Psychology Careers To Consider

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In the ever-evolving field of psychology, choosing a career path can be both exciting and overwhelming. For those with an undergraduate degree, a multitude of psychology-related jobs are available, ranging from consulting roles within organizations to independent research roles. Those interested in pursuing a graduate or doctorate-level education may choose to work in clinical practice in schools or mental health centers. Here, we’ll look at eight careers in the field of psychology and some of the typical job responsibilities involved in these fields.

What is the best path for psychology?

When considering possible careers in psychology, it’s crucial to understand the professional landscape of the field as well as the needs of the market. However, the best path for you may depend on your own needs and interests. Conduct thorough research on a number of psychology-related roles to find one that suits you. Then, you can look into educational programs that align with your career goals.

Note that with only a bachelor’s degree in psychology, your options may be somewhat limited. While your understanding of human psychology may help you thrive in a number of roles, providing psychological services typically requires an advanced level of education. Thus, most careers in psychology require the completion of a master’s or doctoral program.

Careers for psychology majors to consider

Psychologists provide a broad range of mental health services—treating patients, conducting research, consulting, teaching, etc.—in widely varying contexts. Whether you’re considering pursuing a graduate degree in psychology or looking for work as a post-doctoral psychologist, the following career paths can lead to rewarding, challenging roles. 

School psychology

As the name suggests, school psychologists are generally responsible for working with children and adolescents in educational settings and schools. School psychologists are responsible for helping foster student learning by working with young people who are experiencing social, academic, and emotional challenges. Many school psychologists work with youth by teaching them problem-solving skills, emotional control strategies, and communication skills.

If you are considering pursuing a school psychology career, you may have many opportunities to help youth with evolving needs. Currently, young people are facing unique challenges, and mental health problems are a growing concern for school-aged children and adolescents. School psychologists can play an important role in helping to treat mental health issues in young people as they navigate academic stress, social pressure, and, in some cases, difficult home environments.

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Clinical psychology

Clinical psychologists usually specialize in working with individuals who are living with various mental disorders. They are required to undergo extensive education and training, including a doctorate in psychology (PsyD or PhD). While doctoral programs may be intensive, clinical psychologists often enjoy a high level of job satisfaction due to their significant impact on improving the emotional health and well-being of their clients. Clinical psychology, which focuses on the treatment of mental disorders, can be distinguished from counseling psychology. While they may address symptoms of a condition, counselors typically help clients work through a range of other life challenges and emotional concerns.

Working in settings such as mental health clinics, hospitals, and exclusive practices, clinical psychologists use a range of therapeutic techniques and research methods to diagnose, treat, and support individuals facing mental health challenges like clinical depression, anxiety disorders, behavioral disorders, and more complex psychological conditions. According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a clinical psychologist in the United States in 2023 is roughly $110,000. 

Developmental psychology

Developmental psychologists specialize in understanding how people grow and change throughout their lives, examining the psychological processes related to development from infancy through old age. Developmental psychologists study human growth in a variety of contexts. Some developmental psychologists work independently—as consultants in various industries, for example—while others are part of teams that work in research settings, government agencies, clinics, or universities.

These professionals play a vital role in identifying and addressing developmental delays or problems in children, understanding the aging process, and providing insights into the challenges and growth opportunities at different life stages. They may conduct scientific research to explore questions about development or work directly with individuals or groups to apply developmental principles in real-world settings.

Cognitive psychology

Cognitive psychologists study the intricate processes that drive human thought and behavior, delving into areas such as perception, memory, attention, language, problem-solving, and decision-making. By studying these mental processes, cognitive psychologists aim to gain a deeper understanding of how people absorb, process, and retain information.

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Cognitive psychology plays a critical role in shaping technology, education, public policy, and more. While there are some career options in cognitive psychology at the bachelor’s degree level, there tend to be more for those with a master’s or doctoral degree. For example, at the master’s level, a professional may work in human performance research, while individuals with doctoral degrees might conduct research in academic settings. 

Consumer psychology

Consumer psychologists typically work closely with businesses, retailers, and economists. Their work may involve developing marketing and advertising campaigns, determining the popularity of a product or service, or probing the behavioral patterns of shoppers and buyers. In addition to expertise in social psychology, consumer psychologists generally need to have ample knowledge of how media, culture, and interpersonal relationships can impact the decisions people make when buying goods and services. Experts in consumer psychology may have a variety of specialties. For example, a company may employ an engineering psychologist to help them develop products that are easier to use; or an organization may utilize experimental psychologists when conducting research on spending habits.  

However, consumer psychology findings are not limited to business applications; they can also inform public policy, especially in areas related to consumer protection, public health campaigns, and environmental behavior. The insights provided by consumer psychologists help in creating more effective communications that can lead to healthier, more sustainable consumer choices.

Industrial-organizational psychology

Industrial-organizational psychologists play a crucial role in helping organizations better understand their employees with the goal of improving workplace productivity and employee well-being. Specialists in industrial-organizational psychology apply psychological theories and research to help facilitate organizational development. They may help optimize hiring processes, develop training programs, and liaise between employees and management. Much of their work focuses on finding ways of improving organizational structures, company culture, and employee retention.

Industrial-organizational psychologists typically hold a master’s degree or doctoral-level degree, often with a focus on I-O psychology. In 2022, the median annual income for industrial-organizational psychologists was $139,280.

Rehabilitation psychology

Rehabilitation psychologists work with individuals to assist them as they overcome the mental and emotional aspects of disabilities and chronic health conditions. They help their clients learn critical skills so that they may lead fulfilling and independent lives despite physical health, cognitive, or emotional limitations. A specialist in rehabilitation psychology may be a neuropsychologist, developmental or sports psychologist, or an expert in health psychology. 

Rehabilitation psychologists may work in hospitals, social services agencies, rehabilitation centers, community health agencies, and personal practices. A doctoral degree in psychology (Ph.D. or PsyD) is typically required to practice. This advanced education includes specialized training in areas relevant to physical and cognitive disabilities, chronic illness, and the psychological aspects of rehabilitation.

Forensic psychology

The legal system relies on the knowledge and expertise of psychologists in a variety of domains. A forensic psychologist may work within the court system, law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities, and other government agencies. Forensic psychologists may conduct competency evaluations, treat inmates in prison, serve as expert witness during trials, or develop criminal profiles in law enforcement investigations. According to experts in this psychology field, continuing job growth is expected as the demand for professionals outpaces the supply. 

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Talk to a clinical psychologist online 

If you’re interested in a career in psychology but aren’t sure what direction to go, you may benefit from speaking with a licensed counselor. Deciding on a career path can be challenging, and many people may benefit from a professional’s opinion. If this is the case for you, you might find that using an online therapy platform can make it easy to connect with a psychologist or other licensed professional who can offer career counseling services. In addition, online therapy can provide support for any mental health concerns you may be experiencing.

As one study from 2020 explains, online therapy can be as effective as traditional in-person therapy for several mental health concerns. Working with a therapist online may alleviate any symptoms of stress or anxiety you might feel about choosing the right career path.

Takeaway

There can be many potential careers in the field of psychology, depending on your interests. For instance, you may choose to become a consumer, industrial-organizational, health, school, cognitive, or clinical psychologist. In some of these careers, you can work directly with individuals seeking help for their mental health. In others, you can work with organizations or businesses to conduct research and improve productivity. 

It may help to speak with a licensed counselor about your career options and aspirations. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with someone who has experience in psychology and even career counseling. Take the first step toward getting help with career choices and reach out to BetterHelp.

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