Alternative Careers for Psychology Majors


Updated November 17, 2023

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What can you do with a psychology degree besides becoming a psychologist or a researcher? Use our guide to learn about alternative careers for psychology majors. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Are you a psychology major unsure about pursuing a traditional clinical career path as a psychologist or therapist? This guide brings together a panel of experts to explore how a psychology degree can lead to employment in a variety of non-conventional careers.

What Do Psychology Majors Do After Graduation?

Psychology ranks among the top six fields of undergraduate study, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Psychology majors received 6% of all bachelor's degrees conferred in 2020-21.

Despite psychology’s popularity among undergraduates, psychology majors sometimes buy into the stereotype that their career options are limited to counseling or mental health roles, which generally require graduate training. Fink debunks this faulty assumption:

"The biggest misconception I hear from psychology majors is the idea that there is a single, standard career path for them - typically, to become a psychologist or therapist - and that to do anything else is ‘alternative’ or uncommon! In reality, those who major in psychology at the undergraduate level go on to have successful careers in a variety of fields."

While many psychology majors go on to earn graduate degrees to enter clinical or research roles, many enter the workforce after completing a bachelor’s degree, pursuing alternative careers outside of the traditional mental health professions.

Educational Attainment of Psychology Majors

According to a 2021 National Science Foundation (NSF) survey of college graduates, approximately 3.9 million individuals held a bachelor's degree in psychology in 2021. For 56% of these graduates, that was the highest level of education they obtained. The remaining 44% held advanced degrees.

Approximately 14% obtained a master's, doctoral, or professional degree in psychology, while 30% obtained a master's, doctoral, or professional degree in another field.

The most popular fields of graduate study for psychology majors include psychology, education, social service, and management and administration. The popularity of these fields suggests that many psychology majors ultimately pursue careers in these areas.

Popular Psychology Master's Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Exploring Alternative Careers for Psychology Majors

Rather than restricting you to traditional professional roles, a psychology degree can broaden your options. "If you pursue a job outside of counseling or mental health, it doesn’t mean you didn't use your degree," according to Tran. In fact, a psychology degree provides the skills and training you need to enter several alternative career paths.

A growing number of psychology majors find employment in business and human resources, social and community services, education, healthcare, and criminal justice.

Psychology Majors in Business and Human Resources

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects over one million job openings each year between 2022 and 2032 in business management occupations, including those in human resources. Psychology majors accounted for 15% of all employees in management positions in 2021, according to the BLS.

As Tran observes, "To be in business or work in human resources requires an understanding of humans within context — a workplace." For anyone interested in a management career, the study of psychology offers valuable insights into interpersonal and group relationships and the connection between human behavior and the environment, with applications to the workplace and other organizational settings.

This type of knowledge, along with training in statistical analysis and research, equips psychology majors with transferable skills needed for business and human resources careers. Cooley argues that studying psychology "provides a foundation for employee engagement, leadership development, training and development, performance management, as well as an understanding of organizational behavior in business settings.”

Possible Job Titles: Talent acquisition specialist, recruiter, human resource specialist, human resource manager, compensation specialist, product manager, business analyst

Business and Human Resources Careers
Occupation Annual Median Salary (2022)
Human Resource Specialist $64,240
Compensation, Benefits, or Job Analysis Specialist $67,780
Administrative Services or Facilities Manager $101,870
Human Resource Manager $130,000
Compensation or Benefits Manager $131,280
Source: BLS

Psychology Majors in Social and Community Services

Community and social service occupations continue to attract large numbers of psychology majors. Psychology degree-holders accounted for 13% of community and social services employees in 2021, reports the BLS. These roles included administration, advocacy, community organizing, and counseling, supporting diverse populations in both private and nonprofit settings.

The skills and knowledge provided by a psychology degree prepare graduates for employment as community health workers, marriage and family therapists, and substance abuse and mental health counselors, among other helping profession specialties.

Because psychology examines how social context and social situations shape human behavior, psychology graduates "often know the value of the helping professions and what interventions might be best suited at organizational, cultural, or individual change," Tran says.

