Careers in Psychology

If you’ve majored in psychology and are wondering what your options are, the following list of potential careers in psychology might help. There are many careers in psychology; this isn’t an exhaustive list though, as new specialisms keep popping up. We’ll also be briefly looking at careers in related fields that might make use of your psychology degree, as well as other sectors where your degree might be valuable.

There’s two ways you can use this resource.

First: you can just scroll through and read every career option we’ve got in our list. This might be useful if you have literally no clue what you want to do and need some inspiration about your future career in psychology, but it might take a while.

Second: you can use the links below to jump straight to a career that catches your eye. This will save time if you already have a rough idea of what psychology job you might want to do. We’ve helpfully put the links in alphabetical order so, you can find the one you’re looking for quickly and easily.

What Do Psychologists Do?

People who pursue a career in psychology may wear one of many hats. A psychologist may work in a lab, at a school, or even have their own practice! The one thing that all psychologists have in common is that they have a particular focus or interest in explaining the way that humans move throughout the world, and how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are affected by what is happening on the inside and the outside.  

Why Pursue a Career in Psychology?

Psychology is fascinating, but if you’ve made your way to this website, you probably know that already! The world’s psychologists have devoted their lives to uncovering the truth about the mind: are we more influenced by nature or nurture? How connected are our minds and bodies? Where does emotion come from, and how can we manage our emotions using different therapy techniques or other forms of treatment?

If you want to answer these questions yourself, you might want to consider a career in psychology! Fortunately, there are many roads that you can take with a psychology degree and many ways that you can contribute as a psychologist. Interested in working with children, adults, or animals? Curious about how we think, make decisions, or interact with each other? There is a psychology career available to you!

Psychologist Roles and Responsibilities

That being said, responsibilities vary. Psychologists may be hired to: 

  • Conduct research 
  • Teach psychology to students 
  • Diagnose patients with mental health conditions
  • Offer treatment options for mental health conditions 
  • Offer executive coaching on teamwork, motivation, and behavior in the workplace
  • Give testimonies in court as an expert witness
  • Comment on certain phenomena for books, documentaries, and TV shows
  • Put together behavior plans for troubled students
  • Work with business leaders to create strategies and tactics for employee retention or similar goals 
  • Make assessments of patients 
  • Counsel couples on issues they had in their relationships 

As you can see, there isn’t just one way to be a psychologist. 

Where Can You Get Hired as a Psychologist?

Many different organizations may hire a psychologist to take on these responsibilities, including: 

  • School districts
  • College and universities
  • Research labs
  • Consulting firms   
  • Private practices
  • Telehealth providers
  • Government agencies
  • Professional sports teams 
  • Hospitals
  • Prisons 
  • Rehabilitation and recovery centers 
  • Healthcare companies

Psychologists also have another option: opening their own practice. Depending on the type of psychology you have studied and how you want to serve your clients, your private practice may offer services to individuals who want to improve their mental health or corporations that are looking to improve how they treat their staff and motivate their leaders.

Art Therapist 

Art therapists encourage people to express themselves and their feelings through creative arts. You will need to be trained in a combination of psychotherapy and art, and can work individually or as part of a group using a wide range of materials. Typical clients include:

  • People who’ve had a traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • People who’ve experienced trauma
  • Adults suffering from chronic or severe stress
  • Children with disabilities

Aviation Psychologist 

Aviation psychologists work for airlines, airports and government agencies. Drawing on human behavior, typical duties might include:

  • Evaluating prospective pilots and cabin crew
  • Conducting research on aviation safety
  • Helping reconstruct aviation accidents
  • Training flight crews in communication strategies and managing passengers with in-flight anxiety
  • Counseling

Adolescent Psychologist

Adolescent psychologists typically work with young people between the ages of 12 – 18, although some work with younger children, or young adults. This work requires an in-depth understanding of sociocultural and developmental factors specific to each age group. Work can be complex, challenging, and hopefully – rewarding – and may include:

  • Abuse
  • Autism
  • Bullying
  • Trauma
  • Eating disorders
  • Cognitive deficits

