It’s an age-old question—why do people do what they do? The scientific study of that question is psychology. The psychology field is fairly young—only about 125 years old—and has already had nearly as many schools of thought as there have been psychologists. Psychology concerns itself with both the biology and the sociology of human behavior, and studies both human and non-human animals. The psychology field is also home to some of the top careers available today.
Many psychologists are researchers, and many others are practicing clinicians. But there is literally no limit to how the study of psychology can be utilized in the workforce. For instance, three of the ten “hot” jobs for 2007 utilize a degree in psychology:
School Psychologist. This hot job in psychology has risen to the top thanks to the combined facts of the latest federal education legislation, a retiring workforce, and an increased focus on children’s mental heath. School psychologists are desperately needed across the country, making this a top psychology career. In fact, colleges with programs to train school psychologists cannot keep up with the demand. A typical program consists of two years of graduate courses and a one-year internship. Students from these programs, however, have no problem getting jobs and usually find their work extremely rewarding. Many school psychologists feel that they have an opportunity to tackle society’s problems early on, making them feel deep satisfaction in their work.
Genetics Counselor. The psychologists that have this hot job in psychology help families understand genetic disorders and to provide information and support to those families. They may also serve as patient advocates by referring individuals or families to local services that can be of assistance. Genetic research is a powerful tool for treating medical conditions, but it is still a new tool. Many people whose families are affected by genetics disorders don’t understand how it will affect their lives. Even genetic researchers and doctors don’t fully understand how genes cause all genetic disorders. Genetic counselors work with doctors and families to help families get the information they need to understand the disorder. While genetics counselors often require a Masters degree in genetics, a Bachelors degree in the psychology field is preferred. Demand is high for this position, making it a top psychology career.
Animal-Assisted Therapist. This hot job in psychology is a type of therapy that involves using pets to help treat patients. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is designed to improve the physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning of the patient, as well as provide education and motivation. AAT is provided on both an individual or group basis. Many kinds of animals are used in therapy, including dogs, cats, birds, dolphins, rabbits, lizards, and other small animals (although AAT with horses is known as equine-assisted therapy or therapeutic horseback riding). AAT has been found to be especially helpful with children suffering with autism spectrum disorders, and demand is very high, making this a top psychology career.
But there are many other fascinating careers available to anyone in the psychology field. There are a variety of different jobs available to therapists—being a clinical psychologist, a cognitive psychologist, or working as counselors. Here are just a few of the more unusual psychology careers available according to the American Psychological Association:
Engineering psychologists conduct research on how people work best with machines. For example, how can a computer be designed to prevent fatigue and eye strain? What arrangement of an assembly line makes production most efficient? What is a reasonable workload? While still in the psychology field, most engineering psychologists work in industry.
Evolutionary psychologists study how evolutionary principles such as mutation, adaptation, and selective fitness influence human thought, feeling, and behavior. Because of their focus on genetically shaped behaviors that influence an organism’s chances of survival, evolutionary psychologists study mating, aggression, helping behavior, and communication. Evolutionary psychologists are becoming increasingly interested in aging, especially in researching and problems of evolution. In the current political climate, this might be a hot job in psychology for a variety of reasons.
Forensic psychologists apply psychological principles to legal issues. Their expertise is often essential in court. They can, for example, help a judge decide which parent should have custody of a child or evaluate a defendant’s mental competence to stand trial. Forensic psychologists also conduct research on jury behavior or eyewitness testimony. Some forensic psychologists are trained in both psychology and the law. Demand is particularly high for this psychology field.
Sports psychologists help athletes refine their focus on competition and winning. They help athletes become more motivated and learn to deal with the anxiety and fear of failure that can often come with sports. This psychology field is becoming more and more popular as sports become more competitive and attracts younger children.
Phsychology Careers: Job and Salary Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual earnings of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is $54,950. The earnings of psychologists working in other areas are:
- Offices of other health practitioners $64,460
- Elementary and secondary schools $58,360
- Outpatient care centers $46,850
- Individual and family services $42,640
- Industrial-organization psychologists $71,400
The need for those with a psychology degree is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade, thanks to the continued growth of the psychology field. Luckily, because the field is so diverse, almost anyone can find something fascinating to do with their psychology degree!