So you’ve decided to major in psychology, but what exactly do you plan to do after you graduate? With the number of college graduates steadily increasing, it’s more important than ever to carefully consider your career options and select a field that is in high demand.
There are also lots of career paths in psychology beyond some of the “typical” options of clinical or counseling psychology. In fact, some of the most interesting job options might be those that you don’t hear much about such as aviation psychology or traffic psychology.
One exercise you may find helpful is to look through a list of psychology careers to see what your options are and then narrow down the list to those in which you are most interested in.
Obviously, the best job is the one that you truly love, whether it involves providing therapy, conducting research, or solving real-world problems. Before you decide on a career, spend some time thinking about what really interests you and the type of work setting you would most likely enjoy.
As of 2019, the demand for psychologists is expected to grow by 14% through the year 2026.
While this is not a comprehensive list of every single psychology career out there, the following are just a few of the psychology-related jobs that have a strong projected employment outlook or are considered an up-and-coming field with opportunity for growth.
We highlight a few of these careers to help convey the enormous variety of employment opportunities within the field of psychology. Some of these career options are specifically in psychology while others are less related but still rely on the knowledge and skills acquired while earning a psychology degree.
Consider some of these options as you plan your career path.
Art therapists utilize the expressive and creative arts to help clients cope with psychological distress and to enhance emotional well-being. People who work in this field are trained in both psychotherapy and art. By using art, clients can communicate feelings, express creativity, explore different aspects, of personality, and cope with stress.
Art therapy is often used in a variety of situations, including:
- Adults suffering from chronic or severe stress1
- Children with disabilities
- People who have suffered brain injuries
- People who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event2
Aviation psychology is a relatively little-known sub-specialty area of human factors psychology that involves the study of pilots, air traffic controllers, and other flight crew members. People who work in this field perform a number of different duties, which may include:
- Assessing cabin safety
- Conducting research on aviation safety
- Designing flight decks
- Evaluating prospective employees
- Investigating aviation accidents
- Selecting and training pilots
- Training flight crews in communication strategies and ways to assist passengers with in-flight anxiety
Career or Vocational Counselor
Thanks to the rapidly changing job market, many people are searching for a new job in their chosen field or even changing careers entirely. Career counselors help individuals make career decisions and utilize tools including personality assessments,3 interest inventories, and other evaluation measures.
They often start by looking at a client’s interests, job history, education, and skills in order to determine which careers are a good match. They also help clients work on building skills, practicing interviews, improving resumes, and locating job openings. Assisting clients who are dealing with job loss or employment-related stress is also common.
Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose, and treat clients struggling with psychological disorders. These professionals typically work in hospital settings, mental health clinics, or private practices.
Although clinical psychology is the single largest employment area within the field of psychology, there are still plenty of jobs available for qualified professionals. In order to become a clinical psychologist, you must have a doctoral-level degree in clinical psychology and most states require a minimum of a one-year internship.4
As retailers become more concerned with attracting new customers, the need for psychologists to understand consumer behavior in order to develop effective marketing campaigns has grown. Consumer psychologists not only study why people purchase goods and services, but they also analyze how family, friends, culture, and media messages affect buying behavior.
Some tasks that a consumer psychologist might perform include:
- Working with consumer focus groups to determine how appealing a particular product might be5
- Developing advertising and marketing campaigns to appeal to a target audience
- Conducting theoretical research on shopping and buying behavior
Counselors help people with a wide variety of problems, including marriage, family, emotional, and substance use issues. While requirements vary, almost all states require at least a master’s degree in order to become a licensed counselor. Typical work settings include schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, and mental health clinics.
Engineering psychologists use psychology to investigate how people interact with machines and other technology. These professionals use their understanding of the human mind and behavior to help design and improve technology, consumer products, work settings, and living environments.
For example, an engineering psychologist might work as part of a team to redesign a product to make it more efficient and easier to use in a work situation. Those working in academic settings report the lowest earnings, while those working in the private sector report higher salaries.6
Do you love creating psychology experiments? Experimental psychologists use scientific methods and design research studies that explore many different topics within psychology. Social behavior, cognitive processes, personality, and human development are just a few of the topics that experimental psychologists might investigate.
