Psychology Job Outlook

Whether you’re a college student about to graduate with a psychology degree or a seasoned professional ready for a change, choosing to work in psychology guarantees you’ll have a wide array of career options.

Your job can vary wildly depending on which career direction you choose to follow.

Some psychologists help people navigate difficult periods of their lives. Others may study human behavior. Their information provides valuable insight into the true motivations behind people’s actions. Another group could work in the court system, determining the mental states of those on trial and whether they can be called to testify.

No matter what drew you to this career, you’ll have a multitude of options for how you can use your degree. Whether you’re an extrovert who thrives on connecting with as a many people as possible or an introvert who loves speaking to as few people as you can during the day, there’s somewhere you’ll fit in perfectly.

Discovering Your Psychology Niche

To find where you’re meant to be, you’ll need to select what type of psychology most interests you.

Within the field, you can choose between a multitude of subsets, including:

Not excited by these options? Don’t worry. These are only a few of the many types of psychology out there.

While so much choice can feel intimidating, it’s also a major advantage for your career. Once you get into your specialized job, you’ll get to spend your time focusing on what interests you.

For instance, school psychologists spend their time improving relationships within a school system — they don’t have to worry about conducting animal-based experiments. Or, if you’re a scientist who wants to spend their time analyzing data behind human behavior, and have zero interest in counseling people, you can have a rewarding research role.

Psychology Careers Outlook Overview 

Besides being an interesting field with plenty of career paths, many psychology specializations are growing quickly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 14% increased need for psychologists in general through 2026. And in 2020 alone, there was an 8% gain.

While 14% is a strong number, there are sections within the field with even an even greater outlook. For instance, counselors who specialize in substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health may grow 23% in the next decade.

These therapists can work in places like rehabilitation centers, hospitals, or government offices. They focus on giving their clients the support and skills they need to navigate their addictions, mental illnesses, or general life issues. Practitioners see a variety of people each with their own unique problems. It’s the type of job where no day is the same.

Another subset of psychology with growth potential is marriage and family therapy. Like the last specialized counselors, these family-focused therapists are also anticipated to grow by 23%. The stigma of therapy is continuing to fade into the past, so more families than ever are expected to seek professional help to manage their stability.

Degrees Are Required 

No matter what kind of psychological career you’re interested in, you’ll need a college degree. And depending on the kind of jobs you want to get, grad school will be in your future. Most high-level psychology positions require either a doctorate or master’s degree. And on top of your degree(s), you may be required to get a license.

See also: our guide to psychology degrees

While advanced degrees give job seekers more options, there are psychology roles for all degree holders.

Here are a few examples of psychology positions based on your level of education:

  • Bachelor’s: advertising associate, sales representative, career counselor, parole officer, and market researcher
  • Master’s: social worker, school counselor, school psychologist, and educational psychologist
  • Doctorate*: clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, forensic psychologist, and human factors psychologist
    • *Note: You may be able to get some of these roles with a master’s degree, but most of these psychologists have obtained their doctorates.

Earning Potential 

Your degree will impact both the types of jobs you can get and your expected salary. Psychologists with advanced degrees reported earning an average of $80,000 in 2020.

Higher salaried individuals made nearly $140,000 for the year, and people on the lower end made about $50,000 instead. There’s definitely a wide margin based on years of experience and your degree.

Is the Psychology Job Market Competitive? 

The competition for psychology jobs will greatly depend on your degree. Differing degrees means different kinds of career goals.

Let’s break it down by college degree:

  • Doctorate: If you’re searching for high-level psychology jobs, you’ll have less competition with a Ph.D or Psy.D. This is particularly true if you’re interested in a counseling or health-related career. Receiving extra training or having experience in computer science can give you an extra edge as a candidate.
  • Master’s: If you’re getting a master’s in psychology, you’ll face the strongest competition in your job search. This is because there are fewer master’s level opportunities than ones for psychologists with doctorates.
  • Bachelor’s: While getting a bachelor’s means not being able to apply for high-level psychology jobs, this type of psychology degree still gives job seekers plenty of career options. Whether they’re interested in marketing, writing, or another related field, they have plenty of options.

Should You Do It? 

If you’re dreaming of a psychology career, don’t be afraid to push that dream into reality.

With continually changing healthcare laws and a job market impacted by a global pandemic, searching for a new role can feel like an arduous task. This doesn’t mean its impossible though.

According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Center for Workforce Studies, every year about 6,500 psychologist students graduate with a doctoral degree. With such a high number of doctoral students alone, this means there are opportunities. If the jobs weren’t there, people wouldn’t take the time (or spend the money) to earn the advanced degrees.

If you’re feeling lost, don’t fret. There are plenty of excellent career guides to help you along the way.