Psychology is a field that’s been around for several centuries and has had an immeasurable impact on the lives of people across the world. As a field of theory, it’s informed (as well as changed) our imaginations of what our minds are made of, how they function, and why humans work the way they do.
Similarly, as a field of practice, it has taught us new ways to appreciate how humans relate to each other and to the world around them. In several turns, psychology is both a science and an art, and it is with specific reference to its context that its nature can be determined in a particular case.
When thinking about career options in psychology, it would be instructive to keep in mind all its various facets and sub-disciplines, since it’s not one field as much as it is a combination of multiple disciplines and approaches intersecting with each other to create something unique.
At the undergraduate level, you get exposure to all the various branches, such as clinical, cognitive, developmental, educational, social, statistics, neuroscience, and organization/industrial.
Also, another important factor to keep in mind that doing an undergraduate degree in psychology doesn’t mean committing to the course for the rest of your life! Considering the overlap that psychology has with various other disciplines, it’s just as likely that there are many career options that rely heavily on psychology but use concepts and techniques from other fields as well.
With that said, let’s take a look at some career options in psychology!
Psychology – Dominant Careers
As we mentioned earlier, some careers will more closely use psychology in their everyday operations than other careers. In this section, we will cover careers that primarily deal with psychology on a daily basis. Here, core psychology and psychological concepts become a mainstay, and everything you do revolves around leveraging these concepts to get the results that are required.
As a psychologist, you will be responsible for taking care of people across the age spectrum as well as making sure that your patients are doing alright across all levels of existence (personal, social, and collective).
While often used as an umbrella term, there is a lot of scope for specialization here! If you are interested in how organizations function and how this impacts the mental health of those who work there, you can consider becoming an industrial/Organizational Psychologist.
If you’re curious about sports and wonder how sportspersons deal with their anxieties and the tremendous pressure to perform, then you can be helpful to them as a Sports Psychologist.
If crime fascinates you, as well as the mental disposition required to commit these crimes, then you can also become a Forensic Psychologist, whose job will revolve around criminality and the possibility of these crimes being committed by certain people. Really, the possibilities are endless!
Checkout: Psychology vs Psychiatry
A psychotherapist’s primary work is to listen to their client and help them make sense of their various mental health issues. This could be at the level of early childhood trauma, or unsettling events that they encountered when they were teenagers and still have not been able to work through on their own. They help clients with depression, borderline personality disorder, narcissism, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and more.
Now, depending on the person’s inclination in terms of thinking, a psychotherapist can pursue one of the many sub-disciplines within the larger field, including cognitive behavior therapy, psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapy, hypnotherapy, and much, much more! At the end of the day, what will matter the most is whether the therapist is able to build an emotional connection with the person who is their client.
A counselor’s function is similar to that of a psychotherapist, but their concern is much more immediate. Instead of exploring at length a person’s behavior patterns and thinking tendencies, a counselor tries to work through the immediate reality that the client is confronted with and brings up to the counselor. Counseling can be specific to certain parts of one’s life, such as marriage, family, relationships, work, and more.
A counselor can also guide people to choose the right careers, and help them in their struggles with addiction, should that be the presenting complaint. A counselor needs to be able to listen to a client’s thoughts and feelings with utmost attention, and empathize where empathy is required, and ask questions where that will be the more effective tactic. Much like psychotherapy, there are multiple modes of orientation when it comes to counseling as well.
4. Educational Psychologist
An educational psychologist’s role can be defined as something of a mix between that of a typical psychologist and a usual teacher. Since a usual psychologist cannot position themselves at the intersection of their client’s psyche and the various education systems that their client has to navigate, this task becomes an extremely specific requirement that can only be fulfilled by educational psychologists.
An educational psychologist understands a student’s mental bandwidth and gives them suggestions about what will work for them in the long run. Their approaches are usually sustainable so that their client can benefit from education to which their minds cannot directly adapt.
