Psychology may seem entirely cerebral--after all, it's the science of mental processes and behavior--but a psychology degree has real world applications valued by many of today's most interesting, in-demand jobs.
The following five careers for psychology majors pay well, are expected to grow from 2008 to 2018, and offer rewarding work helping others.
The Top Careers in Psychology
1. School Counselor
School counselors work with students at all levels of education to help them thrive in an academic environment. These counselors often work closely with students with academic or behavioral problems, and they help all students define their academic strengths and weaknesses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), educational, vocational, and school counselors earned an average of $55,030 in 2009, and their employment is expected to grow 14 percent from 2008 to 2018, faster than the national average.
In most states, counselors must earn a master's degree in psychology, school counseling, or a related field to become licensed. A bachelor's degree in psychology lays the groundwork for a master's degree in counseling, and some employers help with tuition costs while you complete a master's degree program. If you work full time and want to continue your psychology training, consider flexible, online education options.
2. Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists help rehabilitate people who have been convicted of crimes. Probation officers monitor those on probation to help them to find jobs and stay on track, while correctional treatment specialists educate, rehabilitate, and evaluate criminals in jail or prison. The BLS reports that probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earned an average of $50,500 in 2009, and their employment is expected to increase by 19 percent from 2008 to 2018.
A bachelor's degree in criminal justice, psychology, or social work is often required to begin work as a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist. Exact requirements vary by employer, but often candidates are required to pass oral, written, and psychological tests.
3. Marriage and Family Therapist
Marriage and family therapists foster communication and understanding among family members, and they work with families to change perceptions and destructive behavior. According to the BLS, marriage and family therapists earned an average salary of $49,020 in 2009, and their employment is expected to increase by 14 percent from 2008 to 2018.
As with other counselors, marriage and family therapists must earn a master's degree to become licensed in most states. Master's degree programs in marriage and family therapy train students to work effectively with families, and some degree programs are available through online education.
4. Mental Health Counselor
Mental health counselors treat patients suffering from mental and emotional disorders, including depression, anxiety, stress, trauma, and grief. They practice a wide range of therapeutic techniques to improve the mental health of their patients. According to the BLS, mental health counselors earned an average salary of $41,710 in 2009, and their employment is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2008 to 2018, faster than any other counseling profession.
Most mental health counselors hold a master's degree in clinical mental health counseling or a related field. In order to become licensed, most States require counselors to graduate from an accredited master's degree program and pass a licensing exam.
5. Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Therapist
Patients struggling with substance abuse or behavioral disorders (such as compulsive gambling and eating disorders) often turn to substance abuse and behavioral disorder therapists for help. These therapists work with patients in individual or group settings to help them address their destructive behavior and find ways to recover. In 2009, substance abuse and behavioral disorder therapists earned an average of $40,420, and the BLS expects their employment to grow by 21 percent from 2008 to 2018.
Therapists specializing in substance abuse and behavioral disorders generally need a master's degree to become licensed. In addition to a desire to help others, these therapists must be able to deal with the daily stress of working with people struggling with addiction and destructive behavior.
As you can see, the current economy supports many promising careers for psychology majors, especially those that go on to earn a master's degree. Whether you want to rehabilitate criminals or counsel children in schools, a psychology degree can get you started.