Psychology Degree Careers: 5 of the Best Jobs with a Psychology Degree

Psychology is one of the most popular degree subjects out there, and for good reason. Psychology degrees teach you a lot of important skills that are useful in many contexts.

Based on our career research, we’ve identified five of the top jobs you can have with a psychology degree. But what makes these the top jobs?

Well, at Probably Good, we think your career is one of the best resources you have to make a positive difference and we want you to find a career that’s good for you and good for the world. The careers we discuss here are far from the only decent options, but they’re some of the best we’ve looked into for people with a psychology degree.

Below, you can find out what each job entails, the salary you can earn, and how much impact you might be able to have.

Because psychology degrees teach great transferable skills, we’re going to discuss both psychology and non-psychology career paths that people with psychology degrees might be great at, and might be able to have a lot of impact in.

​Clinical psychologist

Impact potential: limited; Salary potential: moderate

What is a clinical psychologist?

Clinical psychologists work directly with patients to deliver therapy interventions. Relative to other kinds of therapists, clinical psychologists have a more formal educational background in psychology, meaning they tend to conduct practice more deeply rooted in psychological research than other therapists. Because of this, they may often treat people with particularly acute mental health conditions that require greater expertise or specialization. 

In their day-to-day work, clinical psychologists might do some of the following:

  • Identify patients’ problems using interviews, observations, and other psychological tools.
  • Develop treatment plans for patients (though only some clinical psychologists are allowed to prescribe medicine).
  • Deliver therapy interventions for individuals, groups, couples, or families.
  • Conduct research, if in a research-focused role.
  • Read recent scientific literature to keep up-to-date on best practices. 

A psychology degree is typically a prerequisite for clinical psychology jobs. As such, they are a great entry route. However, postgraduate qualifications and training will also be necessary. 

How much impact could you have?

There’s lots of evidence that shows certain types of therapy to be an effective way of alleviating mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Because of this, clinical psychologists are able to make a big difference to people’s wellbeing. 

However, as a clinical psychologist you’ll be limited to working with individual patients or small groups. This makes for an effective way to deliver therapy, but other careers might allow you to help even more people at once (like some we list below!). 

Clinical psychologist salary

In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2021 that clinical psychologists earn a median salary of $82,510, which is 1.52x higher than the US median salary of $54,132. The top 10% of earners receive a salary of over $167,000.

​Psychological researcher

  Impact potential: moderate; Salary potential: moderate

What is a psychology researcher?

Psychology researchers use scientific methods to generate insights into psychologically relevant phenomena like emotions, behaviors, and decisions. Research jobs might take place in academia, industry, or research-focused nonprofits, and entry into these careers will require (at minimum) a degree in psychology or a related subject. However, roles that allow one to lead research projects, rather than just assist in research, will often require a master’s or PhD. This is particularly true in academia. 

In their day-to-day work, psychological researchers might do some of the following:

  • Design and conduct experiments.
  • Collect and analyze data using statistical methods. 
  • Present research findings at conferences and talks. 
  • Teach undergraduates and postgraduates, if employed by a university.

Psychological researchers might work in any psychology sub-discipline, like social psychologycognitive psychologyforensic psychologydevelopmental psychologyindustrial-organizational psychology, and more.

How much impact could you have?

Overall, it’s likely that some psychological research jobs could allow you to do a lot of good if you’re able to focus on high-impact research questions. Our full profile on psychology careers gives some examples of these topics.

It’s worth bearing in mind your impact as a psychology researcher will be highly dependent on the research topics you’re able to pursue, as research may not always focus on how to best improve the world at scale. 

Different areas of psychological research can come with their own challenges for focusing on impact. In academia, for example, you are often incentivized to publish research papers in prestigious journals, chasing popular research topics that aren’t necessarily helping to solve important problems. And, in industry, you may be limited to working on research projects that are designed to generate profit rather than achieve the most social benefit. 

Whatever sector you choose to work in, it’s important that you can find ways to either overcome these incentives that might impede impact, or otherwise find areas where these incentives align with promising, impactful research.

Psychological researcher salary

The salaries of psychological researchers will vary quite a bit by the type of research they perform. In the US, claims that academic psychology researchers get $106,600 on average (as of 2023), and a 2017 report claims similar salaries for other kinds of psychological research jobs.

People manager

Impact potential: high; salary potential: moderate-high

What is a people manager?

People management is the skill of managing others – whether that’s managing their tasks and responsibilities, keeping them motivated and value-aligned, providing whatever is necessary for them to perform their job effectively, and more.

People management isn’t a separate career path per se because management duties are often tied to seniority in different career paths. Because of this, you’ll usually need specific experience in whichever career path you take a management job in. Nonetheless, good management requires a distinct set of skills that psychology degrees could help prepare you for.

The daily tasks of a people manager might include:

  • Meeting with employees to check on progress and form schedules.
  • Hiring new staff and assisting with their training and onboarding. 
  • Navigating potential performance issues and supporting staff.
  • Setting goals and tracking progress.
  • Make sure individuals are working towards the organization’s strategy.

People with a psychology degree may be well-placed to take management roles due to their ability to understand people and behavior. Their skills in reading and understanding scientific literature may also aid them in making decisions guided by evidence. 

How much impact could you have?

People management can let you help people at a really large scale and have lots of positive impact—if you find the right opportunity. 

One reason people management can lead to impact is by working as a multiplier for the impact of others – particularly good managers seem to be able to increase overall productivity of the team under them, sometimes by dozens of percentage points. If you’re in an organization that’s already doing lots of good (for example, an evidence-led nonprofit working in global health and development), this productivity increase could achieve huge amounts of impact.

