There are lots of career paths in psychology beyond some of the "typical" options like clinical or counseling psychology. In fact, some of the most interesting job options might be those that you do not hear much about such as aviation psychology or traffic psychology.
Obviously, the coolest job is the one that you truly love, whether it involves providing therapy, conducting research or solving real-world problems. Before you decide on a career, spend some time thinking about what really interests you and the type of work setting you would most likely enjoy.
Check out these cool psychology jobs to learn more about a few interesting career paths you might want to consider.
Health psychologists are focused on helping people living healthier lives. They study how psychological, biological and social factors influence health. Two important areas of health psychology include helping people avoid illness and promoting healthy behaviors. Educating people about the causes of illness and teaching healthier habits are just two things that a health psychologist might do on a regular basis.
These professionals often work in settings such as hospitals, universities, health care centers and government agencies. Some of the job duties they may perform include helping people to lose weight, stop smoking, eat healthy and lower stress.
Do you love creating psychology experiments? Experimental psychologists use scientific methods and design research studies that explore many different topics within psychology. Social behavior, cognitive processes, personality and human development are just a few of the topics that experimental psychologists might investigate.
People working in this field often specialize in a particular area such as cognitive psychology, educational psychology or personality psychology. They may also be employed in a variety of settings ranging from universities, government agencies, research centers and nonprofit organizations.
Have you ever wanted to help solve crimes like the psychologists portrayed in television serial dramas? While the field of criminal psychology is not always exactly like the popular depictions in TV and movies, this field still offers plenty of excitement. Criminal psychologists perform a variety of duties such as developing psychological profiles of criminal suspects, assessing convicted criminals to determine their risk of re-offending and helping law enforcement catch online predators.
Aviation psychology is a relatively little known sub-specialty area of human factors psychology that involves the study of pilots, air traffic controllers and other flight crew members. According to the Association for Aviation Psychology, people who work in this field perform a number of different duties including:
- Evaluating prospective employees
- Designing flight decks
- Selecting and training pilots
- Assessing cabin safety
- Investigating aviation accidents
- Conducting research on aviation safety
As the population of older adults continues to grow, the demand for professionals to attend to their mental health needs also increases. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), adults over the age of 65 made up 12 percent of the population in 2004. By the year 2050, 21 percent of the population will be age 65 or older.
"Geropsychologists do everything from keeping older adults mentally and physically healthy and vibrant, to working with those who are frail and have cognitive impairments," explains Deborah DiGilio, director of APA's Office on Aging. Geropsychologists can work in a wide range of areas, from providing mental health services to aging adults to designing products that make life easier for the elderly.
Traffic psychology is an emerging field that involves applying psychological principles to understanding driver behavior. Some areas in this field include:
- Studying the relationship between driver behavior and traffic accidents
- Designing vehicles that are safer and more ergonomic
- Searching for ways to improve traffic safety and prevent auto accidents
- Researching how people use transportation
Traffic psychology often involves a multidisciplinary approach, combining fields such as social psychology, behavioral psychology and cognitive psychology. For example, traffic psychologists might assess how perception and cognition influence performance during a driving task. They might also look at how individual personality affects a driver's emotions, attitudes and risk-taking behavior while driving.
The field of military psychology encompasses a wide array of job duties including assessment, treatment and research. Mental health care and counseling make up an important part of this field, but some military psychologists also research different aspects of military life and combat.
Some of the areas in which a military psychologist may work include:
- Offering mental health services to soldiers and families
- Researching the psychology of combat, military life and military operations
- Helping soldiers cope with stress and fatigue
- Aiding those who have suffered injuries during their service
- Counseling soldiers as they return to civilian life
- Interrogating prisoners
According to the APA's Monitor on Psychology, there is a growing demand for qualified military psychologists to provide psychological services to soldiers and their families. As a result, the Navy, Army and Air Force have begun offering recruitment and retention incentives to attract more psychologists.
In a struggling economy where retailers and businesses are concerned with attracting new customers, the need for psychologists to research consumer behavior and to develop effective marketing campaigns has grown. Consumer psychologists not only study how and why people purchase goods and services, they also analyze how family, friends, culture and media messages affect buying behavior.
Some tasks that a consumer psychologist might perform include:
- Working with consumer focus groups to determine how appealing a particular product might be
- Developing advertising and marketing campaigns to appeal to a target audience
- Conducting theoretical research on shopping and buying behavior
Art therapists utilize the expressive and creative arts to help clients cope with psychological distress and to enhance emotional well-being. People who work in this field are trained in both psychotherapy and art. By using art, clients can communicate feelings, express creativity, explore different aspects of personality and cope with stress.
Art therapy is often used in a variety of situations, including with:
- Adults suffering from chronic or severe stress
- Children with disabilities
- People who have suffered brain injuries
- People who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event
The jobs options listed in this article are just a few of the many different career paths that are available within psychology. If you're still not quite sure which specialty area is right for you, start by taking this 10-question Psychology Career Quiz to see which general area might be the best match based on your personality, interests and goals.
DeAngelis, T. (2008). Psychology's growth careers. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2008/04/careers.aspx
Munsey, C. (2009) Needed: More military psychologists. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/05/military.aspx
Monitor on Psychology. (2001). The Career Path Less Traveled. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/feb01/careerpath.aspx