Careers in Psychology: Jobs for Every Level of Psychology Degree
Pursuing a career in the field of psychology requires careful deliberation of required degrees, professional pathways, and potential salaries. Given all these considerations, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the next steps. If so, we’re here to help. Over the course of this guide, we’ll cover the myriad psychology and psychology-related careers available, with special sections dedicated to the most popular psychology careers out there.
Because so many different psychology careers exist, you might be looking for in-depth information about each one to help differentiate what a day-in-the-life looks like and figure out which path suits your skills and interests best. You’ve probably also heard that jobs in this industry depend largely on the level of degree you hold – as do salaries. Whether you’re interested in testing the waters with an associate degree or taking the final step with a doctorate, this page covers each degree level and thoroughly explains the different career paths you can pursue after graduating. Whether you’re interested in working as a psychiatric aide, mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, researcher, professor, or clinical psychologist, you can learn more about what each of these entails and how to become one.
Some students decide to start with an associate degree to ensure they enjoy coursework before progressing to a higher degree. Courses typically transfer to a bachelor’s, making it easy to further your education if you desire. Jobs available at this level include:
Career Options with a Associate Degree in Psychology
Lab Technical Assistant
Individuals in these roles support psychologists and other medical professionals by performing routine laboratory tests. They collect and analyze samples and report findings to their supervisor. They must know how to use advanced laboratory equipment, keep samples from becoming contaminated, and possess a strong eye for detail and accuracy.
Social Service Assistant
Social and human service assistants work under the eye of social workers and other industry professionals to assist in the treatment of clients such as veterans, families, or people with disabilities. A typical day may include researching appropriate services and making referrals, finding information about government services to make their lives easier (e.g., food stamps, childcare, Medicaid), and assisting with paperwork.
Community Health Worker
Working in health clinics, nonprofits, and outpatient care centers, these individuals educate patients and clients about healthy living that promotes wellness. They teach clients how to manage illnesses, connect them with health services, create informational materials, and develop programs that encourage healthy habits.
These professionals find employment in psychiatric hospitals, residential developmental disability facilities, and mental health hospitals. They spend their days taking care of and supporting patients dealing with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities or mental health concerns. They monitor vital signs, provide therapeutic services, administer medications under the supervision of licensed professionals, and support patients as they go about everyday activities.
Bachelor’s degrees in psychology and related subjects allow graduates to take on entry-level positions in the field, but they cannot seek licensure at this stage. You may find that you enjoy more administrative work (e.g., program development, mental health education, etc.) and decide this degree best serves you. Or, you may decide to pursue more clinical roles. If that’s the case, you’ll likely need to progress into graduate study.
Career Options with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
Social and Community Service Manager
A typical day for these professionals may include working to develop new programs and services that benefit community members, liaising with community stakeholders about the effectiveness of existing programs, managing community educators and volunteers, writing grant proposals for funding, and creating outreach materials to increase awareness about available services at their organization.
Health Services Manager
Health services managers work in hospitals and clinics to manage the activities of the practice. They coordinate services, ensure goals and objectives are met, follow all governmental and discipline-specific regulations, ensure staff meet training requirements, develop and manage budgets, organize staff work schedules, and present data at board meetings.
Correctional Treatment Specialist
Whether working in a prison or with an organization that supports rehabilitation, these specialists support offenders currently in custody or on probation to help prepare them for reentry into society. They may provide substance abuse counseling, administer drug tests, help offenders find jobs for which they qualify, or write letters of recommendation on their behalf.
Some graduates of psychology decide to use their understanding of how the human brain works to develop innovative marketing campaigns. These roles require professionals who understand a buyer’s psyche and know how to appeal to their interests and desires. Job responsibilities include developing advertising materials, managing organizational branding, overseeing budgets, selecting appropriate advertising outlets, and commissioning studies on promotional effectiveness.
Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts develop studies and polls to help ascertain the conditions of a particular industry or client base. They report these findings to their client, who in turn uses the information to better understand the desires of their customer. Common tasks include creating market forecasts, testing the effectiveness of past/current campaigns, and developing surveys and questionnaires designed to elicit useful data.
If pursuing a master’s degree in psychology, chances are you hope to find employment as a counselor, therapist, or social worker. If you want to use the title of psychologist, you must complete a doctorate program. Some students may aspire to work as a professor, using their knowledge of the discipline to educate the next generation of psychology professionals. While some adjunct professors may qualify for a position with a master’s degree, most colleges and universities prefer candidates with a doctorate. Other learners may gravitate towards research positions, desiring to advance the field with new findings and studies. Some support positions exist for these individuals, but again, most employers seek applicants who hold a doctorate degree. Plenty of roles exist at this level, however, and we’ll explore a few of them in the following table.
Career Options with a Master’s Degree in Psychology
Adjunct professors work in contract positions to teach online and in-person college courses. They may work for several institutions concurrently to supplement salaries.
