Careers in Psychology

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Table of Contents: Careers in Psychology
1. Frequently Asked Questions About Psychology
2. How to Become a Psychologist
3. Psychology Specializations
4. What Are the Education Requirements for Psychology?
5. How Much Does a Psychology Degree Cost?
6. How Much Do Psychology Majors Make?
7. Certifications and Licensure for Psychology
8. Resources for Psychology Majors

A psychology degree strengthens analytical and research skills while students learn about human behavior, abnormal psychology, and counseling psychology. The degree prepares graduates for a variety of careers.

Psychology majors work as behavior analysts, psychiatric technicians, social services case managers, human resources specialists, and marriage and family therapists. In these roles, they apply their training in psychological science to help clients resolve problems in their lives, assess and treat behavioral disorders, and improve employee morale in business settings.

Graduate-level training in psychology leads to opportunities as a school psychologist, clinical psychologist, psychology professor, or counseling psychologist. In these fields, professionals conduct research into human behavior, provide therapeutic counseling to clients, and teach psychology majors.

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As a versatile field with many career paths, psychology builds the necessary skills and knowledge for a variety of roles in business, education, public service, and the mental health field. This article introduces how to become a psychologist, the most popular psychology specializations, and the earning potential with a psychology degree.

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychology


  • Q. What can you do with a psychology degree?

    Graduates with a psychology degree work as clinical research assistants, behavior analysts, school counselors, and psychologists. The versatile degree leads to many career opportunities.


  • Q. How do I start a career in psychology?

    Psychology career paths generally require a degree in psychology. With an undergraduate degree, professionals work as psychiatric technicians, social service workers, human resources specialists, and research assistants. A graduate degree prepares professionals for advanced roles in psychology.


  • Q. What are the highest-paying jobs in psychology?

    The highest-paying jobs in psychology include psychiatrist, psychologist, psychology professor, and industrial-organizational psychologist. Other high-paying specialties include school psychology, neuropsychology, and clinical psychology researcher.


  • Q. What does a career in psychology involve?

    Psychology careers require educational training in the field, supervised experience, and licensure for psychologists treating patients. Many other psychology degree jobs do not require a license.


How to Become a Psychologist



Licensed psychologists typically hold a Ph.D. in psychology or a doctor of psychology degree. During a doctoral program, degree-seekers complete coursework in their specialty area, conduct research, and complete a supervised internship. Once doctoral candidates earn their degree, they apply for a psychologist license through their state.

The licensure process generally requires a doctorate, an internship, and postdoctoral supervised experience. Psychologists also pass a national exam.

However, a psychology degree prepares students for many career paths that do not require a doctorate. Psychology majors also work as industrial-organizational psychologists, school counselors, behavior analysts, marriage and family therapists, and human resources specialists.

Psychology Specializations



Psychologists work in many different subdivisions––in fact, the American Psychological Association recognizes 54 divisions that focus on different psychological approaches or areas.

During a psychology degree, learners often focus their studies by choosing a specialization. The best-known specializations include clinical psychology, child psychology, and counseling psychology. Other specializations, like behavioral psychology, cognitive psychology, school psychology, and forensic psychology, offer focused training in a psychology subfield.

In every specialization, psychology degree-seekers build research, critical thinking, and analytical skills. As psychology majors move to the graduate level, they often seek out programs that offer particular concentrations. This section introduces some of the many available psychology specializations.

A concentration in school psychology blends educational psychology with child psychology. Students learn about the psychological needs of young learners and their families. They build counseling skills and learn how to work with parents and school administrators to create effective learning environments and promote positive behaviors in school.

Licensed school psychologists create behavior intervention problems, design solutions to academic problems, and evaluate school services to improve their effectiveness. Most school psychologists have a doctorate, but a master’s degree prepares graduates for careers as a school counselor.

Students focused on child psychology examine the psychological development of infants, children, and adolescents. The specialty emphasizes typical and atypical psychological development, psychopathology, and mental health for children. Students also learn how to assess and treat children struggling with psychological problems.

The concentration emphasizes counseling and therapeutic skills. After completing a child psychology degree, graduates work in mental health settings, including as behavior analysts, clinical research assistants, and child psychologists.

A counseling psychology specialty trains students in the therapeutic applications of psychology. They build individual and group counseling skills, study clinical psychology, and train in marriage and daily therapy. A counseling psychology concentration focuses on the theoretical and practical skills necessary for careers as a licensed psychologist who treats patients.

At the graduate level, counseling psychology students complete an internship to gain hands-on training in therapeutic and patient-focused skills. They work under the supervision of a licensed counseling psychologist to prepare for licensure.

What Are the Education Requirements for Psychology?



Psychology career paths require educational training in the field. At the undergraduate and graduate level, students prepare for psychology degree jobs by studying organizational psychology, social behavior, and human development. A psychology degree also strengthens analytical and research skills. This section introduces the career opportunities with different psychology degrees.

An associate degree in psychology introduces learners to the field. Undergraduates take courses like human development, abnormal psychology, and personality theories. Two-year programs also incorporate general education coursework in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

With an associate degree, graduates work as psychiatric technicians, social services assistants, and psychiatric aides. In addition, students can transfer into a four-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree. At most schools, transfer students with an associate degree can earn a bachelor’s degree in two years.

