Psychology Job Opportunities
Psychology is an extremely diverse profession with job opportunities hidden in many environments. You may choose to work independently as a consultant for large firms or in your own clinic, or as part of the organization in a treatment facility or a business’s human-resource department. The flexibility and diversity of this degree is one of its most alluring features. In addition, a degree in psychology can be a springboard into many other professional endeavors including careers in law enforcement, medicine, or business administration.
A survey by the APA showed that 75% of psychologists had obtained a job in their chosen field within three months of graduation. Those who complete a doctoral degree and obtain professional licensure have even more job opportunities available, including positions in counseling, education, research, and psychoanalysis.
For the most part, if you want to work with patients, you will need a license, which is preceded by a doctoral degree such as a PhD. However, professionals holding master’s and bachelor’s degrees in psychology are working in the field. Unlicensed psychology majors may work in supporting positions as research assistants or in administrative positions, and require supervision by a licensed professional.
Job opportunities in health care remain abundant, especially in mental health and substance abuse counseling. These positions may take you into hospitals, residential treatment facilities, or outpatient clinics. Along with specialists in the mental health field, such as social workers and psychiatrists, you will work to help each patient improve their mental health and quality of life.
The field of clinical psychology is the most comprehensive specialty in the science of psychology, with multiple sub-specialties including neuropsychology, child and geropsychology, and health psychology. Clinical psychologists require advanced schooling, internships, and licensure for practice eligibility. If you excel at interpersonal communication and enjoy assessing and treating emotional and behavioral disorders, this might be the job to explore.
All clinical psychologists work with patients. Patients may be old or young, extremely ill or just barely depressed, but the focus is on treating individuals. This career choice may take you into hospitals, private clinics, universities, specialized treatment facilities, or your own private practice.
Clinical psychologists may work with those who suffer severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, or provide therapy to those suffering situational conflicts including bereavement, divorce, or other major life stressors. Their work may take them into clinics where they focus on one aspect of mental illness, such as phobias or depression, or work with physicians to help treat patients with complex psychological issues underlying chronic physical illnesses.
Some clinicians choose only to work with certain populations, such as children, adolescents, or the elderly. Clinical psychologists who work only with the elderly are known as geropsychologists. These doctors specialize in problems of aging such as loss of independence and depression. They must accrue hours of internship or externship caring for this population before if they want to specialize in elder care.
One popular biological sub-specialty of clinical practice is neuropsychology. These doctors seek extra training in anatomy and physiology and may hold degrees in both psychology and biology. Clinical neuropsychologists frequently work with patients who have suffered a brain injury and have consequential cognitive or behavioral impediments. These clinical psychologists study and treat stroke, traumatic brain injury, and neurological diseases.
Anyone pursuing a career in clinical psychology will need to complete a doctoral program majoring in psychology. Many universities have programs that require a master’s or bachelor’s for entry into the program, but the competition is high and the acceptance rate into psychology doctoral programs is low. Many factors contribute to your eligibility for the program, including your undergraduate GPA, aptitude testing scores, clinical or research experience, and references. A one-year internship is required for matriculation from the doctoral program. After graduation, at least two years of supervised clinical experienced is required for eligibility to sit for your state licensure exam. However, each state’s eligibility requirements may vary.
According to the United States Department of Labor, the average income for a clinical psychologist is
about $64,140, with the top 10% making more than $106,840 annually. The large gap in salaries is mostly
because of the numerous subspecialties in the field. Those with higher levels of education, such as
neuropsychologists, will make more than a clinical psychologist working in a government position.
The diverse field of developmental psychology may have you caring for patients from birth through old age and at any stage of development between. These psychologists study the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development and tendencies prevalent in each age group. Developmentally, our life is broken into stages, each of which reflects a cognitive and behavioral component such as learning language skills for young children or social skills for adolescents. These psychologists may work in educational centers or universities.
The period from birth up to the start of schooling encompasses the start of human growth and development. Developmental psychologists study this vast period of maturation when infants learn motor and language skills. These psychologists may work with daycare facilities, social services, or in government positions.
Preschool-aged children comprise the next stage of development. Children this age are typically imaginative and still developing motor and language skills. Developmental psychologists may work with speech therapists, pediatricians, or any health-care professional who has isolated a developmental deficiency in the child. The psychologist may treat the disorder in the same manner, with an interdisciplinary approach to helping the child progress.
