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Psychology Career Guide

By Emily Wong

Emily Wong is a writer at Scholarships360. She’s worked as a social media manager and a content writer at several different startups, where she covered various topics including business, tech, job recruitment, and education. Emily grew up and went to school in the Chicago suburbs, where she studied economics and journalism at Northwestern University.

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and Cece Gilmore

Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: February 27th, 2024
Psychology Career Guide

Psychology is one of the most popular majors at the moment. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, it ranked 4th highest in the number of bachelor degrees conferred in 2020-21. It’s not hard to figure out why it’s so high in demand. After all, who wouldn’t want to learn about what makes people tick? Let’s talk about how to figure out if psychology is the right major for you.

What is a psychology major?

Psychology is the science of the mind and behavior. As a psychology major, you’ll study how the brain works and what factors influence human thoughts, feelings and decisions. You may earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or you could earn a Bachelor of Science (BS).

A BA leans more heavily toward humanities, while a BS focuses more on math and science courses. For that reason, BAs typically lend themselves to fields like social work or criminal justice. BS earners, on the other hand, will be better prepared for more specialized scientific concentrations like clinical or forensic psychology.

Also see: Difference between BA and BS degrees

Coursework to expect

Throughout your degree, you’ll likely be able to take a lot of engaging, thought-inducing courses. In fact, many students choose to study psychology to learn about interesting topics like mental health and child development. However, you’ll also need to fulfill some general education requirements.

For example, at Tufts University, students are required to fulfill a statistics course, as well as two approved advanced courses in related fields. On top of that, they can choose from a selection of psychology courses including:

  • Developmental Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Psychology of Adolescence
  • Theories of Personality
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Emotion
  • Physiology and Psychology
  • Animal Learning and Cognition
  • Perception
  • Human Neuropsychology

Subfields in psychology

Psychology is a broad and multifaceted field that explores human behavior, thoughts, emotions and mental processes. Therefore, the diversity of subfields within psychology arises. Psychology intersects with various other disciplines such as neuroscience and biology which contributes to the creation of subfields that draw from these diverse areas of knowledge.

Clinical psychology

  • Overview = Clinical psychologists assess and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. They employ different approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy to address psychological issues. 
  • Work settings = hospitals, clinics, private practice, mental health centers 

Counseling psychology

  • Overview = Counseling psychology focuses on helping individuals deal with everyday life, career issues, relationship problems and more. They often use counseling techniques to support clients.
  • Work settings = educational institutions, community centers, private practice  

Developmental psychology

  • Overview = Developmental psychologists study the psychological development of individuals across their lifespan from infancy through adulthood and into old age. They examine various factors influencing development such as genetics and environment. 
  • Work settings = academic institutions, research laboratories, healthcare facilities

Educational psychology

  • Overview = Educational psychologists delve into learning theories, motivation, assessment methods and classroom management. They aim to improve the teaching methods and education systems to enhance learning outcomes. 
  • Work settings = schools, government agencies, private practice

Experimental psychology

  • Overview = Experimental psychologists conduct research to understand aspects of behavior. They design experiments and collect data in order to develop and validate various psychological theories. 
  • Work settings = academic institutions, private research organizations, government agencies

Forensic psychology

  • Overview = Forensic psychologists apply psychological principles to the legal and criminal justice systems. They may work on issues related to criminal behavior and treatment of offenders. 
  • Work settings = correctional facilities, law enforcement agencies, courts, hospitals 

Health psychology

  • Overview = Health psychologists study how certain factors influence health and illness. They examine behaviors and emotions related to physical health and develop interventions to promote health behaviors.
  • Work settings = hospitals, healthcare settings, research centers, academic institutions 


  • Overview = Neuropsychologists investigate the relationship between the brain and human behavior. They investigate how brain structure and function impacts cognitive abilities and behavior. 
  • Work settings = hospitals, rehabilitation centers, research institutions, private practice

School psychology

  • Overview = School psychologists conduct assessments, provide counseling, develop interventions and collaborate with teachers, parents and administrators to support students’ success in school. 
  • Work settings = schools, private practice

