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What Can I Do With a Master's Degree in Psychology?

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Question: What Can I Do With a Master's Degree in Psychology?

One reader writes: "I am a recent graduate from the University of Phoenix and I have recently started looking for work. My degree title is Master of Science in Psychology. The question is: What can I do with a master's degree in psychology?

I am utterly perplexed on where to start looking for employment. I am considering going back to school to earn my doctorate, but I would like to find employment at least partly to pay for college. Can you understand my dilemma in this economic downturn?"

Answer:

The job opportunities available to you after earning your master's degree in psychology can depend on a number of factors. In addition to the overall job outlook in your geographic area, the focus of your master's degree can play an important role in determining your employment prospects.

While it may seem that all master's degree are fairly equivalent, there is actually a surprising amount of variability in degree options.

Common Master's Degree Options

  • Master's in Clinical Psychology: This is a terminal degree, meaning that further graduate study is not necessary. In some states, graduates of these practice-based programs are allowed to provide psychotherapy and psychological assessment under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist.

  • Master's in Experimental Psychology: This degree option can serve as a terminal degree or preparation for further graduate study. These research-based degrees are focused on preparing students for careers in research. Students often focus on a specialty area such as cognitive psychology, human factors, developmental psychology, or social psychology. This type of degree would prepare students for job as research assistants, lab managers, and market researchers.

  • Master's in an Applied Psychology Area: The U.S. Department of Labor suggests that job opportunities are strongest for students with a graduate degree in an applied psychology area such as industrial-organizational psychology or forensic psychology. A degree in an applied field prepares students to work directly in their specialty area, but some graduate may also find teaching positions at the college or university level.

Job Options With a Master's Degree in Psychology

What if your degree isn't in one of the above areas, or what if you are interested in switching gears to focus on a different area of psychology? While your career path may not be as obvious, there are still plenty of different job opportunities to consider.

As you begin your career search, think about the skills and knowledge you acquired during your education and consider different ways you could apply those abilities in the workforce. The following are just a few of the major areas you might want to focus on in your job search.

Jobs at Colleges and Universities

While the competition for teaching positions can be fierce, some graduates with a master's degree in psychology do finding teaching positions at junior colleges and universities. Academic advising, career counseling and academic recruiting are alternative careers in higher education that graduates from a master's psychology program may want to consider.

Jobs in Local, State and Federal Government

Another option is to look for job with the local, state, or federal government. Various government offices often hire individuals with a master's degree in psychology to perform a range of duties such as performing research or providing psychological services. One way to look for such jobs is to go you your states Department of Labor website and search through the available job listings.

Some different government positions that you might qualify for include:

  • Vocational rehabilitation provider
  • Self-reliance specialist
  • Developmental specialist
  • Drug and alcohol specialist
  • Employment counselor
  • Human resources analyst
  • Parole officers
  • Psychology program manager
  • Rehabilitation counselor
  • Social service manager

Jobs in Health Care and Mental Health Services

Even if your degree was not practice-focused, you may still be able to find employment in the mental health field. Many of these positions are entry-level, but they can be a great way to gain experience and determine if you might be interested in pursuing a doctorate degree in clinical or counseling psychology.

Some possible job titles in this area include:

  • Behavioral counselor
  • Health project coordinator
  • Psychiatric technician
  • Rehabilitation specialist
  • Group home coordinator
  • Family services worker
  • Child protection worker
  • Child care supervisor

Jobs in Business, Sales, Marketing and Advertising

A master's degree in psychology also serves as excellent preparation for careers outside of psychology. Psychology graduates are often sought after by employers because they have strong interpersonal and written communication skills. A solid background in research and statistics also qualifies graduates to work in areas such as market research.

  • Human resources manager
  • Advertising agent
  • Market researcher
  • Employee trainer
  • Public relations representative
  • Project manager
  • Sales representative
  • Store manager

The Job Outlook Like With a Master's Degree in Psychology

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of psychologists is expected to grow at an average rate through the year 2018. However, the handbook notes that "master's degree holders in fields other than industrial-organizational psychology will face keen competition." The need for trained professionals to help boost worker productivity and retention is expected to help drive the increase demand for industrial-organizational psychologists.

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