What Can You Do With A Psychology Degree?

psychology bookshelf at a bookstore. If you want a psychology degree it's important to read about the subject

A psychology degree is one of the most popular degrees for undergraduates. Personally, I know many students that at some point in their academic career considered psychology as their major. A psychology major studies the human mind and behavior. Topics may include personalities, relationships, culture, emotions, and mental health. Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments.

Unless you know what you want to study, choosing a major can be hard and nerve-racking. There are just as many questions and important aspects to consider. What are my interests, my passions, my values, what are my abilities, and what do I want to do for the rest of my life? These are deep topics to consider about yourself and your future.

If you haven’t chosen a major yet or are considering changing your major, I encourage you to read How To Choose A Major When You Are Undecided.

Psychology degrees have several different concentrations such as health, counseling, education, research, neuro, sport and exercise, forensics, and more. Let’s take a look at the different careers you can pursue with a psychology degree.

Types Of Careers You Can Pursue With A Psychology Degree

A graduate with an undergraduate degree in Psychology might pursue a career in one of the following areas:

  • Behavioral Disorder Counselor
  • Child Welfare/Placement Caseworker
  • Community Worker
  • Correctional Officer
  • Disability Policy Worker
  • Educational Psychologist (K-12)
  • Employee Relations Specialist
  • Police Officer
  • Polygraph Examiner  
  • Preschool Teacher
  • Psychiatric Technician
  • Psychosocial Rehabilitation Specialist (PSR)
  • Research Roles
  • Social Services Worker
  • Substance Abuse Counselor

Other careers in the psychology field require additional education, either a master’s, a PhD, or a medical doctorate degree.

  • Clinical Psychologist (PhD degree)
  • Educational Psychologist (master’s degree or higher)
  • Therapist (master’s degree or higher)
  • Psychiatrist (medical doctorate MD)
  • Psychology Professor (master’s degree or higher)
  • Psychotherapist (some have bachelor’s, most have a master’s degree)

Now that we have established the different careers that you can pursue with a psychology degree, let’s take a deeper look at those careers. Annual Income, job outlook, and common fields of study information come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Behavioral Disorder Counselor

A Behavioral Disorder Counselor will provide counseling to people with behavioral disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD), and emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety, or anger. Behavioral Disorder Counselors may also counsel people dealing with substance abuse. A Behavioral Disorder Counselor will identify the cause of their client’s problem and provide them with a recommended course of action.

  • Annual Income: $48,520
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31: 22% (Much faster than average)
  •  Common Fields Of Undergraduate Study: psychology, public policy and social services, and social science

Community Worker

Community Workers work with families or social communities to promote or restore the social functioning of a community. A Community Worker promotes social justice and advocates for the rights of individuals and community groups. They may evaluate community projects and programs. Community Workers work for non-profit organizations, government, and private sectors to provide human services.

  • 2021 Median Pay: $47,920
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31:  10% (Decline)
  • Common Majors: psychology, social science, or security and protective service

Correctional Officer

Some states do not require a degree to become a Correctional Officer while others do. However, typically those with degrees have more advancement opportunities. A Correctional Officer may work in a prison, jail, or courthouse. Their responsibilities include maintaining security, maintaining order, enforcing rules, ensuring the safety of others, and preventing disturbances.  

  • 2021 Median Pay: $47,920
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31:  10% (Decline)
  • Common Majors: psychology, social science, or security and protective service

Disability Policy Worker

Disability Policy Workers focus on areas such as employment, housing, health care, or accessibility. Many work for government offices at the local, state, or federal levels. Disability Policy Workers might create new policies or update policies pertaining to individuals with disabilities. Disability Policy Workers may also work on discrimination cases, for instance, or help disabled individuals file discrimination lawsuits.

  • 2021 Median Pay: $51,700
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31: 5% (As fast as average)
  • Common Majors: psychology, social work, or public policy

Educational Psychologist

Educational psychology is the study of how people learn, retain, and use information. An Educational Psychologist or a School Psychologist may work at a K-12 school, or at a college or university. Some may be required to have a Master’s degree, but these are typically for the college or university level. Educational Psychologists may diagnose learning disorders and work with students to evaluate how to best meet students’ learning needs.

  • 2021 Median Pay: $81,040
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31: 6% (As fast as average)
  • Common Majors: psychology, education, and social science

Social Worker / Child Welfare / Placement Caseworker

Most states require Social Services Workers to obtain a license or certificate in addition to their bachelor’s degree. Social Services Workers may be employed by child welfare agencies, healthcare providers, and schools. They assist people in dealing with personal and social problems by connecting them with counseling or community programs.

