So you were fascinated by the human mind, the intricacies of how we behave, it’s great potential. Perhaps you took on the subject to learn about your own mind, perhaps to extend help through empathetic moments that inspired you.
You now are pursuing a degree or have one. What do you do next? Who will you work for? Who will pay you? What career can you build in India with your psychological expertise? What psychology careers can you explore?
I’m certain these are the questions that rush through your frontal cortex, busy stimulating your future possibilities.
What sort of a career can you make with your psychology degree? This article will function as a primer for you to know what this area entails from a career point of view.
Psychology has a very odd, unusual scope in terms of applications and career building. Psychology jobs vary widely in terms of their job description and required skill-set. You can browse through psychology job listings here to get a fair idea.
Let us now look at the popular psychology jobs in India. Most of these are available all over the world. However, the focus is on India because it’s a booming field here (we are 1.3 billion people after all) and I have intimate exposure to the industry in India. This does not mean it doesn’t apply elsewhere, use it to guide your decision regardless of the nation you are a part of.
I’ll do an overview of the categories now.
Table of Contents
The popular psychology career choices
- Counselor (career, marriage, suicide prevention, abuse helpline, school, etc.)
- Therapist (you’d be helping clients resolve mental health problems and treat disorders in a clinical setting)
- Human resources (work setting: recruitment, psychometric testing, conflict resolution, activities planning, etc.)
- Rehabilitation services
- Psychometric testing
- Coaching in corporate skills, soft skills, etc.
- Specific therapist: you specialize in some form of therapy (dance, music, REBT, CBT)
- Pet Psychologist, Animal therapist
- Content creators – Psychology oriented writing, Marketing copy, Instructional design
- Consultancy (non-clinical) – Consult businesses on their plans by understanding consumer psychology, integrate psychological research insights into someone else’s projects
- Non-academic workshops & lectures – Design and deliver specific workshops and talks to bring value to stakeholders – learning workshops for parents & students, food packaging for local brands, etc.
These are the most popular options people consider and successfully build a psychology career in. Their demand is high. They are competitive positions and usually, you need a master’s degree to be competent & eligible.
The academic career choices in psychology
- Teaching (undergrad, grad)
- Permanent faculty member
- Research assistant, researcher (Masters, MPhil, PhD)
These positions usually have a requirement of clearing the psychology NET/SET exam.
What core psychology skills should you have? What allied skills should you have?
From the perspective of the hard sciences, psychology training is not that rigorous. I know this because I have attended undergrad science classes, have learned a good amount about the sciences allied to psychology, I’ve assessed their demands and the breadth of necessary skills. The scientific method, as applied to psychology, is not heavy duty. I’ve seen more rigor in 11th-12th science. Doing masters level statistics was easy for me because of my HSC science background.
You have to go out of your way to excel. Think like a scientist. A psychologist needs to be good at a number of things, an all-round person. Learn various skills. A researcher would need to know how to proficiently use Microsoft office and cloud-based services like google sheets & docs, services like SurveyMonkey, etc. Then comes familiarity with a little bit of modern-day technology, statistics and at least one programming language (so you can take charge in devising experiments and analyzing data*). I did all of that and it took a while. Learn a little about art & culture, genetics, biology, technology, computer science, artificial intelligence, etc. to get an edge over the rest.
Another set of skills is the combination of social engagement, online writing, and giving actionable feedback. That’ll help you network and build authority. So that entails knowing how to write to unique audiences in a specific niche, understanding SEO, content marketing, user engagement on platforms.
*Here are some researchers debating whether it is better to use R: a free programming language, or SPSS: a paid yet popular software. On the lines of R, there is Python, which works for my needs. It’s quite easy to build computer-delivered experiments using python too.
You will need to get good at some very specific skills like showing empathy. You’ll also need to have an analytical mind, objective and holistic worldview, awareness of skills and mental processes in a variety of fields, gather life experiences, even being multilingual will help a lot.
Psychology careers in fields with low scientific validity
Then you have the fringe psychology and scientifically questionable psychology careers, some of which I would STRONGLY discourage against to maintain the integrity of the field but I will list them anyway because a number of people are satisfied with the lack of scientific support if it offers a meaningful occupation with their trade. Basically, regardless of scientific validity, these options require skills that people can acquire and get good at. Plus, you can make a living with those.
NeuroLinguisticProgramming: A scientifically questionable* framework that seems to work for people because it has methods that show results, again, for some people. Some of the methods are highly metaphor-based and simple. It’s almost a philosophical approach (I’d leave out my rationale from this article, do address it in the comments if you wish to).
People offer training in this and corporations appoint NLP trainers quite frequently.
*If you spend some time looking for research papers, you’ll find a mixed result. The problem is that the framework is not grounded in scientific evidence; it’s way too ambiguous, to begin with. The name is misleading as it loosely translates into – change something about the brain by engaging in constructive communication.
Tarot cards, graphology, mind reading, faith healing, etc: People pay money for it but it is unscientific and has no credibility at an objective level.
Past life regression hypnosis: Perhaps the most ridiculous of them all. Somehow, through hypnosis, you can access memories of a past life and use them to resolve mental health issues of today. Tonnes of hooey and its mystical nature seems to attract clients. It’s not the hypnosis which is a problem, it’s this fantastical idea that there is a past life. But, because of its very nature, clients get this mental terrain of past life ideas that help them address real problems. And, for some, it works. So IMO, through fiction, one addresses real-life problems. If it helps you, glad it did.
The less popular but cool careers in psychology
Then there are some rarer options you need to dig out:
- Forensic expert/psychologist
- Deaf and Blind helper (research & practice)
- Specialist for a particular disorder
- UI, UX, and product design
- Applied psychology start-up (that’s what I did, so far so good)
- Psychology/Neuroscience tools & technology
Honestly, with the right set of skills, a variety of allied skills and domain expertise in some aspect of psychology, and a more-than-average knowledge of many aspects of psychology you can penetrate many different career options. You can even get creative and create options for yourself. A career in psychology can be strategically carved just as much as it can be chosen.
Additional highlights: If you want to prescribe medicine, you need to do a medical degree and become an MD Psychiatrist. Psychology career options can be broadly put as Clinical, Corporate, Research (these are not always mutually exclusive). You always have the option of getting a PhD in a specific branch of psychology like cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, forensic, etc. You’ll learn a lot about what is available under the term ‘psychology’ as you journey through the degrees.
Advice: For any field, you can extract the most out of that field by being an exceptional student who goes out of their way. The journey will change you as a person, change your goals, your ideals, your interests, skills, etc. They will change and they need to change for you to grow, so pick a journey you find some interest in and then explore.
Notice: This is a post I’ll frequently update because psychology jobs in India are rapidly evolving. Many corporate giants are choosing psychologists to help ideate. In fact, psychologists are working alongside engineers and are a part of their core team.
I hope you now have keywords to search for on job platforms like Jobsora, Joobtome, Indeed, Linkedin. Or bring them up in conversations you have with professionals. You’ll get some leads for psychology jobs.
P.S. My personal position on Neuro-linguistic-programming and past life regression