10 PhD in Psychology Jobs
A doctorate is the terminal degree in the field of psychology, the highest level of education you can attain. It involves up to seven years of intensive study, original research, and hands-on clinical experience. Fewer than 7,000 people per year earn a PhD in psychology each year in the United States according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). For that reason, PhD in psychology jobs are those at the very peak of the profession.
Careers in psychology can last for decades, so you definitely want to pick the right path before you get started.
Psychology is a huge field, and jobs after a PhD in psychology cover a huge spectrum of interests, specialties, and industries.
You’re probably already well aware that those kind of qualifications don’t come cheap. According to 2020 data from NCES, the six or seven years you will spend in grad school getting that PhD or PsyD will run you anywhere from $73,000 to over $155,000 depending on the university.
Before you fork over that kind of cash, you probably want to know what jobs you can get with a PhD in psychology.
PhD in psychology careers are both lucrative and fulfilling. But they require specialization and focus, so you need to think about what area you want to concentrate in before you begin your PhD in psychology program.
These 10 doctorate in psychology jobs are some of the options on the table after you graduate.
1. Clinical Psychologist
Doctorate in psychology jobs don’t get any more iconic than work as a clinical psychologist. You want the office with a couch and people laying on it telling you about their childhood? This is the PhD in psychology career you pick to get it.
Clinical psychologists work directly with individuals and groups who need professional psychoanalysis to help them through mental health issues. Private practice isn’t the only option in this role, though. Plenty of clinical psychologists work in hospitals, clinics, and larger rehabilitation or long-term care facilities. You have a wide range of subspecialties you can choose from, ranging from addiction issues to couples counseling. Or you can remain a generalist, and enjoy the variety of challenges that walk in the door needing your assistance.
2. Research Psychologist
If you aren’t as much of a people-person, but are fascinated by behaviors and thought processes, then becoming a research psychologist may be the right pick for you. Research psychologists don’t engage in one-to-one therapy work, but instead investigate the causes and cures of mental illness in general. That can involve devising and executing psychological experiments, or mining huge databases of behavioral data to uncover trends.
3. Industrial/Organizational Psychologist
I/O psychologists make their mark in the psychology of work. Businesses and other organizations need to understand how group psychology effects productivity, happiness, and cohesion in the workplace. There is a science to workplace dynamics. A doctorate in psychology gives you the toolset to understand how groups interact under the hierarchy and pressure of a factory floor, a hospital ward, or a trading desk. Public and private companies can pay out big bucks for the right kind of advice to make their organizations more efficient and effective.
An online PhD degree can make it easy for you to build up the practical experience you need in this specialty even while you are still studying.
4. Forensic Psychologist
With shows like Criminal Minds and the popular CSI series making a splash in popular culture, a lot of people are pursuing a PhD in psychology with the idea of becoming a forensic psychologist. If you want to understand exactly how twisted and dark the human brain can become, a doctorate is definitely in your future.
But forensic psychologists aren’t usually chasing shadowy figures into dark allies and deducing where serial killers work and play. Forensic psychology is really a specialty that has to do with the psychology of law and legal process. That goes far beyond criminal justice, extending to jury evaluation in civil trials, public policy analysis, and even reviewing laws before they are passed to assess the impact on individuals and society.
5. Educational Psychologist
The human brain is in many ways a learning machine. How we process, absorb, and interpret the world around us is a constant consideration for all psychologists. But educational psychologists specialize in understanding how we acquire, process, and interpret knowledge.
Many educational psychologists work in schools, offering counseling to children, but it’s a broader role than that. Psychologists in this job may evaluate textbooks and curricula to make sure they are optimized for delivering information, or evaluate standardized tests to be sure they are accurately measuring knowledge. Educational policy and legislative development lean heavily on research pioneered by these doctorate in psychology jobs.
6. Developmental Psychologist
Developmental psychology is also concerned with how the brain learns and grows, but it’s a field with bigger fish to fry than just educational matters. It’s the study of mental processes across the lifespan, as the brain and sensory systems grow, mature, and eventually began to deteriorate. Developmental psychologists study and diagnose developmental mental health disorders, playing an important role in pediatric healthcare. But they are also active in researching some of the biggest issues at the other end of the lifespan, looking for ways to cure or treat Alzheimer's and other age-related psychological issues.
7. Social Psychologist
If you’ve ever wondered why a meme goes viral, the social psychology might be the PhD in psychology career for you.
Social psychologists take on some of the most fascinating challenges in the field: they specialize in how individuals both influence and are affected in their thinking by interacting with others. Group think is a thing, and how it happens is the province of the social psychologist. They examine how cultures come from shared thought patterns, and how those patterns both fulfill and constrain the thoughts of people within them.
Understanding social interactions and psychological effects is important for big companies, governments, and healthcare organizations. Social psychology researchers also have plenty of impact on marketing and sales campaigns, right down to picking out the colors for product logos.
8. Health Psychologist
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, health psychology has developed into one of the most fascinating branches of the field. The world has turned into a showcase of reactions to the coronavirus, from panic to outright denial, providing data that will feed future health psychology PhD dissertations for decades.
But it’s also a moment in which more people than ever need the kind of help and advice that health psychologists can offer. From counseling patients on ventilators and in isolation to advising public health agencies on the best campaigns to increase vaccine acceptance rates, health psychologists have had their shining moment thrust upon them. With new recognition of the importance of professional PhD counseling in healthcare, that moment isn’t likely to fade anytime soon.
9. Sports Psychologist
Becoming a sports psychologist is a dream job for any sports fan. Since there are a lot of sports fans in the United States, that makes it a particularly tough field to get into. But the rewards are massive.
Sports psychologists can and do work with pro athletes in any kind of competitive event, including big names who play for major teams. They might work for the teams themselves, advising on team building and coaching processes. In other cases, they work with individual athletes to maximize performance or help with injury recovery.
But sports psychologists play important roles in rehab and assisting amateur athletes, too. Not everyone needs to work for an NBA team to get satisfaction and deliver real results in this field.
We saved the toughest job for last. Neuropsychologists explore the boundaries between the mental and the physical. They study the physiological processes underlying thoughts, perceptions, and feelings for a better understanding of how people think. That gives them an edge in determining when problems are purely psychological, or have a basis in physical injury or disease.
The reverse is also true, and neuropsychologists play an important role in research by helping the field of brain science interpret findings of imaging and experiments by translating them into effects on mental processes. New understanding of traumatic brain injury and diseases like Alzheimer's come out of neuropsychology research. It’s one of the most rewarding PhD in psychology jobs you will find.