Jobs and Careers

Students with undergraduate degrees in psychology often work for a few years before attending graduate school, and some use their undergrad degree in psychology to directly launch careers. The skills and experiences of psychology majors can be applied in

  • Business professions: Advertising, marketing, consulting, personnel worker, job analyst, public information officer, loan officer, public relations, staff training and development
  • Legal professions: E.g., paralegal, research assistant with a firm that provides legal consultation (e.g., jury selection research)
  • Mental health and social service professions: Research assistant, behavior analyst, director of volunteer services, probation/parole officer, case worker or counselor in residential schools and homes, program manager, child protective services worker
  • Teaching: Teacher in private secondary schools, interim teacher or teaching assistant in public, schools, coach, dorm counselor
  • Other professions: Congressional aide, college admissions counselor, public relations, alumni relations (college), youth work, statistical assistant, technical writer, science journalism

NOTE: Information about the jobs listed above (and hundreds of others, as well) can be found in the Occupational Outlook Handbook and other resource at the Williams College Career Center.

Jobs and Careers for Doctoral Level (PH.D) Psychologists

In general, Ph.D. psychologists work in academic or applied settings, and often in both. The different subfields of psychology, and a sampling of the kinds of careers in each, are briefly described below. Increasingly, psychological research and careers are also crossing the traditional boundaries described above, in fields such as Cognitive Neuroscience, Clinical Neuropsychology, Developmental Psychopathology, and Cognitive Science, and Sports Psychology.

At the end of this section are links to helpful websites about careers in psychology. In addition, please ask in the Psychology Department Office for books and publications about psychology careers.

  • Behavioral Neuroscience Behavioral neuroscientists and neuropsychologists investigate the relation between the nervous system and behavior. Topics they study include the relation of specific biochemical mechanisms in the brain to behavior, the relation of brain structure to normal and abnormal behavior, and the chemical and physical changes that occur in the body when we experience different emotions, including stress and its effects on the brain and the immune system. Neuropsyschologists also assess and treat disorders related to damage to the central nervous system (e.g., stroke, head injury). Behavioral neuroscientists and neuro- psychologists work in clinical, medical, and academic settings.
  • Cognitive Psychology Cognitive psychologists seek to understand mental phenomena such as attention, memory, perception, language, reasoning and decision making. These findings are investigated in the laboratory and sometimes with patients with neurological disorders. The field of cognitive psychology is becoming increasingly diversified, as, aided by new technologies, researchers begin to understand the relationship between the mind and the biology of the brain and the development of cognitive processes. Cognitive psychologists can be found in a wide variety of academic settings and in nonacademic settings such as the military.
  • Clinical Psychology Clinical psychologists specialize in the areas of psychopathology and psychotherapy. They assess, treat, and conduct research on mental and emotional disorders, ranging from depression and schizophrenia to child conduct problems, eating disorders, and family conflict. They also develop and test new theories and methods of psychotherapy. Some do primarily research and teaching, others combine teaching, research, and clinical practice, and some work full time in hospitals, clinics or private practice. Within clinical psychology, one can specialize in such areas as child clinical psychology, pediatric psychology, clinical neuropsychology, etc.
  • Counseling Psychology Counseling psychology is similar in many ways to clinical psychology, but focuses more on adjustment problems (e.g., marital counseling, child adjustment problems, school counseling, college adjustment) than on severe psychological disorders. Counseling psychologists also have particular expertise in career and vocational counseling. They work in colleges and universities, clinics, hospitals, and private practice. Some do primarily teaching and research and others work in clinical or educational settings.
  • Developmental Psychology Developmental psychologists study human development across the life span, from birth through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and later life. They are employed in academic settings, teaching and conducting research. They may also consult on programs in day care centers, preschools, hospitals and clinics for children, as well as on legislative issues related to children (e.g., Headstart, violence prevention) or the elderly, and with industries that design products for children such as toys and educational materials.
  • Educational Psychology and School Psychology In both of these fields, psychological research and practice is brought to bear on education. Educational psychologists are experts in processes of learning, curriculum development, teaching methods including special education teaching methods, and means for evaluating educational outcomes. Many educational psychologists work in university settings, in both psychology departments and schools of education. Recently, industry and the military are offering increased possibilities for people with doctoral degrees who can design and evaluate systems to teach complex and technical skills.
    School psychologists help educators promote the intellectual, social and emotional development of children. They often work in schools doing assessments and curriculum planning for children with special needs, evaluating and planning programs for such children, consulting with teachers on classroom management and with parents on ways to support children’s progress in school.
  • Social Psychology Social psychologists study how people interact with each other, how they think about those interactions, and how they are affected by their social environments in everyday life. They study individuals as well as groups, observable behaviors, private thoughts, and emotions. Social psychologists can be found in a wide variety of academic and nonacademic settings. A related field, Industrial/ Organizational Psychology, concerns research and application of social and other psychological knowledge to workplace and business organizations.

Related Careers

Other careers/advanced degree programs for which an undergraduate psychology major is good preparation include:

  • Business (MBA)
  • Education (M.Ed., Ed.D)
  • Medicine (M.D.) including the specialties of Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry
  • Social Work (MSW or DSW)

Helpful Websites on Careers in Psychology

This material was adapted from: Lloyd, M.A. http://www.psywww.com/careers