A psychology degree builds strong analytical and communication skills. Coursework may also touch on cultural competency training with applications for underrepresented groups, making psychology graduates ideal candidates for community and social service positions.

Possible Job Titles: Counselor, social worker, program coordinator, care coordinator, child advocate, adoption specialist

Social and Community Services Careers
Occupation Annual Median Salary (2022)
Social or Human Service Assistant $38,520
Substance Misuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor* $49,710
Social Worker $55,350
Social or Community Service Manager $74,240
Source: BLS
* May require a master's degree

Psychology Majors in Education

The education field offers many opportunities for alternative careers for psychology majors. Graduates may find work in early childhood and elementary settings, secondary and post-secondary institutions, and career and technical programs for adults. In 2021, psychology degree-holders filled 13% of all educational instruction and library positions, according to the BLS.

Psychology majors can apply their training in instructional roles to improve learning and assess student achievement. They may also be suited for administrative or support positions that require well-honed organizational and interpersonal skills working with diverse populations.

Tran notes that a psychology degree's emphasis on brain and human development can provide a strong foundation for teaching careers. However, psychology majors pursuing teaching or school counselor positions must acquire additional training beyond their undergraduate degree. For example, teachers at the K-12 level need to obtain state licensure, and faculty positions at colleges and universities require graduate training.

Fink explains that a psychology degree can also lead to employment in student services and student support roles at colleges and universities. Cooley agrees, saying, "Areas where psychology majors excel in higher education include academic advising, counseling, admissions and financial aid, student affairs, DEI, and athletics."

Possible Job Titles: Teacher, instructor, academic advisor, school counselor, education program coordinator

Education Careers
Occupation Annual Median Salary (2022)
School or Career Counselor* $60,140
Elementary School Teacher** $61,620
Middle School Teacher** $61,810
High School Teacher** $62,360
Source: BLS
* May require a master's degree
** Certification required to teach in public schools

Psychology Majors in Healthcare

The BLS projects that the healthcare industry will add over two million jobs from 2022 to 2032, making it one of the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. economy. In 2021, psychology majors accounted for 11% of all healthcare practitioners and technical occupations, according to the BLS.

An undergraduate psychology degree can be a gateway to healthcare careers, including physical therapists, psychiatric technicians, dental hygienists, or registered nurses. A background in psychology provides a strong foundation for the additional education, training, and licensure required for many of these health and wellness careers.

Cooley explains how organizational, communication, and interpersonal skills acquired in a psychology degree carry over to healthcare careers:

"Establishing rapport with patients, listening to individual needs, supporting patients as they navigate complex healthcare systems, providing resources and referrals, communicating with families, and contributing to treatment plans and interventions are essential to overall positive outcomes [in the healthcare field]."

Possible Job Titles: Psychiatric technician, registered nurse, dental hygeinist, veterinary technician

Healthcare Careers
Occupation Annual Median Salary (2022)
Psychiatric Technician $37,330
Veterinary Technician* $38,240
Registered Nurse* $81,220
Dental Hygienist* $81,400
Source: BLS
* May require additional education, training, and/or licensure

Psychology Majors in Sales and Marketing

The sales and marketing field offers psychology graduates several career paths with titles such as sales representatives, account managers, marketing researchers, digital marketing analysts, and advertising and public relations specialists. Employment opportunities are not limited to the private corporate sector but extend to research laboratories, universities, and government agencies.

Graduates with a psychology degree acquire valuable hard and soft skills directly applicable to sales and marketing careers. The hard skills students learn in a psychology program include quantitative and qualitative research, digital and software training, motivational and persuasive techniques, and decision-making models for consumer behavior.

The soft skills associated with a psychology background, such as interpersonal relations, cultural competency, and communication and listening, are equally important to successful sales and marketing careers. Tran contends that "psychology majors who understand how humans think and behave, especially around ideas of buying and selling, attraction, fulfillment, joy, [and] persuasion are more likely to be able to use these principles to increase sales and market products."

