Career Paths for Psychology Majors

Woman conducting a psychological test with a young boy in a clinical setting

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Why do people think and behave as we do? If you would like to know the answer, consider majoring in psychology. Individuals who study this discipline learn about the human mind and behavior. Areas of specialization include social, experimental, clinical, developmental, industrial, and organizational psychology. While undergraduate majors typically survey all of these areas through their coursework, those pursuing advanced degrees usually specialize in one.

Students can earn associate's, bachelor's, masters or doctoral degrees in psychology. Many associate's degree programs assume that graduates are going to continue their studies in four-year programs and eventually earn a bachelor's degree. Unfortunately, there are few careers for those who don't go beyond an associate's degree.

A bachelor's degree provides more options, but if you want to work in human services, for example as a psychologist, you will need at least a master's degree, but more likely a Ph.D. or a PsyD. A Ph.D. is more research-oriented than a PsyD. Many who earn this degree go on to careers in academia. A PsyD emphasizes applied for work and leads to careers in therapy.

Sample of Courses You Can Expect to Take

Bachelor's and Associate's Degree Courses

  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Child Psychology
  • Adolescent Psychology
  • Statistical Methods in Psychology
  • Psychological Research and Design
  • Human Sexuality
  • Drugs and Addiction
  • Death and Dying
  • Learning Theory
  • Cognition
  • Social Psychology
  • History of Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Psychological Testing
  • Psychology of Women
  • Cross-Cultural Psychology
  • Personality
  • Motivation and Emotion
  • Gerontological Psychology
  • Biological Psychology
  • Health Psychology

Master's Degree Courses (MA or MS)

  • Personality, Psychopathology Diagnoses
  • Psychology of Groups, Families, and Couples
  • Neuropsychology
  • Theories of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Interpersonal Skills and Group Therapy
  • Techniques of Counseling and Psychotherapy
  • Neuropsychological Assessment
  • Professional Issues and Ethics
  • Personality Assessment
  • Sensory and Motor Systems

Ph.D. Courses

  • Data Analysis in Psychological Research
  • Qualitative Research Methods
  • Research Design
  • Ethics
  • Teaching of Psychology
  • Psychopharmacology 
  • Psychology and Criminal Law
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Treatment of Substance Abuse

PsyD Courses

  • Statistics
  • Cognitive Assessment
  • Advanced Adult Psychopathology
  • Cognitive Therapy
  • Lifespan Development
  • Social Psychology and Behavior
  • Administration of Psychological Services
  • Advanced Group Therapy
  • Contemporary Psychoanalytic Theories

Career Options With Your Degree

Some options, specifically those that involve working in a clinical setting, are contingent upon state licensing requirements.

  • Bachelor's Degree: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Instructor, Family Support Specialist, Mental Health Case Manager, Rehabilitation Specialist, Mental Health Technician, Social Media Community Leader, Marketing Manager, Sales Associate, Market Research Analyst, Data Mining Analyst.
  • Master's Degree: Staff Psychotherapist, Behavioral Health Specialist, School Psychologist, Program Therapist, Psychometrist, Mental Health Intake Coordinator, Research Associate.
  • Doctoral Degree: Clinical Psychologist, Counseling Psychologist, Neuropsychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist, School Counselor, Professor​.

This list was compiled by searching job sites for openings that require a degree in psychology It includes options for those who graduate with a degree in psychology only. It does not include any jobs that require earning an additional degree in another discipline.

Typical Work Settings

Psychology majors are qualified for jobs that call for their knowledge of human behavior, thought, and emotion. This includes jobs in health and human services, education, marketing, research, and academia. They typically work in offices, community centers, schools, and hospitals.

How High School Students Can Prepare for This Major

High school students who want to study psychology in college should take classes in English (including writing), math, and the social and physical sciences.

What Else You Need to Know

  • Many universities that have doctoral programs do not offer terminal master's degrees. Students earn a master's degree on the way to earning a Ph.D. or PsyD.
  • Many states in the US require anyone who wants to work as a practicing clinical or counseling psychology to have a doctoral degree in psychology from a program that is accredited by the American Psychological Association. Others require only a master's degree.
  • Students who are enrolled in many advanced degree programs, particularly those that lead to clinical careers, receive practical training in the form of internships.
  • Students typically spend at least four years, but as many as eight, in a doctoral program.
  • Doctoral candidates must write a dissertation.

Professional Organizations and Other Resources

  • Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT)
  • Association for Psychological Science (APS)