Whether it’s an addiction counselor helping a patient, a start-up company trying to determine what drives consumers, or a teacher questioning how to best reach their difficult student—the importance of psychology in today’s world can be seen almost everywhere. With that said, you may be asking “what jobs may require a psychology degree?” The short answer is: certain teaching jobs or counselling professionals who treat patients – but we’ll get more into that later. Whether you’re looking to earn to earn your Ph.D., pursue a teaching degree, or you want to become a practicing psychologist, taking psychology courses—and in some cases, earning a psychology degree—could be an integral part of helping you meet your goals.
If you’re interested in working in the field of psychology but you aren’t sure that you want to earn your psychology degree, there are still options out there! You may be surprised to learn that some jobs associated with psychology do not always require a psychology degree. To get you thinking about your options, let’s take a look at the education requirements and salary potential for a variety of careers that are either directly or indirectly related to psychology.
Jobs that may require a psychology degree
A lot of the jobs that may require a psychology degree will likely not come as a surprise to you. For example, it makes sense that psychologists and psychiatrists would need to earn a psychology degree. But did you know that postsecondary teachers – which would include psychology professors – must earn a doctorate degree in their field in order to teach at the college level[i]? Below are examples of career options in which you likely must earn a psychology degree to qualify.
Postsecondary Psychology Teachers/Professors
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), educational requirements for postsecondary teachers will vary between educational institutions. However, professors who work for 4-year universities and colleges are more likely to be required to have earned a doctoral degree in in their field. Two-year colleges or technical schools may hire teachers who have only a master’s degree, but the competition from applicants who have already earned a Ph.D. could potentially make it more difficult to win teaching positions. If part of your job involves preparing students for a psychology career that requires license, certification or registration, you may benefit from earning the same type of psychology credential.
Median annual salary: $68,980[ii]
Job outlook, 2012-22: 8-14%[ii]
The education requirements for psychologists vary depending on the specialty. For example, most clinical, counseling and research psychologist need to earn a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. While a Ph.D. is a research degree that ends in an exam and dissertation based on your original research—a Psy.D. is a clinical degree that is often based on practical work and exams. In both cases, students may be required to complete a 1-year internship as part of the doctoral program.
If you’re interested in becoming a school psychologist, you may want to pursue an advanced or specialist degree (such as an Ed.S. degree), a doctoral degree in school psychology, or in some cases a master’s degree. If your goal is to become an industrial-organizational psychologist, a master’s degree in psychology may be sufficient, and would likely cover topics including industrial-organizational psychology, research design and statistics.
Regardless of the specialty, all practicing psychologists must also earn a license or certification from the state in which they work.
Median annual salary: $69,280[iv]
Job outlook, 2012-22: 12%[iv]
Rehabilitation counselors generally need to earn a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is sufficient to enter a master’s degree program, which includes the skills, theories and techniques required to provide effective mental health counseling. Supervised experience or training such as an internship may also be necessary. A key component of training is learning how to evaluate client needs, implement job placement strategies and understand the medical and psychological aspects of a particular disability. Certain positions may also require certification or a license, depending on where you live.
Median annual salary: $33,880[vi]
Job growth, 2012-2022: 20% (faster than average)[vi]
Mental Health Counselors[vii]
In order to qualify as a mental health counselor, you generally need to earn a master’s degree in either psychology, counseling, social work, marriage and family therapy or a related field. Counseling programs are designed to help students learn how to recognize the symptoms of mental and emotion disorders and how to employ effective strategies to deal with these disorders. A bachelor’s degree in most fields may be acceptable to enter a master’s-level program. You must also be licensed to practice, which requires a master’s degree; 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience; passing a state-recognized exam; and yearly continuing education courses.
Median annual salary: $41,500[viii]
Job growth, 2012-2022: 29% (much faster than average)[viii]
Because psychiatrists are actual doctors who specialize in providing mental health care, the educational requirements are substantial. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), to meet the qualifications for becoming a psychiatrist, you must complete graduate studies, medical school and a four-year residency in psychiatry. In some cases, you may also have to complete additional specialized fellowship training. You must also pass written and oral examinations to earn your state license to practice medicine before you complete residency training in a hospital. This is followed by at least three additional years in psychiatric residency before you can qualify to take a voluntary written and oral exam by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to become a “board certified” psychiatrist.