Managers can also help an organization grow. Management is often a limiting factor on the number of employees who can be hired, so having more managers (even if they’re only passable) can help an organization to have more impact by increasing the number of people working there.

However, the impact of a people manager is highly dependent on the organization they’re in. Even a great manager won’t be able to help the world much if they’re in an ineffective nonprofit, company, or other organization. Because of this, it’s crucial to look for organizations that are focused on pressing problems where lots of impact can be had, and who are deploying effective solutions to these problems.

People manager salary

Because people managers can work in any industry and organization and at different levels of seniority, salaries will vary much more than in other jobs. The average salaries in specific industries are likely a better guide to salaries in this path than the average salaries of all people managers. However, management jobs tend to be senior positions, and so may often command a higher salary than the industry average. 

It’s worth bearing in mind that some (but definitely not all) of the most impactful people manager jobs may be in nonprofit organizations, which tend to have lower salaries than other organization types. 

​Operations manager

Impact potential: moderate: salary potential: moderate

What is an operations manager?

Operations managers work to make organizations function better and more efficiently. The day-to-day tasks of an operations specialist might typically include:

  • Manage teams and budgets, as well as help to coordinate between multiple members of staff or between departments. 
  • Oversee the development of an organization’s projects, providing strategic and technical support, and making sure that critical tasks are completed. 
  • Take control of an organization’s various processes and find ways to improve them, such as by finding ways to automate them. 

Though this might seem like a less obvious job for someone with a psychology degree, we think people with a psychology degree could be a good fit for operations manager jobs. The organizational skills you’ll develop in a psychology degree will help greatly in operations, where you’re trying to coordinate multiple people and moving parts under the pressure of deadlines. 

How much impact could you have?

Operations specialists are able to have a really big impact in their jobs. Much like managers, good operations specialists can help an organization to function well, increasing its productivity and its impact. 

If you can help improve an organization’s output by even a few percent, this could yield enormous benefits if the organization is focusing on a really important problem—especially if they are deploying large-scale solutions. For example, imagine being able to improve the efficiency of a charity that distributes millions of bed nets to prevent malaria. The input of a good operations manager could help the charity protect many thousands (or perhaps even millions) of additional people from malaria.

However, much like people managers, the impact of an operations manager is almost entirely dependent on the organization they work for. Helping an organization that doesn’t do any good in the world won’t lead to any positive impact!

Operations manager salary

In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2021 that business operations specialists earn a median annual wage of $74,760, which is 1.38x higher than the US median salary of $54,132. The top 10% of earners receive over $138,030 in salary.

​Industrial-organizational psychologist

Impact potential: limited; Salary potential: moderate

What is an industrial psychologist?

Industrial organizational psychology (also known as workplace psychology or business psychology) is a discipline within psychology that addresses psychology-related needs for organizations like for-profit companies, governments, and others. Workplace psychologists can work as either internal specialists or, often, as external consultants. 

An industrial organizational psychologist might perform do some of the following tasks:

  • Identify the mental health and motivational needs of employees, and implement solutions.
  • Improve hiring and workplace effectiveness by designing and employing relevant psychometric tests.
  • Design a company’s culture and ensure its upkeep.
  • Make improvements to office design and layout to improve productivity and employee satisfaction.

How much impact could you have?

We’re highly uncertain about the amount of impact that people in industrial-organizational psychology jobs can have.

Much like people managers and operations managers, the most promising route we can see for workplace psychologists to have an impact is by working at impactful organizations to help multiply their impact. This could include both nonprofits and for-profits that have a large positive social impact by deploying evidence-based workplace psychology practices to improve various aspects of an organization, helping its performance. You could even consider offering pro-bono consulting to nonprofits who might not otherwise be able to pay for a workplace psychologist.

However, workplace psychology is a relatively new field, and as such the evidence base for interventions at the organizational level seems to be smaller than other areas of psychology. From a brief amount of research, we found evidence for a few potentially effective workplace interventions (you can read more about this in our full psychology profile). 

Regardless, we’re not aware of many specific workplace psychology jobs within high-impact organizations. This means it might be difficult to find a path to good impact within industrial-organizational psychology.

Industrial organizational psychologist salary

In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2021 that industrial-organizational psychologists earn a median wage of $105,310, which is 1.95x higher than the US median salary of $54,132. The top 10% of earners receive over $168,000 in salary.

Psychology degree transferable skills

This has just been a small list of possible jobs you can take with a psychology degree, but the real number of options is much higher. In fact, did you know that as many as 74% of university graduates go into careers unrelated to their degree subject or major?

The truth is your degree subject doesn’t necessarily matter that much. It’s often quite easy to pivot into a different job or career. And, luckily, a psychology degree teaches loads of great transferable skills that can help you with many different careers. Here are some of the skills you’ll get in a psychology degree:

  • How to read and understand evidence: A psychology degree will enable you to read and understand scientific literature. This is a huge advantage in many different career paths, where evidence-based decision making can be crucial (and essential for having an impact!). 
  • Familiarity with research methodologies: Psychology degrees will help you understand how to design, conduct, and interpret experiments and surveys.
  • Organizational and planning skills: Because you’ll learn how to conduct research in a psychology degree—and will probably even conduct your own study—you’ll likely have a good sense of how to organize a project involving many other people and meeting deadlines.
  • An insight into human behavior and mental processes. A psychology degree gives you insight into how people function and behave in response to different situations. 

Our full list of career profiles gives lots of ideas for other career paths where these skills might be put to use, with a focus on having a positive social impact.

Additionally, those with a background in psychology may be interested in High-Impact Psychology (HIPsy), a community of psychology professionals aiming to use their careers for good, who offer resources on achieving impact within psychology.