Help Others Succeed
Are you passionate about people-centered work that transforms communities? You may want to consider building your future in Education + Human Services.
This career path is for those who want to become future educators, practitioners, scholars, community leaders, and change agents. Together, these professionals strengthen communities, address systemic issues, and support others through direct service, outreach, prevention, and advocacy. They are dedicated to the growth, development, and needs of individuals through work that includes teaching, child development, counseling, psychology, social work, social services, speech-language pathology, human resources, NGOs, and nonprofits.
If this sounds like you or who you want to become, learn how you can move forward to help others.
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Discover Options: Psychology and Counseling
For complete information on assessing yourself, choosing majors, and exploring careers, review our starter tips to Discover Options in all careers as well as the specialized tips on this page.
A Profession in Helping People
A career path in psychology or counseling can be very fulfilling for those interested in mental health and human development. To begin your journey, it is important to gain clarity early on about the profession that you are most interested in pursuing, because most of these career paths require an advanced degree or specific preparation.
As you conduct your research on various specializations in this field, consider the type of approach that you would like to take in supporting others for a career. Also, consider how much time you intend to invest in furthering your education as well as the professional benefits and challenges of each occupation.
The following information provides an overview of various professions related to psychology and counseling.
Overview of Careers in Psychology
While the field of psychology and its career options are broad, psychologists generally study the relationship between the brain, human behavior, and environmental factors, and then apply this information to help improve the lives of others. Psychologists typically have doctoral degrees, conduct research in specific areas, administer psychological assessments and diagnoses, and are more likely to work with individuals with serious mental illness.
Click below to explore the most common occupations for careers in psychology.
Clinical Psychologists devote themselves to the treatment of mental illnesses through applying therapeutic techniques, conducting research, and serving as consultants. They function in a wide variety of settings including medical and psychiatric settings, juvenile correction centers, rehabilitation centers, university counseling departments, treatment centers, clinics, private practices, and schools.
These professionals obtain a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in addition to supervised field work experience, and state licensure to practice therapy. Many programs offer opportunities to focus on specific populations that you may want to work with during your career (such as women, children, military, or ethnic minorities).
Counseling Psychologists often work in private practices, educational institutions, or community counseling centers with individuals who have situational or developmental problems. By incorporating an interpersonal, humanistic, “mental health” perspective, they focus on diagnosis and assessment in addition to career development, family systems, and community mental health.
These professionals obtain a doctoral degree in counseling psychology in addition to supervised field work experience, and state licensure to practice. Similar to clinical psychologists, many programs will allow you to focus on specific demographics.
Industrial/Organizational (I-O) Psychologists study human behavior in organizations and apply research in order to improve the well-being and performance of employees and organizations. I-O psychologists often focus on empowering motivation, leadership or management skills, reviewing organizational structure, implementing work teams, and facilitating organizational change.
These professionals work for the government (i.e., local, state, or federal), human resources sectors of businesses, employee assistance, training and development departments, and management consulting firms. I-O psychologists obtain a doctoral degree in industrial/organizational psychology.
School Psychologists provide a range of psychological diagnoses, assessments, interventions and preventions with a special focus on the developmental processes of children and youth within the context of schools, families, and other systems. They work with teachers, parents, and administrators in accommodating for specific children’s needs as well as program development and evaluation.
Compared to a school counselor, school psychologists perform additional testing and assessments, and help children with chronic or severe emotional and developmental difficulties. School psychologists obtain a specialist-level degree or doctoral degree in school psychology.
The American Psychological Association offers several career resources, such as the Psychology Careers Guide and Careers in Psychology page, which illustrate specific sub-fields. Psychology is also utilized in the medical field to treat patients under the scope of the medical model; for professions such as Psychiatrist and Psychiatric Nurse, you must pursue experiences and graduate school in the healthcare field (see our Clinical Healthcare page for details).
Overview of Careers in Counseling
Counselors are trained to work with individuals, families, and groups in treating mental, behavioral, and emotional issues and disorders. They work in a variety of settings including social services, health services, colleges and universities, as well as private practice. Counselors typically have a master’s level education and provide guidance and support services to clients, rather than clinical assessment and diagnosis.
Click below to browse common occupations within the counseling field.
Counselors work in private practice or mental health agencies to provide counseling services to individuals, couples, families, and groups. These services focus on individual needs and mental health improvements. Exact titles and licensing requirements for counselors vary by state, but some common titles include: Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), Certified Professional Counselor, and Licensed Mental Health Counselor.
The educational preparation and counseling approach varies for each specialization, thus it is in your best interest to select a career path that closely fits your desired approach as a mental health professional. Counselors need to obtain a master’s degree from a counseling, clinical, rehabilitation, or related psychology program, in addition to supervised clinical experience and state licensing.
Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) most often work as therapists either in private practice, community agencies, hospitals, schools, or social services agencies. They provide counseling services to individuals, couples and families and also perform advocacy, outreach and mental health education in their communities.
