Looking for a Psychology Career Outside of Mental Health? 6 Roles That Don’t Require Working With Patients

If you’re considering pursuing a non-clinical role in the field of psychology, there are plenty of industries that allow you to blend your background with business interests.

While many would assume that becoming a psychologist is the sole career outcome for those studying psychology, there are many unconventional career possibilities outside of working with — and treating — mental health patients.

A psychology degree can open the door to careers in business, marketing, human resources, research, law and more. By pursuing a role outside of mental health treatment, psychology professionals can merge their backgrounds with business interests, allowing them to succeed in a wide variety of industries.

To learn more about the non-clinical jobs available to those in the psychology field, we spoke with Jorge Barraza, professor and director of the Master of Science in Applied Psychology (MAPP) online program at USC.

What Is Applied Psychology?

Psychology is a vast field with a variety of subsets, including applied psychology.

Simply put, those working in applied psychology use standard psychological methods or insights from past studies to tackle real-world issues. That can mean solving problems in organizations throughout law, education, media, government and more, all with standard tools from psychology.

“So many of the folks that go into psychology end up getting careers that don’t look like what you think about when you think about psychologists. There are just so many opportunities for psychologists to have careers outside of the mental health space,” said Barraza.

Professionals with a background in applied psychology can pursue careers with a focus in consumer research, marketing, jury trial selection, organizational design, human resources, user experience, business and more.

Those who thrive in applied psychology are “intellectually curious,” Barraza said.

“You should be comfortable using science or data to solve problems. A lot of applied psychology careers require folks to analyze data or information and have some general understanding of how to make it actionable or to tell a story from it,” he explained.

Of course, it’s also key to be truly passionate about psychology and have a firm grasp on the study and its history.

“You need to know the ABCs of psychology — ABCs being affect, behavior, cognition, or thinking, feeling, behaving. It’s also important to know how to communicate with people, how to understand what their problems are and what strategies can be taken to alleviate them. You have to understand the attitudes that people hold and why people behave the way they do in order to influence those attitudes and behaviors,” Barraza said.

How Do You Get Into Applied Psychology?

Almost all careers in applied psychology will require a bachelor’s degree, although it doesn’t necessarily need to be in psychology. While a master’s degree is often not compulsory, it can set you apart from others in the field and give you the best tools possible to tackle your career.

The MAPP online program at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, for example, teaches students both business fundamentals and psychological tools, in addition to an emphasis on leadership, ethics, global mindsets and creative problem-solving techniques.

With a master’s degree in applied psychology, there are many careers you can pursue that allow you to utilize your understanding of the mind and human behavior to solve common issues.

Below, we’ve rounded up the top career paths that you can land in applied psychology.

Human Resources Specialist

When you work in human resources (HR), you have to handle the many human issues that arise when a group of people work together. As an HR specialist, you will be tasked with improving employee experience, promoting productivity, engaging the office and handling employee retention and talent acquisition. You will also have a hand in mediating conflict.

All of these responsibilities — and more — require a deep understanding of what motivates human beings and how workplace culture can influence behavior, making it a great fit for those interested in applied psychology.

Industrial Organizational Psychologist

HR isn’t the only career in which you can use psychology training to improve a company or organization. Industrial organizational psychologists focus on creating a positive, fulfilling work environment and collaborating closely with management to solve problems or issues within a business.

Industrial organizational psychologists may revamp the employee onboarding process, for example, or look at the way news is communicated across the organization. They also have a hand in determining workplace benefits, all using findings from psychological research.

Market Research and Consumer Insights Analyst

Market researchers and consumer insights analysts support companies to help them better understand their customers or clients. Analysts use research and data to study marketing materials and campaigns that are used to retain current consumers as well as gain new ones.

This field requires interpreting what appeals to customers and what doesn’t, what motivates people to spend money, and what causes them to become repeat customers. Simply put, it’s all about studying the minds of consumers. Clearly, it’s a great position for anyone with a psychology background.

Jury Trial Consultant

Before a case hits the courtroom, jury trial consultants conduct research for law firms or companies to assist with trial strategy and case assessment. Consultants manage focus groups, run mock trials and assist with witness preparation. They also research to identify the ideal juror profile and strategize jury questioning (known as the voir dire process).

Overall, jury trial consultants work to produce a winning outcome for their clients, tapping into jurors’ mindsets, behaviors and social dynamics to deliver successful results. As expected, a mastery of human behavior — especially in a group setting — is required to become a trial consultant, which is perfect for those in applied psychology.

Human Factors Engineer

To reduce the risk of human error, human factors engineers work to improve the design and construction of both products and systems. When devising and evaluating these tools and processes, human factors engineers focus on promoting health and safety in the workplace.

They consider all the ways people can make mistakes and then implement procedures and mechanisms to reduce those risks, leading to a more secure workplace. To identify the possible errors and liabilities, human factors engineers also will do extensive research and testing, often bringing in participants to get feedback. The role requires an understanding of how people think, act and feel, meaning it’s the optimal career path for those with a psychology background.

UX Researcher

A product cannot be created without considering why consumers would want to use it in the first place. That’s where a user experience (UX) researcher comes in. They study what consumers want and need so that a product can be designed with those desires in mind. It’s all about making sure the product delivers a great user experience.

A UX researcher will conduct surveys, focus groups, research, interviews, reviews and testing to support the product design process. As you’re diving into people’s motivations and how a certain product can fulfill their needs, the UX field is a great fit for those with a passion for applied psychology.

Learn more about the Master of Science in Applied Psychology (MAPP) online program at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences today.