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Applied Psychology Careers to Consider

What exactly can you do with a psychology degree? For many people, the term ‘psychologist’ means someone who offers mental health services. While this certainly represents a significant subset of psychologists, there are actually many different types of psychologists including many who work in fields you might not be familiar with, including many different applied psychology careers.

Applied psychology careers are fields that involve taking psychological knowledge and applying it to help solve real-world problems.

Not all psychologists perform psychotherapy or work in the field of mental health. In fact, many psychologists work in applied psychology careers to solve real-world problems or research different aspects of the human mind and behavior.

Some of these career options might actually surprise you! For example, have you ever heard of an engineering psychologist? How about a health psychologist? Did you know that some psychologists work with professional athletes or that other psychologists even help solve crimes?

If this sounds like something that might interest you, be sure to check out some of theses applied psychology careers that might not have considered. Take a closer look at five of these sometimes overlooked psychology fields including what these psychologists do and what type of degree you will need to work in these specialty areas.

Applied Careers in Health Psychology

If you are interested in applied psychology careerss focused on helping people live healthier, happier lives, health psychology is one area that you should explore. Health psychologists work to better understand how biological, social, and psychological factors influence health and illness.

Health psychologists focus on how biological, social and psychological factors influence health and illness. The major goals of health psychology include promoting health, preventing illness, understanding the causes of illness and improving the health care system.

Health psychologists work in a wide variety of settings that including hospitals, universities, health clinics and government agencies.

What Do They Do?

So what exactly do health psychologists do? A few of the issues they might deal with include:

  • Teaching stress reduction strategies
  • Helping clients with weight management
  • Running smoking cessation programs
  • Improving daily nutrition for clients

Some people who work in this field might help develop public health programs designed to combat specific health issues or diseases such as obesity or STDs. Others might work directly with clients in clinical settings to help individuals overcome health issues or educate people about coping with disease or illness.

Do You Need a Graduate Degree?

Not necessarily. If you want to become a licensed health psychologist, you will need to get a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in psychology and complete an internship and board certification. However, some limited opportunities are available at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. These usually involve positions working in community mental health offices or correctional facilities, usually under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.

Applied Careers in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Industrial-organizational psychology (or I-O psychology) is a growing field that can be a great option for those interested in applied psychology careers. Industrial-organizational psychologists focus on issues related to workplace behavior and performance. These professionals usually have at least a master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology, experimental psychology, or a related area.

I-O psychologists work in a wide variety of settings that include universities, research facilities, private businesses and government agencies. Some psychologists in this field are self-employed or work on a consultation basis.

A few of the issues that industrial-organizational psychologists may tackle include:

  • Improving worker productivity
  • Improving human and computer interaction
  • Employee training and assessment
  • Training program development

Applied Careers in Criminal Psychology

Criminal psychology is often described as a “hot” specialty area right now, largely thanks to the depictions of the job on a number of television dramas. Related to the field of forensic psychology, criminal psychologists perform a number of important tasks including assessing suspected criminals, evaluating the likelihood that a convicted criminal may become a repeat offender, and making education guesses about the actions that a suspect may have taken after committing a crime.

But is being a criminal psychologist really as dramatic and exciting as it seems on TV? According to Marc T. Zucker, chair of the undergraduate School of Criminal Justice at Kaplan University, such fictionalized portrayals usually exaggerate the role that criminal psychologists play in solving crimes. “We all love the thrill of the chase and arrest, however, psychologists don’t typically accompany officers in the apprehension of suspects,” he explained in one article.

While this job might not be exactly like what you see on TV, it’s far from boring. Other experts point out that the field continues to evolve, which means that criminal psychologists can always find new challenges to test their skills. For example, some professionals now specialize in computer-related crimes such as online fraud and sex crimes.

If you’ve ever wondered about whether this field might be right for you, be sure to check out this criminal psychologist career profile to learn more about the duties, work settings, salaries and training needed to enter this profession.

Applied Careers in Genetic Counseling

Do you enjoy learning about human genetics? Does helping people make health decisions based upon their genetic information sound appealing to you? If your answer to these questions is yes, then you might be interested in the growing field of genetics counseling.

A genetics counselor is someone who offers advice and support to people at risk of inherited illness. Genetics counselors often work with other health care professionals including doctors and geneticists to help patients make decisions and explore their treatment options. For example, a pregnant woman might meet with a genetics counselor to learn more about possible preventative measures she might take after genetic testing shows that she has an inherited gene mutation that might put her at a greater risk for miscarriage.