As the lifespan progresses, psychologists may study the elementary school stage, which lasts
until adolescence. Depending on which developmental theorist you support, such as Piaget or Freud, this
period of life may be broken down into many shorter periods.
Extraordinary cognitive growth occurs during this period and children will transition from magical to concrete thinking, with the growing ability to apply logic to situations. Developmental psychologists working with these children may operate in schools, teach in universities, or apply their knowledge in research positions.
Adolescence takes the child from school through young adulthood. This period of development is the brunt of many jokes due to the seemingly volatile personality of some teens. Psychologists may help with emotional-affective disorders during this period, such as eating disorders, or research the cause of suicide in this population to help lower this tragic statistic. They may work in schools as counselors, in the government as researchers, or alongside their peers in private practice.
The mean salary for developmental psychologists varies widely due to the many different locations and
occupations available to these professionals. On average, these psychologists earn $65,710 annually.
The outlook for employment remains positive in this field with job growth expected according to the
United States Department of Labor Outlook. As of 2008, almost one-third of employed psychologists were
working in an educational capacity or facility.
Perhaps one of the most diverse professions in psychology is counseling. Careers in counseling psychology are a large and growing part of the healthcare field. These professionals care for people of every developmental stage and in almost any setting imaginable. Counselors require advanced training and education; positions are availabl to those holding either a master’s or a doctorate in psychology.
These professionals should not be confused with clinical psychologists, who specialize in mentally ill patients. Although counselors may work with the mentally ill, they specialize in caring for healthy individuals and families who suffer a situational stressor. Events such as divorce, death, or physical affectations such as an amputated limb may require therapy to maintain a healthy mental outlook. Women suffering a mastectomy, or surgical removal of the breast, may be referred to a counseling psychologist to help them move through this stage of their life.
In counseling, you may find yourself seated in a crisis center such as a suicide prevention center, or working independently in a clinic. Businesses hire independent contractors to help with interpersonal relationships or situational stress, such as the death of a colleague. Counselors in psychology work in universities and high schools as both educators and advocates in student crisis centers.
Aside from exceptional interpersonal communication skills, psychology majors considering a career in counseling should be sensitive, patient, and ethical. Counselors interact daily with those from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures. These professionals must respect and understand these differences and the potential for them to influence each individual’s behavior and moral compass. There is no room for biased thinking in counseling; counselors may assist clients with issues involving sexual orientation or a history of substance abuse.
Professionals can gain jobs in counseling psychology with both a master’s and a doctoral degree. Master’s-prepared psychologists may not be eligible for licensure or teaching at the collegiate level; this varies by state. In counseling, those with master’s degrees must work under the supervision of a licensed, doctoral-level psychologist, but the main benefit is avoiding the expense and additional years of schooling required for a doctoral degree. Psychologists with doctoral degrees will sit for state licensure and find their niche in counseling. These practitioners can work independently or choose to gain additional training and supervision within a counseling specialty, such as adolescent pregnancy or suicide prevention.
The average salary for counseling psychologists varies widely due to the myriad positions these
professionals may hold. Your paycheck will also depend on your highest level of education and licensure.
Traditionally, a licensed doctorate-level psychologist will bring home more than a counselor with only a master's degree.
Industrial and Organizational Psychology
The keen competition of today’s business world has led to an entire field in psychology to support it: industrial and organizational psychology, also known as I/O. This branch of psychology supports much more than just organizational growth and productivity, although those concepts are the foundation of the profession. You will use all of your professional tools in this career including counseling, research, development, personality, and social psychology to improve the overall function of a business.
I/O psychologists use the principles and theories of research to analyze organizational structure, dissect the personalities and social structures within a business, and apply research findings to positively modify behavior. This modification may be used to improve industrial proficiency, to gain an edge over competition, or to assist with employee retention. Your position in I/O may place you in a boardroom conference, in a cubicle conducting research and analysis, or in an auditorium giving resiliency classes.
Figuratively speaking, these professionals wear many different hats. Some may research marketing and advertising strategies while others analyze productivity of the organizational structure. You may be consulted during periods of organizational stress such as a merger, or permanently employed in human resources. During mergers or periods of acquisition psychologists help individuals through counseling or provide group guidance regarding potential lay-offs and/or new job responsibilities. They may then be retained for staff resiliency following the stressful event. I/O psychologists embedded in organizations can work directly in the hiring and behavioral interview process or develop awards programs for incentive and retention.
