Entry-level Psychology Jobs to Start Your Career
You want to help people. You also want to enter a growing field with ample opportunity.
You can do both.
With 22% job growth for substance abuse, behavioral and mental health counselors projected between 2021 and 2031 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field is quickly expanding.
The ever-increasing job prospects in psychology are evidence of more people choosing to seek counseling, treatment and support services, according to Josh Garrin, adjunct faculty and academic partner with the psychology program at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
“As the science of human thought and behavior, our knowledge of psychology can dramatically enhance the quality of our lives and the world around us,” he said.
Although you might associate psychology jobs with advanced degrees, you don’t need one to get started. Whether you have a PhD or a high school diploma, you can launch a meaningful career in the growing field of psychology.
Is Psychology the Right Career Path for You?
Those who pursue a career in psychology, Garrin noted, are often passionate about helping others enhance their performance, optimize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Certain soft skills are particularly important if you want to work in mental health, he said, adding that some crucial emotional intelligence skills include:
- Conflict resolution
- Cultural competence
While many helping professions within psychology require these traits, some positions utilize different skills.
“If you prefer working with numbers, research gives you a chance to contribute to the overall field and help people through this expanded knowledge,” said Barb Lesniak, associate dean of social sciences programs at SNHU.
With diverse opportunities in the field, she said psychology allows you to play to your strengths.
How Can You Start Your Career in Psychology Without a Degree?
Informing a prospective employer that you intend to pursue a degree in psychology might be enough to get your foot in the door for an entry-level psychology role, Garrin said.
He noted a variety of psychology-related work settings are in need of support staff, including:
- Clinics and private practices
- Government agencies
- Research facilities
According to BLS, some of these entry-level positions without degree requirements include:
- Psychiatric aide. You could assist mental health professionals as a psychiatric technician or aide and work in clinics, private practices and hospitals.
- Research assistant. If you’re an analytical thinker, a job as a social science research assistant at a school or research facility could be a great fit.
- Social services assistant. As a social and human services assistant, you might work for unemployment services, child protective services or another government agency to assist social workers and clients.
Agencies that provide mental health services have licensed professionals, Lesniak said, but they also need workers without degrees to assist them.
“People without degrees can do other work that directly helps clients, like facilitating self-help groups and referring individuals and families to appropriate support services," she said.
What Jobs Could You Get While Studying Psychology?
If you're taking psychology courses, you can apply the knowledge you gain to almost any role working with people, according to Garrin.
“In my experience as an instructor, some of the most empowering takeaways are not found in the course material but in the valuable experiential knowledge that students bring from their careers into the classroom,” he said.
If you have a specialization in mind, you might consider a role related to the type of psychology you’re studying. Here are some different jobs you might consider depending on your specialization:
- Child care worker. If you’re interested in becoming a child psychologist, you might seek a position working with children while you earn the necessary degrees and certifications.
- Teaching assistant. If you hope to eventually become a psychology teacher or professor, a teaching assistantship could be a great experience for your resume.
- Training and development professional. Particularly for students interested in industrial-organizational psychology, a role in training could be an excellent counterpart to your studies.
- Victim advocate. If you’re interested in studying forensic psychology, you might get experience in a vital helping profession within the court system by becoming a victim advocate.
Volunteer experiences can help you narrow down your field of study when you start work on your psychology degree, according to Lesniak.
“For example, if you volunteer at a school or a neighborhood program that helps disadvantaged youth, you might decide to add a concentration in child and adolescent development to your psychology degree,” she said.
What Are Some Good Jobs You Can Get With a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology?
Once you earn a bachelor's degree in psychology, a new tier of positions will become available to you.
“Given the extent to which psychology exists in everything we think, feel and do, there are many different career pathways you can pursue with a psychology degree,” Garrin said.
Some relevant roles for psychology graduates are:
- Career counselor. The American Counseling Association (ACA) noted career counselors help to match prospective employees with careers that best suit their interests and skill sets.
- Case manager. Case managers advocate for patients while managing and coordinating treatments and schedules for patients, caregivers and families, according to the Case Management Society of America (CMSA).
- Crisis counselor. Certain crisis counselor positions, such as those at crisis hotlines and call centers, are open to those with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, according to Indeed. Some of these positions might even allow you to work from home.
- Human resources professional. According to Lesniak, psychology is a prized degree in the human resources field. In a role like this, you could use your skills in psychology to support an organization’s employees.
- Marketing professional or salesperson. Knowing what makes people tick is also excellent preparation for a career in marketing or sales, Lesniak noted.
A bachelor’s degree in psychology provides a solid foundation for entry into counseling, social work and case management roles, but Garrin said a solid understanding of human thought and behavior is equally essential in other career fields.
Find out if you should become a psychology major.
Should You Get a Graduate Degree in Psychology?
Although many psychology positions are available to those without an advanced degree, you could unlock more possibilities by earning a master’s degree in psychology or counseling.
There are a variety of positions you can get with a master’s in psychology, but for some, the degree is essential.
If you want to become a therapist, for example, you’ll need a master’s in mental health counseling to prepare you for the necessary licensure requirements and work in the field.
A master’s in psychology or counseling could be a great finish to your academic journey — or just the beginning. Some choose to earn a master’s degree in psychology or counseling to prepare for an MD, PsyD or PhD in Psychology.
If you decide to go that route and earn your doctorate, another level of advanced psychology jobs opens up, and you could become a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
What’s Working in Psychology Like?
"Working with people in crisis can take an emotional toll, but it can also be very rewarding," said Lesniak. "When you do this type of work, it’s fulfilling to see the difference that you can make by helping someone to find the value in living and to turn their life around," she said.
A good psychology degree program, like SNHU’s, will teach you the importance of self-care while preparing you to work with others, she noted.
Beyond the challenges and rewards of the helping profession, Lesniak said working in psychology lets you find your own path.
“For example, I started out in corporate training and development with my bachelor’s degree in psychology, switched to working as a mental health professional while I pursued my graduate degree and eventually ended up in academia,” she said. “It wasn’t the career path I had envisioned, but I’ve loved every minute of it, and my psychology degree has supported my skills in each job.”
Education can change your life. Find the SNHU psychology course that can best help you meet your goals.
Mars Girolimon '21 '23G is a writer with a master's in English and creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with them on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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