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What can you do with a psychology degree? Recognizing the versatility

February 17, 2020
Psychology Degree Career Options 


Psychology is consistently one of the most popular college majors in the country, yet there’s a common misconception that there isn’t much you can do with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Those who hope to become psychologists have more schooling ahead — a doctoral degree is typically necessary for those positions.

Pursuing advanced education is relatively common in this field. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), about 25 percent of students with a bachelor’s degree in psychology go on to pursue a graduate degree in the field, while about 18 percent pursue additional education in other subjects.

But this also means that 57 percent of those graduates transition into the workforce after obtaining their bachelor’s degree, and the APA notes there are many job paths available to baccalaureate-qualified psychology grads. Obtaining a psychology degree can equip students with key skills that cut across disciplines. Positions range from human resources to social work.

So, what can you do with a psychology degree? It turns out there are more options than you might expect. Join us as we outline five of the more common career opportunities open to those with a bachelor’s in the field.

5 Careers you could pursue with a bachelor’s degree in psychology

In a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program, students examine psychological principles of human behavior. You can typically expect a curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking, research methodology, verbal and written communication, problem-solving and how to apply psychological principles in numerous situations.

The skills graduates walk away with can be applicable in a number of different industries like business, government, education and health care. To give you a better idea of what you can expect, we used real-time job analysis software to examine more than 60,000 job postings seeking candidates with a bachelor’s in psychology from the last year.* The following five roles were among the most common.

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1. Mental health counselor

Mental health counselors can treat clients with a variety of different conditions, including things like anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress and suicidal impulses. In addition to providing emotional support, they may also counsel clients on issues relating to their relationships.

Typical clients can be individuals, couples, families and other groups. Some mental health counselors will work with specific populations, such as the elderly, college students or children. In addition to needing a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field, these professionals are required to obtain licensure after completing a period of supervised clinical work.

Key skills for this role that psychology students learn to develop:

  • Written communication
  • Inclusivity
  • Self-regulation

2. Human resources specialist

Human resources (HR) specialists are typically responsible for tasks related to employee relations, training, compensation and benefits. They’re involved in recruiting, screening, interviewing and hiring new employees while also helping to guide existing employees through all HR-related procedures and policies.

Professionals in this role are often also tasked with some basic administrative duties, such as creating and managing benefit plans, processing payroll and keeping employment records up to date. HR specialists are also tasked with ensuring every HR function is compliant with federal, state and local regulations. Qualified HR specialists must have a bachelor’s degree, and completing coursework in psychology is incredibly beneficial.

Key skills for this role that psychology students learn to develop:

  • Collaboration
  • Service orientation
  • Interpersonal skills 

3. Medical and health services manager

Also called health care executives, health care administrators and clinical managers, medical and health services managers are responsible for planning, directing and coordinating health care services. This could mean managing an entire facility, a specific clinical area, a department or a medical practice for one or more physicians. They focus on improving efficiency and quality of services and ensuring their facility is compliant with all relevant laws and regulations.

Medical and health services managers will often work closely with a range of different professionals in the health care setting. They may collaborate with medical providers, patients and support providers like insurance agents. To land a position in this realm, candidates need at least a bachelor’s degree — and prior experience in health care is often desired. You may need a master’s degree depending on the type of facility in which you hope to work. That said, studying psychology can also help you start honing the necessary abilities.

Key skills for this role that psychology students learn to develop:

  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Adaptability to new systems

4. Social worker

There’s some overlap between social work and psychology. Social workers dedicate their careers to helping people solve and cope with problems they encounter in their everyday lives. Their clients may be facing issues ranging from adopting a child to being diagnosed with a terminal illness. In addition to helping clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, social workers can be tasked with responding to crisis situations like child abuse or mental health emergencies.

These professionals will often advocate on behalf of their clients at the local, state and national levels. In practice, this might look like researching, referring and pressing for community resources such as food stamps, childcare and health care services to improve their clients’ well-being. Social workers with a bachelor’s degree will often work with groups, community organizations and policymakers to develop programs, services and policies. Note that employers may expect professionals with a bachelor’s degree in something other than social work, such as psychology, to complete additional education and training over time.

Key skills for this role that psychology students learn to develop:

  • Oral communication
  • Service orientation
  • Inclusivity

5. Correctional treatment specialist

Correctional treatment specialists, also known as case managers or correctional counselors, dedicate their careers to advising and developing rehabilitation plans for probationers and parolees to follow. They may evaluate inmates using questionnaires and psychological tests. Correctional treatment specialists also help develop release plans, and that often includes facilitating education and training programs to help improve probationers’ job skills.

When inmates become eligible for release, it’s often the case reports crafted by correctional treatment specialists that a parole board reviews. These professionals will then keep detailed written accounts of each parolee’s progress. They may also help connect released inmates and their families with counseling services, locate substance abuse or mental health treatment opportunities, find adequate housing or assist with job placement.

Candidates hoping to go into this line of work are often required to pass competency exams, drug testing and criminal background checks. Correctional treatment specialists also need a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field.

Key skills for this role that psychology students learn to develop:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Service orientation
  • Judgment and decision making

See where a psychology degree could take you

What can you do with a psychology degree if you don’t become a psychologist? As you can see, psychology majors can choose from a wide array of career prospects. The skills you could gain by completing an undergraduate program in this discipline can pave the way for a number of different opportunities in a range of industries.

If you’re drawn to the versatility you now know is possible with a psychology degree, it may be time to learn more about your options. For more information, head to University of Massachusetts Global’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program page and explore specializing in a particular area by choosing from the following concentration pathways:


*Source: Burning-glass.com (analysis of 61,692 job postings open to candidates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Dec. 01, 2018 – Nov. 30, 2019)


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