Career counselors provide support and resources to students and adults alike about potential careers. They evaluate interests and abilities, supply resources, and help create plans of action.
This career requires a Master’s in School Counseling and a state-issued credential.
Working in primary and secondary school settings, these counselors help children address issues related to school, family, friendships, and any other personal/academic concerns they may face.
This career requires a Master’s in School Counseling and a state-issued license.
If pursuing a doctorate in psychology, you most likely want to work as a licensed psychologist, researcher, or professor. Each of these roles provides meaningful career paths that allow you to harness advanced knowledge, theory, and psychological frameworks to help others and advance the discipline. Psychologists at this level can specialize in myriad areas. You may find yourself most interested in child or educational psychology, or you may find the way forensic psychology intersects with the legal profession especially fascinating. Regardless of your interests, a specialization exists to help you gain employment in that arena. We review some of the most common jobs for graduates of doctorate programs in the following table.
Career Options with a Doctoral Degree in Psychology
A typical day involves observing people to better understand how they behave, with emphasis on addressing problematic emotional or behavioral responses.
This career requires a Ph.D. in Psychology with specialization in Behavioral Psychology and a state-issued license.
Typically working in school settings, these psychologists evaluate student performance, oversee teacher training in student mental health, and provide some direct care services.
This career requires a Ph.D. in Psychology with specialization in Educational Psychology and a state-issued license.
Many psychology and psychology-related jobs are expected to see substantial growth in the coming years. Careers with high rates of growth include:
Jobs for social workers are projected to grow by 16%, with nearly 110,000 positions added to the existing 682,100. The top five states for employment include California, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Illinois.
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor
This career is slated to grow by 23% between 2016 and 2026, adding 60,300 positions to the 260,200 already in existence. States with the largest number of workers include California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia
School and Career Counselor
Nearly 292,000 Americans currently work as school and career counselors, and positions are projected to grow by 13% – or 36,700 roles – in the coming years. California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois employ the most of these professionals.
Marriage and Family Therapist
With jobs projected to grow by 23%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 9,700 new roles will be added to the existing 41,500. Those practicing in California, New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Arizona enjoy the highest levels of employment.
According to ABC News, Industrial-Organizational Psychologists top the list of occupations with a projected growth rate of 53% between 2014-2022 and offer median salaries of $83,580 annually. In addition to 1,600 existing I-O psychologists, 900 new roles should be added in the coming years.
Roles for psychologists are projected to increase by 14%, bringing the total number of available jobs to 189,600 by 2026. States with the highest levels of employment include California, New York, Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.
Benefits of a Career in Psychology
Working in the field of psychology offers substantial benefits in areas of personal satisfaction, professional growth, and salary potential. While you may initially feel drawn to positions in this discipline because you know many practitioners make salaries above the national average for all roles, working in psychology also allows you to make a difference in the lives of others by helping them improve their situations and feel empowered in their mental health decisions. If you enjoy interacting with others, psychology also offers the potential to work with many new and different types of people on a daily basis.
If planning to complete a doctorate degree and work in the highest echelons of the field, you also have much flexibility in terms of when and where you work. While some practitioners opt to work in formal settings such as hospitals and clinics, others decide to open private practices and embrace their entrepreneurial spirits. Additionally, psychology may be appealing if you enjoy the idea of lifelong learning. Because the discipline is always evolving as new research informs approaches, you’ll never feel stagnant in your work.
Traits of People Successful in the Psychology Field
To find success in a psychology career, you’ll need to possess (or at least grow) several skills. Some of these may be innate while others may be gained during the course of an educational program. Top traits include:
Oral and Written Communication
Whether communicating with a client or writing a report on your latest research findings, knowing how to convey nuanced and multifaceted information clearly and concisely is crucial in this industry.
As with any other profession that deals largely with human emotion and brain chemistry, not all answers are clear cut and easy to discern. Not all patients will exhibit symptoms or express experiences that you learned about in a textbook. Being able to problem solve and come up with innovative treatment plans is a hallmark of a great psychology professional.
Ability to Empathize
When working in clinical roles, clients are often extremely vulnerable about moments in their life, and they might not even feel comfortable sharing with their closest friends or family members. In a practitioner-to-client relationship, you must be able to show empathy and offer services in a non-judgmental way.
The field of psychology relies heavily on research to both find appropriate client treatments and further the field. Whether acting as a researcher or reviewing academic journals about advancements in the field, you must know how to conduct and use research findings.
As you’ll likely notice after spending some time researching career paths in psychology, you can do many different jobs with training in this field. Because so many industries and disciplines are interested in how we humans think and feel, positions span across all professions. While you may feel that a job in a clinic or community best suits your aspirations, another student may want to work in sales or marketing and decide that studying psychology better helps them understand consumer behavior. We’ll cover all these roles and more in the following sections.