A master's in psychology can position you to work in a number of fields, including psychology, market research analysis, and training and development.
If you’re fascinated by the mind and how an individual, a community or an organization thinks, earning a master’s in psychology can lead you toward a career field that is not only engaging but continuing to grow.
Associate Deans Nickolas Dominello, Barbara Lesniak and Thomas MacCarty from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) gave their insight into potential career avenues for students who have earned a master's degree in psychology.
Why Earn a Master’s in Psychology?
Specialize your education. “While a bachelor’s provides required knowledge in the field, pursuing an advanced degree affords learners the opportunity to expand on the foundational knowledge and focus on a specialized area within the field,” Dominello said. Specializations include child and adolescent development, forensic and industrial-organizational psychology.
Advance your career. “Getting a graduate degree in psychology will help in applying for and obtaining higher paying jobs in the field such as administering social services programs, being an administrator in a nonprofit, conducting research or working toward becoming a licensed professional,” MacCarty said.
Open doors to a variety of careers. “One of the best things about a graduate degree in psychology is that it’s so wide-ranging in its career applications,” Lesniak said. “For example, there are many options in the corporate world, like training and development, management, sales and marketing. Virtually any job in which you deal with people and need to know how to relate to them and what influences their behavior will benefit from a graduate degree in psychology.”
Careers With a Master’s in Psychology
After earning a master’s in psychology, jobs you're qualified for can be wide-ranging. “Understanding human behavior and mental processes is fascinating,” Dominello said, “and those who possess a master’s degree in psychology are well-equipped to work in various domains across many fields.”
“The successful graduate student has shown they have insight and knowledge in a wide variety of topics, such as developmental psychology, sociology, behavioral research, ethics and legal issues, human behavior and what motivates individuals,” MacCarty said. This wide range of knowledge can make you an asset in environments ranging from nonprofit organizations to corporate settings.
- Market Research Analysts: Companies use market research analysts to understand their consumers. Learning what the public wants, how they’re best marketed to, and where their target demographics are through market research analysis helps a business be successful. As a market research analyst, you may craft surveys and questionnaires and then use the information collected to present results. Gathering this information helps analysts project sales trends and judge the effectiveness of marketing strategies. According to the BLS, these analysts earned $63,280 in 2017, and this career is expected to see a 23% increase in jobs through 2026.
- Training and Development Specialists: Being able to train employees effectively is a necessity for any corporation, and with your psychology background, you can be an essential part of a company’s functioning. Training and development specialists perform duties such as drafting training manuals and course materials, evaluating how effective the training is and assessing the needs of instructors, managers and employees. The BLS said these specialists earned a median salary of $60,360 in 2017.
- Psychologists: What degree do you need to be a psychologist? Earning your master’s in psychology is a valuable step toward becoming a psychologist, but if this career is your goal, don’t stop there. “Master’s degree programs by themselves do not necessarily lead to licensing as a professional therapist or counselor,” MacCarty said. “Those wishing to become a licensed psychologist need to complete a doctoral program.” To be a psychologist, MacCarty noted you’ll need to pursue a terminal degree such as a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in the field, except in the states of West Virginia and Vermont. Becoming a licensed psychologist will involve additional requirements such as supervised fieldwork.
Understanding brain function and behavior is an important aspect of being a psychologist. This career field covers multiple specialties, including clinical, developmental, forensic and industrial-organizational psychologists. Psychologists in different specialties focus on areas such as diagnosing and treating mental illnesses and behavioral disorders, tracking stages of development in children and adolescents, working within the criminal justice system and improving worker's quality of life at their job site. According to the BLS, the average salary for a psychologist in 2017 was $77,030, and the field is growing quickly. Around 23,000 new psychologist positions are expected to open through 2026.
The benefits of earning a master’s in psychology go beyond the career opportunities. “Graduate-level students have informed me that their coursework has helped them foster and maintain interpersonal connections in clinical settings, marketing, education, sales and many others,” Dominello said.
Learning and Growing With a Master’s in Psychology
When SNHU alum Weston Corbitt chose to earn his master’s in psychology, he said he’d always enjoyed the science and wanted to be a part of a career field where he could help people.
“I decided to earn my master’s in psychology because it was a field I was always interested in,” he said. “I felt like I could reach people and make a big impact.” At first, a psychology degree wasn’t on Corbitt’s radar, but as he learned more about the subject, he realized he had found the right degree path for him.
Currently, Corbitt is a quality behavioral health professional at a small applied behavioral analysis clinic. “It’s like being an understudy to a board-certified behavior analyst,” he said. “You have to have a good deal of supervision and additional coursework to qualify, along with a master’s in a social science.”
Corbitt said he helps manage the clinic, provides therapy to patients and helps parents understand and plan to help their children succeed. "Having a master’s in psychology made that all possible. I would have never made it into this field or have the position I have now without it.”
“My long-term career goals are to open my own clinic one day,” Corbitt said. “I would love for it to have a daycare, outpatient center and an ABA clinic. I want to be able to provide total care for families in the area, as well as provide the best environment for my employees."
Prior to his current position, Corbitt worked for schools and non-profits, and he learned about what families need and the kind of support that will help people work through setbacks on their path to success. “My education gave me the tools to help people," Corbitt said, "then the field helped me learn and grow."
Corbitt’s advice for reaching your goals is to start small and continue to learn. “Your master’s degree is a great tool and gateway to many opportunities. At the same time, it’s invaluable to work and grow with experience and find out what your strengths and weaknesses are,” Corbitt said. The work can be hard at times, but Corbitt said it’s also often rewarding and fun. “Stay strong and focus on what your passions are, and you are going to succeed.”
Ashley Wallis is an Army veteran and writer with a BA in English Language and Literature from SNHU. She is currently living in the Denver area. Find her on Twitter @AshDWallis.