Updated 11 October 2020
Psychology is the study of behavior and mental functions. However, psychology itself is a vast subject and includes areas such as:
Your undergraduate curriculum will have you study all of these areas, as well as biology, laboratory, sexual behavior, animal cognition and psychobiology of fear and anxiety. Plus, lots more.
For those set on helping people through behavioral science, there are many routes; from specializing in certain areas (military, youth, addicts) to working in different industries (sports, criminal justice).
However, most of those careers require more learning; a master's degree, experience, and eventually, a doctorate.
Working with the brain and altering people's behavior cannot be learned in four years. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work.
Your learning never stops – as more discoveries are made and solutions found, there are always new things to learn and develop.
As mentioned previously, it takes a lot of work to succeed in this industry. The work is very scientific, and you need to remember a lot of details.
As such, you need to:
According to research, many of those with psychology majors didn't realize how intense their study would be and thought it was just a stepping stone to higher education.
Before deciding on your major, you must look at all your career options and decide which one is for you.
Discuss career paths and job roles with those already in those professions. Take advantage of all the resources you can.
As psychology primarily concerns itself with behavior, there are so many industries you could work in. Below is a list of the most popular jobs:
Average salary: $40,080
A family therapist will assist with problems in the home, such as the loss of a loved one, divorce or marital problems, and mental illnesses such as anxiety, bipolar and depression.
Alongside your psychology major, you'll need a master's degree, a state license and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised internships before you are allowed to practice.
After you have completed all your learning, you have the option to set up your own practice, work for an agency, or work for a government or public health organization.
The most money can be made privately.
This role appeals to those who want to help people with their everyday problems. They like listening to people and building relationships. It is a more traditional and 'safer' job role.
Average salary: $50,178 to $210,798
Considered one of the most popular career choices for psychology graduates, forensic psychology is appealing for a couple of reasons:
However, while part of your role may be to interview criminals to determine their mental state and intentions behind a crime, a lot of your work will also be to sit in on custody battles, insurance claims and abuse cases.
Anyone looking to enter this field needs to have detailed knowledge of the American legal system. Most forensic psychologists have a master's degree and even doctorates that combine law, criminology and psychology.
Outside of the education system, you need to have thick skin and a strong will. The cases you work on may not be pleasant, so you need to be able to handle all the sordid details.
This role is for someone who feels passionately about mental health and the effects it has on people. This person should also have the ability to detach from their work and not let the things they see affect them.
Average salary: $57,040
Helping children to plan their education and future can be highly rewarding.
Guidance counselors or school career counselors use what they have learned in their psychology major to assess a child's behaviors and skills.
This assessment is then used to determine the best teaching methods for that child or their ideal careers.
Most psychologists complete a master's before becoming a counselor, and training can take anything from six to eight years.
As you'll be working with children, you need to complete a state-approved certification requirement and a practicum in the school system.
Depending on the school's requirement, you may also have to deliver speeches about drug abuse and bullying and may be called to assist in abuse and neglect cases.
The ideal person for this role will love working with children. They will also love helping others plan their futures.
Average salary: $78,377
An HR manager aims to ensure the smooth running and optimal performance of an organization's employees.
Knowing and understanding human behavior allows for the correct procedures to be implemented, so this is a great role for a psychology major.
Though any HR course is enough to get you a job, a psychology major could lead to faster promotions and a higher salary.
It is the ideal job for someone who prefers to work with businesses as a whole, rather than in clinical or one-on-one situations.
This role is particularly suited to someone who prefers to solve problems and try out new procedures and techniques.
Average salary: $51,316
Again, not your typical career choice, but if you love teaching and love psychology as a subject, then a lecturing position could be for you.
This role can be fulfilling and, if you have a true passion for teaching, then very secure.
Lecturers who have taught at an institute for a long time have an excellent salary and benefits.
Many doctorate students teach alongside their own studies in the area they want to specialize in.
This role may appeal to someone who does not want to work in a clinical position and enjoys sharing knowledge.
Average salary: $120,538
A military psychologist is one of the highest-paid psychology jobs, but it takes a lot of work to get there. First, you must be a member of the armed-forces, and then, you need a doctoral degree.
Your job role includes providing support for military personnel family members, assessing and treating mental disorders, and performing psychiatric evaluations.
It can take up to 10 years of training to become a military psychologist, and only the best are recruited.
The situations you have to address are not pleasant, and it can be quite distressing. You may be helping people cope with PTSD or those who have lost limbs during combat. You may have to console a family that has lost someone in battle.
These are not easy situations to be faced with, so you need to be emotionally strong. You also need a certain level of fitness to complete basic military training.
Average salary: $177,250
Psychiatry is the highest-paid position for anyone entering this field. However, a psychology major is not enough.
As highly trained medical professionals, psychiatrists also have to have a medical degree and a residency before being classified as a psychiatrist.
It can take up to 12 years to become a fully accredited psychiatrist, and they often work in hospitals or prisons assessing, diagnosing and treating patients.
This position will appeal to anyone who wants to be a doctor but has an interest in mental health. It is a challenging and unpredictable job, especially if you work in an emergency department.
You will have to be highly analytical, a very quick thinker and adaptable to succeed in this role.
Many illnesses present as something else, so you have to be able to find all the information and analyze it to find the correct solution.
Average salary: $50,740
Many psychology majors pursue postgraduate studies in social work so they have the full training, should they need to intervene on a client's behalf.
You also have the option to enroll in social work programs that give you all the tools you need to conduct therapy, in less time than a PhD.
Requirements vary from state to state, so you will need to discuss this with your lecturers and guidance counselor.
This role requires a lot of patience, understanding and empathy. You will mostly be dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, and financial issues.
There may be occasions where you need to diagnose and treat a patient, but mostly, your role is to talk through issues and help your patient come to a solution.
More often then not, your patient will be a child. You have to be able to deal with a situation without letting emotions get in the way. Your decisions need to be impartial and in the best interest of your patient.
Average salary: $55,060
Working closely with school children of all ages, your role is to adapt the curriculum to make learning easier. The children you work with may have learning difficulties or mental/physical disabilities.
Alongside your psychology degree, you will need to complete state-required qualifications that allow you to work with children in schools. Master's degrees or PhDs are not necessary for special education teachers, but they are always welcome.
This role is for someone who loves children and believes that everyone should be given the best possible education, regardless of their circumstances.
You will need to be exceptionally patient, kind and approachable.
Average pay: $55,000
As there are very few programs specific to sports psychology, most hold degrees in clinical psychology. The minimum requirement is a master's degree, but it isn't unusual for other psychologists to hold a doctorate.
Sports psychology is a relatively new field and is expected to grow by 12% by 2022.
Their role is to enhance an athlete's performance, help them cope with the pressure of success and competition, and to recover from injuries.
This role is perfect for someone who loves sport and is interested in an athlete's mind. As the role is new, a large element will be collecting data and analyzing it.
Every athlete is different, and everyone has a different goal. Your job is to figure out the best possible techniques for that particular person.
As you can see, there are so many options to choose from. For more information about a specific job, or psychology as a whole, there are several useful resources:
A psychology degree is intense, but the information you will have learned and the skill set you'll acquire will make you employable for almost any role.
This list features the most popular jobs, but the best one is the one that suits you, your goals and your interests.
Do you want to help children or families? Do you prefer to work with numbers and data? Are you passionate about helping people succeed?
A lot of time and dedication go into these careers. Take as much time as you need to figure out which is the right one for you.
Some of you may know precisely what you want to do. Others may have no idea. Some may end up in public relations.
Find your interests, figure out your goals and take the rest from there.