What Can You Do With a Psychology Degree?

by TBS Staff
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A psychology degree can lead to many different careers, making it one of the most popular majors for undergraduates.

Psychology is the scientific study of human behavior and the mind. A psychology degree can include training in abnormal psychology, human development, and experimental psychology.

With psychology degrees, graduates can find work as school psychologists, clinical psychologists, and therapists. The degree can also lead to job opportunities in marketing, human resources, social work, and education.

This article introduces prospective students to popular psychology degree jobs, explores careers at different psychology degree levels, and examines earning potential for psychology careers. Read on to find out exactly what you can do with a psychology degree.

Careers in Psychology

A psychology degree prepares graduates for careers in many fields. Professionals with psychology degrees commonly work as clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, and school psychologists. Psychology graduates can also work in subfields in psychology.

Outside of psychology, psychology graduates can work in business, education, social work, and criminal justice.

Human Resources Managers

Median Salary (2020): $121,220
Required Education: Bachelor's or master's

Human resource managers handle many employee-related administrative duties within organizations, including staffing, compensation, health and safety, and conflict resolution. These managers can apply their psychology training to improve labor relations and organizational culture. They typically work in professional services, manufacturing, and government agencies. Aspiring human resources managers need work experience and/or a degree in human resources to qualify for employment.

Training and Development Managers

Median Salary (2020): $115,640
Required Education: Bachelor's

Training and development managers develop and run programs to educate staff and upgrade their skills. They design and plan programs that address specific industry and organizational needs, all while applying their communication and human behavior training. These managers can find work in professional services, educational services, and healthcare.

Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists

Median Salary (2020):$79,820
Required Education: Doctorate

While psychologists treat various mental health conditions, they differ from psychiatrists in that they cannot prescribe medication in most states. Instead, they typically observe and evaluate conditions and offer treatment through counseling and support programs. The largest psychologist employers include schools, healthcare services, and the government. Psychologists are also commonly self-employed in private practice.

Psychology Postsecondary Teachers

Median Salary (2020):$78,180
Required Education: Doctorate

Postsecondary teachers instruct classrooms in their specialization, along with conducting research and publishing their own work in the field. Most psychology teachers work in private and state colleges and universities. Among all teaching disciplines, psychology ranks among the 10 largest.

Human Resources Specialists

Median Salary (2020):$63,490
Required Education: Bachelor's

Human resources specialists typically work under human resources managers. They handle many duties involving employee relations. They may be in charge of payments and benefits, interview candidates, and process paperwork. Most specialists work in employment services, professional services, and the government.

Training and Development Specialists

Median Salary (2020): $62,700
Required Education: Bachelor's

Training and development specialists help managers in the creation and administration of training programs. They may run the programs or lectures themselves or help create the materials used in them. Major employers for these specialists include the professional services, healthcare, and educational services industries.

School and Career Counselors and Advisors

Median Salary (2020): $58,120
Required Education: Master's

School counselors and advisors assist students and their families with various educational issues and challenges. They may help students enter behavioral or educational support programs, educate and advise students, or assist learners in identifying postsecondary pathways. Most counselors work in elementary or secondary schools and junior colleges. School counselors often need a background in education and certification.

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Median Salary (2020): $55,690
Required Education: Bachelor's

Probation officers supervise the rehabilitation processes and programs for law offenders. They connect offenders with various services, maintain paperwork on the progress of their rehabilitation, and evaluate the outcomes. Probation officers typically work for state and local governments.

Social Workers

Median Salary (2020):$51,760
Required Education: Master's

Social workers help people manage and overcome various issues and challenges in their lives. They may connect clients with social services and resources, develop support programs, or respond to emergencies. These professionals work in family services, local governments, and healthcare services.

Marriage and Family Therapists

Median Salary (2020): $51,340
Required Education: Master's

Marriage and family therapists work with couples and families to overcome various challenges. They assist clients using talk therapy and behavioral intervention strategies, along with providing access to different services and resources. These therapists usually work in family services, health practitioner offices, and outpatient centers.

Substance Abuse, Behavior Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Median Salary (2020): $47,660
Required Education: Bachelor's

Substance abuse counselors support clients battling alcohol and drug abuse by developing and offering access to different programs and services. They also help clients develop new skills to overcome challenges or identify root causes for underlying issues. These counselors typically work in mental health centers,family services, and substance use treatment facilities.

Social and Human Service Assistants

Median Salary (2020): $35,960
Required Education: High school diploma

Human service assistants provide various services for clients, such as locating useful and accessible resources and programs. They may also manage paperwork and administrative duties for other social service professionals and managers. These assistants often work in family services, nursing care facilities, and local governments.

Psychology Careers Across Industries

Psychology degree jobs span many professions and industries. The following information highlights some of the industries available to graduates. It also lists some possible careers and relevant training for each.

Business

Career Examples

  • Human resources manager
  • Human resources specialist

Relevant Course in the Psychology Major

  • Organizational psychology

Criminal Justice

Career Examples

  • Probation officer
  • Paralegal

Relevant Course in the Psychology Major

  • Psychological disorders
  • Forensic psychology

Public Health

Career Examples

  • Substance abuse counselor
  • Community health educator

Relevant Course in the Psychology Major

  • Psychological interventions
  • Substance use and addiction

Marketing and Communications

Career Examples

  • Market research analyst
  • Marketing manager

Relevant Course in the Psychology Major

  • Consumer behavior

Nonprofit and Human Services

Career Examples

  • Social worker
  • Social and human services assistant

Relevant Course in the Psychology Major

  • Program development
  • Community psychology

Education

Career Examples

  • Postsecondary teacher
  • School counselor

Relevant Course in the Psychology Major

  • Child development

What Kinds of Psychology Degrees Are There?