Advertising Psychologist

Advertising psychologists work with businesses and organizations. The role involves researching and analyzing consumer preferences and behavior, and then advising the business so that their advertising efforts to promote a brand, service or product is as effective as possible. Activities in this job might involve:

  • Brand development strategy
  • Script development

Analytical Psychologist

Analytical psychologists are interested in the impact our conscious and non-conscious beliefs and perceptions have on the way we think and behave. The role involves aspects of psychoanalysis, and clients may need help with:

  • Managing and coming to terms with chronic illness or disability
  • Managing and understanding their emotions, such as stress, anxiety, fear, anger or rage

Behavioral Psychologist

Behavior psychologists fall into 4 main categories: cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and applied behavioral analysis (ABA).

Each type of therapeutic approach is aimed at addressing any harmful or negative thought processes, attitudes and behaviors that are preventing a person from having a happy, fulfilling life. The purpose of any behavioral psychologist irrespective of approach, is to help people understand their thinking and behavior, and offer tools and strategies to manage these and turn them into positive and helpful ways of thinking and behaving.

Behavioral Disorder Counselor

A Behavioral Disorder counselor works with people who have behavioral disorders or issues that might be negatively affecting their personal relationships, work, and their day-to-day functioning. You might be working with individuals who have:

  • ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Gambling

Biological Psychologist

Biological psychologists focus on the relationship between genetics, biological and physiological factors on human behavior and thought processes. Often this involves investigating and analyzing the differences between other species and human beings so, you are more likely to be carrying out animal studies in this field. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, this might not be the career for you.  

Child Life Specialist

A child life specialist usually works within the pediatric department of a hospital. This role is about helping children under 18 – and their families – manage the experience of being hospitalized, or having a chronic health condition. You can be involved at any stage, or all of them. This mean you could be helping a child and their family cope before, during, or after any treatment. This role is a mix of providing educational and emotional support so, you’ll need know about medical terminology and what’s involved in hospital procedures, as well as having basic counselling and great communication skills.

Child Psychologist

Child psychologists are interested in the primary issues faced by children and adolescents, such as developmental milestones, educational and behavioral problems, social skills and emotional issues. With such a broad spectrum of issues, no day is likely to be the same. Typical activities will vary depending on your area of expertise and whether you are in private practice or not, but may include:

  • Administering a variety of psychological tests
  • Offering therapy, such as CBT
  • Systemic therapy, such as Functional Family therapy
  • Involvement in developing Individual Education Plans (IEP)

Child Therapist 

Child therapists usually work with children with complex needs who may have experienced abuse and/or trauma. This is an emotionally-demanding role, and may involve:

  • Play therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Clinical Psychologist 

Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose and treat clients suffering from a variety of psychological, emotional, social and behavioral problems. In fact, clinical psychologists can do everything except prescribe medication as they are not classed as medical doctors. In this role, you may find yourself working in hospital settings, mental health clinics, or private practice. Most clinical psychologists will be educated to Masters level, with most having a PhD. You may work with people who have:

  • Severe mental health, such as schizophrenia
  • Emotional distress due to abuse, neglect, domestic abuse, and trauma
  • Behavioral disorders, such as OCD and ADHD
  • Learning disabilities

Criminal Psychologist

See Forensic Psychologist.

Cognitive Psychologist

Cognitive psychologists focus on understanding how the mind works, with particular attention to areas such as perception, memory, language development, attention, learning and sensory processes. This role mainly involves research and/or teaching, although there is some opportunity to work in clinical settings helping people with cognitive problems related to age, brain injury or developmental deficits. Becoming a cognitive psychologist is one of the most fascinating careers in psychology because you will learn how people think. 

Community Psychologist

Community psychologists are part of a relatively new discipline that combines public health, sociology, social work, psychology and ecology. This role focuses on understanding how people relate and interact as a community, with an emphasis on trying to develop strategies to combat community-level problems, such as teen pregnancy. You’ll likely be involved in carrying out research and working with local community leaders and members, rather that providing help and support on an individual basis.