Possible Job Titles: Account manager, sales representative, marketing researcher, real estate sales agent, marketing analyst, communications specialist

Sales and Marketing Careers
Occupation Annual Median Salary (2022)
Real Estate Sales Agent* $52,030
Advertising Sales Agent $58,450
Public Relations Specialist $67,440
Market Research Analyst $68,230
Advertising, Promotions, or Marketing Manager $138,730
Source: BLS
* May require additional education, training, and/or licensure

Psychology Majors in Criminal Justice

The psychology discipline examines adaptive and maladaptive human behavior, aggression, power and authority, mental illness, and victimology, making it a good fit for multiple criminal justice careers.

Because criminal justice is such a vast field, psychology graduates can find ample employment prospects in community organizations, local, state, and federal agencies, businesses, foundations, and nonprofits, with opportunities to specialize in areas that interest them the most.

Fink observes that "[a] psychology graduate with a strong understanding of the criminal justice/legal system, and with a passion for a particular area of injustice, may find or create opportunities to advocate for justice from within a nonprofit organization working to create change on that issue."

Psychology majors with bachelor’s degrees often enter positions in criminal investigation and law enforcement, corrections and probation, counseling, and advocacy. An undergraduate psychology degree is also a strong academic foundation for the specialized graduate training required for higher-level roles such as forensic psychologists, researchers, and attorneys.

Possible Job Titles: Case manager, probation officer, detective, criminal investigator, treatment specialist

Criminal Justice Careers
Occupation Annual Median Salary (2022)
Social or Human Service Assistant $38,520
Probation Officer* $59,860
Correctional Treatment Specialist* $59,860
Detective or Criminal Investigator* $86,280
Source: BLS
* May require additional training programs

How Psychology Majors Can Win in a Competitive Job Market

Psychology continues to rank among the most popular undergraduate majors because of its broad application. Students learn about themselves and others while acquiring specific tools to advance their careers.

No matter which field you choose, you can enhance your marketability to employers by highlighting your transferable knowledge and skills, seeking experience opportunities, and growing your network.

Leveraging Transferable Knowledge and Skills

Psychology graduates come away from their undergraduate experience with common skills that have direct applications for alternative career possibilities.

According to Fink, some of the most important transferable skills acquired in an undergraduate psychology degree include competency in research and data analysis, interpersonal and verbal proficiency, and the ability to understand cognition and bias, brain anatomy and function, and influence and persuasion.

Cooley stresses that the soft skills acquired in a psychology degree are particularly useful for those seeking an alternative career path: "Empathizing, listening, advocating, and facilitating meaningful communication can be essential to success in many career fields, and all of these competencies can be developed through the study of psychology."

Leveraging Experience Opportunities

One of the best ways for psychology majors to become more marketable is to gain experience through internships, volunteer or paid work, or other projects outside of course requirements. They must also leverage these experiences when looking for a position.

Fink urges students to enhance their career prospects through experiential learning:

"The key to being highly employable is to have relevant experience, and to communicate these experiences clearly. Experience can come from any part of your life: academic courses, self-directed learning, student leadership opportunities, volunteer or paid work experiences, personal projects, and family or community responsibilities."

These experiences help students transfer what they have learned in classes to real-world applications and also signal to prospective employers a willingness to take on professional responsibilities. Sometimes, internships and field experiences in an alternative career setting can turn into a full-time position.

Building and Leveraging Your Network

Networking with others establishes vital professional connections and helps to identify potential employment leads. Undergraduates have various opportunities to meet professionals who share the same career interests. These opportunities include attending professional conferences, department-sponsored lectures, email discussion groups and blogs, community events, and even informal social gatherings.

Fink suggests the use of social media platforms like LinkedIn to establish connections with psychology graduates already working in your field:

"[G]o to your campus’s page [on LinkedIn], click on the 'Alumni' tab, filter by those who studied psychology, and search for alumni doing work that interests you. View their profiles to see how they got there, and reach out for conversations if you’d like to connect directly."

Volunteering in professional or community organizations is another way to connect with others already established in your intended career while showcasing your abilities. Networking helps make vital connections that can lead to employment and can also identify mentors to provide long-term career guidance and support.