As we evolve technologically, I/O psychology grows with subspecialties such as human factors or engineering psychology. These specialties focus on the increasing interactions between humans and technology in their given professions. These scientists study how we interact with our work environment, how to improve said environment, and the subsequent effects on our behavior, personality, and overall job satisfaction. As a human-factors psychologist you may work for the government, such as the Department of Defense, or for large industrial firms.
Master’s-level professionals frequently seek I/O psychology careers because licensure is not required
for these positions. Job growth potential is extraordinary in this field with a projected 26% increase
in job openings according to the United States Department of Labor. The average annual income for this
profession is significantly higher than that of other psychology careers, at about $77,010. The top 10%
are making at least $149,120 a year
according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In its most elemental form, educational psychology studies how we learn and develops the methodology to improve learning ability. When healthcare professionals inquire if you are an audio or visual learner, this is a direct reflection of the work of educational psychologists. These professionals study education as it relates to the mind, cognitive ability, the environment, and even personality. As a society, we use this knowledge to tailor learning experiences and improve educational outcomes.
Educational psychologists work with humans at every developmental stage throughout the life span. Some might study children in elementary school, trying to research better methods to motivate a classroom or discern the impact of higher student-to-teacher ratios. A colleague could be working with the elderly trying to ascertain their comprehension of prescription medication warning labels. The scientific research from these psychologists may be used to promote improved learning in the classroom or suggest an alternate method to providing education to seniors about their prescription medications.
Many educational psychologists work in schools educating the educators and researching barriers to effective learning. Commonly referred to as school psychologists, these professionals may modulate the learning environment or identify students who are disrupting a group learning session and work one on one with those students. Their attentions may be focused on children with behavioral impediments to learning or those that are gifted or talented. The school psychologist may provide therapy to students during stressful situations such as bereavement that could hurt their education, or help family members learn better ways to encourage cognitive growth at home. At the collegiate level, they may work with administrators, professors, or individual students to maximize learning potential.
If they are not involved in research or schools, educational psychologists may teach at the college or high-school level. These courses may coach future educators in the myriad methods of approaching education and tailoring efforts to the individual needs of learners. Similarly, businesses interested in learning new methods to train staff or the government may use educational psychologists to dissect testing methods including question phraseology, difficulty, fairness, and method of delivery.
To work in education, a psychologist must obtain either a master’s or a doctoral degree in
psychology. Professional licensure is not always required and depends largely on the nature of the
position held. Experience with research, statistics, or the educational environment is an asset and may
help you land a more comfortable position in this field.
Community psychologists need a strong background in social science, which they use to promote mental health throughout the community. The term community psychology is relatively new and will replace the outdated label of social psychology. Rather than treating a mental illness in one individual or providing counseling during a time of crisis, these scientists research the organizational structure of the community and its impact on social cohesion, and apply scientific research and theory to improve and maintain the health of the whole unit.
Taking a scientific approach, this branch of psychology looks at the entire functioning system of the community. Although it was centuries ago when Aristotle coined the phrase, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” this concept underpins behavior, illness, and wellness within a system. Community psychology focuses on the individuals, neighborhoods, community centers, medical facilities, schools, religious support, and history that are vital parts of the society. Similar to industrial and organizational psychologists, community psychologists look at the community as a system, or organization, and strive to improve that organization.
As practitioners of a fairly new concept in psychology, these pioneers have made one of their roles advocating for underserved social groups. This work may focus on the psychosocial needs of the poor and elderly, or research the psychological impact of persons being removed from their cultural comfort zones. Community psychologists may take part in the political arena, advocating for policy changes necessary to improve economic distribution and to serve their strong beliefs in social justice. These professionals are found at outreach events, as the chairs for community meetings, or visiting local schools and grounding research on the integration of school-aged children and the economic structure of the community.
The career opportunities do not stop at social justice. These psychologists may research leadership positions and behaviors in a hierarchical context, or assist advertising and political campaigns with their research based in community perception. Likewise, a social psychologist may work with industrial firms to assess the impact of advertising on a given community.
This branch of psychology calls to those with a strong moral compass and desire to serve the greater good. Philosophically, you must have a strong understanding of diversity and excel in science and research. Conducting research in the field, essentially studying humans in their natural context, is a fundamental part of community psychology. The research extrapolated by these professionals provides the platform to provoke and suggest methods of change.
