By most standards, jobs for psychologists are considered “good.” They’re well paid, with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting an overall median wage of $79,010 for the occupation. Psychologists also command a certain degree of job prestige. However, not every job you could attain with a psychology degree is equally good, and there are tradeoffs associated with earning a more advanced degree. Generally, the best jobs with an undergraduate degree in psychology are in other fields, while those with a master’s degree are in the specialty of industrial-organizational psychology and licensed psychologist jobs are best among workers with a doctorate.
Good Jobs With Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology
When debating the quality of job opportunities with only an undergraduate degree in psychology, it’s important to clarify whether you are considering only jobs in the field of psychology or jobs in other areas. Within psychology, there are admittedly only limited career opportunities, and very few good jobs, with just a bachelor’s degree. You may be able to work as an applied behavior analyst or move into a career in social work with your bachelor’s in psychology degree, or you could use this undergraduate psychology background to work in a social science research role, such as research assistant. However, there are no good psychologist jobs with only a bachelor’s degree, because all jobs that are permitted to use the word “psychologist” in the job title require an advanced education beyond the bachelor’s degree.
The majority of psychology majors don’t go on to work in psychology, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Outside of the field of psychology, your job prospects can improve considerably. Studying psychology gives you insight into how other people – prospective employers, clients, customers and audience members, for example – think, feel and behave. Through studying psychology, you develop skills in observation, critical thinking, problem-solving and communication, which can make you a valuable asset in many different job functions and appeal to employers in all industries.
Although there are dozens of possible non-psychology career paths open to you with an undergraduate background in psychology, certain fields draw in greater numbers of psychology majors. In business, for example, psychology majors may make excellent managers, human resources specialists, market researchers and administrative professionals. You can use your understanding of research methods, statistical analysis and the scientific method to pursue an education in a life or physical science and become a scientist. Some psychology majors enter creative fields like writing, while others choose to work in non-psychology jobs in law enforcement and criminal justice, such as police officer or probation officer.
Although you can do many jobs with a psychology degree, you may use the skills you have learned in a career that requires no degree or any degree, the APA reported – and you may have to persuade employers that your psychology background adds value.
What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Psychology?
By advancing your education with a master’s degree in psychology, you can open up your career opportunities to include some limited psychologist roles. Generally, a master’s degree is enough education to qualify you as an industrial-organizational psychologist. Industrial-organizational psychologists use the principles and practices of psychology to solve problems and improve performance in business and other workplace settings. Although this field of psychology requires the least education, it is one of the highest paying roles, with a median wage of $97,260, according to the BLS.
A master’s degree can also open some doors in the field of school psychology, but there are several factors to consider. Different states impose different educational requirements on school psychologists, and master’s degree programs in this field can range from short programs requiring around 30 graduate credits to lengthy programs that require 60 credits. If you choose the wrong path for school psychology jobs in your state, you could end up unable to get a license and attain a position in this field.
While 47 percent of industrial-organizational psychologists have a master’s degree, 48 percent of industrial-organizational psychologists report a doctorate as their highest level of education. An additional five percent have post-doctoral training.
The Best Psychology Jobs at the Doctoral Level
If you really want to open doors to the best jobs in the field of psychology, then there’s no substitute for earning a doctoral degree. A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) can prepare you to become a licensed psychologist in fields such as clinical or counseling psychology. Whether it’s research, clinical treatment of mental illnesses or counseling services that help people find better ways to approach difficult life situations that most appeals to you, a doctoral degree will help you do it.
Experience, gained both during and after your education, is also a crucial part of preparing for these high-level psychology jobs. You should expect to complete practicum and internship experiences while pursuing a psychology degree, especially at the doctoral level.