50 Awesome Things to Do with a PhD in Psychology

So you want to help people, and you want to take your psychology career to the next level. If that sounds like you, a Ph.D. in psychology is an excellent way to go. Not only does this terminal degree mark you as an expert in your field, but it will also allow you to experience a wider variety of challenges and successes.

Even so, when weighing their options about getting a Ph.D., many people wonder if the degree – which is costly and time-consuming – will pay itself back. This is worth considering. After all, if you can’t find a satisfying career path after earning a PhD in psychology, there’s little point in getting one.

We’re here to give you an inside look at those sample career paths.

What’s Inside

  • Therapy and Counseling
  • Medicine
  • Education
  • Justice & Corrections
  • Addictions
  • Research & Academia
  • Policy and Politics
  • Business
  • Sports

Here are 50 amazing choices, so take a look!

Therapy and Counseling

One of the most common career pathways for those who earn a Ph.D. in psychology is to work one-on-one with individuals who need treatment. Note that in order to do this, most states require that you have at least a master’s degree, as well as significant experience working with individuals in a monitored setting. The amount of time you need to spend under a mentor varies, but expect to do some if you have not already before getting your Ph.D.

  1. Family therapist: Want to help families? A family therapist works with nuclear families, extended families, and parents.
  2. Marriage counselor: Such counselors devote themselves to improving and saving marriages.
  3. Childhood counselor: Children who have been through trauma or abuse, have trouble in school or at home, need somewhere safe to go and talk through their problems.
  4. Abuse and trauma counselor: Because trauma and abuse have such potentially severe problems, there is a need for psychologists who deal exclusively in that.
  5. Specialty counselor: Some psychology majors specialize in certain types of therapy, such as biofeedback or hypnosis.


Many people come into medical settings needing counseling. Hospitals and clinics are, in addition to places of healing, places of much sadness and hard truths. There is a strong need for qualified and compassionate counselors who can help patients and their families through tough times. If you want to help people turn their lives around, find new beginnings and cope with the deep sorrow that can accompany death, you might be well suited for a role in a medical setting.

  1. Trauma counselor: Many people come in hospitals having experienced severe trauma, and need help working it through.
  2. Addictions counselor: For those who have addictions issues and land in the hospital due to overdose or mental break, psychology is a literal lifesaver.
  3. Family counselor: Family counselors help relatives of patients deal with the realities of coordination, decision-making, and suffering.
  4. Grief counselor: Once people pass away, their families are left to mourn them – and that requires help.
  5. Mental health counselor: Healthcare workers need counseling as well, and sometimes hospitals or clinics keep mental health counselors on retainer for staff use.
  6. Policy counselor: Hospitals have to make big decisions, which can be better when guided by a psychologist.


Teaching and molding the young is a calling for many. If it forms the root of your desire to engage in one of many careers in psychology, then you might consider a role in an educational setting. Positions differ not only by age group but also by the type of counseling you can offer. You can also use your PhD to take on roles outside a counseling setting, harnessing the power of your psychology knowledge for administrative or educational purposes.

  1. Elementary school counselor: Children as young as kindergarten need good mental health!
  2. Middle school counselor: The trend only continues in middle school.
  3. High school counselor: In high school, students are facing real interpersonal challenges and making life-changing decisions.
  4. Career counselor: Career counselors focus on the latter, making sure that kids get the help they need thinking through next steps.
  5. Institution of higher education counselor: These counselors deal with college and graduate students.
  6. Curriculum developer: Psychologists can help to develop appropriate curriculum at any grade level.
  7. Principal: Some principals do a short tour of duty as teachers, but really wanted to be principal all along. A PhD in psychology can expedite the process.
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Justice and Corrections

Law, jurisprudence and correctional fields all have a desperate need for counselors as well. Many of the people who come through the justice system are actually suffering from mental health issues – according to some statistics, most of them are. For that reason, turning your counseling abilities to helping such people (as well as helping the justice system in general) is huge. Here are a few ways you can do just that.

  1. Correctional counselor: These counselors work with inmates behind walls to prepare them for better lives after jail.
  2. Probation counselor: Getting back on track is hard, but probation officers can help with the right training.
  3. Expert witness: Sometimes a psychologist’s opinion is needed on the stand.
  4. Case manager: Psychologists who work in corrections may have multiple cases going at once, or may manage the files of everyone in the institution.


Many people get into psychology because they want to help those who are suffering from severe mental health and addictions issues. Because the root of most addictions is the mental health of some kind, counselors are desperately needed across the country and the world. With a Ph.D. in psychology, you can help to make a change in this niche.