5. Psychology Professor
The maxim, “those who can’t do, teach,” doesn’t hold true here – if it were ever true, that is. A psychology professor is someone who’s done at least their Master’s in Psychology and has decided that it will be a great use of their time to open the minds of young students to the wonder of psychology. And indeed it will be since teachers can make all the difference when it comes to giving youngsters life-changing advice!
Much like other fields in psychology, there is a wide range of choices here when it comes to specialization – and you’ll teach classes that are most likely in the same line of thinking as your specialization. This being said, most psychology professors also have a Ph.D. which further boosts their eligibility as well as credibility.
6. Research Psychologist
A research psychologist conducts experiments that further what we consider to be the baseline understanding of humans. For example, experimental psychologists have recently discovered that babies as early as 1 year old can recognize a difference between themselves and a stranger that they are interacting with.
Earlier, this age limit used to be thought to be 18 months. So, this is what a research psychologist does every day! Depending upon the field they’ve chosen to go into, the nature and frequency of experiments will change. But ultimately, it will all contribute to the fountain of knowledge that flows and will continue to flow, informing us all about the nature of psychology!
Psychology – Affiliated Careers
Now that we’ve taken a look at careers with psychology as a main focal point, let’s turn our attention to careers in which knowledge of psychology is a fundamental requirement, but which uses that knowledge to achieve other means. Since dealing with people is something that every job entails, these careers specifically work out very well for psychology graduates, since they usually have an edge in this department over most other people!
1. Careers in Different Forms of Advertising and Media
The inherent advantage of understanding the human psyche can be leveraged in an impressive manner when it comes to careers in advertising and media. At the core of both these industries is the target audience which needs to be reached, and if someone understands what the target audience wants, then all the better! And not just at that level – psychology students tend also to be sensitive people who can communicate honestly and with conviction.
This means they can become great writers, visualizers, production heads, and more! Moreover, they can make their mark in Marketing as well, whether as copywriters, designers, or as touchpoints in client servicing – really, the opportunities are endless and the possibilities infinite!
2. Careers in Communications and Human Resources
To be an effective communicator doesn’t just require a thorough understanding of the language in which one will communicate. It also requires that you understand who you will be communicating to and whether what you will say will be received by your intended audience. This is why psychology students tend to make for great resource persons when it comes to doing Public Relations or handling internal or external communications of big MNCs.
Putting oneself in another’s shoes comes naturally to most psychology graduates, and in this field, in particular, that skill is greatly valued. Moreover, human resources is also an area where psychology students can make their mark.
By showing people that their needs are being heard and worked upon, psychology students make for very effective HR managers as well, and can extend their field of expertise to professional development, recruitment, employee satisfaction and training, and more!
3. Careers in Management and/or Business
Seeing as some parts of psychology make extensive use of data in the form of statistical analysis, it will come as second nature to most psychology students to know that most businesses favor data-driven decisions – something that they already understand from their years of studying psychology! Therefore, they can smoothly transition into a career where they’re managing people and simultaneously making data-driven business decisions.
In fact, when it comes to intra-company policy, they will also be able to create more holistic policies that take care of the people who work within the company as well. Considering all this, it’s no surprise that they can start their own businesses as well, using all the knowledge that they have gained from studying psychology in combination with any other interests they may have, to create something new and unique for all!
Now that we’ve seen what possible career paths await those who are considering various career options for psychology, it’s important to mention something that is true not just of this field, but for all fields. A career is not made in one or two years – but rather it’s something that keeps getting created as and when you do your work every single day.
So if you’re currently confused about where you’re headed, don’t get overwhelmed by the bevy of options in front of you! Just take it one day at a time and see which direction seems the most comfortable as well as challenging for you, and then slowly start taking steps in that direction. In no time, you will find that you have the career you’ve always wanted!
Where Should You Begin?
Taking the first steps in your psychology career need not be an all-consuming concern! If you already have a university degree, then you’re well set to begin with, and you may think about expanding your qualifications a bit. Alternatively, if you’re just starting out, you’re probably looking for something that best suits your needs as a beginner.