If you major in psychology, or you’re thinking about declaring a psychology major, then you’ve probably had many friends and family asking if you’re going to become a psychiatrist. While this can be a great career path, it’s far from the only option for psychology majors after graduation.
Psychology is one of the most popular majors in the United States (it’s currently ranked in the top 10), and for good reason. It’s a fascinating subject, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology can serve as a foundation for a variety of different careers. Job outlook is promising as well—about 19% job growth in these fields is expected from 2014-2024.
So what kind of career paths can you choose from as a psychology major? Here are just a few of the many exciting options open to graduates.
A clinical psychologist is the first job that comes to mind for most people who are thinking about getting a degree in psychology. Clinical psychologists can focus on general psychology and provide therapy for a range of patients, or they can specialize in disciplines like neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, or even forensic psychology. Becoming a clinical psychologist requires students to complete a doctoral program (PhD), which can be highly competitive. Successful students can earn a good living, however, and have the opportunity to make their patients’ lives easier and more fulfilling. It is important to understand the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist—psychiatrists are doctors who can prescribe medication and must complete MD training, while psychologists focus solely on psychotherapy.
Average salary: $78,690
Counselors work with patients in the same way that psychologists do, but they have a smaller scope of work, and are more limited in the tests and services they offer. It is easier to become a counselor than a psychologist, because counselors are required to complete a master’s degree, but not a PhD. Mental health counselors have a good outlook for employment, because many schools and organizations need people with this kind of training to help students and at-risk people through common problems and refer them to more specialized treatment if necessary. Counselors may work with people on a variety of issues, from depression to substance abuse to the negative impact of discrimination.
Average salary: $46,124
Social work is a challenging field that can nevertheless be extremely fulfilling. Social workers help children and families to heal and cope with issues like domestic violence, which affects about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men at some point during their lifetime. Most social workers need a master’s degree, and may work in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals, shelters, and child welfare organizations. Many social workers also visit families in their homes, to assess living conditions, provide counseling, and assess compliance with court orders.
Median Salary: $47,980
Human Resources Manager
For people who are more interested in applying psychology in a business setting, human resource (HR) management could be an excellent career path. Human resource managers are responsible for hiring and terminations, resolving behavioral issues within the workplace, and often administrative work such as managing benefits. Typically, securing an entry-level job after completing a bachelor’s degree is the first step in becoming an HR manager. After this, many HR assistants can move up in the ranks organically without further education.
Median salary: $110,120
Though many people who are interested in marketing end up getting a degree in that field, psychology can lay a solid foundation for jobs in marketing. Marketing managers have to understand how people think and feel so they can strategize for marketing campaigns to increase brand awareness and sales. Marketing jobs can be entry level, but most organizations want to see a bachelor’s degree and some demonstration of marketing knowledge and communication abilities. Most people start as a marketing assistant and work their way up.
Average salary: $81,078
Though most people don’t dream of becoming a parole officer, psychology graduates can be excellent candidates for this role. Good parole officers work with offenders to help them turn their lives around, adjust to being back in society, and adhere to the terms of their release, making it a potentially fulfilling career. Because psychology majors have a deep understanding of how people think, they often make excellent parole officers. Most positions require only a bachelor’s degree, although federal parole officers must hold a master’s degree.
Average salary: $47,200
College Admissions Counselor
For students who enjoy the academic setting and helping others, a college admissions counselor career could be an excellent fit. A bachelor’s degree is required for this position, since counselors are advising prospective students, but the position mostly involves recruiting and coordinating different admissions activities and procedures. Experience in an admissions office through work study is a helpful leg up in pursuing this career.
Median salary: $40,753
These careers show just how broad the options are for psychology majors. It’s an excellent field of study if you love to work with people and understand how they think and feel. If you’re not sure what kind of career you want to pursue yet, psychology can be a great choice—simply because the possibilities are nearly endless once you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree. Whether you go on to earn a master’s or PhD or not, psychology serves as a solid foundation for a satisfying career.
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