Colleges offer psychology degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Each degree prepares graduates for different job opportunities. For example, counselors and therapists often need master's degrees, while clinical psychologists must hold doctorates. This section explores career options for each level of psychology education.


Associate Degree in Psychology

An associate degree in psychology introduces students to the scientific study of human behavior and the mind. Associate degree-holders can become psychiatric aides, human services assistants, and rehabilitation technicians. The degree also prepares students to transfer into bachelor's programs and earn a four-year degree.

During an associate degree in psychology, students take introductory courses in psychology and complete general education requirements in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Earning an associate degree generally takes two years and can often be completed at local community colleges.


Bachelor's Degree in Psychology

A bachelor's degree is the first step for many career paths in psychology. The degree prepares graduates for roles like behavioral disorder counselor, social worker, and mental health counselor. Other pertinent fields for psychology degree graduates include human resources, criminal justice, and social services.

During a bachelor's degree, psychology majors can take courses in abnormal psychology, human behavior, organizational psychology, and social psychology, building foundational skills in assessment and research. In addition to psychology classes, students must complete general education requirements.

Earning a bachelor's degree in psychology generally takes four years for full-time students and about two years for transfer students who already hold associate degrees.


Master's Degree in Psychology

A master's degree in psychology prepares graduates for careers that do not require a doctorate, like school psychologist or therapist. Earning master's degrees also helps psychology students specialize their training before pursuing doctorates.

During a master's in psychology, students take courses focused on research, theory, and psychology methods. Most master's programs take around two years for full-time students. After meeting coursework requirements, master's students often complete thesis projects or comprehensive exams.

Enrollees also typically complete supervised internships to gain practical experience. Many programs offer concentrations in specialties such as neuropsychology, developmental psychology, and educational psychology. Specialized programs may also cover child psychology or forensic psychology.


Doctoral Degree in Psychology

A doctorate in psychology is a prerequisite for becoming a licensed clinical psychologist, which covers careers like child psychologist, counseling psychologist, and neuropsychologist. The degree also prepares graduates for careers as psychology professors.

At the doctoral level, psychology students can earn either a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in psychology or a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.). A Ph.D. in psychology emphasizes research and prepares graduates for academic or research roles, while a Psy.D. focuses on clinical practice. Earning a doctorate in psychology generally takes around 4-5 years, including coursework, a dissertation, and an internship.

Some psychology doctoral programs are specialized in areas like school school psychology, clinical psychology, or organizational psychology. A specialized doctoral program helps students prepare for specific career paths in psychology after graduation.

Psychology Professional Organizations

APA counts over 121,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, and students among its members. It is the leading professional organization for psychology in the U.S., offering publications and databases, a psychology help center, and specialized divisions for psychology subfields. Students at all levels can access education and career resources through APA. APS is an international organization that promotes scientific psychology. Its members include research psychologists and academics. It shares research in the psychological sciences through its journals and conventions. In addition to hosting meetings and events, APS features a job board to help its members find career opportunities. Founded in 1929, this international honor society supports and recognizes psychology students and alumni. The society encourages excellence in scholarship by offering $400,000 per year in annual awards and grants for psychology students. Members can join local chapters to connect with their peers. The Psi Chi career center helps students transition to the workforce.

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychology Degree Jobs

true What Is the Highest Paying Job With a Psychology Degree?

The highest-paying job for psychology graduates depends on the degree level. The mean annual wage for human resources managers, who must possess work experience or a degree in human resources, reached $121,220 in 2020.

true What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Psychology?

There are many psychology degree jobs that graduates can pursue, including careers in social work, community organizations, healthcare, and business.

true Is it Hard to Find a Job With a Psychology Degree?

Psychology degrees provide graduates with applicable training for many fields. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data indicates that more than 3 million psychology graduates work across the country.

true Is Psychology a Difficult Major?

The psychology discipline may involve a significant amount of reading and research, but students who commit the appropriate amount of time and effort to their studies should not find it overly challenging compared to similar programs.

Doug Wintemute is a Toronto-based freelance writer with professional writing interests in higher learning and entertainment. He completed his BA and MA in English at York University, graduating summa cum laude and earning academic merit, research, and writing awards at both levels. Since 2014, he has contributed content and editorial work for award-winning digital trade publications, global SEO copywriting projects, and hugely popular online brands. He can be contacted through LinkedIn.

Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who currently practices in the Chicago area. She holds a bachelor's in psychology from Illinois Wesleyan University and a master's and doctorate in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University. Her clinical interests include the treatment of eating and body image concerns, college student and student-athlete mental health, mood disorders, health and wellness, mindfulness, sport and performance psychology, and consultation. In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Pietrucha has served as the training director for an APA-accredited internship program and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology. She has also worked with high school and college athletes and teams, as well as recreational fitness programs, to provide mental skills training for athletic performance and fitness adherence.

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