Careers in Psychology
- Psychology is a rapidly expanding profession, with numerous career opportunities.
- The occupational outlook for psychologists is very good, with a variety of job prospects available at all degree levels and a high percentage who practice independently and autonomously and who report great satisfaction with their work.
- Psychology and its perspectives on people, has become an integral part of our culture and language, and its influence is expected to grow.
Graduates with a degree in Psychology have many career options:
Over the course of the 20th century, psychology has emerged as a discipline and a profession that has accrued wide ranging power and authority, tying together diverse, problems, concerns, and locations through a complex and heterogeneous network of agents, practices and techniques. It has emerged as a powerful voice of expertise in liberal democratic societies.
In part, psychology has been so successful because it has opened a space of objectivity, somewhere between physiology and conduct… a space of interiority, an interior area with its own laws and processes that is a domain for the positive knowledge and rational technique that is (uniquely) psychological. Psychology has made the individual being, a human subject, thinkable and knowable according to diverse logic and formulas that allow one to organize, simplify and rationalize domains of human individuality and difference, and in that thinking make it possible for people to act on themselves, and be acted upon, in ways never before possible. Psychology can be considered not merely as a body of thought but as a certain form of life, a mode of practicing and acting upon the world and those within that world.
Psychological norms, values, images and techniques have increasingly come to shape the ways in which we think of ourselves, and of others; their vices and virtues, their states of health and illness, their normalities and pathologies. Diverse fragments and components of psychology have been incorporated into the repertoire of individuals, into the languages that individuals use to speak of themselves and their own conduct, into the ethics people use to judge and evaluate their existence, and into the values people use to give their lives meaning and to act upon themselves. Psychology has transformed our relationship to ourselves; the ways in which we make our being and our existence intelligible and practicable, our ways of thinking about and enacting our passions and our aspirations, and our ways of identifying, coding, and responding to our disaffections and our limits. Psychology has created personal objectives, whether it is normality, adjustment, self esteem, fulfillment, etc., that have been incorporated into dreams, and programs for self improvement and self discipline and have made it possible for people to do new things to themselves, and for others to do things to them involving a range of calculated interventions, whose ends are formulated in terms of the psychological dispositions and qualities which determine how people conduct themselves.
Psychological knowledge and expertise has taken up profoundly significant places not only within the person, and the family, but also in the courtroom, the army, the hospital, the clinic, the factory, the schoolroom, and in a wide variety of institutional spaces which are involved in the administration and conduct of people. Psychology, and its ways of thinking and knowing people, have been taken up and deployed not only by psychologists themselves, but also by doctors, priests, philanthropists, judges, architects and teachers, to name just a few.
The 1998-1999 Occupational Outlook Handbook, from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, forecasts that additional job opportunities for psychologists will arise in businesses, nonprofit organizations and research and computer firms for psychologists working as consultants. In addition, the handbook predicts opportunities for people holding doctorates in areas of practice with an applied emphasis, such as clinical, counseling, health and educational psychology, should have particularly good prospects. Employment of psychologists is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2010. Employment in healthcare will grow fastest in outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment clinics. Numerous job opportunities will also arise in schools, public and private social service agencies and management consulting services. Companies will use psychologists’ expertise in survey design, analysis and research to provide marketing evaluation and statistical analysis. The increase in employee assistance programs, which offer employees help with personal problems, also should spur job growth.
Although the number of doctoral graduates has at least doubled over the past 12 years, the demand continues to meet the supply. Furthermore, unemployment and underemployment rates for doctoral psychologists are slightly below the average for other scientists and engineers. Few drop out of the field and more than 4 out of 10 psychologists are self-employed, about six times the average for professional workers.
The 1997 Doctorate Employment Survey compiled by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Research Office, found that nearly 68% of 2,116 psychologists who earned their doctorate in the 1996-1997 academic year secured their first choice when looking for a job. In addition, 69% of respondents were employed within 3 months of completing the degree. Psychologists with a Ph.D. qualify for a wide range of teaching, research, clinical, and counseling positions in universities, healthcare services, elementary and secondary schools, private industry, and government.
The number of psychology students who pursue a terminal master’s degree has increased sixfold since 1960. Many handle research and data collection and analysis as well as compensation, training and personnel issues in universities, government and private companies. Others find jobs in health, industry and education, the primary work settings for psychology professionals with master’s degrees. Psychologists with master’s degrees often work under the direction of a doctoral psychologist, especially in clinical, counseling, school, and testing and measurement psychology. Graduates with a master’s degree in psychology qualify for positions in school and industrial-organizational psychology. Graduates of master’s degree programs in school psychology should have the best job prospects, as schools are expected to increase student counseling and mental health services. Master’s degree holders with several years of business and industry experience can obtain jobs in consulting and marketing research. Others may find jobs as psychological assistants or counselors providing mental health services under the direct supervision of a licensed psychologist. Still others may find jobs involving research and data collection and analysis in universities, government, or private companies.
Those with a bachelor’s degree in psychology may be assistants in treatment facilities or may teach psychology in high school. The study of psychology at the bachelor’s level is a fine preparation for many other professions. In fact, psychology is the second most popular undergraduate major behind business administration. In 1996, about 65,000 college seniors graduated with a degree in psychology, and often possess good research and writing skills, are good problem solvers and have well developed, higher level thinking ability when it comes to analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating information. Most find jobs in administrative support, public affairs, education, business, sales, service industries, health, the biological sciences, and computer programming. They work as employment counselors, correction counselor trainees, interviewers, personnel analysts, probation officers and writers. Two-thirds believe their job is closely or somewhat related to their psychology background and that their jobs hold career potential. Employers find that psychology graduates possess strong people skills.