety of ways. A psychology degree can be an excellent start to becoming a doctor, as it gives you training in empathy, research, and a sound understanding of the link between mental and physical health.
- Predicted job growth for 2018-2028: 7%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for doctors and surgeons is equal to or greater than $208,000
Nurses: Nurses also help their patients by treating injuries or illnesses. They can work in a variety of roles–from registered nurses, who must complete state licensure, to specialized positions such as midwives and psychiatric nurses. All nurses work closely with their patients, putting learned skills such as empathy, research, and an understanding of mental health conditions to good use.
- Predicted job growth for 2018-2028: 12%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for registered nurses is $71,730
Physician’s assistant: Physician’s assistants (PAs) diagnose illnesses, develop, and manage treatment plans, and may serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. It takes thousands of hours of training to become a PA, and having skills such as empathy, research, and communication with people in crisis can make the process much smoother.
- Predicted job growth for 2018-2028: 31%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for PAs is $108,610
Nonprofit or Government Positions with Psychology Degrees
Social worker: While directly related to psychology degrees, social work is not technically a psychology-based job. Social workers help people to solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. Clinical social workers may also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. They may work in a variety of settings, including schools and other educational establishments. Earning a psychology degree can be beneficial when aiming for a career in social work.
- Predicted job growth between 2018-2028: 11%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for social workers is $49,470
Career counselor: Career counselors assist students, people re-entering the workforce after unemployment, and those just looking to change their role, find a better career fit. They are also often employed by government and nonprofit agencies to assist people with specific needs, such as developmental delays. Having psych-based skills such as patience, empathy, and an understanding of diversity can be beneficial to the role.
- Predicted job growth for 2018-2028: 8%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for career counselors is $56,310
Policy analyst: Policy analysts (a broad term that includes roles such as political scientists and researchers) research and raise public awareness of social issues such as crime prevention, access to healthcare, and environmental protection. Skills learned during a psych degree can be greatly beneficial in this role, including the ability to research, write, and argue effectively.
- Predicted job growth from 2018-2028: 5%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for political scientists is $117,570
Research and Writing Jobs for Psychology Majors
Market research analyst: Market research analysts collect and study data to gauge why target audiences might be attracted to particular products. An understanding of human emotion and the effect it has on people’s habits and purchasing decisions can be of great assistance in this role.
- Predicted job growth for 2018-2028: 20%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for market analysts is $63,120
University researcher: This career path covers several different jobs, including social science research assistants, analysts, and coordinators. They all use an array of research techniques to gather data, and then analyze it to make behavioral observations. A greater understanding of the human psyche can be very beneficial to this career.
- Predicted job growth between 2018-2028: 7%-10%
- According to O*net, the median salary for research assistants is $46,640
Writer: Whether you are interested in becoming a fiction writer or an academic, having a background in psychology could be an excellent start for a future writing career. A variety of skills, including research, verbal and written communication, and an understanding of the human mind can be valuable.
- Predicted job growth for 2018-2028: 0% (little or no change)
- According to the BLS, the median salary for writers is $62,170
Unexpected Career Options for Psychology Majors
Actor: A degree in psychology is the perfect starting point for an acting career–a wide range of skills can be transferred between the two, including memory, social theorizing, imagination, and empathy. Many famous actors, including Natalie Portman and Jon Stewart, have earned psych degrees.
- Predicted job growth between 2018-2028: 1%
- According to the BLS, the median hourly pay for actors is $17.54
Real estate agent: From managing the emotions of clients to considering the sensory perceptions of a new home, having a background in psychology can be very beneficial to real estate agents, whose job involves the sale of property. Skills such as empathy and good communication will be of particular use.
- Predicted job growth for 2018-2028: 7%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for real estate agents is $50,300
Artificial intelligence: Having a greater understanding of human psychology is very useful to the study of artificial intelligence (AI). In their 2018 book “The Future Computed,” Microsoft president Brad Smith and EVP of AI and research Harry Shum wrote that lessons from liberal arts degrees would be critical to unleashing the potential of this technology.
- Predicted job growth between 2018-2028: 16%
- According to the BLS, the median salary for computer research scientists is $118,370
There’s a vast array of careers available to those who hold a psychology degree. The cognitive, academic, and interpersonal skills learned while studying psychology can not only prepare you for further education, but also lead to a career that you love, whatever your interests may be.