Outlook and Job Growth for Psychologists

psychologist talking to elderly person

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If you're a psychology major, you might be wondering what psychology fields are best in terms of future job growth. The future for psychologists looks bright, particularly for those in certain specialties.

The Overall Job Outlook for Psychologists

According to their 2020 predictions, the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that the demand for psychologists overall will grow at a rate of 3 percent through the year 2029. While this is about as fast as the average for all occupations, actual employment growth may vary considerably depending upon your specialty area and occupation.

For example, the demand for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is expected to grow by 3 percent over the next decade while the demand for social scientists is expected to grow by 4 percent. If you want to go into an industrial-organizational career, growth is predicted at three percent.

Because of the growing demand for psychological services in hospitals, schools, and mental health clinics, psychologists can expect to see more employment demand in these areas.

Specialty Areas of Psychology Expected to Grow

Of course, the job outlook may differ for various specialty areas within psychology. Job opportunities may be the most plentiful for those with doctoral degrees in applied specialty areas such as counseling or health psychology.

As people become more aware of the need for and importance of psychological services, the demand for clinical and counseling psychologists is expected to grow. Such professionals may be needed to provide services to aging adults to treat mental and emotional distress in a variety of settings, and to treat veterans and others who have experienced traumatic events.

School psychology is also cited as an area that will experience growth in the coming years as awareness of the mental health needs of children increases. As issues such as behavior problems, special needs, bullying, and learning disorders become more prominent, the demand for qualified school psychologists will go up. Because emotional and psychological issues can have such a powerful effect on learning, school psychologists provide a critical service as they help students cope with academic, social, learning, and mental health issues.

Educational Degree and Job Outlook for Graduates

The type of degree a job seeker holds also plays an important role in determining job outlook. Here is the outlook for different levels of education:

  • Doctorate Degree: Job prospects are strongest for those who have a Ph.D., Psy.D., or specialist degree in an applied area. As mentioned previously, school psychology, counseling psychology, and health psychology are cited as particularly strong areas. Those who have additional training in research methods, technology, and computer science may be at an advantage over those who don't have experience in these areas.
  • Master's Degree: The competition for jobs will be especially fierce among those with a master's degree in psychology. For example, while there are jobs at the master's degree level for industrial-organizational psychologists, the availability of positions available with this type of degree is far more limited than it is for those with a doctorate. Other options for psychologists with a master's degree include working in counseling or mental health services under the direction and supervision of a licensed psychologist.
  • Bachelor's Degree: The U.S. Department of Labor suggests that opportunities will be more limited for those holding a bachelor’s degree in psychology. However, those with this type of degree can still find entry-level jobs in areas such as marketing, case management, sales, advertising, teaching, labor relations, writing, and criminal justice.

Why the Future Is Bright for Psychologists

A shifting work landscape and recent changes in healthcare laws have added new elements of uncertainty when it comes to job prospects for new psychologists. The American Psychological Association's (APA) Center for Workforce Studies indicates that approximately 6,500 new psychology doctorate students graduate each year and enter the workforce.

While psychologists working in direct-service fields may experience added competition from those with a master's degree in counseling or social work, the APA reports that there are a number of subfields that offer considerable opportunities for growth. These include neuropsychology, geropsychology, and industrial-organizational psychology.

Why Adaptability Is Crucial

The key to success in the workplace, the APA says, is adaptability. Psychologists must be adaptable, flexible, and creative, and perhaps most important, willing to apply existing skills and talents to new career paths.

Psychology is increasingly a multidisciplinary field as professionals are asked to collaborate with a range of other professionals including doctors, educators, and other healthcare providers to meet the needs of clients. Finding a place in this shifting landscape requires psychology graduates to be both adaptive and responsive to change.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook: Psychologists.

  2. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook: Psychologists: Job Outlook.

  3. American Psychological Association. Frequently Asked Questions about Psychology Workforce: Education Pipeline.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."