What Can You Do With a Psychology Degree?
Psychology degrees offer a variety of opportunities. Careers in psychology may be found in the educational, government, private and medical sectors. Organizations may look for people with an educational background in psychology to fill roles that require scientific reasoning, critical thinking, social responsibility, communication and leadership.
While bachelor’s degrees in psychology can lead to a myriad of occupations, professionals interested in careers that deliver direct psychological services to individuals and groups pursue postgraduate education. In most states, licensed clinical psychologists require a doctoral degree—either a PhD in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). Aspiring professionals also can enroll in a master’s degree program that prepares them for doctoral study. Psychology careers requiring a master’s degree in psychology are also available.
What Jobs Can You Get With a Psychology Degree?
Bachelor’s degrees in psychology may lead to researcher, analyst and associate jobs in academia, advertising and marketing and human resources or professional training.
Graduates with a master’s degree in psychology can pursue different professional paths. They may find careers in the field of psychology at a range of organizations where they can work in areas such as business, early childhood development, forensics and sports. They also may find psychology careers in technology, arbitration and social work.
What jobs require a psychology degree? Many states require licensure to practice psychology or to use the title “psychologist,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While licensing laws differ by state and type of position, most clinical and counseling psychologists need a doctoral degree in psychology. School psychologists typically need graduate degrees from programs where the curriculum includes coursework in education and psychology. Industrial and organizational psychologists usually need a master’s degree with coursework in industrial-organizational psychology.
Graduates with a master’s degree in psychology who are supervised by a doctoral psychologist may work as psychological assistants in clinical, counseling or research environments.
In the next few sections, we’ll explore potential psychology careers across various sectors. The list of job titles is not comprehensive and requirements for each role varies, so it’s important to do your research. Students may need to gain additional education and/or licenses to pursue some of the listed careers.
Educational Careers in Psychology
Psychologists may find employment in all education levels, working with students, parents, teachers and administrators one-on-one or helping to design and improve learning experiences.
Educational careers in psychology extend beyond school psychologists, who need an advanced degree and either a certification or licensure to work. Educational psychologists may include those who conduct research relevant to education, studying how people learn in different settings with various types of curriculum, techniques and instructors. Their work can help institutions and instructors develop better teaching methods to improve student outcomes and school performance. Their expertise also may be used in environments outside of schools.
Educational psychologists can pursue a variety of roles, including:
Business Careers in Psychology
Psychologists may find a variety of occupations in business. They typically focus on the training and behavior of employees in the workplace, ensuring that employees and companies address work-life issues and use best practices to succeed. They can work in areas such as corporate image and customer satisfaction. Or, they can use the research methods they learned while studying psychology to work with advertising and marketing departments to determine why consumers buy products or services and how best to reach them.
A business psychologist may assume different roles in business, advertising and finance. Here are a few:
Human Services Careers in Psychology
Psychologists may find a variety of employment opportunities in human services, which includes community and social services. Graduates with a psychology degree might use their skills and expertise to become counselors and social workers, helping people identify and solve problems in various aspects of their lives.
Human services psychologist roles include:
Healthcare Careers in Psychology
A health psychologist focuses on the dynamics of health and behavior. Some work in integrated healthcare delivery teams. Psychologist’s knowledge of people’s behavior, research methods and analysis can be useful in hospitals, universities, corporations and government health agencies.
Healthcare psychologists may occupy a number of roles in different settings. Some roles in this psychology subfield include:
What Does a Psychologist Do?
Professionals with psychology degrees may work in different environments, but perform similar tasks that use the skills they learned in school. Psychologists study cognitive, emotional and social behavior and use their observations to interpret and record how individuals interact with one another and with their environments.
Their work may involve scientific research of behavior and brain function; observations, interviews and surveys; identifying and diagnosing psychological, emotional, behavioral or organizational disorders; coordinating therapy with clients; writing articles and research papers to share findings; and supervising interns, clinicians and counseling professionals. By trying to understand and explain thoughts, emotions, feelings and behavior, they use scientific methods to try to develop and improve outcomes for people and their communities. Psychologists can work independently or with others.
The American Psychological Association (APA) uses the title “psychologist” to refer to those professionals who have a doctoral degree in psychology from a program in a regionally accredited university or professional school. Official job titles depend on the statute regulating the use of the title of “psychologist” and the practice of psychology in the state in which the job is available.
Can a Psychologist Prescribe Medication?
In most states, psychologists are prohibited from prescribing medication. As of 2019, Illinois, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana and New Mexico were the exceptions. The APA reports that those states allow licensed psychologists trained in clinical psychopharmacology to prescribe certain medications for the treatment of mental health disorders.
Each state typically has its own policy or statute defining a psychologist’s scope of practice. The APA database State Licensure and Certification Information for Psychologists provides state information.
Demand for Psychologists
The general psychologist job outlook is for growth of 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS. Competition for jobs will depend on specialty and level of education.
So, is a psychology degree worth it? Psychologists are versatile and have a range of skills to offer an employer. If you are looking for diverse career paths, you might find a degree in psychology worthwhile as it can prepare you for jobs in different sectors, with the potential to perform different functions or focus in one area while working with a team or independently.
The BLS expects more need for specialists, including clinical, counseling and school psychologists, because of greater demand for services in schools, hospitals, mental health centers and social service agencies. The need for psychological services is also projected to grow for older adults, military veterans, trauma survivors and people who live with developmental or other types of disabilities. The industrial-organizational sector also is expected to continue to need psychologists to help with employee relations, organizational efficiency and corporate image.
Psychologists had a median annual wage of $82,180 in 2020, according to the BLS. Psychologists in the lowest 10 percent of salary earners made less than $46,270 and those in the highest 10 percent earned more than $137,590.
Earning potential can vary depending on work environments. Those in private practice can set their own hours and work part time as independent consultants, while those with jobs in hospitals and other health facilities may work night and weekend shifts. Psychologists in clinics, government, industry or schools typically work full time during regular business hours.