While meeting with a client, a genetics counselor might obtain a family health history, discuss genetic disorders, talk about risk factors, offer treatment advice and refer the client to other specialists or resources in the community.

Training Requirements

The National Society of Genetic Counselors suggests that students should start by earning a bachelor’s degree with coursework in genetics, psychology, statistics, and biochemistry. Next, you should earn a master’s degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). Following graduation, you can then become certified to practice genetic counseling.

Applied Careers in Experimental Psychology

Do you enjoy researching human behavior? If you have a passion for solving problems or exploring theoretical questions, you might also have a strong interest in applied psychology careers in the field of experimental psychology. Experimental psychologists study a huge range of topics within psychology, including both human and animal behavior.

Experimental psychologists work in a wide variety of settings including colleges, universities, research centers, government and private businesses. Some of these professionals may focus on teaching experimental methods to students, while others conduct research on cognitive processes, animal behavior, neuroscience, personality and many other subject areas.

Training Requirements

You may find some entry-level opportunities with a bachelor’s degree. For example, you may find jobs as a research assistant. However, there are more jobs and higher pay if you have a master’s or doctorate in psychology.

Applied Careers in Developmental Psychology

Applied psychology careers can also focus on applying psychological principles to help solve specific problems for certain groups of people based on their stage of development. Developmental psychologists study growth and development that occurs throughout the entire lifespan. This includes not only physical development, but also cognitive, social, intellectual, perceptual, personality and emotional growth.

The study of human development is important not only to psychology, but also to biology, anthropology, sociology, education and history. Developmental psychologists help us better understand how people change and grow and then apply this knowledge to helping us live up to our full potential.

Training Requirements

In most cases you will need to earn a master’s or doctorate degree in developmental psychology. There may be some entry-level jobs in this field with a bachelor’s degree, but you’ll find more opportunities and higher pay if you become a licensed psychologist.

Applied Careers in Engineering Psychology

When you think about psychologists, who probably don’t envision professionals who spend a lot of time working with and designing different types of technology and equipment, but there is actually an entire subfield devoted to just this very topic. Engineering psychology is an applied subfield that focuses on improving and adapting technology, equipment, and work environments to enhance human behavior and capabilities.

Training Requirements

A master’s degree is generally considered the minimum needed to enter this profession, although more opportunities tend to be available with a doctorate.

Applied Careers in Criminal Psychology

Applied psychology careers can also involve applying psychological principles to helping solve crime. Criminal psychologists are often portrayed in TV dramas, but what do these professionals really do? Some of the things these psychologists might do include assessing criminal offenders to determine if they might re-offend, offering testimony in court, and conducting psychological assessments of criminal suspects. Learn more about this exciting career path including where criminal psychologists typically work, how much education is required, and how much you can earn by working in this field.

Training Requirements

While there are limited opportunities available at the master’s level, a doctorate degree in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, forensic psychology, or criminal psychology is recommended.

Applied Careers in Consumer Psychology

Other applied psychology careers focus on understand how and why people buy the things they do.Have you ever wondered what makes people buy certain things? Or how marketers use advertising to influence their customers?

Consumer psychologists not only study how and why people purchase goods and services, they also analyze how family, friends, culture and media messages affect buying behavior.

Training Requirements

Entry-level positions are available to those with a bachelor’s in psychology. These jobs usually focus on market research and involve planning, conducting, and interpreting the results of consumer research. More advanced positions do require at least a master’s degree in psychology.

Applied Careers in Sports Psychology

Applied psychology careers can also focus on applying knowledge of human behavior and thought to the areas of athletics and sports. These professionals are known as sports psychologists. Some of the things they might do include helping athletes maximize their performance, exploring different ways to motivate and encourage athletes, and rehabilitating athletes who have been injured.

Training Requirements

Most positions in sports psychology require a minimum of a master’s degree, but a doctorate in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or sports psychology is recommended.

Key Points to Remember

As you can see, there are a wide variety of applied psychology careers out there. If you are interested in working in the field of psychology and want to use your skills and knowledge to help solve real-world problems, a career in an applied field might just be a great choice for you.

The careers above represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what you might choose to do with your psychology degree. If you are considering majoring in psychology or contemplating graduate study, spend some time familiarizing yourself with your options to decide how to choose your ideal career in psychology.


National Society of Genetic Counselors. Becoming a genetic counselor.