What is the Job Market for Psychology Majors?

Numbers, Outlook and Factors to Consider

University student sitting at desk with hand on chin
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Psychology is one of the most popular majors at universities throughout the United States, ranking in the top five degrees awarded at many schools. It has also become a popular online degree option, with a number of online and traditional schools providing access to online bachelor's degrees in psychology.

With so many people choosing to earn a psychology degree, you might find yourself wondering what all these psychology majors are doing once they get out of school.

Is it possible that there might be too many psychology majors? 

Just How Many Psychology Majors Are There?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 1,840,200 bachelor's degrees awarded during 2012-2013. Business majors represented the largest number of degrees conferred, amounting to 360,800 degrees, with health professions coming in second at 181,100 degrees. Social sciences and history made up the third largest area, with a total of 177,800 degrees. Of those social science degrees, a total of 114,400 were in psychology.

Psychology has grown tremendously in popularity, particularly at the bachelor's level, over the past 60 years. In 1950, approximately 10,000 psychology degrees were awarded; in 1970, approximately 35,000 were awarded; and in 1990, approximately 55,000 were awarded.

The popularity of graduate degrees in psychology has also grown, but at a much slower rate.

According to the American Psychological Association, in 2013, just over 28,462 master's degrees in psychology were awarded while 6,496 doctorate degrees were conferred.

Is There a Strong Demand for Psychology Majors?

With so many people opting to earn a psychology degree, what does it mean for the job market after graduating?

Is there a big demand for all of these psychology majors? Or is it possible that there are simply too many people earning psychology degrees?

The National Center for Education Statistics lists psychology as one of the fields of study with the highest unemployment rates for 25- to 29-year-old bachelor's degree recipients in 2012, with a rate of 5.8%. Such numbers can lead to concern that a psychology degree is not practical and that those who have such degrees are doomed to unemployment. While unemployment is certainly a pressing national problem, an undergraduate degree in psychology does provide training and preparation for a variety of entry-level positions in a number of different areas.

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor, the demand for psychologists is expected to grow by 19 percent through the year 2024. The handbook notes, however, that job options and pay are much better for those who earn a doctorate degree in psychology.

There is certainly a need for people who work in mental health.

The reality is that while there is a need for better mental health services, the number of jobs in the field is often restricted by what health insurers are willing to pay. Improved mental health services are one factor that could inspire a greater demand for bachelor's level psychology degree holders. To see which psychology career fits you best, take this quiz!

Advantages of a Psychology Degree

Some of the advantages of an undergraduate degree in psychology degree include:

  • Equipping psychology students with communication, critical thinking, project management and problem-solving skills
  • Fostering desirable qualities such as "persistence in difficult situations, tolerance of ambiguity, and adaptability to change" — Hanolen
  • Teaching useful knowledge about the scientific method, assessment, and evaluation
  • Helping students become more knowledgeable about the human mind and behavior

Given the current popularity of the subject, it is likely that the number of people earning psychology degrees will continue to grow each year. If you are thinking about earning a psychology degree, you should certainly have some sort of plan for what you want to do with your degree once you graduate. The job market might be crowded and competitive, but knowing where you want to work and taking steps to set yourself apart from the competition can help.

The Value of Your Psychology Degree

If you are planning to enter the workforce immediately after earning your bachelor's degree in psychology, invest some time while you are still in school toward gaining some practical experience in your desired profession, networking with people already employed in your field, and forging good relationships with your professors in order to get good recommendations once you graduate.

The reality is that a large portion of people who earn a bachelor's degree in psychology do not end up working in a field directly related to psychology. Some of the most common areas of employment include market research, sales and management positions.

Whether you earn a psychology degree or not, learning how to market yourself and your skills in the workplace is essential. As a psychology student, you will gain valuable knowledge and experience in areas such as interpersonal communication, critical thinking, and written communication. Highlighting your strengths and how these skills can make you a valuable employee can help you find a job in a competitive market.

A Graduate Degree Is Another Option

While many choose to enter the workplace immediately after completing an undergraduate degree, others opt to use their bachelor's of psychology degree as a stepping stone toward further graduate study. Many opt to earn a graduate degree in psychology, while others might choose to pursue an alternative degree option such as in law, medicine, social work, education or counseling.

The number of students majoring in psychology is just one thing to consider when you are trying to make the decision about whether or not to earn a psychology degree. Future employment is one piece of the puzzle, but so is passion for the subject and happiness with the work. Spend some time exploring your options and researching your career options before you decide if psychology is right for you.

More About Psychology As a Career Option

Further resources that can help:


Halonen, J. S. (2011). White paper: Are there too many psychology majors? Retrieved from http://www.cogdop.org/page_attachments/0000/0200/FLA_White_Paper_for_cogop_posting.pdf

O'Shaugnhessy, L. (). 25 college majors with the highest unemployment rates. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505145_162-57325132/25-college-majors-with-the-highest-unemployment-rates/

"Undergraduate Degree Fields." National Center for Education Statistics: The Condition of Education, 2015.

"Employment Outcomes of Bachelor's Degree Recipients." National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 2016.

"How much has the number of advanced degrees in psychology increased in the past decade? " American Psychological Association (2015).

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