Consumer Psychologist 

Consumer psychologists study the wants and needs of people in order to understand what influences them to purchase goods and services. They also analyze how family, friends, culture, and media messages affect consumer behavior.  In this role you might typically be involved in:

  • Working with consumer focus groups
  • Developing advertising and marketing campaigns
  • Research on shopping and buying behavior

Cyberpsychologist

Cyberpsychology is another relatively new field that investigates the way in which being online affects human behavior. In this role you might be researching topics such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, social media, online behavior, human-machine interaction, and technology addiction. As a Cyberpsychologist, your role is likely to be more about research an analysis than interacting with individuals or groups of people.

Developmental Psychologist

Developmental psychologists specialize in human development and change. While you can be a generalist, it’s more likely that you’ll specialize and work with a specific age group, pediatric, adolescent, young adult, or the elderly. This is because each life stage poses different developmental milestones and issues. You could be working either in research or in a clinical or educational setting. Areas of particular interest include:

  • Attachment theory
  • Education
  • Memory

Ecological Psychologist

Ecological psychologists are interested in understanding human behavior within the context of their environment. Largely a research-based role, you might be investigating microenvironments (such as the effect of immediate family) or macroenvironments (such as the effect of community and culture on behavior).

Educational Psychologist

Education psychologists focus on the various aspects of education, such as teaching strategies, learning processes and styles, language development, testing and assessments, and even behavioral issues. In this role, you’re most likely to work within an education setting in order to help students of any age fulfill their academic potential, although you could alternatively end up in more of research role if this appeals to you. Typical responsibilities might include:

  • Assessing and testing pupils
  • Developing teaching programs
  • Developing and delivering teaching strategies
  • 1:1 work with children with behavioral problems

Engineering Psychologist 

Engineering psychologists use their understanding of the human behavior to help design and improve technology, consumer products, work settings, and living environments. You’re likely to be working within an academic setting or for a private organization. If you’re working for a business or organization you could be working with or as part of one of these teams:

  • Design
  • Product Development
  • Engineering

Evolutionary Psychologist

Evolutionary psychology is mostly a research role, with a focus on investigating and analyzing how the brain and its cognitive processes have developed over time. You’ll need to be interested in biology, anthropology, and history. This is a specialized field and there aren’t many jobs available, with most jobs being in academia.

Experimental Psychologist 

Experimental psychologists carry out research. This can be across a huge range of subjects and specialisms. You may work in a research center, college, governmental agency or private organization. This role typically involves the following activities:

  • Planning an experiment
  • Designing experiments
  • Carrying out experiments
  • Writing up reports/ submitting academic papers for publication

Forensic Psychologist

See also Criminal Psychologist.

Forensic psychologists focus on working within the judicial, family and criminal law, and the correctional system. While you might immediately think of being a psychological profiler – this is actually rarer than you think. This role has a lot in common with criminal psychology, as you could be working within the legal and judicial system, assessing criminal behavior, and providing court reports on the psychological functioning of criminals. You might also be involved in areas such as victim rights, child abuse cases, family conflict and child custody cases.

Some forensic psychologists specialize in working inside correctional facilities, assessing, treating and reporting on the psychological problems of inmates – not for the squeamish!

Geriatric Psychologist/ Geropsychologist

A Geriatric psychologist or Geropsychologist specializes in the assessment and treatment of the elderly. This role can involve:

  • Keeping older adults mentally and physically healthy
  • Working with dementia
  • Managing age-related illness and disability
  • Loneliness

Health Psychologist 

Health psychologists have a distinct focus on health and well-being. Unlike most other psychologists, the emphasis is not on psychological-related assessment or treatment. Instead, you will focus on how to help prevent illness and promoting healthy behaviors, such as regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and so on. In this role, you might be working with governmental health agencies, in hospitals, health care centers, and in schools. Most of your work will involve educating people, so you might carry out activities such as:

  • Developing health policy
  • Developing hospital procedures
  • Drafting health-related information such as leaflets
  • Running health workshops on topics such as stopping smoking, eating healthily and reducing stress

Human Factors Psychologist

Human Factors psychologists focus on human thought and behavior, but also on weaknesses and strengths – both psychological and physical. Work in this field generally involves assessing and understanding how these human factors affect how we use and interact with our environment, tools and workplace. In a nutshell, the purpose of human factors psychology is to ensure that products and services are designed to be safe, effective and user-friendly.  

