Last Updated: May 03, 2021
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. As per the Department of labor median income for a psychologist in 2020 is approximately $85,000 and has a very good job growth outlook for the next 15 years. Generally, psychologists need a Doctorate Degree but in most cases, a Masters degree is sufficient (license might be required).
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 the diagnosis and treatment of patients with mental health issues. Therapists, Marriage Counselors, Social Workers, and Substance Abuse Counselors all fall under this type of category. Finally, psychologists in industry settings may use their skills to analyze market research. An example of this would be a consumer psychologist.
As it is observed, 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.
A psychologist can work in numerous settings. Reason being that as the world is progressing, the need to understand the human brain, behavior, and emotion is stronger than ever. The different settings a psychologist can work in are as follows:
- Mental health clinics
- Private sector
- Government-run organizations
- Branches of the military
- Law enforcement departments
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, or 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.
The salary structure for psychologists is directly related to their qualifications and the years of experience they have gained. Since psychology is a field of study that deals with people, it becomes extremely important to have a solid background of experience with different psychologists and/or researchers.
As of 2020, the average salary for psychologists begins at $82,000 and may go up to $120,000; depending on the experience and skills of the professional psychologist. As per the survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunity for psychologists increases by almost 3 percent if they possess a doctorate degree in a specialization of psychology.
Among all the jobs in relation to psychology, the highest paying jobs are undoubted of a Neuropsychologist, a Clinical Psychologist, and an Industrial Psychologist.
- Neuropsychologist: A neuropsychologist is someone who practices psychology by focusing on the study of behavior, emotion, and cognition of an individual and how it impacts their daily life. The average annual salary of a neuropsychologist is approximately $94,000.
- Clinical Psychologist: A clinical psychologist is someone who practices psychology and treats patients with various therapies, the most common and popular of them being Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). The average annual salary of a clinical psychologist is approximately $90,000.
- Industrial Psychologist: An industrial psychologist (more commonly known as an organizational psychologist) is another form of psychologist that helps companies and corporates with strategies that include psychological thinking. The average salary of an industrial psychologist is approximately $100,000.
- Child Psychologist: A child psychologist is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of issues and disorders that affect children and young people. Additionally, child psychologists are responsible for collecting data for improvement in the field of study, as well as give guidance and counseling to the family of the child. The average annual salary of a child psychologist is $82,000.
- Forensic Psychologist: A forensic psychologist closely works with governmental institutions and crime departments. The main job description covers conducting investigations, deriving evaluations, and most importantly become an expert witness in courtroom testimony (whenever needed). Additionally, forensic psychologists are heavily involved in the research and development of the field. The average annual salary of a forensic psychologist is $72,300.
- Social Worker: A social worker does not quite fit into the typical role of a psychologist, however, psychology is a big part of being a social worker. A social worker is responsible for protecting people who have faced difficult situations from further difficulties and guide them through the whole situation. Furthermore, a social worker with a psychology background may provide some guidance and counseling to the people under their care. The average annual salary of a social worker is $62,000.