Non-academic Careers

A faculty position at a college or university is not the only career option for psychologists.
A faculty position at a college or university is not the only career option for psychologists.

The list below represents a relatively small sampling of an infinite number of careers that are possible — those who have "taken a different path" relate their own experiences of how they got to where they are now and the valuable lessons they learned along the way to employment "beyond the lab."

The following articles illustrate the various skill-sets and expertise that psychologists possess which are also highly valued by employers outside of academe. The nontraditional career paths represented by these personal success stories illustrate the different types of unique contributions made by psychologists in many different employment settings.

Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement

Craig Haney, PhD

Researching Incarceration

Psychologist Craig Haney, PhD, studies the use and impact of solitary confinement on inmates in super-maximum security, or “supermax,” prisons.
Ellen Scrivner, PhD

Police and Public Safety Psychologist

Ellen Scrivner, PhD, has worked directly with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Chicago Police Department, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Police Foundation — with a few stops in between, including a presidential appointment as deputy director of the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Department of Justice. Along the way, she has been involved in shaping and witnessing enormous changes in the way police do their work.
Julie Blackman, PhD

Litigation Consultant

Julie Blackman, PhD, used her psychology degree to become a social psychologist who provides pre-trial research services and trial strategy consulting to lawyers.


Alison Gopnik, PhD

Learning from Babies

Alison Gopnik, PhD, a developmental psychologist, conducted a “broccoli-goldfish study” that challenged traditional beliefs about the minds of babies and young children. When it comes to problem-solving, adults are wired to find a solution rather than create a solution.

Environmental Conservation

Susan Clayton, PhD

Conservation Psychologist

Psychologist Susan Clayton, PhD, spends a lot of her time at zoos — not merely for fun but to observe how people connect with animals and nature and, as a consequence, how this might lead them to conserve our natural resources.


Robert McCann, PhD

User Experience at NASA

Robert McCann, PhD, focuses on the user experience — on land and in space. He applies his expertise to the complex cockpit system displays, navigation systems and safety displays used by astronauts in NASA spacecraft.

Health Care

Jason Purnell, PhD

Reducing Health Disparities

Jason Purnell, PhD, leads a research project with colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis and Saint Louis University called “For the Sake of All,” which explores factors beyond medical care, such as limited economic and educational opportunities, that negatively affect the health and well-being of African-Americans in the St. Louis metropolitan area
Elizabeth McKune, EdD

Shaping Health Care Policy

Elizabeth McKune, EdD, applies her training as a psychologist to identify problems in the health care system, such as gaps in care among specific populations; proposes evidence-based solutions; measures outcomes; and makes decisions that affect how people in the state receive health care.

Helping Businesses and Organizations

A profile photo of Dr. Salas

Organizational Psychologist

Eduardo Salas, PhD, focuses on understanding and facilitating teamwork, optimizing environments for learning and development, and performing simulation-based training. Leaders in high-stakes industries — like the military, aviation and health care — have given him the task of finding solutions to their organization’s challenges.


Sherry Turkle, PhD

Social Psychologist

Psychologists like Sherry Turkle, PhD, research whether over-reliance on social technology and digital communication enhances our personal relationships or detracts from them?
Tim Nichols, PhD

Designing Video Games

As a “user research lead” at Microsoft Studios, psychologist Tim Nichols, PhD, gets paid to play. By applying psychological science to observe, measure and analyze human behavior in the world of gaming, he is able to help design and develop video games that challenge players and keep their interest.


From APA
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