Introduction: What is Psychology and General Career Information
Psychology is commonly defined as "the scientific study of the mind and behavior." It is a social science, meaning it is concerned with the study of human behavior and society. In most cases, it more closely resembles fields of study like anthropology and sociology than it does "hard" sciences like chemistry and physics.
Given psychology's broad range of study and its multidisciplinary approach to such diverse academic areas, psychology students have numerous career paths to choose from, depending on their interests, preferred work environment, and education they are willing to undertake. Some fields of psychology are more employable than others according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For instance, Industrial-Organizational Psychologists see the highest change in employment out of all occupations. There was a 53% growth rate from 2011-2012. In general, though, psychology careers are on pace with the national average.
Careers in psychology can be broadly separated into research, clinical, and industry positions. Research positions focus more on the theoretical and methodological aspects of psychology. For instance, most environmental psychologists, neuropsychologists, and forensic psychologists work with data analysis rather than with people. Clinical positions are centered around interactions with people. For instance, a career may focus on diagnosis and treatment of patients with mental health issues. Therapist, Marriage Counselors, Social Workers, and Substance Abuse Counselors all fall under this type category. Finally, psychologists in industry settings may use their skills to analyze market research. An example of this would be a consumer psychologist.
As you can see, careers in psychology are quite broad. The vast majority of psychology careers require a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science at the very least. Many require a master's degree or even an advanced degree like a Ph.D. This article will now discuss possible career options for individuals with only an undergraduate degree.
Careers in Psychology with an Undergraduate Degree
There are some psychology jobs that require an advanced degree, but 3/4 of all undergraduate psychology majors do not pursue an advanced degree in psychology. Thus, plenty of career opportunities are available for these students if they are willing to be creative about their career options.
Many sales and industry jobs hire psychology majors because companies know they have a nuanced understanding of human behavior and decision-making. Advertising firms often hire psychology majors for this same reason. Psychology majors also make a great addition to any sales team. Finally, many market researchers have backgrounds in psychology.
Psychology students with a bachelor's degree may also work in a laboratory or healthcare setting as assistant researchers or laboratory technicians. Other possible career positions include social work assistants, psychiatric technicians, and mental health technicians.
Finally, it is possible to work directly with populations if you just have a bachelor's degree. Students may find some limited non-clinical social work positions. They may also work as community health educators, case managers for nonprofits and healthcare companies. Psychology students may also find positions as correctional officers, career counselors, or teachers (requires additional certification).
Careers in Psychology with an Advanced Degree
Most careers directly related to clinical and research psychology require advanced degrees. Many positions require a master's, but some required a Ph.D., Psy.D (doctor of psychology) or even an M.D. (for psychiatrists prescribing medication). Earning a graduate degree will also reap greater financial rewards. Professionals with masters will earn over $50,000, and professionals with a doctorate will often make in the six figures.
Possible career options for individuals with master's degrees in psychology include counselor positions like guidance counselors at schools or substance abuse counselors. While a master of social work is not strictly a psychology degree, this is a very popular path for psychology majors to consider. Earning a master of social work (MSW) opens a lot of career opportunities for psychology students. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates faster than average job growth for social workers. Furthermore, to be a licensed therapist, you need to go to graduate school. Thus anyone who wants to work as a mental health professional with independent oversight or in a managerial position will need to get their master's degree.
Earning a Ph.D. or Psy.D in psychology takes the most amount of time but often reaps the biggest financial payoffs regarding salary. Generally speaking, a Psy.D is a clinical degree, and a Ph.D. is a research degree. Options for professionals with doctorate degrees include specialized professions like a neuropsychologist, industrial psychologist, clinical psychologist, of engineering psychologist.
Psychology is a broad field with even broader career options. The more education one receives in psychology, the better and more specific the job options become. Still, options are aplenty for students who do not wish to receive education beyond the undergraduate level.