People working in this field often specialize in a particular area such as cognitive psychology, educational psychology, or personality psychology. They may also be employed in a variety of settings ranging from universities, government agencies, research centers, and nonprofit organizations.
Forensic or Criminal Psychologist
Forensic psychologists apply psychology to the fields of criminal investigation and law. This has rapidly become one of the hottest psychology careers thanks to numerous portrayals in popular movies, television programs, and books.
While the field may not be as glamorous as it is depicted in the media, forensic psychology is still an exciting career choice with a lot of potential for growth. These psychologists often work with other experts to scrutinize insurance claims, perform child custody evaluations, and investigate suspected child abuse.
If you are interested in this area of psychology, you might want to also consider the related field of criminal psychology. Criminal psychologists perform a variety of duties such as developing profiles of criminals, assessing convicted criminals to determine their risk of re-offending, and helping law enforcement catch online predators.
Genetic counselors help provide information about genetic disorders to couples and families. These professionals typically have graduate training in both genetics and counseling, and many have undergraduate degrees in areas such as psychology, social work, biology, nursing, and public health.
Genetic counselors often work with a team of medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, and geneticists to offer support, guidance, and assistance to families who have a family member with a genetic disorder or who may be at risk of passing down an inherited disorder to their offspring.
As the population of older adults continues to grow, the demand for professionals to attend to their mental health needs also increases. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2030, 21% of the population will be age 65 or older.7
“Geropsychologists do everything from keeping older adults mentally and physically healthy and vibrant to working with those who are frail and have cognitive impairments,” explains Deborah DiGilio, director of APA’s Office on Aging. Geropsychologists can work in a wide range of areas, from providing mental health services to aging adults to designing products that make life easier for the elderly.
Health psychologists study how psychological, biological, and social factors influence health. Two important areas of health psychology include helping people avoid illness and promoting healthy behaviors. Educating people about the causes of illness and teaching healthier habits are just two things that a health psychologist might do on a regular basis.
These professionals often work in settings such as hospitals, universities, health care centers, and government agencies. Some of the job duties they may perform include helping people to lose weight, stop smoking, eat healthily, and decrease stress.
Industrial-organizational psychologists (also called I/O or I-O psychologists) focus on workplace behavior, often using psychological principles to increase worker productivity and select employees that are best suited for particular jobs. There are several different specialty areas within industrial-organizational psychology.
For example, some I/O psychologists train and assess employees, while others evaluate job candidates. While there are some job opportunities at the master’s degree level, those with a doctoral-level degree in industrial-organizational psychology are in greater demand and command significantly higher salaries.
One sub-specialty area of the field involves working in human resources management to screen and hire job applicants. These professionals are often involved in designing and administering employment screening tests and selecting job candidates that are the best fit for particular positions within a company.
School psychologists work in educational settings to help children deal with emotional, academic, and social problems. Thanks to increased interest in the mental health of children and federal education legislation, school psychology has rapidly become one of the fastest-growing fields.8
Special Education Teacher
While slightly outside of a traditional psychology career, the field of special education offers a great deal of opportunity for those who enjoy helping children. Special education teachers work with students with a variety of disabilities.
In order to become a special education teacher, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree and complete a teacher training program in special education. Because of the increased enrollments in special education programs and a shortage of qualified teachers, demand is strong and expected to grow.
Sports psychologists focus on the psychological aspects of sports and athletics, including topics such as motivation, performance, and injury. The two major areas within sports psychology are centered on helping to improve athletic performance or using sports to improve mental and physical health.
Sports psychologists work in a wide variety of settings including universities, hospitals, athletic centers, private consulting practices, and research facilities.
Traffic psychology is an emerging field that involves applying psychological principles to understanding driver behavior. Some areas in this field include:
- Designing vehicles that are safer and more ergonomic
- Researching how people use transportation
- Searching for ways to improve traffic safety and prevent auto accidents
- Studying the relationship between driver behavior and traffic accidents
Traffic psychology often involves a multidisciplinary approach, combining fields such as social psychology, behavioral psychology, and cognitive psychology.
