Explore Different Careers in Psychology and Counseling

Mother and daughter speaking with psychologist

Psychology and counseling are fascinating areas of study into how the brain influences behaviors and behavioral patterns and how we can help people overcome challenges and live more productive lives. There are many career fields in psychology and counseling that you might consider specializing in.

As you reflect upon the different careers in psychology and counseling, bear in mind that they may have differing academic and licensure requirements. Certain psychology and counseling jobs require a graduate degree and licensure. Be sure to check the requirements for the state where you plan to practice as you explore your own career pathway.

In This Article:

Career Options in Counseling and Psychology

A student who earns an advanced psychology degree and completes the coursework may pursue various counseling career paths. Psychology professionals work with patients who need support as they navigate challenges or crises in life, as well as chronic conditions such as depression.

Just as there are many different careers in psychology, so too are there different paths to choose from in counseling. For example, a counselor may specialize in an arts field and become an art or music therapist. Other therapists may work as counseling psychologists or guidance counselors in schools.

Career Counselor

Career counselors study clients’ work history, education level, interests, personality and skills to suggest careers that will match their criteria and personality. They help people who are entering the workplace, unemployed, between jobs or unhappy with their current job. As a career counselor, you may perform the following tasks:

  • Study client records
  • Conduct interviews
  • Oversee aptitude tests
  • Gather information about surrounding schools and businesses
  • Show clients how to properly search for a job
  • Educate clients about the current labor market

If you have strong interpersonal and communication skills, this career may be a good fit for you. You should also be a good team player with thorough knowledge of counseling theory and practice.

Addiction Counselor

Addiction counselors help clients who suffer from addictions such as substance abuse or compulsive gambling. As an addiction counselor, you may perform the following tasks:

  • Teach clients coping strategies
  • Assist in crisis prevention
  • Develop recovery programs
  • Help clients avoid relapses
  • Direct individual and group therapy with friends and family
  • Refer clients to a medical professional when needed

To be an effective addiction counselor, you should be a good listener who is organized, compassionate and a natural problem-solver. You’ll also need strong speaking/writing skills as well as thorough knowledge of counseling theory and the addiction cycle.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychologists are mental health professionals who conduct psychological tests to diagnose and treat mental and behavioral disorders. Graduates who pursue clinical psychology or counseling and acquire appropriate licensure may find roles as mental health counselors, marriage and family counselors, neurologists, psychiatric social workers or educators.

Clinical psychologists have further opportunities to specialize. Here are a few more possibilities:

  • Geropsychology – This specialization focuses on the psychological issues and needs of older adults and their families. Geropsychologists may help older adults and their families cope with caregiver strain, dementia and end-of-life care.
  • Health psychology – This specialization explores the intersection of physical, mental, emotional and psychological health. Health psychologists are taught the factors that motivate people to make certain health decisions or lifestyle choices.
  • Industrial and organizational psychology – This area focuses on psychology in the workplace. Industrial and organizational (or “IO”) psychologists who work in this area study human potential as well as efficiency and effectiveness.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, aspiring psychologists must have at least a master’s degree — and typically a doctorate — over the course of their career to specialize their practice.1 A doctoral program involves conducting original research that contributes to a field. Many factors can affect how long it takes to complete a master’s or doctoral degree, including the degree program and the specific research being done.

Different Careers in Psychology

There are other psychology jobs that may allow you to focus your education on an area or population that is most important to you. Here are a few additional areas to consider:

Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychologists study human development. They may specialize in a certain age group or support people across their entire life span. For example, child development specialists work specifically with children and parents, and they may also work in school settings.

Social Psychology

Psychology degree students interested in how humans interact with and affect one another may choose to study social psychology. Social psychologists are especially focused on interpersonal human reactions. Psychology degree graduates who study this field may may choose to obtain additional education and licensure to pursue careers in social work, therapy or leadership.

School Psychology

School psychologists are interested in learning and development in educational systems. They help to create and support processes used to improve learning at all levels. School psychology graduates may work as school psychologists, or they may further their studies and certifications in order to become postsecondary professors or teachers.

Family Psychology

Psychology students interested in how families function to support all members may choose to study family psychology. Family psychologists may counsel whole families or individual family members. They may also take on roles as caseworkers, marriage counselors, child welfare placement officers or child psychologists.

Life Coach

Life coaches work with clients or organizations to help them set and achieve their specific goals. Every session with a client is a little different, but in general, life coaches may perform the following tasks:

  • Study client histories
  • Keep detailed and confidential records
  • Conduct interviews
  • Provide support after a major life event
  • Assess clients’ personal aspirations
  • Help clients overcome obstacles

A life coach is a psychology career that may be a good fit for you if you would describe yourself as a good listener who is encouraging and compassionate. Life coaches typically need a master’s degree and may require additional certification based on your specialization. In addition, life coaches must be able to creatively brainstorm solutions in a collaborative way with their clients. Like all career fields in psychology, life coaching requires an ability to think on one’s feet.

Welfare or Social Services Case Manager

Welfare or social services case managers assist clients who need resources from state social services departments. Case managers help such people overcome challenges such as unemployment, homelessness, mental health issues and drug or alcohol addictions. Many case managers specialize in working with specific groups, such as children, senior citizens or disabled persons.

As a case manager, you may perform the following job duties:

  • Help clients who need medical and mental health services
  • Hold interviews with clients
  • Determine needs for medical evaluations
  • Review treatment plans and therapist evaluations
  • Identify appropriate steps to take to improve your clients’ outcomes

Depending on your state’s requirements, you may need to earn your master’s degree in counseling or social work and apply for licensure through a state department.2

Social Work

The social services field may be a good fit for individuals who feel passionate about serving their communities. As an alternative to pursuing a career in social services case management, you might consider becoming a licensed social worker.

If you are interested in entering this field, you may need to earn a master’s degree, depending on your specific career choice and where you plan to practice. In a few states, social workers can enter the field with just a bachelor’s degree. Other states require social workers to hold a Master of Science in Social Work (MSW) degree and earn appropriate state licensure.3

You may find social work to be a rewarding and personally fulfilling career choice. Social workers identify at-risk individuals such as neglected children and vulnerable seniors. They may also work with communities to identify gaps in resources, or at the state, federal or international level on policy issues as they relate to vulnerable populations.

Earn Your Psychology or Counseling Degree at GCU

There are many different career fields in psychology and counseling you might pursue. Different states have different requirements for counseling and psychology licensure. Work with your university counselor to learn about your state’s requirements. You may need to earn your master’s degree in psychology or counseling, accrue a certain number of supervised hours and apply for licensure through a state department.

Wherever your career path takes you, you will have the opportunity to build a firm foundation at Grand Canyon University. Complete the form on this page to further explore the Bachelor of Science in Psychology and other psychology and counseling degree programs.


1 Chamlou, N. (2023, January 30). How To Become a Clinical Psychologist. Psychology.org. Retrieved on July 7, 2023. 

2 Simmons, L. (2023, May 2). How To Become a Case Manager: Salary, Education Requirements and Job Growth. Forbes Advisor. Retrieved on July 7, 2023.

How To Become a Social Worker – 8 Steps to Consider. Social Work License Map. Retrieved on July 7, 2023.

Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Aug. 18, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.