The field of psychology is incredibly diverse, which means the job opportunities are nearly endless. In spite of the breadth and depth found in this discipline, there are still so many people that think a degree in this major means you can only get a job as a clinical therapist, counselor or teacher.
While these are all great and fulfilling careers, there is far more to the job market for this major than you might expect. Below are six interesting and unique careers in the field of psychology that you should consider.
1. Sports Psychologist
The field of sports psychology is still somewhat new, which means there is a lot of room for graduates to be a part of the development and expansion of the specialty.
In essence, a sports psychologist is like an emotional coach for the athletes. Instead of focusing on the physical side of the game, you would focus on the psychological side. A large part of your job would be helping athletes overcome mental blocks like performance anxiety, intense stress and poor communication skills. You might also be tasked with helping athletes through the psychological struggles that can come with recovering from injury or experiencing a lack of motivation.
The average annual salary for this job is $55,000, and it would be perfect for someone who already enjoys sports.
2. Neuropsychologist or Behavioral Neuropsychologist
This is a highly specialized area of study that offers a unique career path for psych majors. This field focuses on examining the relationship between the human brain and how people behave. Neuropsychology is a flexible field as well, so every conceivable avenue of research will be open to you.
For those who are interested in treating patients with brain injury or disease, the path of clinical neuropsychology is also an option. While this does require a Ph.D., it is one of the most interesting careers in psychology.
For a neuropsychologist, average starting salary is $77,500, but Ph.D. graduates can expect a salary closer to $90,000.
3. Forensic Psychologist
Television and Hollywood have glamorized the position of the forensic psychologist somewhat, but it is still one of the most interesting careers in psychology today.
A career as a forensic psychologist is perfect for those who are interested in the legal system as well as the psychological aspects of crime. Forensic psychologists are regularly called upon as experts for a variety of legal proceedings, including criminal trials, civil lawsuits and even insurance disputes.
The average annual salary for this position is $59,440.
4. Recreational Therapist
This career path has the most potential for becoming a fun and rewarding job for any psych major. Recreational therapy is a blanket term for a variety of non-medical treatments. Most of these treatments are arts-based, such as music, art and dance therapy, though a variety of other activities such as drama, crafts, sports and specialized field trips can be used as well.
This type of job deals with individuals who are mentally ill, disabled, injured or chronically sick. Recreational therapists are tasked with developing treatment plans using a variety of modalities in order to help patients become independent, cope with anxiety and integrate successfully into their community.
Starting salaries for this position range from $40,000 to $43,000.
5. Traffic Psychologist
This job title might sound a bit ridiculous, but this is one of the most important and interesting psychology careers in our modern world. Traffic psychologists work closely with city planners, local governments, transportation officials, designers and engineers to study the behaviors of road and automobile users. Traffic psychologists rely heavily on psychological theory to interpret things like accident research and behavior research to help make the roadways safer and more efficient.
Because the demand for traffic psychologists varies so much from one location to the next, it is difficult to give reliable salary information. However, the highest demand for this career is going to be in large, urban areas, so these are the places you can expect to see the highest wages.
Overall, the American Psychological Association estimates that average salaries range between $48,000 and $76,000. Additionally, those with a doctorate degree can often earn much more as a consultant in this field with some reported incomes as high as $180,000.
6. Military Specialist
If you’re someone who has ever had a career with the armed forces, then you should definitely consider using your skills as a military psychologist after graduation. This specialty focuses on caring for both military personnel and their families. Military psychologists not only perform psychiatric evaluations for service members, but they also treat mental disorders within their branch of service and provide counseling to personnel and military families.
Depending on your specialization, you can also opt to perform tests and research for military-specific issues.
Median salary for military psychologists is $120,538.
Choosing the Right Path For You
The best part about finding rewarding careers in psychology is that this list just barely scratches the surface. There are dozens of other niches and specialties in just about every area of interest, so if none of these jobs sound appealing there are still plenty more to choose from.
One of the best ways to figure out a shortlist of potential psychology careers for you is to first decide how far along in your education you’re willing to go. While a few of these positions will allow entry-level work with a bachelor’s degree, almost every job listed here requires at least a master’s, and many require doctorate-level work.
Once you have decided how far your college path will go, then you can start to examine your interests outside of your chosen discipline. This will help you narrow down the tremendously large field of potential jobs and allow you to find your niche. The sooner you can narrow down your fields of interest within the major, the longer you can spend specializing in those interests. This will help ensure that you get a job you will love after graduation.
American Psychological Association (2001) The career path less traveled:
A growing number of recent graduates are forging ahead in new, less traveled directions. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/feb01/careerpath.aspx
American Psychological Association (2011) Careers in Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/careers/resources/guides/careers.aspx
Dunn, D. (2017) Career Counseling and the Psychology Major. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/head-the-class/201701/career-counseling-and-the-psychology-major
Snowdon, G. (2010) What to do with a degree in psychology. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/money/2010/feb/13/degree-in-pyschology-job-options
Wood Rudulph, H. (2014) 5 Fascinating Jobs You Can Get With a Psychology Degree. Retrieved from http://www.cosmopolitan.com/career/a33028/psychology-degree-jobs-career/