For example, traffic psychologists might assess how perception and cognition influence performance during a driving task. They might also look at how individual personality affects a driver’s emotions, attitudes, and risk-taking behavior while driving.
More Career Options in Psychology
Did one of the careers highlighted above catch your eye? Or are you still looking for something that matches your interests and goals? The specific career you pursue will depend largely on your educational background. Some entry-level jobs are open to those with an undergraduate degree in psychology, while others require advanced or graduate-level study.
The following are just a few of the many psychology-related job titles that you might want to explore. Some are directly in the field of psychology, while others require additional training in another field or specialty area.
In either case, having a solid understanding of the human mind and behavior can be beneficial in any of these careers.
- Academic Advisor
- Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurse
- Advertising Agent
- Animal Trainer
- Animal Researcher
- Case Worker
- Childcare Worker
- Child Psychologist
- College Admissions Counselor
- Comparative Psychologist
- Community Counselor
- Counseling Psychologist
- Correctional Treatment Specialist
- Criminal Investigator
- Crisis Counselor
- Cognitive Psychologist
- College Admissions Officer
- College Recruiter
- Customer Service Agent
- Developmental Psychologist
- Education Administrator
- Educational Psychologist
- Elementary School Teacher
- Employment Interviewer
- Employment Recruiter
- Environmental Psychologist
- Family and Marriage Therapist
- Financial Aid Counselor
- Grief Counselor
- Human Factors Psychologist
- Human Resources Manager
- Human Resources Specialist
- Library Assistant
- Literary Agent
- Market Researcher
- Mental Health Coordinator
- Military Psychologist
- Music Therapist
- Occupational Therapist
- Police Officer
- Probation Officer
- Psychiatric Social Worker
- Psychiatric Technician
- Psychosocial Rehabilitation Worker
- Public Opinion Surveyor
- Public Relations Specialist
- Psychiatric Aide
- Recreational Therapist
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Research Assistant
- School Counselor
- Secondary School Teacher
- Science Writer
- Social Psychologist
- Social Services Specialist
- Social Worker
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- Technical Writer
- University Psychology Professor
- Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
- Youth Counselor
Before You Choose a Career in Psychology
As you can see, employment opportunities in psychology can be quite diverse. Some careers only require only a bachelor’s degree in psychology, while others require more advanced degrees such as a master’s or doctorate degree.
Spend some time researching different options and learning more about what’s required to enter into those fields. Ask yourself if you have the commitment and drive needed to pursue the necessary educational training.
As you examine the variety of psychology careers that are available, think about some of the following questions.
- How well does the career fit your personality?
- What kind of training and education are needed to enter the field?
- Are the average salaries in a given field satisfactory?
- What kinds of things do people in that particular career path do on a daily basis?
- Does the career sound interesting, challenging, and rewarding?
Finding the right career in psychology takes some careful planning. It is important to start thinking about what you might want to do early on. This way you can start planning your educational map in order to achieve your vocational goals.
Martin L, Oepen R, Bauer K, et al. Creative arts interventions for stress management and prevention: A systematic review. Behav Sci (Basel). 2018;8(2). doi:10.3390/bs8020028
Schouten KA, Van hooren S, Knipscheer JW, Kleber RJ, Hutschemaekers GJM. Trauma-focused art therapy in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: A pilot study. J Trauma Dissociation. 2019;20(1):114-130. doi:10.1080/15299732.2018.1502712
Rossier, J. (2015). Personality Assessment and Career Interventions. In P. J. Hartung, M. L. Savickas, & W. B. Walsh (Eds.), APA handbooks in psychology®. APA handbook of career intervention, Vol. 1. Foundations (p. 327–350). American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/14438-018
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American Psychological Association. All About Human Factors and Engineering.
U.S. Census Bureau. Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060. Updated July 2, 2019.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Updated September 4, 2019.
Hartman, K & Stewart, T. Investing in Your College Education: Learning Strategies With Readings. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning; 2010.