Which Psychology Career Is Right for You?
Diverse job opportunities await PhD in Psychology graduates.
When you’re ready to embark on the rewarding journey to a doctorate in psychology, the path will point you toward exciting career possibilities, many of which you may not have considered yet.
If you’ve already established your niche—as a marriage and family therapist, school psychologist, or researcher—an online PhD in Psychology will deepen your knowledge and skill base and expand opportunities within your chosen field. And if you’re exploring new ways to put your talent to use, it’s a great time to think outside the box.
What Is Psychology?
Today’s definition of psychology helps illustrate the varied nature of professional opportunities. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), psychology, the study of the mind and behavior, “embraces all aspects of the human experience—from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every conceivable setting from scientific research centers to mental healthcare services, the ‘understanding of behavior’ is the enterprise of psychologists.”1
PhD in Psychology programs can help you gain expertise to perform at the highest level when engaged in these APA-defined missions:2
- Understanding and treating mental, emotional, physical, and social dysfunction
- Understanding and enhancing behavior in various settings of human activity (e.g., school, workplace, courtroom, sports arena, battlefield)
- Improving machine and building design for human use
Which PhD in Psychology Career Is Right for Me?
Diverse career opportunities abound within the ever-broadening boundaries of this dynamic and ever-changing profession. Here are some top job titles for PhD in Psych graduates:
- Forensic psychologist
- Psychology researcher
- Private practice psychologist
- Political strategist
- Staff psychologist
- Human resource manager
- Educational psychologist
- Marketing director
- Industrial and organizational (I/O) psychologist
- University administrator, department chair, or dean
Where Can I Work With a PhD in Psychology?
Choosing a setting for your practice can be the real game-changer. One of these well-established settings may be just the right fit:
- Mental health centers
- Social service agencies
- Government agencies
- Healthcare organizations
- Community agencies
- Schools and universities
But you can also use your psychology training and education to study animal behavior. Or join a professional sports organization to coach players to peak performance. Or work with a disaster-relief agency or NGO to help tend to the emotional recovery of adults and children affected by floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other calamities.
The APA offers extensive coverage of its members’ career choices, including these examples of creative PhD-level jobs:3
- Conservation psychologist: One psychologist plans conservation strategies based on her study of how humans interact with animals and nature.
- User research lead: Using psychology research gleaned from watching and analyzing how people engage and interact with video games, a PhD-level psychologist designs immersive video game experiences.
- Incarceration researcher: A psychologist studies how solitary confinement affects inmates in super-maximum-security prisons.
Wanted: Graduates With Psychology Degrees
As you’re weighing your psychology career options, the long-term employment picture is a critical piece of the equation. And there’s good news: Career prospects look bright for individuals with psychology degrees. Through 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average job growth of 14%, which translates into an additional 23,000 jobs.4
Another key consideration: After you’ve earned your online PhD in Psychology, where are you likely to find an abundance of open positions? The BLS gets you started with some helpful research. Here are some insights:4
- Employment is strong in nonprofit and private sector organizations that work with older Americans.
- Individuals with doctoral degrees in psychology will find more plentiful opportunities in clinical, counseling, or school psychology. Keep in mind that budgets can influence the number of jobs in public education.
- I/O psychologists may face increased competition, though candidates with quantitative research experience may have an advantage.
Which brings us to salaries. With a professional passion so strong that it drives you to seek a doctorate in psychology online, you’ll want to investigate your compensation potential. Pay differs depending on the psychology career you pursue. In a survey reported by the APA in 2017, based on data from 2015, the median annual salary for psychologists holding a doctoral degree in psychology or a professional degree was $85,000. Here are some of their other findings:5
- More than half of psychologists earned between $60,000-$120,000.
- I/O-trained practitioners had the highest median salaries at $125,000.
- Practitioners with educational psychology backgrounds had the lowest median salaries at $75,000.
- Research positions offered a median salary of $95,000, with private sector practitioners earning the highest median wages of $130,000.
- Psychologists in management positions earned median salaries of $110,000. Individuals with direct reports who supervised 20 or more people had median salaries of $141,000.
Find a Purpose and Place With Your Online PhD in Psychology
“The Brain—is wider than the Sky…The Brain is deeper than the sea,” wrote Emily Dickinson, the great 19th-century poet.6 As you study the depths of the human mind and behavior, start exploring the vast number of ways you can make a difference in the lives of others. The perfect career is waiting for you.
1 Source: www.apa.org/support/about-apa.aspx
2 Source: https://dictionary.apa.org/psychology
3 Source: www.apa.org/careers/resources/profiles/index.aspx
4 Source: www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-1
5 Source: www.apa.org/workforce/publications/2015-salaries/index.aspx
6 Source: www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-brain-is-wider-than-the-sky
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.