Top 20 Jobs Psycho Majors Want But Don’t Know

About 3.5 million people have a bachelor’s degree in psychology. After completing their bachelor’s degree, more than half of psychology graduates decide to start their careers. A national survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that among psychology graduates with a bachelor’s degree, only 4 percent are unemployed. 72 percent are employed and 24 percent decided not to work.

Yet psychology majors are often the recipients of questions and comments from friends and family regarding the employability of their degrees. You may hear things like, “You can’t do anything with a psychology degree,” or “You have to go to grad school to get a job.”

These undoubtedly well-intentioned comments are unfounded.

Earning a college degree improves employability only marginally. Around 76 percent of psychology graduates with a master’s degree and 82 percent with a doctorate are employed.

National surveys of bachelor’s degree graduates show that psychology graduates are getting jobs everywhere. According to the National Science Foundation, psychology graduates were employed in 92 out of 129 different professional groups. No single career category was chosen by more than 5 percent of psychology graduates — with management, social work, and administration being the most popular.

Other surveys, using a broader classification system, show the breadth of career opportunities for psychology graduates. The most common employment areas for psychology graduates were sales (20 percent), other (19 percent), professional service (17 percent), management (16 percent), teaching (11 percent), finance (9 percent), employee relations (5 percent ) and research (3 percent).

What Can Psychology Majors Do With Their Degrees?

In fact, psychologist Drew Appleby has compiled a list of approximately 300 psychology-related jobs available online. Each career is linked to its job description, required education level, expected job prospects and salary.

Which of these 300 career opportunities in psychology are psychology majors most interested in? And more importantly, what jobs do psychology students most want but don’t know about?

To answer these questions, my colleague and I conducted two studies. First, we conducted focus groups of current psychology majors on what careers they thought were available for psychology graduates.

We found that 92 percent of psychology students thought careers were possible in counseling. Applied professions were only listed in half. Applied professions related to children (42 percent), business (25 percent) and research (25 percent) were named even less frequently. Only three specific occupations—school counselor, professional clinical counselor, and marriage/family therapist—were listed by at least half of the focus groups.

As such, psychology students are largely unaware of the many career opportunities available to them. To find out what specific careers psychology majors tend to be interested in but are unaware of, we conducted a second study.

We presented hundreds of psychology students with a list of approximately 300 career opportunities in psychology. We asked them to rate their interest in each career from 1 (not at all interested) to 5 (very interested).

The results showed that the professional interests of the students were very different. But some careers have been far more popular than others. Below is a “Top 20” list of careers that psychology majors have been most interested in.

  1. psychologist
  2. child psychologist
  3. adolescent psychologist
  4. Specialist in child development
  5. Consulting Psychologist
  6. Child Abuse Counselor
  7. child psychiatrist
  8. Clinical Psychologist
  9. child psychologist
  10. Marriage and Family Therapist
  11. developmental psychologist
  12. Mental Health Advisor
  13. school psychologist
  14. Child Life Expert
  15. criminal psychologist
  16. family counselor
  17. depression counselor
  18. personality psychologist
  19. psychiatrist
  20. psychotherapist

Interestingly, psychology students were most interested in child-related counseling and careers, with 18 of their top 20 careers being of interest and dealing with mental health or working with children. Few of the previous focus groups mentioned child-related careers, revealing blind spots for applied careers in developmental psychology.

Psychology majors are often unaware of career opportunities in psychology beyond counseling. Nonetheless, they tend to be most interested in careers related to counseling and children, particularly careers in child mental health care.

Which psychiatric profession is right for you?

Unlike other majors like nursing or accounting, which typically have a unique career path, psychology majors have many different career options. That can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. So how do you know which career path is the best?

In short, get to know your options. Check out online career resources. Chat with psychology faculty members and alumni. Think about your strengths, interests, and passions—especially as they may overlap with psychology. For example, if you enjoy counseling and health care, consider a career as a child life specialist, genetic counselor, or psychiatrist. Or, if you enjoy helping people with research, consider an applied career as an institutional researcher, military research psychologist, or market research analyst.

Most universities and psychology schools also offer internship opportunities, so you can explore different career options before committing to graduate school or a specific career.

Finally, for graduate students who may worry that their psychology major has not prepared them for life after college, consider how your psychology courses and experiences align with APA-sponsored outcomes and skills. Psychology programs generally encourage psychological knowledge, critical thinking, social responsibility, communication, and professional development.

Recently, the APA Committee on Associate and Baccalaureate Education listed specific cognitive, communication, personal, social, and technological skills that psychology graduates commonly develop and that apply to different careers.

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