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Making a Career Change in the Field of Psychology

Man and woman psychology students studying
Published 01/11/2017
6 minutes read
The content of this page is only for informational purposes and is not intended, expressly or by implication, as a guarantee of employment or salary, which vary based on many factors including but not limited to education, credentials, and experience. Alliant International University explicitly makes no representations or guarantees about the accuracy of the information provided by any prospective employer or any other website. Salary information available on the internet may not reflect the typical experience of Alliant graduates. Alliant does not guarantee that any graduate will be placed with a particular employer or in any specific employment position.

Psychology is a vast field. Within the general discipline you’ll find a variety of areas of study, from clinical psychology to organizational psychology to educational psychology.1 With so many different individual areas of practice, it’s no surprise that the field of psychology offers a wide variety of career choices, too. Clinical psychologists, for example, can work anywhere from hospitals and clinics, where they might work one-one-one with patients, to universities, where they might conduct academic research or teach.

One of the many benefits of working in a field with a variety of career paths is the ability to switch tracks mid-career. Perhaps you don’t find your current line of work as rewarding as you had hoped. Perhaps you’ve reached a roadblock in your career, or simply are looking to make a change. Whatever your reasoning, if you’re a professional psychologist who is looking to switch careers, you’ll find that the field of psychology offers a lot of opportunity to make a change.

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Reasons to Change Your Psychology Career Track

The decision to change careers is highly personal and can be based on any number of factors. Perhaps your current position is too stressful or time-consuming and is taking a toll on your health and social life. Maybe your salary isn't up to par, or your manager is stifling your opportunities to advance. You may feel like you're not making enough of a difference, or that your organization's policies are limiting your ability to help your clients. You may want to work for a smaller organization that specializes in a niche field such as family psychology, student counseling or addiction counseling. A more diverse client base might rekindle your psychological passion. In some cases, the need to change occupations may not be voluntary. Maybe you’ve lost your job as a result of layoffs or mandatory retirement. Or, you voluntarily retired and are considering going back to work in a new field.

There is no right or wrong factor to consider when determining if a career change is right for you—only you can decide. But you don’t have to go it alone.

Seek Advice, Counseling, or Mentorship

If you’re on the fence about the decision, a natural place to seek advice is in colleagues or mentors. As fellow psychologists—and coworkers—they may have insights into the field or even your own behavior that you can’t see on your own. They could also be useful in making connections elsewhere in the field. One key referral or job lead might land you the career you've always wanted.

If you want an unbiased opinion, seek out the help of a career counselor. Not only can they offer self-assessment tests that will help you determine your skills, goals, and values, but they may be able to draw upon their own experiences in answering your questions and helping you decide the right course of action. They are, after all, in your same field!2

Think Carefully Before You Make the Switch

Changing careers within an advanced field like psychology is not a decision to be taken lightly. As a licensed psychologist, you've invested significant time and effort to earn your degree, pass the licensure exam, and garner professional experience. At the very least, you have probably spent the better part of a decade building this career. For many psychologists, that’s not something easy to “give up” in pursuit of a new dream. Thankfully, you don’t need to. The field of psychology offers many career opportunities, and many of the field's core theories and practices can be applied across many settings.

In any career change you make within the field of psychology, you will likely find many ways to use your past experiences in building your new career. Skills developed in teaching or research positions at a university can translate well to consulting with a private organization. A professional background in school psychology will serve well a psychologist looking to make the jump to child and family psychology. Or a job providing mental health services directly to patients provides a useful perspective for those looking into administrative roles or positions that affect policy.

Don’t Delay—Make the Change!

If you've determined that you want to change careers, take action sooner rather than later. Most professionals who make a major career change wish they had done it years ago! Although the time, effort, and sometimes financial burden that go into making a career change might seem daunting up front, the investment will be well worth it in the end. Is your happiness worth delaying?

Even if you’re not seriously considering a career change at this moment, it’s important to take time each year to evaluate your job satisfaction and redefine your career goals. It’s better to conduct regular self-assessment and plan ahead, rather than waiting until you’re miserable at work or faced with the prospect of a layoff—or find yourself in the position of having wasted years of your life on a career that you’re not passionate about when you could have been following your dreams all along.

Advance your career

Let the California School of Professional Psychology Guide Your Career Goals

If you’re a psychologist looking to make a change, the California School of Professional Psychology is here to help. Our doctoral respecialization program in clinical psychology allows students with a doctorate in another area of psychology to respecialize and pursue licensure as a clinical psychologist. Curriculum is specialized to each student, and most complete their programs in two years.3

If you’re looking for a short-term commitment, CSPP also offers graduate certificate programs that allow psychologists to enhance their skillset in preparation for a new career. Certificates include Chemical Dependency, Gerontology, Latin American Family Therapy, and LGBT Human Services and Mental Health.

Looking for a complete career overhaul? If you’re thinking about a pursuing a new line of practice in psychology, CSPP has a program for you. From clinical psychology to marriage and family therapy to organization development, we offer a wide range of graduate psychology programs at our California campuses as well as online. We offer some of the field's most popular areas of study.

Are you interested in making a change in the field of psychology? Contact an Alliant admissions counselor to learn more about our psychology graduate programs at one of our California campuses or online today.


  1. “Psychology Careers Guide,” American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association), accessed November 23, 2021,
  2. Heather Stringer, “Changing Course,” Monitor on Psychology (American Psychological Association, September 2016),
  3. “Respecialization in Professional Psychology,” American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association), accessed November 23, 2021,

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