Social workers typically focus their practice on working with vulnerable populations. Their training includes a Master of Social Work degree and extended training in counseling along with state license as a social worker. To learn more about social work, explore the National Association of Social Workers (NASW): California Chapter.
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) help couples, families, and individuals overcome and manage mental and emotional disorders within the context of relationships. Many MFTs work in private practice.
To become an MFT, you will need to obtain a master’s degree in psychology, marriage and family therapy, or counseling, and obtain state licensing. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) provides California State Resources for information.
Rehabilitation Counselors provide psychological and vocational counseling for individuals with disabilities. They most often work with clients who have had recent injuries to help them adjust to their new condition and find suitable vocational alternatives.
To work in this occupation, most states require a bachelor’s degree and two years of experience, or a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling.
School Counselors work with students in elementary school, middle (junior high) school, and high school. The nature of this occupation varies depending on the school level at which the counselor works. Elementary school counselors provide testing and assessments and may travel often to several different elementary schools, while middle and high school counselors conduct academic advising and assist students with college preparation and vocational development.
All school counselors work with students as well as teachers, school administrators, parents, and families. School counselors obtain a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field in addition to required counseling experience, and a certificate or license to practice, depending on the state. If you want to practice in California, you must attend a counseling program with a Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential.
Substance Abuse Counselors provide counseling to individuals with drug and alcohol problems, eating disorders, and other behavioral issues. They teach individuals how to modify their behavior with the intention of full recovery.
Most substance abuse counselors hold a master’s degree in counseling or social work with specific training in substance abuse; however, not every state requires a higher level of education. Check the Department of Health Care Services for requirements within the state in which you plan to practice, or learn about the Substance Abuse Counselor Degree requirements for California.
Vocational or Career Counselors provide career assessment, vocational testing, and job search training. They work in employment services, prisons, mental hospitals, and schools (such as Career Services at UCSB).
A master’s degree in counseling, higher education, or a related field is typically required for employment at schools, colleges, and universities. Some graduate programs offer a specialization in career counseling.
Visit the American Counseling Association for further information and resources on careers in counseling.
Overview of Alt. Careers in Psychology or Counseling
In addition to careers exclusively focused on psychology or counseling, several alternative options blend these fields to provide specific services. Some of these occupations require additional training or certifications in order to become properly specialized, but they typically do not require graduate education, thus they are commonly available for people who hold a bachelor's degree.
Click below to discover a few alternative careers related to psychology and counseling.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapists (e.g., Behavior Technicians, Behavior Interventionists) use behavior analysis to work with clients with autism spectrum disorder. There are many organizations (e.g., Easter Seals, Trumpet Behavioral Health, and EdTheory) that provide entry-level opportunities and training for those interested in this field.
To pursue this occupation, you can learn about becoming a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst.
Psychiatric Technicians and Aids work with patients in in-patient facilities. They may also provide forms of counseling for certain circumstances.
In addition to their bachelor’s degree, psychiatric techs generally need a certificate from a one-year psych tech training program.
Residential Counselors or Supervisors oversee the operations of resident-based units and ensure that residents are receiving the help they need, in order to comply with the site’s policies and procedures. Various establishments (e.g., residential treatment centers, mental hospitals, group homes, halfway houses, and women’s shelters) often hire these counselors; some organizations may also hire Home Health Aides to provide care in clients’ homes.
To pursue this type of occupation, utilize your bachelor's degree and seek out additional trainings as needed.
Social and Human Services Assistants coordinate the activities involved in social service programs and community organizations. In general, they provide assistance in client services such as community resources, identifying benefits, or making referrals. Common places of employment include family services, rehabilitation services, or case management in nursing, mental health, or geriatric care facilities.
Depending on the employer, sample job titles to seek with a bachelor's degree could be “community services specialist”, “outreach coordinator”, “family services advocate”, “community liaison”, “crisis intervention specialist”, “social work associate” or “case worker”. These positions can eventually lead to management roles such as Social and Community Services Managers.
Additional occupations that are related to psychology and counseling include: Human Resources Specialist, Occupational Therapist, Probation Officer, Recreation Worker, and Speech-language Pathologist.
Depending on the specific career paths in psychology or counseling that interest you, you may want to begin planning your undergraduate academics to anticipate future requirements for graduate education. Some graduate programs in psychology or counseling seek specific majors and disciplines, while others are open to all or related majors. Many of these programs will accept any major but will require prerequisite courses to be completed.
Common prerequisite courses include, but are not limited to:
- Counseling Theory or Helping Skills
- Research Methods and/or Statistics
- Abnormal Psychology or Psychopathology
- Human Development or Developmental Psychology
- Biology, Cognition, Social Psychology, Personality, Multicultural, and Liberal Arts
To easily complete prerequisite courses for graduate school or prepare yourself for entry-level positions in the field, it is helpful to major in Psychological and Brain Sciences at UCSB; however, many students pursue careers in psychology and counseling without majoring in psychology.
In addition, the Applied Psychology minor at UCSB offers psychology courses that may fulfill prerequisites for graduate school. You can also look into minors that support you in developing your knowledge in human development, behavior, and society.
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