  • 2021 Median Pay: $50,390
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31: 9% (Much faster than average)
  • Common Majors: public policy and social services, psychology, or social science

Employee Relations Specialist

An Employee Relations Specialist works in Human Resources (HR) and often oversees labor relations for a company. They help employees to understand company policies, governmental rules, and regulations, and provide counseling. An Employee Relations Specialist may counsel employees regarding work, family, or personal problems.

  • 2021 Median Pay: $77,010
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31: -3% (Decline)
  • Common Majors: psychology, human resources, industrial relations, or business
two people sitting at a white table writing in a notebook. One person is helping the other fill out a form. You can become a employee specialist with psychology degree

Police Officer

Police Officers are required to have a bachelor’s degree, but it can be in several disciplines including, but not limited to, psychology, criminal justice, law enforcement, and political science. Psychology is the study of human behavior, this can include the criminal mind, which makes it a great degree for someone wanting to work in law enforcement. Police Officers are required to complete academy training.

  • 2021 Median Pay: $60,020
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31: 3% (slower than average)
  • Common Majors: psychology, law enforcement, or criminal justice

Polygraph Examiner

A Polygraph Examiner conducts polygraph tests also known as lie detector tests. Then they interpret the results. In addition to their college education, they must complete a polygraph training program and receive a certification and then become licensed by their state. Forensic Science Technicians also do the responsibilities of a Polygraph Examiner.

  • 2021 Median Pay: $61,930
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31: 11% (Much faster than average)
  • Common Majors: psychology, criminal justice, criminology, or forensic science 

Preschool Teacher

Preschool and kindergarten teachers in public schools are often required to have a bachelor’s degree. At the very least they need an associate’s degree. Some states may also require a license. Preschool Teachers benefit from psychology degrees that focus on educational psychology and child development. They teach basic social and language skills to children.

  • 2021 Median Pay: $30,210
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31: 15% (Much faster than average)
  • Common Majors: psychology, education, childhood development

Psychosocial Rehabilitation Specialist (PSR) / Rehabilitation Counselors

PSRs typically are responsible for providing services to clients enrolled in a psychosocial rehabilitation program. They work with clients to improve their mental health and help them to be able to live independently. Many also have a Certified Behavioral Technician certification.

  • 2021 Median Pay: $38,560
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31: 11% (Much faster than average)
  • Common Majors: psychology, education, and social science

Most employers require a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field. Master’s degree programs teach students to evaluate clients’ needs, formulate and implement job placement strategies, and understand the medical and psychological aspects of disabilities. These programs typically include a period of supervised clinical experience, such as an internship.

Although some employers hire workers with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation and disability studies, these workers typically cannot offer the full range of services that a rehabilitation counselor with a master’s degree can provide. Students in bachelor’s degree programs learn about issues faced by people with disabilities and about the process of providing rehabilitation services. Some universities offer dual-degree programs in rehabilitation counseling, in which students can earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in 5 years.

Research Roles

Research roles might include Research Assistants, Research Aids, or Research Psychologists. They all work for colleges or universities. A Research Assistant/Aid works with Research Psychologists and Professors to research psychology. They may be able to start in their roles while they are in college pursuing their bachelor’s degree. While Research Psychologists typically have a master’s or doctorate degree and require more experience.

  • 2021 Median Pay: $81,040
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31: 6% (As fast as average)
  • Common Majors: psychology, education, and social science

Most clinical, counseling and research psychologists need a doctoral degree. Students can complete a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. A Ph.D. in psychology is a research degree that is obtained after taking a comprehensive exam and writing a dissertation based on original research.

School psychologists need an advanced degree and either certification or licensure to work. Common advanced degrees include education specialist degrees (Ed.S.) and doctoral degrees (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). School psychologist programs include coursework in education and psychology because their work addresses both education and mental health components of students’ development.

Substance Abuse Counselor

Most states require Substance Abuse Counselors to obtain a license or certificate in addition to their bachelor’s degree. Substance Abuse Counselors help people address and recover from alcohol or drug abuse. They may also help people with eating disorders or behavioral problems such as gambling. Substance Abuse Counselors may specialize in a certain addition or specific group of patients. They may also counsel family and friends who are being affected.

  • 2021 Median Pay: $48,520
  • Job Outlook For 2021-31: 22% (Much faster than average)
  • Common Majors: public policy and social services, psychology, or social science