Industrial/Organizational Psychologist

Industrial and or organizational psychologists are interested in the physical workplace as well as workplace behavior, such as employer/employee interactions. This job is one of the highest paid jobs in psychology to date, due to it’s economic advantages to businesses. Organizational psychology has evolved from simply evaluating employees (and job applicants) to determine suitability, to include a much wider range of tasks, including:

  • Training employees
  • Assessing employees
  • Introducing processes and tools that improve productivity
  • Involvement in HR and recruitment

 

Legal Psychologist

See also Forensic Psychologist.

Legal psychologist roles have some overlap with Forensic psychology. This is because both specialisms are involved in the judicial and criminal systems. In this role, you might be working with a law firm, or the district attorney office. For the most part, your responsibility will be that of a jury consultant and helping construct and vet jurors. Other responsibilities might be more administrative in nature and could involve working with city officials to develop policy and documentation on a variety of societal issues, such as drink driving.

Mathematical Psychologist

Mathematical psychologists may also be referred to as mathematical scientists. This is because this field focuses much more of the science of math to research quantifiable and measurable evidence about human behavior, than a pure interest in psychology. This is a great choice if you love statistical analysis and numbers in general. As an exclusively research-based role, there is no chance of having to interact or act in a helping capacity with actual people.

Marriage Counselor

Marriage counselors work with couples (who don’t necessarily have to be married) who are experiencing relationship problems or where on partner has concerns about the other. Your role is to guide and offer advice to couples who come to you for help. Typical work can involve:

  • Couple therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Managing conflict
  • Improving communication skills

Media Psychologist

Media psychology is a very specialized field that is still developing. Media psychologists explore the relationship between the media (TV, internet, radio) and human behavior. You might work for a private organization such as a tech or social media company. Topics of interest to media psychologists include:

  • Effect of video games on socio-emotional development
  • Effects of news media (including “fake news”)
  • Effectiveness of advertising on different forms of media
  • Impact of social media across all ages

Military Psychologist

See also Clinical Psychologist.

Military psychologists are most likely to also be qualified clinical psychologists and their role is largely the same, albeit working with military personnel. Unlike many other careers in psychology, as a military psychologist, you are more likely to be deployed anywhere in the world – including war zones or hostile environments.

Neuropsychologist

Neuropsychologists are specifically interested in the human brain, and this can include topics such as cognition, traumatic brain injury (TBI), neurological conditions (Parkinson’s, Dementia, etc.), and mental health. Due to the broad nature of this work, neuropsychologists often specialize in a specific field and this can fall into either research of applied work. Typical work can therefore vary dramatically, but in an applied setting, tasks might include:

  • Patient assessment
  • Formulation
  • Developing treatment plans

Occupational Health Psychologist

Occupational health psychologists focus on the impact of physical and mental well-being in the workplace. Although there’s a big emphasis on stress, occupational health can look at other things such as specialist chairs for back problems, built in breaks from computer screens, and so on. This role is about reducing staff illness and time off work. Typical activities might include:

  • Workplace assessments and suggesting workplace modifications
  • Employee fitness assessments

Operational Psychologist

Operational psychologists usually work within governmental agencies and the military to help senior officials make accurate and appropriate combat and other operational action. Activities may involve:

  • Identifying operational risk
  • Identifying security threats
  • Advising on interrogation techniques
  • Assessment of military personnel. Including analyzing personality traits
  • Therapeutic support for trauma-related problems such as PTSD

Psychiatric Social Worker

Psychiatric social workers have a supportive role working with individuals and their families where there is a concern about the impact mental health problems is having on the social and economic aspects of their life, such as parenting capability, work, and personal relationships. In fact, the role is very similar to a traditional social worker, except that they work exclusively with people how have a diagnosed mental illness. Often psychiatric social workers are the first line of defense, and work much more closely with people and their families than most other psychologists. If you’re looking for a fulfilling career in psychology, this may be one of the best. 

