A degree in psychology is one of the most versatile degrees you can obtain. Unlike some other degrees, a psychology degree does not force you onto a narrow career path. Psychology majors have numerous and varied options when it comes time to graduate, though the set of skills they have cultivated while studying the field makes certain careers more suitable.
Overall, job prospects in the area of psychology are predicted to grow 12 percent by 2018, which is the average rate for all fields. Schools, hospitals, social service agencies, mental health centers, substance abuse treatment clinics and private companies are expected to be the locations with the most need for psychology-trained personnel. The greatest growth, however, will occur for jobs that require a doctoral degree such as a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.
According to the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey conducted in 2008, psychology was the second most popular college major in the country, comprising about 5 percent of all undergraduate majors. A further 5 percent of these graduates went on to work in psychology-related fields, while the remainder chose other options.
Below are some of the careers that individuals with a psychology major could pursue.
Counselors help individuals and families with their problems, including emotional and substance abuse problems. The majority of counselors work in health care or social service settings, though some work for government organizations. Most counseling jobs require you to be a licensed psychologist. In most states this means you will need a master’s degree. The current average salary of a counselor is about $43,000.
2. School Psychologist
School psychologists work in a K-12 setting, assisting students with problems that may occur in school or at home, including academic, emotional and social issues. They usually meet privately with children or teenagers but also often coordinate with their families. Education requirements for school psychologists vary from state to state. The current average salary of a school psychologist is about $70,000.
3. Special Education Teacher
Special education teachers also typically work in a K-12 setting. They teach children and teenagers with special needs. While not directly related to psychology, the teaching profession allows individuals to help those with certain emotional or academic issues. Requirements for special education teachers vary from state to state, but all states require at least a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certification in the area of special education. The current average pay for a special education teacher is about $53,000.
4. Forensic Psychologist
Forensic psychologists work within the criminal justice system to evaluate claims made in court. For example, they may consult on child custody disputes or assess the competency of a defendant to stand trial. Most forensic psychologists work for the government, but many also have their own private practices. Most jurisdictions require a master’s or a doctoral degree to become a forensic psychologist. The current average salary for a forensic psychologist is about $60,000.
5. Clinical Psychologist
Clinical psychologists diagnose mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia in individuals. They then provide a treatment plan for the diagnosed individuals and help them cope. Clinical psychologists generally work in private practices, but they can work in other environments as well. States most often require that you have a doctoral degree to become a clinical psychologist. The current average salary for a clinical psychologist is about $81,000.
6. Career Counselor
Career counselors specifically help individuals looking for the right career for their skills and interests. They administer personality tests, counsel people on their career choices and assist with resumes and interviews. Most career counselors work in a K-12 school setting, but others work at 2- and 4-year colleges. Usually states prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree. The current average salary for a career counselor is about $53,000.
7. Psychiatric Technician
Psychiatric technicians care for individuals with mental or emotional disorders. They work with medical staff to ensure the well-being of people in rehabilitation centers or psychiatric hospitals by assisting with personal hygiene and administering medication. The current average salary for a psychiatric technician is about $30,000.
8. Research Psychologist
Research psychologists, or experimental psychologists, generally work in labs conducting studies rather than working directly with people. They seek to find insights into different psychological fields in order to improve treatment and the understanding of psychological issues. Research psychologists have different levels of education, but often they have at least a master’s degree. The current average salary for a research psychologist is about $84,000.
9. Sports Psychologist
Sports psychologists deal specifically with athletes in order to increase their motivation, help them cope with injuries and set and achieve goals. They can work for universities and hospitals, but many have their own private practice. Most sports psychologists eventually receive their master’s or doctoral degree. The current average salary for a sports psychologist is about $55,000.
10. Human Resources Manager
Individuals working in the field of human resources help recruit and train employees, as well as deal with interpersonal issues that may come up between employees. While human resources jobs are not specifically psychology-related, the interpersonal skills psychology majors learn are particularly helpful in this career path. Individuals working in human resources typically work for businesses, but are also found in government and nonprofit positions. Entry-level human resource jobs require a bachelor’s degree. The current average salary for individuals in human resource jobs is about $53,000.
11. Marketing Personnel
Individuals working in the field of marketing research consumer behavior and how people are affected by advertising. Psychology majors can bring much to the table in these positions as they have extensively studied human behavior. Individuals in these jobs almost always work for businesses, and have at least a bachelor’s degree. The current average salary for individuals in marketing/advertising is about $60,000.
12. Business Manager
Individuals working in business/management careers perform a wide variety of tasks, usually for private companies. Psychology majors have a skill set including interpersonal skills as well as writing and research skills that are useful for these careers. Often people in these jobs go on to receive graduate degrees in business, such as an MBA. Because jobs in business vary so widely, it is difficult to determine an average salary; however, a business manager’s average salary is about $65,000.
The careers listed above are only the beginning. Many people believe that a degree in psychology will limit their career prospects; however, the truth is quite the opposite. A degree in psychology allows individuals a great deal of flexibility in the career they will eventually choose. Psychology majors go on to work for businesses, government and nonprofits. They have a choice of jobs that have varying educational and skill requirements and that focus on different specialties. They can work with adults, children and even alone. With demand for people with psychology degrees rising, qualified individuals will have their pick from a number of options.