Applied Psychology: Career Options, Job Duties and Requirements

Sep 21, 2019

Applied psychology is generally an interdisciplinary program that incorporates formal education and real-life work experience. Continue reading for an overview of the career options, job duties as well as salary info for graduates.

There are many career options within the field of psychology. A bachelor's degree is required for entry level positions, but most psychologists are required to have a master's or doctorate degree.

Essential Information

Psychologists research and study human behavior, assess and diagnose patients, and develop treatment plans. To work in the field, a bachelor's degree is usually required for entry level positions. Generally, an employer seeks candidates with master's and doctoral degrees to provide individuals with specific clinical and counseling needs.

Career Title Forensic Psychologist Industrial/Organizational Psychologist Sport Psychologist
Educational Requirements Doctorate Degree Master's Degree Doctorate Degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 15% for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists 13% 12% for psychologists, all other
Median Salary $76,000 (2019)** $97,260 (2018)* $100,770 for psychologists, all other (2018)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Career Options

Applied psychology uses the principles of psychology to resolve problems in other fields, such as law enforcement, business and sports. The careers listed here are just a sample of the variety of options available to individuals trained in applied psychology.

Forensic Psychology Careers

Applied psychologists in forensic settings use their knowledge of human behavior and psychological principles to assist attorneys and law enforcement agencies or work in correctional facilities. Some common careers in this field include trial consultant, mental health case manager, victim advocate or substance abuse counselor.

Job Duties

Trial consultants assist attorneys in the preparation of criminal and civil cases. They prepare questions for prospective jurors, create an image for defendants and prepare the presentation of evidence. These psychologists help victims prepare for trial or work with defendants to determine their ability to stand trial. Forensic psychologists who work as criminal profilers use psychological principles to develop a profile of an unknown criminal, which aids law enforcement in the identification and apprehension of perpetrators.


Careers in this field require extensive training in forensic psychology, and many professionals obtain master's or doctoral degrees. In master's degree programs, students can study intervention strategies and participate in clinical forensic experiences. Doctoral programs in forensic psychology include both hands-on training and research opportunities. The federal government requires at least a bachelor's degree for any entry-level position with an agency, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( but to be a licensed psychologist requires a doctoral degree.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology Careers

The human resources field provides opportunities for individuals trained in industrial-organizational psychology, which is the study of the relationship between humans and the workplace. Human resource professionals work in an organization to train, motivate and retain employees. These professionals could also work as consultants for companies, suggesting changes that impact work environment, training and morale to help decrease employee turnover and increase worker productivity.

Job Duties

Human resources workers develop recruitment programs to attract and hire qualified applicants for job openings in an organization. Duties include interviewing, training and conducting employment screening and background checks. Consultants conduct job and employee analyses, create pre-screening and interview systems and help companies identify potential legal risks in employee selection processes.


Job candidates with an undergraduate degree in industrial psychology, behavioral sciences or a related field can qualify for an entry-level position. Courses in business management, labor law and finance might also benefit job candidates. Individuals interested in industrial/organizational consulting or human resources management positions generally need a master's degree.

Sports Psychology Careers

Sports psychologists work with athletes and organizations to develop motivation and concentration techniques that enhance the performance of the athlete or team. These professionals can educate coaches, perform research or engage in private practice. In clinical practices, psychologists study behavioral problems that impact athletes.

Job Duties

Psychologists work with athletes using relaxation, visualization and goal-setting techniques to improve athletic performance. Sports psychologists stress mental training in sports and athletic pursuits. They counsel athletes who experience problems with substance abuse, eating disorders, burnout or aggression. They might educate coaches on leadership and communication styles, or they could perform research on physical activity and mental health.


According to the Association for Applied Sport Psychology few undergraduate degree programs exist in sports and exercise psychology. Courses in sports and exercise psychology may be available in an exercise science program. While opportunities are available for those with a bachelor's or master's degree, a doctoral degree could be required for positions in this field.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of psychologists in general will grow by 14% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average rate for all occupations within the nation. All types of psychologists, with the exception of clinical, counseling, school was estimated to have earned mean salary of $85,340 in 2018. The BLS reports a mean salary of $109,030 per year for industrial-organizational psychologists, but it does not offer specific statistics for forensic or sports psychologists., however, does provide salary information for forensic psychologists, which is listed in July 2019 with a median salary of $76,000 per year.

There are several areas of specialization for psychologists, almost all requiring a graduate degree. Forensic psychology involves working with criminals or presenting behavioral analysis of suspects in court as an expert witness, and industrial-organizational psychology focuses on the impact of the workplace on human behavior. Sports psychologists help motivate athletes and teach them concentration techniques to help them perform in their sport.

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