Similar to preventive health or public medicine, community psychology strives to recognize patterns
in the system before they lead to behavioral, physical, and mental complications. On an individual
level, professionals in this field monitor and help individuals function within the community rather than in institutions or
Experimental or research psychology is an excellent career choice for those with a strong background in research and statistics, and an inquisitive mind. These psychologists use empirical research designs to study the impact of myriad variables on behavior. Just like with Nobel Prize recipient Ivan Pavlov and his drooling puppies, this research is used to prove hypothetical questions and advance the science and practice of psychology and medicine.
Experimental psychology research includes both human and animal subjects, including birds, rodents, and other small mammals. The study of animals for comparative psychology is referred to as cross-species examination. Scientific research starts with a hypothesis, or a questioning statement that will lead to a scientific conclusion through observing, analyzing data, and formulating a theory. You should only choose areas of research that highly interest you, as one hypothesis may take years of research, data gathering, and study to answer.
Research can increase our knowledge of the cognitive and sensory processes, perception or physics of psychology, and development. Experimental psychologists may explore the physiology of genetic influences on behavior or study the effects of substance use and abuse on the brain. Other research areas may study the origin and effects of mental health diseases in the brain, which is an essential part of finding treatment modalities for diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
Traditionally, these psychologists are found in academic settings such as universities and teaching institutions, like metropolitan hospitals. A person seeking a career in experimental psychology has many potential employers. Your work environment will depend mostly on your area of research interest. Those interested in exploring genetics, anatomy, and physiology may work in a hospital or university, whereas psychologists with an interest in language development in babies may work in manufacturing developing conceptual toys for cognitive development. Your work may lead you toward engineering or advertising. Outside the laboratory, you may work in nonprofit organizations or for the government studying human development and influencing national health standards with your research findings.
Typically, most psychologists in experimental research hold advanced degrees such as a PhD; however,
work in research can be found at the baccalaureate and master’s degree levels as well. Those holding an
undergraduate degree will most likely function as interns or help with fieldwork in research, but with
limited positions the job competition is fierce. Master’s-level psychologists will have more
independence in research positions but will need supervision by a licensed psychologist. At the doctoral
level, experimental psychologists have the liberty to develop private research firms or work
independently, as in government contracting jobs.
The field of psychoanalysis is rooted in Sigmund Freud’s research and analysis of the subconscious mind. This branch of psychology deals largely with self-improvement and insight, which psychoanalysis helps reveal through one-on-one counseling sessions. Unlike other mental-health professions, psychoanalysis can occur in the absence of any mental illness or disease. People may seek your service to improve their current mental health, explore their capabilities and limitations, or avoid potential complications of repressed emotions such as depression.
Distinct from clinical or counseling psychologists, psychoanalysts play a vastly different role in the therapeutic relationship. These psychologists are virtually invisible, allowing the client to take the lead during sessions without the usual banter or therapeutic communication of a counseling session. One of the conceptual techniques used in psychoanalysis is free association, where a client may recline on a couch and mention details of recent dreams, childhood memories, or even errant thoughts during the session. Whereas adults use one-sided conversation to paint a picture of their psyche for the analyst, children in psychoanalysis may use toys, dolls, or interactive play to express themselves. Usually out of the client’s line of vision, the analyst uses active listening throughout the session while encouraging the release of any suppressed memories or repressed incidents. Psychoanalysts believe this cathartic release holds the key to mental health and stability.
If you are considering a career in psychoanalysis you must be mentally sound and sure of your own thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. A psychoanalyst does not speak his mind or provide comfortable conversation. He becomes a tool to unlock his clients’ minds. Sessions may continue for years as opposed to months, therefore persistence is a good quality to have before getting into this field. Scheduled psychoanalysis sessions may occur as often as five days a week or only once weekly.
The amount of training needed to enter this field varies by the highest level of post-graduate
education you have achieved. If a medical doctor or osteopath wishes to enter psychoanalysis, she may
apply for training through the APA. Doctoral students are eligible for training after obtaining at least
3,000 hours of mental-health experience. Master’s prepared students will require a little more
experience and didactic education. If you hold a master’s in psychology you will require 3,000 hours of
clinical experience plus 60 hours of supervised counseling and education.
The Coca-Cola Company hired a psychologist in 1911 to help discern the safety of its drink additives on human behavior and performance. Unbeknownst to most people, psychologists are embedded within the business world, from advertising and campaign strategists to organizational structure experts. The career options in business psychology underpin an entire profession dedicated to understanding industrial and organizational behaviors. Students specializing in counseling and organizational management may consider an internship in business to develop their skills in this arena.