Advice From Our Contributors: Making the Most of Your Bachelor's in Psychology

“The desire to study psychology and contribute to our global society in meaningful ways holds great potential for those who choose it. I would encourage anyone interested in the field to continue to grow personally and professionally and open their mind to diverse and innovative thoughts. This is what moves us forward as a society.”

– Nanette Cooley

“If you feel pressure to pursue a certain career path, consider where that pressure is coming from: is it within you or outside of you, and from a specific source or from a more general social narrative that this is what you ‘should’ do?”

“Remember, a career is lifelong. You will make many career decisions throughout your life. If you make a choice now and regret it in the future, there will likely be a way to make another, more satisfying choice at that time – and your choice then will incorporate the lessons you learned along the way.”

– Carli Fink

“It’s okay not to know what you want to do ‘when you grow up.’ Psychology offers life lessons. You’ll use the learnings you have here to understand your friendships, romantic relationships, family dynamics, shopping behaviors, healthy life habits, and even your bad habits. And becoming an aware and healthy human will make you a person that people will want to hire and work with, no matter the job.”

– Nellie Tran, Ph.D.

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychology Major Jobs

Is it a good idea to major in psychology?

Psychology is a wide field of study that offers many career pathways in traditional clinical settings and alternative positions. Psychology majors find fulfilling alternative careers in business, marketing, social and community services, education, healthcare, and criminal justice.

What is a typical career path for psychology?

According to the American Psychological Association, the typical career path for psychology students leads to clinical, counseling, or healthcare positions, many of which require a master’s degree or doctorate. However, most bachelor's degree holders in psychology work in areas outside the field.

How do I know if psychology is for me?

If you are interested in understanding your thought processes and behavior and those of others, psychology may be a good choice for you. Your psychology degree will develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills to help you analyze and resolve issues and challenges affecting health and well-being.

What is the job outlook for a bachelor's degree in psychology?

The job outlook for psychology majors depends on several factors, including employer, specializations, and experience. Substance use, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors rank as the top careers for workers with a psychology degree. The BLS projects these positions to grow by 18% between 2022 and 2032.

Meet Our Contributors

Portrait of Carli Fink

Carli Fink

Carli Fink is a certified career development practitioner with seven years of experience supporting students’ journeys to and through higher education. She has worked in career development, academic success, admissions, health and wellness promotion, and identity and belonging roles at colleges and universities in Canada and the U.S. Carli holds a bachelor of arts (honors) in psychology and a master of science in college student development and counseling and currently lives in Toronto, Canada. Outside of work, Carli enjoys participating in her three book clubs and planning her next outdoor adventure.

Portrait of Nellie Tran, Ph.D.

Nellie Tran, Ph.D.

Nellie Tran, Ph.D. (she/they), is the daughter of Vietnamese refugee “boat people,” a professor at San Diego State University (SDSU) in multicultural community counseling and social justice education, past president of the Asian American Psychological Association, and the executive director of the SDSU Center for Community Counseling & Engagement. As a community psychologist, she works with schools, communities, and agencies to create systems-level changes that reduce the impact of subtle forms of discrimination (e.g., microaggressions) on the health and well-being of people of color and women within the workplace, education, and counseling context. Most recently, she is best known for her conceptual work reframing “imposter syndrome” to the “infiltrator experience” and exposing the hidden biases in empowerment and education more broadly.

Portrait of Nanette Cooley

Nanette Cooley

Nanette Cooley is the executive director of the Center for Career Development at Washington College, Maryland’s premier small liberal arts college. With more than 30 years of experience in higher ed, she leads the center’s efforts to advance career education, experiential learning, and on-campus student employment. A true advocate for the liberal arts, Cooley connects students to opportunities aligning with their core values.

Currently, her role involves providing strategic direction for career development within the student affairs division. She provides individual career coaching and counseling to students and alums. She is a member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers, Middle Atlantic Career Counseling Association, and the Maryland Career Consortium.

Page last reviewed on November 1, 2023

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