  1. Substance abuse counselor: Mental health counseling can make a huge difference in the success of sobriety.
  2. Youth substance abuse counselor: When children or teens are addicted, a counselor needs special tools.
  3. Alcohol counselor: Alcohol, believe it or not, is one of the harder addictions to break, creating a need for specially focused psychologists.
  4. Group therapy leader: Group therapy is a cornerstone of healing from addiction.
  5. 12 step program leader: 12 step programs are one of the most popular and well-renowned forms of addiction therapy.
  6. Treatment center director: Some psychologists wish to run the psychology staff of a treatment center, which ha Ph.D. can prepare you for.
  7. Dual diagnosis counselor: Mental health and substance abuse make a nasty combination, and those trained to work with both are sorely needed.

Research and Academia

While much of psychology is applied, there is a strong need for the research and teaching that forms the foundation of the field. If you’re more interested in discovering new psychological truths, then getting a Ph.D. can definitely help. With a Ph.D., you can join on with studies, design and lead them yourself, or teach the younger generation about the subject – from high schoolers to bachelor’s and master’s students.

  1. Applied researcher: Research is the bedrock of understanding, and psychology starts there.
  2. Research lead: Want to lead a team? You can do that with a Ph.D. in psychology.
  3. Study designer: Prefer to design studies and watch others carry them out? This is the role for you.
  4. Professor: Some psychologists thrive on teaching others, which is where professors shine.
  5. High school teacher: Others want to start younger on the teaching ladder, helping to mold minds before they choose their direction in life.
  6. Funding specialist: Getting funding is no small feat, and it takes a marketing-savvy mind to do it. Some PhDs find this a rewarding career.
  7. Policymaker: Guiding policy at the institutional level can also prove rewarding.

Policy and Politics

Just as academia forms the underpinning of what we know about psychology, policy and politics form the basis of how we apply it in our world. Ph.D. candidates have the opportunity to go into jobs where they can help form public policy, can lobby for better services for underserved populations, can work on committees and panels dedicated to the cause, and more. If you’re interested in change at the population level, this might be the approach for you.

  1. Political psychologist: Understanding the psychology of politics is a big job.
  2. Social psychologist: So is making sense of the complex social world in which we live.
  3. Policy advisor: informing policy is a dream job of many psychologists.
  4. Lobbyist: Drumming up support for initiatives is a lobbyist’s main purview.
  5. Government aide: Understanding social and political issues are paramount in government, and psychologists can make good money offering those insights.
  6. NGO worker: If you want to make a difference in people’s lives, you can help through an NGO.


In the business world, big decisions are at the forefront of any given meeting, event or day. Because of this, business can be a stressful sphere, and its workers are vulnerable to distress and mental disturbances. Increasingly, businesses are hiring psychologists either on retainer or right on staff to help workers process their feelings and respond to the stresses of the workplace in healthy ways. There are a number of ways you could use a Ph.D. in Business Psychology arena.

  1. Occupational psychologist: The workforce comes with many interpersonal challenges, and occupational psychologists help to tease them apart and find solutions.
  2. Marketing advisor: Marketing is embedded deeply in the human psyche, and a Ph.D. in psychology has a strong window into it.
  3. Human resources director: Making the right hiring and firing calls is a tough job that requires deep human understanding.
  4. Private practice: If you don’t want to work for a company or go into offices, consider opening a private practice and seeing people in your office.
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Like business, sport is a field that requires top-level performance and induces top-level stress right along with it. Keeping players feeling their best is a lifetime job for coaches, assistant coaches, medical practitioners and more – but they need help. A psychologist can “get inside the heads” of players and help them to approach the game with the right attitude, defeat issues such as “the yips” and play their best.

  1. Director of sports psychology: Want to make decisions and move pieces on the board? The director gets to do just that.
  2. Sports psychologist: If you want a very active role, you might become a top-paid sports psychologist who visits players on the field.
  3. Clinical psychologist: Clinical psychologists may see players in their office between games.
  4. Athletic director: Sometimes athletic directors are psychologists since all the skills for managing players and the stress of the game are already in place.

Now that you have a better idea of how a PhD in psychology can serve you, we invite you to check out your options. There is a wide range of programs available for those who want to take their careers to the ultimate level, with financial assistance available to most.

If you’re looking for a new experience and a greater challenge, it might be time to get that Ph.D.… so start looking today!