As an intern you may work with an individual consultant firm or in-house in complex organizations. Educational experiences might include learning how psychology impacts mergers and acquisitions, restructuring and downsizing, and the social structures and relationships within a business. The roles of psychologists in the workplace are myriad. They may study the keys to motivation, provide instruction to firms losing long-term employees, or assist productivity in the workplace through behavioral modification.
Four specialties in psychology are frequently employed in business: engineering, counseling, social, and industrial/organizational psychologists. Each of these specialties has overlapping responsibilities in the business world; they are not exclusive of one another. Large firms may use internal resources such as an in-house psychologist in the human-resources department or hire an external consulting firm during times of stress or opposition such as a merger.
Engineering psychology is constantly evolving in today’s industry, which is rife with computers and technology. Also referred to as human factors psychology, engineering psychology studies the impact of our highly technical work environment on our behavior and consequent productivity. Many engineering- psychology internships are found in the government, such as the Department of Defense, and could lead to full-time positions after a successful internship.
Counseling and social psychology are vital components of any business psychology trade. Learning how to work individually and as a group with employees of varying backgrounds and cultures is key to helping an organization thrive in today’s diverse environment. These internships may originate in the human- resources department where your skills affect hiring, restructuring, and counseling decisions for all employees.
Industrial and organizational (I/O) psychologists study the effects of behavior on the workplace and
research factors affecting the quality of employee performance. I/O psychologists may work as human-
resource specialists for an organization where they study the social structure of the organization. An
internship in I/O opens a wide range of doors to varying levels of professional psychology positions.
Internships for Psychology Major
If you have chosen psychology as your major and your post-graduation career, it is never too early to start thinking about your internship options. Students finishing their education with a bachelor’s or master’s degree do not necessarily need an internship for matriculation; however, they will need to complete a doctoral degree and get clinical experience to work in schools or health care as a psychology professional. A doctoral degree in psychology, such as a PhD or PsyD, requires at least one year of internship experience to graduate.
An internship may be similar to your first job in any chosen profession, complete with low pay, a few benefits, and a lot of hands-on experience. However, internships are vital to learning, sharpening your skills, and getting actual experience. You will work under direct supervision of psychology professionals including licensed psychologists and Licensed Master Social Workers.
The application requirements vary depending on the organization sponsoring your internship. At the
least, most will require at least a bachelor’s degree in psychology, preferably a master’s or doctoral
degree. Previous clinical experience is always encouraged, as is a keen interest in the area of study--
don’t apply to an internship psychoanalyzing children if you have no interest in this field. Research
the internships available early to explore all your options to their best advantage.
In the professional world of psychology, an internship is your ticket to practice in health care- related fields or in education and development. Internships are not the same thing as clinicals or the field time accrued to gain qualifications for licensure. This experience provides a supervised, hands-on experience that is required for advanced degrees and will prepare you for real-life practice as a skilled clinician.
All students majoring in psychology benefit from an internship in varying degrees. Baccalaureate and master’s students might seek the experience this opportunity offers as well as the ability to log clinical hours that can support skills listed on a resume. With the intense competition to enter doctoral programs, some master’s-level students may choose this extra training to get an edge over their peers.
This practicum may be paid or unpaid depending on the sponsoring facility. There are university level internships that do not pay you for your time, but you may work directly with the psychology faculty and gain familiarity and work toward tenure at the school. Organizationally sponsored psychology internships may pay you for your time, but more importantly these positions can help you get a foot in the door. If you prove yourself as a competent professional or leader in either type of training, you may cement a position with the organization after graduation.
At the doctoral level, a one-year internship is required for matriculation. Most universities include this opportunity at some point of the curriculum for graduate studies – ranging from a brief summer- session practicum to a year-long placement with a licensed psychologist. This is part of the path to licensure that doctoral graduates usually seek. Licensed psychologists have a doctoral degree, at least one year’s worth of internship in their future area of practice, and two years of supervised practice prior to gaining eligibility to sit for a licensing exam.
This is an invaluable aid if you are undecided in your psychology career path. Behavioral science has myriad directions in which to take your practice – an internship may help you decide which one is right or wrong for you. However, due to the relatively limited internship opportunities, it is wise to start with a few basic goals. Think of what type of work you want upon graduation and what you would like to learn during the internship, such as any skills you need to sharpen.
This position is not a given. You will need references, an impressive curriculum vitae, and
extraordinary interview skills to dazzle your way into a professional position with little to no
experience. Remember, this position could eventually lead to a permanent profession, so take your time
and choose your position and location carefully.
Last Updated: 08/16/2012