Median annual salary: $178,950[x]
Job growth, 2012-22: 15-21% (faster than average)[ix]
Jobs that likely don’t require a psychology degree
When it comes to jobs that likely don’t require a psychology degree there are more possibilities out there than you may expect. For example, according to the BLS, fields like substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling may allow you to practice with a wide range of educational experience including everything from a high school diploma and certification to a master’s degree[xi]. Below are four careers that don’t specifically require that you earn a psychology degree before you enter the field.
According to the BLS, it is common for psychiatric technicians to begin this career after earning a postsecondary certificate in psychiatric or mental health technology. These types of programs can often be found at community colleges or technical schools and they include courses in psychology, biology and counseling. Certificate and associate programs may range from one semester to two years in length and may include supervised work experience. However, the minimum educational requirement to become a psychiatric technician is a high school diploma or equivalent.
Median annual salary: $27,440[xiii]
Job growth, 2012-22: 5%[xii]
Social and Human Service Assistant[xiv]
The minimum educational requirement to become a social service assistant is a high school diploma; however, certain employers may prefer candidates who have relevant work experience or postsecondary education. To that end, pursuing a certificate or associate’s degree in human services, gerontology or a social or behavioral science could be beneficial to this career. If you decide to enroll in a human services degree program, you may learn skills including how to observe and interview patients; how to execute treatment plans; and how to work with people who are in a crisis situations. There may also be a fieldwork component to your studies.
Median annual salary: $28,850[xv]
Job growth, 2012-22: 22% (much faster than average)[xiv]
The education and training requirements for childcare workers vary between states. Some require workers to have a high school diploma, while others don’t have any education requirements for entry-level jobs. However, if you’re interested in pursuing a higher-level position, postsecondary education or early childhood education credentials may help you qualify. Workers in Head Start programs must at the minimum be enrolled in program in which they earn some sort of postsecondary degree in early childhood education or child development. Some states require that childcare centers be licensed and/or that workers have a nationally recognized certification such as the Child Development Associate (DCA), which is offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. We recommend you look into the specific licensing and certification requirements for your state.
Median annual salary: $19,510[xvii]
Job growth, 2012-2022: 14%[xvi]
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors[xviii]
The educational requirements for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors can range from a high school diploma and certification to a master’s degree—depending on the place you work, your role, state regulation, and your level of responsibility. The more education you have, the more services you will likely be able to provide to clients—such as one-on-one counseling sessions. All substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in private practice must be licensed. The licensing requirements vary depending on where you live, but all states do require a master’s degree; supervised clinical experience; that you pass as state-recognized exam; and continuing education annually. Check with your state’s regulating board for more information.
Median annual salary: $38, 520[xix]
Job growth, 2012-22: 31% (much faster than average)[xviii]
What are some potential jobs for psychology majors still in school?
When it comes to jobs for psychology majors still in school, it makes sense to consider positions that can help provide you with relevant experience in the field. A great place to start is to apply to psychology internships at private practices, clinics, hospitals, rehab facilities or mental health centers. Check with the psychology department and student career center at your school to see if they have any relevant internship listings, search online, and make use of your personal and professional contacts both in-person and through social media sites like LinkedIn. Another option that could help you build valuable experience is working as a teacher’s assistant to a psychology professor. Inquire with your own psychology professors to see if any of them are looking for assistance, or if they have a colleague who is.
[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-4 | [ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1066.00 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-4 | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-1 | [v] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/rehabilitation-counselors.htm#tab-4 | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/rehabilitation-counselors.htm#tab-1 | [vii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm#tab-4 | [viii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm#tab-1 | [ix] psychiatry.org/about-apa--psychiatry/more-about-psychiatry | [x] onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1066.00 | [xi] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm#tab-4 | [xii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/psychiatric-technicians-and-aides.htm#tab-4 | [xiii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/psychiatric-technicians-and-aides.htm#tab-1 | [xiv] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-and-human-service-assistants.htm#tab-4 | [xv] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-and-human-service-assistants.htm#tab-1 | [xvi] bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/childcare-workers.htm#tab-4 | [xvii] bls.gov/ooh/Personal-Care-and-Service/Childcare-workers.htm#tab-1 | [xviii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm#tab-4 | [xix] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm#tab-1 | Additional source: bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-4