Applied Psychology Careers Guide
Employers across a wide variety of industries increasingly look for professionals trained in psychology to help them create better teams, nurture talent, and develop productive relationships with their customers.
Human Resource Specialist
What They Do: HR specialists perform the day-to-day operations of maintaining a company’s workforce, ensuring that the company has the right people for each job and that workers’ safety and rights are respected. They may deal with recruitment and hiring, promotion and training, benefits and compensation, or a combination of all three areas. They may also be responsible for mediating conflicts, handling terminations, and employee motivation.
Where They Work: HR professionals are hired by nearly every industry sector, business type, and government agency. They may manage all aspects of the job on their own or manage a large department.
Personal Qualities and Skills: HR specialists need a capacity for working well with different types of people and an ability to handle conflict. They should also have an understanding of individual and group psychology as well as strong listening, persuading and negotiating skills.
Educational Requirements: Entry-level roles require a bachelor’s degree. To advance in the field, applicants should pursue an MBA in Human Resources or an appropriate graduate certificate.
BLS Job Growth Forecast: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growth rate of 38,900 new jobs between 2018-2026, a growth rate of 7 percent.
Marketing Research Analysts
What They Do: Marketing analysts help businesses understand their customers’ wants and needs. While some analysts focus mainly on pricing and positioning, others gather information about customer behavior through studies, interviews, focus groups and more.
Where They Work: Marketing analysts may work within advertising firms, marketing firms, or directly for companies within a marketing and promotions department.
Personal Qualities and Skills: Marketing research analysts need to demonstrate creative thinking anchored by an ability to perform research. They should have a tolerance for deadline pressure, excellent communication skills with an exceptional ability to persuade, and project management skills.
Educational Requirements: Entry-level roles require a bachelor’s degree.
BLS Job Growth Forecast: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growth rate of 23 percent through 2026, an addition of about 92,300 jobs.
Substance Abuse Counselors
What They Do: Substance abuse counselors help those with dependency or behavioral disorders regain control of their lives. They provide rehabilitative activities for clients and their families, and present information about clients to law enforcement agencies, where appropriate.
Where They Work: Substance abuse counselors may work for hospitals, private rehabilitation centers, in private practice, for early intervention programs, or within the criminal justice system.
Personal Qualities and Skills: Substance abuse counselors need to show compassion and persistence. They should have the ability to emphasize without becoming overly emotionally involved with others. They also need a deep understanding of human behavior and sociological influences that affect it.
Educational Requirements: Substance abuse counselors should have an educational background that includes coursework in psychology, sociology, and addiction issues. Some states also may require certification or licensure.
BLS Job Growth Forecast: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growth rate of 23 percent through 2026, an addition of about 60,030 new jobs.
Mental Health Assistants
What They Do: Mental health assistants provide support to vulnerable individuals who are under the care of licensed psychiatrists or counselors. They may provide assistance with accessing training, treatment or other assistance.
Where They Work: Mental health assistants work for state and local governments, hospitals, clinics, and charity organizations.
Personal Qualities and Skills: Success as a mental health assistant depends on empathy, persistence, and creative problem-solving. Listening skills and resourcefulness are also key.
Educational Requirements: To pursue entry-level roles, applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, human services, or a related field.
BLS Job Growth Forecast: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growth rate of 19 percent through 2026, an addition of about 114,100 new jobs.
Social and Community Service Managers
What They Do: Social and community service managers provide leadership within agencies and organizations that offer public support services. They may provide direct support to the public or manage those who do. They are usually heavily involved with the administration of their programs, including budgeting and human resource management.
Where They Work: Social and community service managers work for government agencies, faith-based organizations, and non-profit organizations.
Personal Qualities and Skills: Social and community service managers should have leadership qualities, including delegation and motivation skills. They should be capable of navigating bureaucratic environments effectively. Finally, they should have the skills necessary to work one-on-one with service clients, including empathy, listening, and problem-solving skills.
Educational Requirements: Earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, applied psychology, or human services. Management experience is beneficial.
BLS Job Growth Forecast: The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job openings for this occupation to grow by 18 percent nationally through 2026, an addition of about 26,050 new jobs.
