The Job Outlook
Psychology graduates generally report being pleased with the way what they studied in school helped prepare them for both life and work. A woman who opened her own business shortly after earning a baccalaureate in psychology explains, “After all, psychology is the business of life.” Psychology graduates continue to be excited by the changes taking place in the field that relate to what they are now doing.
The 2001 Doctorate Employment Survey from APA's Research Office found that 73% of the 1,754 responding psychologists who earned their doctorates in 2000-2001 secured their first choice when looking for a job. In addition, 75% of respondents were employed within 3 months of receiving the doctorate.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that opportunities in psychology will continue to grow over the next decade. “Employment in health care will grow fastest in outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment clinics. Numerous job opportunities will also arise in schools, public and private social service agencies, and management consulting services. Companies will use psychologists' expertise in survey design, analysis, and research to provide marketing evaluation and statistical analysis. The increase in employee assistance programs, which offer employees help with personal problems, also should spur job growth.
Opportunities for people holding doctorates from leading universities in areas with an applied emphasis, such as counseling, health, and educational psychology, should be good. Psychologists with extensive training in quantitative research methods and computer science may have a competitive edge over applicants without this background.
Graduates with a master's degree in psychology may qualify for positions in school and industrial-organizational psychology. School psychology should have the best job prospects, as schools are expected to increase student counseling and mental health services. Master's degree holders with several years of business and industry experience can obtain jobs in consulting and marketing research, while other master's degree holders may find jobs in universities, government or the private sector as psychological assistants, counselors, researchers, data collectors, and analysts.
As might be expected, the highest paid and greatest range of jobs in psychology are available to psychology doctorates. The number of doctoral graduates has remained stable over the past decade, and supply continues to meet demand. Unemployment and underemployment remain below what is noted for other scientists and engineers. Few drop out of the field.
The greatest expansion of career opportunities for doctoral psychologists in the last decade has been in the for-profit and self-employment sectors, including, but not limited to, health service provider subfields, industrialorganizational psychology, educational psychology, and other fields with applications in these settings. Although fewer new doctorates have headed into faculty positions compared to past decades, it is the case that about one third of doctoral-level psychologists today are employed in academe, and more than half of new doctorates in the research subfields head into academe following graduation.
While the doctoral degree is the standard for independent research or practice in psychology, the number of psychology students who pursue a terminal master's degree has increased sixfold since 1960. Competition for positions in psychology-related jobs is keen. Just over one fifth of master's graduates are full-time students, and about two thirds of master's graduates are employed outside psychology. Many handle research and data collection and analysis in universities, government, and private companies. Others find jobs in health, industry, and education, the primary work settings for psychology professionals with master's degrees. With growing recognition of the role of psychology in the community, more jobs for persons with master's degrees in psychology may also become available in community mental health centers.
Persons with master's degrees often work under the direction of a doctoral psychologist, especially in clinical, counseling, school, and testing and measurement psychology.
Some jobs in industry, for example, in organizational development and survey research, are held by both doctoral- and master's-level graduates. But industry and government jobs in compensation, training, data analysis, and general personnel issues are often filled by those with master's degrees in psychology.
In 20022003 psychology was the most popular intended undergraduate major according to a survey of college freshman. As a single field and not a constellation of fields, such as is true of business, biology, or education, psychology outdrew all other fields. In 2000, 74,654 students graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
Some students stop with a bachelor's degree in psychology and find work related to their college major. For example, they may be assistants in rehabilitation centers. If they meet state certification requirements, they may be able to teach psychology in high school.
But the study of psychology at the bachelor's level is also a fine preparation for many other professions. In 2000, about 75,000 college seniors graduated with a degree in psychology, but many were not necessarily interested in a career as a psychologist.
In 1999, fewer than 5% of 1997 and 1998 psychology BA recipients were employed in psychology or a field related to psychology. Of the 1997 and 1998 BA graduates in 1999, two thirds were in for-profit business settings, usually the sales/service sector. These students often possess good research and writing skills, are good problem solvers, and have well-developed, higher-level thinking ability when it comes to analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information. Most find jobs in administrative support, public affairs, education, business, sales, service industries, health, the biological sciences, and computer programming. They work as employment counselors, correction counselor trainees, interviewers, personnel analysts, probation officers, and writers. Two thirds believe their job is closely or somewhat related to their psychology background and that their jobs hold career potential.