An Overview of Careers in Psychology

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The careers available to you if you plan on going into psychology are varied and many but in order to become a psychologist which is the usual goal of a psychology degree you must possess a PH.D. or Psy. D in psychology which may take many years of study and hard work including research, writing a thesis or book, and working in the field. To become a psychologist you must also be licensed by the state in which you will be practicing.

Although many students especially liberal arts students at first opt for studying psychology when first entering college perhaps out of curiosity, only five percent of psychology majors go on to higher psychology degrees or work in psychology fields. 

Having a bachelor's degree in any subject will make you more highly qualified for many jobs and so it goes with having a bachelor's degree in psychology. Once you have graduated with your bachelor's degree in psychology, you may be ready to look for work rather than going further with your education.

Bachelor's degree: Jobs available

Although there will not be much professional employment available without the doctor's degree in psychology, there will be many  jobs available to you if you apply for them, have an excellent resume, and can present yourself as having the qualifications to fit the job description. 

Careers for the newly graduated student with a BS in pyschology might include: Sales and marketing, employment counselor, various state and federal government positions. Psychology oriented job seekers also get jobs in  personnel, administration, public affairs, education, business, service industries, health, and computer programming. Many psychology majors fresh out of college work in group homes as counselors and supervisors.

Employers including government employers like people they can train and the newly graduated student with a BS in psychology will be easy to train for many different fields. This training can provide the best opportunity for a new career for the psychology major.

If you are seeking professional employment in the area of psychology, the best route is to major in education with a concentration in psychology or the social sciences. You will then graduate with a BS in education and be qualified to teach psychology in the high school once you receive your teaching certificate which usually comes along with your degree. 

Many of your education courses are also psychology courses such as educational psychology; or they are based on psychological principles. With a BS degree in education you are also qualified for a variety of jobs. If your concentration is in the social sciences you can take a variety of social science courses and if psychology is your favorite you can take more psychology courses than the other social sciences and just take one each of the other social sciences. This way you will be qualified to teach a whole variety of social science courses such as economics, sociology, and psychology making you highly qualified for the social science teaching position in the public school.

The BS in psychology will also qualify you for jobs in corrections, police work, probation officers, usually with some extra training. Writers often have a degree in psychology.

In 1999 fewer than five percent of 1997/1998 psychology graduated students with a BS or BA were employed in strictly psychology or psychology related fields. Two thirds of all recipients of a bachelor's degree in psychology worked in for-profit business and usually in the sales/service sector.

Master's degree: Jobs available

About two-thirds of all master's degree graduates are employed outside the field of psychology. It is however possible to succeed almost as well in the industry or government sectors as the PH.D recipient, with a master's degree. Master's degree recipients usually work in public and private schools, colleges, and universities; in clinical settings; in government positions, and in industry.

Careers available to the Ph.D. or Psy.D in psychology 

Psychology professors at colleges and universities must have a Ph.D. Those who practice Clinical Psychology or acquire a position of responsibility within a research organization must also have a Ph.D.

The American Psychological Associaltion (APA) listed these featured positions for the Ph.D graduate of psychology:

* Assessment specialist
* Consultant
* Clinical Therapist
* Clinical Psychologist

These jobs all require a Ph.D.,  however there is the possibility that the qualified  MA  could work as an  Assessment Specialist; and the Clinical Therapist could also be an LLP, LPC, or LCSW.

Research trained psychologists do many different types of work including the design of cockpits for NASA, designing furniture, evaluation analysis of mattress comfort, analysis of decision-making in marines, developing incentive systems for brokerage firms, the development of personnel evaluation systems for police departments.

Research psychologists also study the alleviation of dental pain perception, and the stress evaluation of working at crime scenes. Many research psychologists work in jury selection, prison design, toy advertising, video presentations, and computer programming.

Jobs for the graduate PH.D. student

Graduate schools offer assistantships and fellowships making the cost for graduate work at the Ph.D. level minimal. There are also positions available as research technicians and assistants, which can offer training  for the future psychologist.

For further information on careers in psychology, the American Psychological Association (APA) offers the following links :

For other psychology career information go to Social Psychology Networks at Here you can find job listings in psychology; career tips for psychology students; student aid, internships, and jobs; diversity resources and programs.

Another good site for information on psychology careers is

Psychology fields

Most psychology careers require a Ph.D. Once you have decided to go for the Ph.D. you can branch into many different fields in psychology. The major psychology fields are clinical psychology, counseling, experimental psychology, environmental psychology, organizational psychology, educational psychology, developmental psychology, psychology of personality. and psychometric psychology.

Environmental psychologists work in architectural firms, automobile  manufacturing, and funiture design. Organizational psychologists work with organizations - companies, corporations, and non-profits. Educational psychologists work in the field of education studying and researching the best ways to teach children and adults. Developmental psychologists study and research how children and adults reach their stages of development.


The field and study of psychology is a varied and diversified field of study and offers the potential for many types of different careers depending on how and what the psychology major decides to do with his psychology education. With excellent credentials, the student of psychology can find exactly what he might be looking for in a career. Many students of psycholgy use the BS or BA  degree in psychology as a starting point for higher education in law, religion, and the medical field.


Morgan, Clifford T., King, Richard A., Introduction to Psychology, McGraw-Hill Inc., NY, 1971, pgs. 683-685.

More about this author: Colette Georgii

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