Rehabilitation Psychologist

Rehabilitation psychologists focus on assessing, diagnosing and treating individuals who need support. This could be because they have a chronic illness, long-term disability, physical injury and even victims of domestic violence. This role involves working directly with people to determine their needs, creating a personalized treatment plan, and supporting them throughout. Typical activities in this role can include:

  • Assessment
  • Treatment delivery
  • Counselling
  • Coordinating services with other professionals, such as speech pathologists and occupational therapists

Social Psychologist

sports psychology

Social psychologists are interested in how individuals are affected by society, cultural influences, social policy, and even other people. This role can be largely academic, with an emphasis on research activities. However, social psychologists may also be employed in the private sector or by government agencies, and help these organizations understand individual responses and behavior. Areas you could work in include:

  • Health science
  • Political science
  • Educational policy
  • Public perception

Sports Psychologist 

Sports psychologists focus on sports and athletics from a psychological perspective. An interest in sport is essential as you will be specializing in understanding the factors that impact motivation and performance, as well as how to reduce the psychological impact of injury on a sportsperson. As a sports psychologist, you can work in a wide range of settings such as colleges, hospitals, athletic centers, and even work with state or national sport teams. It’s also possible to go down a research path if that appeals to you. Many high-schoolers look into this field to study if they are in sports and wish to follow their love into a well-paying psychology career. 

Theoretical Psychologist

Theoretical psychologists can also be considered research psychologists. This role is all about understanding the connection between psychology, philosophy and theory. Most theoretical psychologists are employed in academic settings (this usually means you’ll also be teaching), and are involved in carrying out experiments to prove or disprove a given theory. Common topics of interest include:

  • Ethics
  • Phenomenology
  • Cultural research
  • Literary research

Traffic Psychologist 

Traffic psychology is a newer area of psychology. Traffic psychologists are responsible for applying theoretical principles to identifying why drivers behave the way they do. In this role, you might be involved in:

  • Investigation links between driver behavior and road accidents
  • Analyze traffic data
  • Devise ways of improving traffic safety and preventing accidents
  • Researching perceptions and attitude towards public transport

Vocational Psychologist

Vocational psychologists are similar to career counselors. If you’re interested in helping others discover what it is that they want to do in their life, this could be the job for you. Typical task might include:

  • Evaluating individual skills and aptitudes
  • Helping people prepare for interviews
  • Guidance on how to qualify for a job

Psychiatrists and Related Careers

You might be wondering why psychiatrists are missing from our list. There’s a really good reason for this – psychiatrists differ from psychologists as they are medical doctors and can prescribe medication. Having a psychology degree won’t necessarily help you become a psychiatrist. You’ll need a medical degree above anything else.

Other sectors where psychology graduates can work:

  • Finance
  • Government
  • Human Resources
  • Interior Design
  • Journalism
  • Marketing/ PR
  • Police
  • Politics
  • Teaching
  • and lots more…

Things to think about when choosing a career in psychology

Hopefully you’re now feeling reassured that there’s a great career in psychology for you. But before you rush headlong into a decision, it might be a good idea to take a few minutes to think about the following:

  • Does the career you’re looking at suit your personality?
  • Would you prefer to work autonomously or as part of a team?
  • Do you want to helping people directly, or would you prefer to work behind the scenes?
  • Are you good with facts and figures?
  • Do you enjoy writing and are you good at it?
  • Do you want to work with children and young people?
  • What level of education can you commit to?
  • Does the average salary for the job feel ok to you?
  • How much do you want to earn?
  • Are you interested in the typical daily tasks of the role?
  • What environment do you want to work in?

careers in psychology

Psychology is a massive field with tons of sub disciplines and specialisms so, the sooner you start thinking about your career path, the better. You can start by researching the possible careers in psychology that are of interest to you, and taking the time to really think about what that job might be like day in day out. Good luck!

Theodore Thudium

Theodore is a professional psychology educator with over 10 years of experience creating educational content on the internet. PracticalPsychology started as a helpful collection of psychological articles to help other students, which has expanded to a Youtube channel with over 2,000,000 subscribers and an online website with 500+ posts.