Sports psychology

  • Overview = Sports psychologists focus on how psychological factors influence sports performance and exercise. They work with athletes to improve motivation and overall well-being.
  • Work settings = sports teams, athletic departments, rehabilitation clinic, private practice

Types of Psychology degrees

Associate degree in psychology

  • Years: 2 years
  • Overview: Introduces students to the basic concepts of psychology 

Bachelor’s degree in psychology

  • Years: 4 years
  • Overview: Covers a broad range of topics within psychology 
  • Career opportunities: Entry level positions in psychology such as human resources, research assistant and other related positions 

Master’s degree in psychology 

  • Years: 2-3 years
  • Overview: Specialized training in specific areas of psychology such as clinical or school psychology
  • Career opportunities: Counseling, therapy, research or certain specialized roles in psychology 

Doctoral degrees in psychology


  • Years: 5-7 years 
  • Overview: Involves in-depth research, the completion of a dissertation and clinical experience 
  • Career opportunities: Careers in academia, research, clinical practice or administration


  • Years: 5-7 years
  • Overview: Primary focus in on clinical training and practice with extensive supervised clinical experiences and internships
  • Career opportunities: Clinical psychologists in private practice, hospitals, mental health centers or other clinical settings

Opportunities after graduation

Psychology has become known as a program that requires a master’s or a doctorate in order to be employable. This reputation may intimidate incoming freshmen who want to keep their options open post-graduation. In reality, there are plenty of career opportunities to pursue without a graduate degree, and even more with one. Let’s talk about some of the potential career options for psychology graduates.

If you want to pursue your passion for psychology long-term, you’ll probably want to go on to earn a higher degree in the field. However, there are still plenty of career opportunities for students with an undergraduate degree. These include:

  • Human resources assistant
  • Public relations assistant
  • Market research analyst

If you go on to pursue another degree, you’ll be qualified for a host of other psychology-related jobs. These include:

  • School counselor
  • Psychiatrist
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Experimental psychologist

Jobs you can get with a psychology degree

1. Psychologists

Psychologists study and treat the human mind. You could work as an experimental psychologist to conduct studies and gather data. You could also provide therapy to individuals to help them work through trauma, mental illness, and more.

2022 Median Pay: $85,330 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 6% (Faster than the average) 

2. Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists work with couples and families to help work through problems and create more cohesion.

2022 Median Pay: $56,570 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 15% (Much faster than average)

3. Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants provide a variety of services to those in need. These are typically counseling-based positions. They can include social workers, psychologists, and more. They can help support, rehabilitate, and counsel clients.

2022 Median Pay: $38,520 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 9% (Much faster than average)

4. Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

These positions provide counseling for people with mental disorders, drug problems, and behavioral issues.

2022 Median Pay: $49,710 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 18% (Much faster than average)

5. Psychiatric technicians and aides

Psychiatric technicians and aides help support the operations of psychiatric wards and hospitals. You’ll work with patients and ensure the facilities are in working order.

2022 Median Pay: $37,160 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 9% (Much faster than average)

6. School Psychologist

School psychologists identify, diagnose and treat students with learning disabilities, mental disorders and other behavioral, cognitive or emotional problems. You’ll be faced with different issues depending on the student population you are working with but you should expect to handle copious amounts of documentation and paperwork.

2022 Median Pay: $82,770 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 5.5% (Average)

7. Research assistant

Research assistants assist social scientists in laboratory, survey and other social science research. 

2022 Median Pay: $50,470 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 19% (Much faster than average)

8. School counselor

School counselors help students develop academic and social skills. Career counselors and advisors help people choose a path to employment. 

2022 Median Pay: $60,140 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 5% (Faster than average)

9. Professor

Psychology professors typically complete a blend of teaching, research and administrative duties within a college or university. Psychology professors play a role in contributing to the field’s knowledge through research and engage in community outreach efforts related to mental health and psychology. 

2022 Median Pay: $80,840 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 8% (Faster than average)

10. Social worker

Social workers help individuals, groups and families prevent and cope with problems in their everyday lives. 