A bachelor’s degree in psychology trains graduates for the workforce or for graduate school in social science programs. Psychology majors learn about foundational concepts in the field, including psychology research, subfields in psychology, and ethics in psychology. Many programs offer concentrations in developmental psychology, social psychology, or school psychology.

Earning a bachelor’s degree takes four years for most full-time students. Graduates work in business, social services, the nonprofit sector, and research-focused careers.

A master’s degree in psychology provides graduate-level training in psychology specializations. During a two-year master’s program, graduate students study psychological theories, conduct research in psychology, and pass master’s exams or write a master’s thesis.

Several psychology career paths require a master’s degree, including jobs as an industrial-organizational psychologist, therapist, and counselor. A focus on developmental psychology or child psychology prepares graduates for roles as a school counselor or behavior analyst.

A doctorate in psychology prepares graduates for licensure and certification as a clinical psychologist. During a doctoral program, psychology students choose a specialization such as counseling psychology, neuropsychology, school psychology, or developmental psychology.

A Ph.D. in psychology typically requires 4-6 years. Doctoral candidates complete a supervised internship and write a dissertation during that time. After earning a Ph.D. in psychology, they pursue careers as licensed psychologists, psychology researchers, and psychology professors.

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How Much Does a Psychology Degree Cost?

Licensed psychologists typically spend a decade in school earning undergraduate and graduate degrees. However, with a four-year bachelor’s degree, psychology majors pursue careers in the psychological sciences and related fields.

The cost of a psychology degree depends on the program and degree level. Generally, in-state public tuition offers the most affordable route to a bachelor’s degree. In 2018-2019, in-state tuition rates averaged around $9,200 per year. Out-of-state students spent around $26,400 each year in tuition and fees, while private school students paid nearly $32,000 per year.

Graduate tuition often costs more than undergraduate tuition. On average, graduate students paid $19,300 in tuition during the 2018-2019 school year. Public in-state students spent around $12,200 per year, while private schools charged around $27,800.

Psychology students often save money by choosing an online learning format. Many online colleges offer tuition discounts and flat tuition rates for out-of-state students. The flexible schedule also helps students balance school with work to continue earning a paycheck while advancing their education.

How Much Do Psychology Majors Make?


Doctorate


Psychology majors pursue a variety of career paths, including as psychologists. The career typically requires a doctorate and a license, and psychologists earn a median salary of $82,000 per year. With a doctorate, graduates also work as psychology professors, where they earn a median wage over $80,000 annually.

Master's


At the master’s level, psychology graduates work as marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and industrial-organizational psychologists. Counseling and therapy career paths report much faster than average job growth with median earnings between $51,000-$58,000 per year.

Bachelor's


A bachelor’s in psychology degree prepares graduates for roles in human resources, laboratory science, counseling, and social work. Many of these fields offer above-average salaries and strong growth rates. For example, training and development specialists earn around $62,700 per year with much faster than average projected job growth. With experience, they move into management roles as training and development managers, a field with median annual salaries of over $115,000.

Certifications and Licensure for Psychology



Professional psychologists often need a license from their state board of psychology. Other psychology careers also require licensure or certification. For example, school psychologists often need a license from the board of education. In addition to required licenses, psychologists pursue optional credentials like board certification in their field.

Psychology License


Practicing psychologists who work with clients must hold a state-issued psychology license. Each state sets different requirements, but most include a doctorate in psychology, supervised practice hours, and passing exams on a professional practice test. Psychologists who work at colleges, in research laboratories, or in government settings may not need a license.

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Board Certified Clinical Psychologist


The American Board of Clinical Psychology offers board certification for candidates who meet educational, training, and experience requirements in clinical psychology. Candidates must have a doctorate in psychology from an accredited program. The certification also requires one year of experience in a psychology internship and one year of post-doctoral supervision.

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Board Certified Counseling Psychologist


Counseling psychologists pursue board certification to demonstrate expertise in their field. The credential requires a doctorate in counseling psychology or a similar degree from an accredited program, one year of internship experience, and two years of postdoctoral professional experience. After meeting these requirements, candidates complete an exam from the American Board of Counseling Psychology.

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Resources for Psychology Majors



Psychology majors planning out their next career move or considering their graduate school options benefit from the following resources. These organizations provide professional development, licensing, and career information for psychology careers.


  • American Psychological Association The largest professional organization for psychology, APA counts over 122,000 members. The association offers career resources, job outlook data, and licensing information.
  • Association for Psychological Science APS promotes psychology research and the profession. The APS employment network offers information about job openings, fellowships, work-study opportunities, and a variety of psychology career paths.
  • National Institute of Mental Health NIMH researches mental disorders. The site also lists job openings and connects visitors with research tools and publications in the broad field of mental health.
  • Psychology Today Psychology Today connects visitors with news and career opportunities in the field. The site offers resources on education and training in psychology, career tools, and clinical resources.
  • Social Psychology Network The Social Psychology Network has advice on preparing for graduate school, locating psychology degree jobs, and finding student career resources. Prospective psychology majors, current students, and professionals benefit from the site.

Portrait of Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University and earned tenure as a history professor at the University of Louisville. An award-winning historian and writer, Genevieve has published multiple scholarly articles and a book with the University of Chicago Press. She currently works as a freelance writer and consultant.

See articles by Genevieve

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