What Can I Do with a Degree in Psychology?

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in psychology. Find information on psychology careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in psychology.


In its simplest form, psychology is the study of human behavior. Individuals that seek employment in this profession focus on understanding individuals, their interactions with the world around them and how environmental influences impact outcomes for those being observed. Evaluating patterns of behavior can provide psychologists with remarkable insight into how psychological theory can be applied and what approaches may work best to help improve behavior. Psychology is a basic social science that requires the formation of theory, the testing of hypothesis and the sharing of knowledge to broaden the field and improve the ability of all social scientists to meet human needs.

Overall, professionals working in the field of psychology may pursue different areas for developing practice including: different aspects of human behavior (e.g., psychologists may work only with individuals with mental illnesses, individuals suffering from addiction or those with martial difficulties), different periods of development across the lifespan (e.g., psychologists may only work with adolescents or elderly clients), research or teaching and education. The wide range of foci in psychology provides professionals with the right educational background and experience opportunities in a number of different careers. Even though psychology focuses primarily on human behavior, the discipline incorporates knowledge and information from a number of different areas including: management, education and law. Thus, professionals working in the field of psychology must not only have specific knowledge of the theory of human behavior, but also these professionals must understand how their role and actions fit in the larger context of social services for clients.


Because of the wide breath of focus for practice in psychology, individuals seeking careers in this field have a number of professions from which to choose. Some of the most common careers for psychologists include the following:

Clinical Psychologists: These professionals constitute the largest specialty in psychology and focus on the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients with mental disorders. Additionally, these professionals provide services for individuals coping with traumatic life issues including the loss of a loved one or divorce.

Counseling Psychologists: Counseling psychologists work with clients that may not have a defined mental illness but may be struggling with basic life issues. Counseling psychologists promote a general foundation for mental health and well being.

School Psychologists: School psychologists work with children and adolescents in elementary, middle and high schools. In addition to addressing specific mental health issues faced by students, these professionals also provide support for students that have learning and behavioral problems, making recommendations for improving the education of these students in the classroom.

Industrial/Organizational Psychologists: These professionals working in organizations, focusing on issues that may impact worker satisfaction and productivity. Industrial psychologists may also be employed in marketing, enabling the organization to better reach its customers.


Salaries for professionals in the field of psychology vary based on level of education and expertise required for the position. In most states, professional clinical psychologists are required to possess a Doctoral Degree. Other psychologists typically must hold a Bachelors or Masters Degree. In order to practice, many states require psychologist to obtain a license. Licensing requirements vary by state. Most licensing guidelines require professionals to limit their practice to a specific area of specialization. These issues will have direct implications for salary levels for professional psychologists. While some variation in salaries for psychologists exists, median annual salaries of all psychologists was $61,140 in 2008. Psychologists in the lowest 10 percent of earners had salaries of $37,900 while psychologists in the highest 10 percent of earners had salaries of $106,840. Psychologists employed in health offices had higher median incomes ($68,400) than psychologists working in schools ($65,710). Psychologists employed in individual and family services had the lowest salaries at $57,440. Generally speaking industrial psychologists fared the best in terms of overall salary. Median wages for individuals in this profession were $77,010 in 2008 with a range between $38,690 and $149,120. Research indicates than in 2008, 31 percent of all psychologists were members of a union.

Job Outlook

In 2008, psychologists held approximately 170,200 jobs across various disciplines. Of these, 29 percent of psychologists were in educational institutions in positions other than teaching. Examples include: counseling, testing and research. An additional 21 percent of professionals were employed in healthcare as mental health practitioners. After working in the field for several years, many professional psychologists, especially those with Doctoral Degrees, seek self-employment. In 2008, 34 percent of all psychologists were self-employed. Job growth in psychology is expected to be average through 2018. Individuals entering the field will be more successful in securing employment if they have a Doctoral Degree and/or specialize in specific area of counseling practice such as mental health or school psychology. Professionals with a Masters Degree seeking jobs in organizational/industrial psychology will face intense competition for jobs. In general positions for individuals that posses only a Bachelors Degree will be limited. Salaries for psychologists are expected to increase 12 percent over the next seven years. This increase in salaries is similar to what will occur in all other professions. Demand for clinical psychologists will be driven by the need for more mental health services and demand for school psychologists will be driven by the need to provide educational supports for disabled students in mainstream classrooms.

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