Where Are All the Psych PhDs?

Now that you’ve graduated, and you’ve got your degree in your hands, you’ve realized that you don’t want to be a psychologist. After battling through Harvard, or got the best PhD online, and completing your thesis, you think that the last thing you want to do is listen to people’s problems. What do you do now? You’re not alone: more than 75% of psychology degree graduates go on to work outside specifically psychological careers, and about 40% go on to higher education. There are dozens of untapped markets for those interested in psychology work outside counseling.

Despite the many options for those with psychology degrees, future job applicants should realize that they are one of hundreds of thousands with their degree. To be competitive in the job market, investigating related, specific graduate programs to distinguish yourself from your competition will give you a leg up. Frequently, these subdivisions of psychology are called “applied psychology” disciplines; these literally apply psychology to other fields, like ergonomics, nutrition, or product design.

A degree in forensic psychology is the first step towards becoming the next Fox Mulder. Government job hiring frequently prioritizes those with psychology degrees: if you’re interested in using your understanding of people, you could find work with the FBI or CIA as a criminal profiler, or with local police as a parole officer. Both of these fields require attention to fringe elements of psychology, and what influences a person to commit criminal behavior.

Advertising is a ripe market for psychologists. Market researchers’ and copywriters’ stock and trade is in understanding why people want what they want, and how to deliver that to them. If you’re interested in becoming a human resources manager, a PR representative, or a store manager, consider compounding your psychology degree with training in writing; advertising agencies seek psychology graduates for their insight into interpersonal relationships and a track record of writing skills. Prove to your employer that you don’t just understand why people want a brand new basketball, but that you can articulate the reasons behind the want, and write the ad campaign to go with it.

Ergonomics, the study of human factors with work, is an important field for psychology degree graduates to consider. It marries design with people: how to best suit the needs of a product’s users. For example: to create a better cockpit, a psychology degree, supplemented by coursework in engineering, would allow a graduate to understand what a pilot needs, and how to give it to him.

Similarly, if you’re interested in working with businesses as an efficiency expert, or to fine tune a company in crisis, look into a degree in business or industry organization. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in the Occupational Outlook Handbook that, though master’s degrees in psychology stand to increase by more than 15% in the next six years, those with training outside industry organization, an up and coming sub-discipline of psychology, will be struggling to compete in the labor market. The recession is causing employers to look for ways to increase employee satisfaction and retention. Understanding psychology is an important factor in improving the workplace for employers and employees alike.

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