Career Options With a Doctorate Degree in Psychology
Psychology is one industry where education can make all the difference in the world when it come to having a successful career. In most industries, take business for example, whether or not you have a degree really doesn't limit your ability to succeed if you're a real go-getter. However, as psychology is a highly regulated industry, earning a degree, especially a doctorate, is very important to your upward mobility and success in just about every field. In fact, today, most states now require that psychologists first earn a doctorate degree in psychology or a closely related field before they can obtain a license to practice psychology. In addition, most research and teaching positions at major universities or government organizations also require a doctorate degree. While a bachelor's and/or master's degree in psychology will qualify you for entry-level job positions, to effectively compete with other psychologists for good jobs will require that you eventually earn a doctorate.
However, before you just jump right into a doctorate program there are several things you should ask yourself. Are you willing to spend 4 to 7 more years in school, after spending 4 to 6 years earning a bachelors and masters degree? Have you thoroughly explored the different career paths available in psychology? There are a large variety of specialty areas of study offered in doctorate psychology programs and each will lead you down a career path. Before you sign up for 7 more years of school you'll make to be confident that you know what you want to do with your degree. Some of the most common areas where doctorate-level psychologists work include mental health, government, business and education.
Below you'll find additional information on common careers and employment areas pursued by individuals who obtain a doctorate degree in psychology. You'll want to explore each to get a better idea of which you might be for you. Again, determining a career path upfront will help you figure out which graduate degree to pursue and what you'll do with your degree once you graduate.
Social Service and Mental Heath Career
Mental health and social services are two of the most popular career fields for psychology graduates. Not only is there strong demand for professionals in these fields, psychologists can expect to earn a descent income and have the opportunity to work directly with patients struggling with mental illness and other ailments. While a master's degree in psychology is the minimum requirement for most entry-level career positions, most of the best jobs are reserved for psychologists with a doctorate in psychology.
Some of the most popular positions within this area of psychology include:
Government and Public Service
- Clinical Psychologists
Clinical psychology is one of the most stable sectors of the psychology industry. Clinical psychologists are always in demand and can work in a variety of capacities within several industries. They diagnose and treat individuals suffering from mental illnesses and typically work in direct patient care settings. Most clinical psychologists hold a a Ph.D. in psychology or a Psy.D.
Like clinical psychologists, counselors work in direct patient care settings and strive to help individuals improve the quality of their lives. However, where clinical psychologists treat mental illness and disorders, counselors address emotional issues that negatively affect an individuals personal life. Counselors typically have a master's or doctorate degree in counseling or psychology.
- Social Workers
Surprisingly, a large number of psychology majors end up working as social workers for public, government and non-profit social welfare agencies. Like clinical psychologists and counselors, social workers are frequently involved with the care of individuals suffering from mental or emotional illness. Entry-level positions in social work require a bachelor's degree, but more and more social workers are obtaining a master's degree in social work, psychology or a related area. A few will go on to earn a doctorate degree.
A growing number of graduate degree holding psychologists are finding careers with public service and government agencies. Federal, local and state agencies employ psychologists to work in research and social welfare, at public hospitals and clinics, and as mental health counselors and evaluators at correctional facilities.
A few of the most common careers in these sectors include:
Education and Academia
- Social worker
- Social service manager
- Parole officer
- Mental health counselor
- Rehabilitation counselor
- Vocational counselor
- Mental health specialist
- Behavior analysis specialist
- Psychosocial specialist
- Administrators and managers
Psychologists work within elementary educational systems to develop more effective educational, child development and special needs programs, and to counsel emotionally and mentally challenged children. At the college and university level, they're employed as researchers, teachers and professors. Psychologists working within secondary education are usually required to obtain at minimum a masters degree. To work at the university level, a doctorate degree in psychology is required.
Common psychology careers within education include:
Psychology and Business Careers
- School Psychologists
School psychologists work directly with individual students who are dealing with emotional and behavioral problems that affect their academic performance and ability to interact with other children. School psychologists typically have a master's degree in psychology, education or a closely related field.
- Educational Psychologists
Educational psychologists are often confused with school psychologists, but they are very different fields of psychology. Where school psychologists assess, diagnose and treat emotional and behavioral issues of individual students, educational psychologists are concerned with the overall quality of education, curriculum and programs for all students. Educational psychologists study how students learn and work with parents, teachers and school administration to improve academic outcomes for an entire student population. Educational psychologists are typically required to obtain a doctorate degree in psychology or education.
- School Counselors
School counselors are responsible for helping children who are struggling emotionally or behaviorally to improve their academic performance, emotional health and social interactions. They may also provide vocational and career counseling in high school and college settings. A bachelor's degree in a relevant field is often the minimum requirement to become a school counselor, although a master's degree may be required depending on where you work.
While a large percentage of psychologists opt for a more traditional career in education, public service, or mental health care, a growing number of these professionals, known as applied psychologists, are putting their skills and knowledge to work in the private sector. Applied psychologists use their expertise in psychology to improve vital business processes, enhance product design and develop effective work place policies and procedures. A master's degree in psychology is often sufficient to get started in applied psychology but the best positions and career opportunities require a doctorate degree.
A few of the most popular career paths for applied psychologists include the following:
For those willing to put in the time and effort to earn a master's or doctorate degree in psychology the career options and opportunities are endless. However, if you want to get the most from your graduate degree we highly recommend that you determine your future career path before you get started.
- Industrial-organizational Psychologists
Not only are Industrial-organizational Psychologists (a.k.a. I-O Psychologists) in high demand they are also some of the best paid professionals within the field of applied psychology. It is not uncommon for seasoned I-O Psychologists to make over $120,000 a year. I-O Psychologists use their unique knowledge of psychology to improve workplace productivity and efficiency for public companies, private companies, and organizations of every type. They perform a variety of functions, such as conducting performance tests, improving product design, developing corporate training programs, and hiring qualified employees and managers. A master's degree in psychology will qualify individuals for entry-level positions in industrial-organizational psychology but a doctorate degree is the degree of choice if you want to advance in this field.
- Forensic Psychologists
Recognition and popularity of forensic psychology has skyrocketted over the last decade, as has the demand for forensic psychologists. In short, forensic psychologists apply psychology in all aspects of criminal investigation and law. Forensic psychologists perform a number of functions including psychological analysis, expert witness, mental evaluation and private consulting. Forensic psychologists must have a master's degree in forensic psychology but many hold a Ph.D. in forensic or clinical psychology.
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