What They Do: Career counselors help clients identify their personal strengths, weaknesses, and interests as they prepare to enter or re-enter the job force.
Where They Work: Career counselors work for state and local governments, hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation programs, and more.
Personal Qualities and Skills: Career counselors should demonstrate strong listening and problem-solving skills. In addition, they should have the ability to develop interpersonal relationships and make effective use of resources on behalf of their advisees.
Educational Requirements: To pursue entry-level roles, applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. Some states or employers may require a master’s degree or licensure.
BLS Job Growth Forecast: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growth rate of 13 percent through 2026, an addition of about 36,700 new jobs.
Mediators and Arbitrators
What They Do: Mediators and arbitrators help conflicting parties resolve their differences and come to agreements without having to resort to lawsuits. They may work with families, neighbors, or businesses.
Where They Work: Mediators and arbitrators work for state and local governments, churches, and legal services organizations.
Personal Qualities and Skills: This field requires individuals with strong listening skills, conflict resolution, and negotiation abilities.
Educational Requirements: Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree. Many arbitrators and mediators learn their skills on the job.
BLS Job Growth Forecast: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growth rate of 10 percent through 2026, an addition of about 800 new jobs.
Employers of all types increasingly need professionals on staff with psychology coursework. Understanding human behavior and motivation can make a key difference to organizations in any industry. By putting psychological theory and practices to work, organizations can:
- Learn how to more effectively attract customers or influence audiences
- Manage and develop internal teams
- Communicate more clearly and persuasively
Most psychology degree programs focus on mental health. Applied psychology, however, explores how psychological theories and principles play our within different societal contexts, and puts those theories to work on a practical, day-to-day level. You can take the skills and knowledge in this program and apply them to a wide range of different industries.
See below for advice on maximizing the benefits of your degree and potential career paths available to you as an applied psychology graduate.
Embrace the Challenge
Higher education in any discipline isn’t just about passing classes and enhancing your resume. You’re really in your degree program to develop yourself personally as well as professionally. Welcoming the inevitable challenges that come with studying can help you continue to mature and strengthen your:
This includes not just academic challenges, the challenge that comes with balancing work, family and a college degree program.
Keep Track of the "Soft" Skills Your Degree Teaches
Writing in The Psychologist magazine, Mike Aitken Deakin of King’s College London tells undergraduate psychology students to keep their future career search in mind throughout the program. This includes making note of the many transferable skills your program teaches that aren’t necessarily within the curriculum itself, such as:
- Inter-group relations
- Project and time management
- Research and writing
All of these skills, which you develop across the curriculum, can make a difference to employers.
Use Your Learning Community
The faculty and classmates you encounter during your degree program are your learning community. They can offer you support and act as potential career contacts. But they’re also potentially rich resources of knowledge.
Attend faculty office hours, whether real or virtual. Ask questions about their experience and resources in the field. Participate in class discussions and group projects with a view toward learning from those around you.
Plan Your Electives Carefully
If you are able to take electives as part of your program, make sure you choose courses that align with your professional interests. Think carefully about how you want to put your degree to work. For example, if you feel you want to pursue human resources or organizational behavior-related role, take business courses.
Your professors, academic advisors, and the Career Development Center at GMercyU will be available to offer advice.
Plan Your Study Time Wisely
Make sure you leave yourself enough time for regular study. According to the American Psychological Association, evidence shows that students retain information better when they absorb it over several spaced-out sessions as opposed to “cramming.” As you prepare for your program, ask faculty and current students how much time they expect you to spend studying per week, and make a little time every day
Interested in a degree in psychology? At GMercyU, you can earn a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Both degree programs provide a solid foundation in core areas of study in psychology and can lead to careers such as:
- Clinical psychology
- Drug and alcohol treatment
- School and counseling psychology
- Family counseling
- Public relations
- Social work
Earning a degree in psychology can be the start to a rewarding career – one that puts your empathy and expertise to work, leaving a lasting impact on the world around you. Learn more about GMercyU's undergraduate psychology programs and start your journey today!