2022 Median Pay: $55,350 per year
Projected Growth (2022-2032): 7% (Faster than average)

Also read: What is the average starting salary out of college?

How do I know if the major is right for me?

If you’re considering a major in psychology, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you highly interested in the way people think?
  • Can you maintain your mental health while dealing with heavy subject matter?
  • Do you enjoy working with people?
  • Would you like to learn more about the human mind?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then a psychology major could be right for you!

For help deciding what to study, read How To Pick a Major. And for help financing your degree, check out our scholarship search tool!

A psychology major’s perspective


I was a psychology major in college which allowed me to learn more about human behavior and explore different subfields within the breadth of psychology. I chose psychology as my major because I have always been interested in why people behave the way they do. Luckily, I was exposed to psychology in high school through my IB Psychology HL class. This exposure solidified that psychology was a field I was interested in and wanted to take more classes in during college.

While a psychology major, I was able to take many interesting classes including developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, child and adolescent psychological disorders, health psychology, psychology and law, and much more! These various courses introduced me to different subfields within psychology which allowed me to gain valuable knowledge in psychology as a whole while also solidifying which subfields I enjoyed the most. 

Through my courses, I discovered I had a fascination for child psychology and development. I was able to explore this interest by taking electives in this field as well as complete research at the on-campus Child Study Lab which is a daycare run by psychologists in order to implement successful developmental strategies to help the children best adapt to life. This experience allowed me to learn psychology-based teaching strategies and then put these teachings into practice in a real-world setting. 

Taking developmental psychology classes allowed me to recognize that I want to pursue a career related to children and psychology so therefore, I want to be a school psychologist. In order to be a school psychologist, I will need an Ed.S. or Ph.D. degree. This means I will need an additional 3-4 years of schooling after receiving my bachelor’s degree.

Ultimately, you should major in a field that intrigues you. Undergrad is a great time to explore a major and discover what aspects of it you enjoy in order to determine the best career for you.
Cece Gilmore

Psych major grad

Arizona State University


Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Psychology is the science of the mind and behavior
  • Some classes a psychology major may take include developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, social psychology, and theories of personality
  • There are many subfields within psychology including clinical, counseling, developmental, educational, experimental, forensic, health, neuro, school and sports psychology 
  • Many psychology careers require a master’s or doctorate (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) degree. However, there are entry level positions available in psychology
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about a career in psychology

What qualifications do I need to become a psychologist?

The basic requirement is a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. However, to practice as a licensed psychologist, you’ll typically need a graduate degree in psychology along with supervised clinical experience.

How long does it take to become a psychologist?

It can vary based on the level of education pursued. A bachelor’s degree typically takes around 4 years to complete. A master’s degree may require an additional 2-3 years and a doctorate can take anywhere from 4-7 years to complete.

Do psychologists need to be licensed?

Yes, psychologists need to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state or country but generally include earning a graduate degree, completing supervised clinical hours, and passing a licensing exam.

What is the job outlook for psychologists?

The job outlook for psychologists is generally positive. However, opportunities can vary by specialization. Fields like clinical, counseling and school psychology are expected to have good job prospects due to increased demand for mental health services.

What are some alternative career paths for psychology major?

Psychology majors can pursue careers outside traditional psychology fields. They can work in human resources, marketing, research, education, healthcare administration, counseling, or much more!

Can I specialized in a particular area of psychology?

Yes, psychologists often specialize in areas of psychology such as clinical psychology, neuropsychology, forensic psychology, child psychology, and more. Specializations can require additional training or certifications.

What is the difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist?

Psychologists and psychiatrists both work in the mental health field, but their training and approaches differ. Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology and primarily focus on psychotherapy and counseling. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health and can prescribe medication in addition to providing therapy.

Is psychology a good career choice?

Psychology can be a fulfilling and rewarding career for individuals passionate about understanding human behavior, helping others, and contributing to mental health. However, it requires dedication to education, ongoing learning, and an interest in the complexities of the human mind.

What are the challenges of working in psychology?

Some challenges in psychology can include the emotional toll of working with individuals experiencing mental health issues, dealing with ethical dilemmas, managing high-stress situations, and navigating health care systems.

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