Employment Outlook & Career Guidance for Positive Psychologists

shutterstock_182853314Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life worth living. It’s about building on individuals’ strengths so that they can lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, and families and communities can thrive. In the same way, positive psychology focuses on the ways social institutions and groups can enhance people’s lives.

It should be noted that it is not the intent of positive psychology to replace or ignore traditional areas of psychology, but to complement more widely-known disciplines of behavioral and cognitive psychology. Through therapeutic intervention, positive psychologists focus on ways patients can lead fulfilling lives, rather than on a patient’s illness or disability. Additionally, as positive psychology is a science, it is not to be confused with untested “self-help” methods or secular religion-based “feel good’ solutions, nor is it to be compared with the power of positive thinking.

An exploration into positive psychology indicates that happiness, significance, and satisfaction (the ultimate goals in life) are affected in a number of different ways and by such things as social ties, family and friends, through work relationships, and associations with clubs or organizations, just to name a few.

Important Knowledge, Skills & Abilities

The specialty of positive psychology is sometimes applied to other major disciplines in psychology,  such as industrial-organizational psychology and counseling psychology. In their careers, positive psychologists help nurture, as well as maintain the wellbeing of people; they help strengthen communities, and create environments that support healthy lifestyles.  Positive psychologists also coach individuals on ways to effectively perform on the job, nurture healthy relationships, make a positive impact on their communities, as well as within their family and social circles.

There is a great deal of knowledge, as well as a number of important skills and abilities necessary for positive psychologists to excel in their career.

Knowledge:

  • Psychology: Basic knowledge of the principles of applied psychology, human behavior, personality, and psychological treatment methods.
  • Theories of Personality: Knowledge of the major theories of personality, including: dispositional perspective, humanistic, behaviorism, psychodynamics, biological, evolutionary, and social learning perspectives.
  • Research Methods and Evaluation: Knowledge of the methodology of positive psychology that explores positive emotions, character strengths and the overall meaning of life.
  • Applied Positive Interventions: Knowledge into the theoretical, experiential, and empirical nature of personality and positive interventions.
  • Child development: Knowledge of the biological, emotional, and psychological changes that occur in human beings between birth and the end of adolescence.
  • Theories & Techniques of Coaching Psychology: Knowledge of the fundamental skills of coaching.
  • Spirituality: Knowledge of perspectives that refer to any activity through which a person searches for the meaning of life; also to include blissful experiences or the encounter with one’s inner dimension.
  • Bamboo-breathing and other meditation techniques: Working knowledge of the therapeutic techniques of meditation, including bamboo-breathing techniques is recommended.
  • Humanities and Human Flourishing: Knowledge about how to integrate culture and science to support a deeper understanding of human flourishing.
  • Philosophy: Knowledge regarding the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.

Skills & Abilities

Because a positive psychology aims to “bring out the best” in his or her clients, there are a number of positive attributes he or she must have. Obvious attributes in this line of work include kindness, patience, and unwavering support.  Other skills and abilities that will come in handy, include:

Clear Sense of Boundaries: Positive psychologists coach people from all walks of lives and cultures, and they must know about, and be sensitive to differences and diversity; practice confidentiality.

Supportive: It is imperative to be supportive of each person's conflicts and struggles, without judgment.

Focused: A positive psychologists must be focused on the task at hand, as he or she may see a number of clients during the day; each with different needs, problems or issues.

Persuasive: A positive psychologist must be persuasive, inspiring, and convincing; influencing someone to do something or to change their mind.

Non-Judgmental: The ability to be open without implying a personal attitude or approach, and not incorporating a judgment one way or another about an idea, thought or action.

Optimistic: The ability to look at reality, acknowledge obstacles and difficulties, but not be discouraged by them.

Job Outlook and Employment Projections for Positive Psychologists

Employment choices for positive psychologists are highly flexible. Many will find work in academic institutions, government agencies, or in research firms.  Others may become therapists in private practice, or counselors in health care agencies.  Other industries that rely on positive psychologists, include:

  • Schools
  • Research firms
  • Human resource departments
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Life coaching agencies
  • Guidance and career counseling departments

Positive psychologists who have attained their master’s in applied positive psychology (MAPP) become management consultants, might offer career counseling and positive workplace instruction to corporate leaders and CEO’s, counsel the military in positive strategies, work within law offices, and in human resource departments.

There is no salary data relating to only positive psychologists. However, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that psychologists in general earned a median salary of $72,580 in 2015. The psychology career field is expected to see a 19-percent increase in job opportunities through 2024, which is much faster than average for all careers.

How to Increase Your Job Prospects as a Positive Psychologist

The field of positive psychology is relatively new. Therefore there are few job openings specifically for specialists in this area. However, in order to increase your job prospects, enhance your skills and be in a better position for promotion, or to create the opportunity for self-employment, or if you wish to enter into a clinical psychology PhD program, you must obtain a master’s degree in positive psychology.

A positive psychologist who wishes to work independently or open a private practice is required to earn a doctoral degree–a PhD or PsyD, and obtain a license from the state he or she wishes to practice. A positive psychologist must also seek board certification to enhance his or her credentials and increase earning potential.

Networking Opportunities and Organizations for Positive Psychologists