Best Career Paths With a Doctor of Psychology

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree is a unique program that bridges the gap between a traditional Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)  in Psychology with the hands-on practice necessary to work within the mental health field. While a PhD in Psychology centers around the academic study of human behavior, a PsyD degree is a way to jump-start a career as a practicing psychologist in any number of specialties.

The job outlook for psychologists is positive, and the field is filled with high-paying jobs. In fact, the median wage for psychologists is more than $77,000, according to federal data, and jobs are expected to be quite plentiful in the field for years to come, with openings for psychologists growing by 14 percent (double the national average) through 2026.

While a Doctor of Psychology degree is designed to enable degree-holders to work directly with patients and clients, not all career paths within the field will end in hands-on clinical work. Here’s a look at some of the best career paths you can pursue with a Doctor of Psychology degree.

Family Counselor

Counselors who deal with family issues must be adept at addressing the mental health needs of people of all ages undergoing a variety of potential crises. Family counselors typically meet with family units, though they also often will meet with individual family members, with the goal of assisting the entire family to function and communicate more effectively. The demand for marriage and family therapists is projected to surge over the next several years, rising 23 percent through 2026.

Salary range: $119,000-$200,000

Clinical Psychologist

By far the most common job out there for PsyD degree holders, clinical psychologists are sought after in all specialties by both public and private employers. Among all psychologists, the job outlook for clinical psychologists is the highest at 14 percent. With a broad range of practice areas, those who plan to pursue careers as clinical psychologists can expect to encounter diverse options with healthy annual salaries.

SEE ALSO: Clinical Psychology Salary Outlook

Salary range: $100,000-$180,000

Insider Threat Analyst

Insider threat analysts use their advanced understanding of human nature as well as statistical and technological prowess to develop tools to develop and prevent security breaches within companies and other organizations. Some roles will require hands-on experience with developing and testing code and algorithms to ensure detection and prevention systems are working in a way that takes human behavior into account. Large companies, as well as the U.S. government and military, will be the most likely areas of advancement.

Salary range: $90,000-$140,000

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This hybrid healthcare-technology role is focused on developing, administering and analyzing tests and results related to intelligence, mental and emotional stability and personality. Assessments developed could determine things like fitness for military service or promotion, academic acceptance or employment qualifications. Individuals who want to work as psychometricians will need a background in data analysis and/or mathematics, as their work will center around attempting to predict likely behavior. Those who are not private consultants are most often employed by large organizations, including multinational corporations, testing providers or the military and government.

Salary range: $75,000-$140,000

Experimental Psychologist

Using their powers of observation, experimental psychologists log behavioral and mental phenomena and analyze the causes, determining the biological structures or conditioned behavior that may lead to the phenomena. These psychologists will examine both animal and human behavior in the areas of learning, attention, perception, memory and cognition. They will find their biggest opportunities at huge organizations with large budgets for experimental work, which includes major companies as well as the military.

Salary range: $70,000-$125,000

Social Worker

Another heavily in-demand job, the outlook for social workers is better than for all occupations, as openings are expected to grow by 16 percent through 2026. Additionally, while the stereotype of social work is that it’s low-paying, the median income for social workers is $47,000, which is higher than the national median. Social workers assist members of the communities they serve, often specific at-risk groups such as teens, children or the elderly, in coping with and overcoming problems in their lives. While they may provide hands-on clinical therapy (if so licensed in their state), they often will help their clients in securing other services they need, such as childcare or healthcare.

Salary range: $75,000-$135,000

Forensic Psychologist

Usually working in and around the criminal justice system, whether employed directly by a law enforcement agency, court or law firm or providing those services to such entities as a consultant, a forensic psychologist evaluates the behavior and emotional state of criminal defendants, as well as potential witnesses in both civil and criminal proceedings. Forensic psychologists often are called to testify in court about their findings; this testimony often helps judges determine sentences and could help juries in reaching verdicts.

SEE ALSO: How to Become a Forensic Psychologist

Salary range: $75,000-$115,000

Sleep Counselor

Sleep counselors help patients and clients by diagnosing and treating disturbances that affect their ability to fall asleep, stay asleep and/or feel refreshed by sleep, especially in cases where sleep disturbance is caused by an underlying psychological trauma or imbalance. Because of the dual nature of the role, sleep counselors will often work with their clients’ other providers, including neurologists or respiratory therapists. While they may consider private practice, most sleep counselors will find their best opportunities for employment at established sleep therapy centers.

Salary range: $50,000-$100,000

School Counselor

The largest employers of those with Doctor of Psychology degrees are schools, with more than a quarter of psychologists working at public and private elementary and secondary schools. School counselors help students by being a sounding board for emotional and mental concerns they have, as well as advocating for students’ needs by ensuring the classroom setting is contributing to their mental health rather than detracting from it. School counselors also often assist students in setting and meeting academic and long-term career goals.

Salary range: $75,000-$100,000

Sports Psychologist

Sports psychologists are experts on the intersection between physical performance and emotional balance. Working with athletes from a variety of sports, including both professionals and amateurs, sports psychologists assist individuals who may be rehabbing from injury, dealing with a mental health problem affecting their athletic performance or those who simply aren’t as effective at their sport as they should be. Sports psychologists will observe the athlete’s behavior and make recommendations for adjustments or new habits. Those in private practice likely will earn higher salaries, but individuals who join established clinics will have more career security.

Salary range: $70,000-$100,000

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A Doctor of Psychology degree can provide a fast-track to a secure, lucrative career path. While most opportunities will involve directly helping patients and clients improve their mental and emotional well-being, many career paths lead to jobs that deal with mental health and behavior from a broader standpoint. Regardless of the eventual destination, many Doctor of Psychology paths will likely lead to long, happy, fulfilling careers.