In recent years, employment in non-academic jobs for individuals graduating with a doctoral or master’s degree in psychology has grown. Non-academic jobs are highly variable and cover a range of fields including work in industry, government, non-profit organizations, K-12 education, non-teaching positions in higher education, and more. Although there are hundreds of job opportunities in non-academic fields, psychology graduate students tend to receive minimal exposure to these types of career paths, and exploring alternatives to academia may even be discouraged in some departments. Still, more students are considering alternative paths outside of academia. Recognizing the growing interest in non-academic jobs and the lack of information regarding the non-academic job market for social and personality psychology graduates, the 2020-2021 SPSP Student Committee wanted to demystify the non-academic job market for graduate students who are interested in pursuing this path by surveying recent master’s, Ph.D., and soon-to-be graduates who were on the job market for positions outside of academia in recent years to hear about their experiences.

Specifically, the committee aimed to investigate the strategies of psychology graduates recently on the job market in search of non-academic employment. In their survey, they focused on quantifiable information including features of the applicant profile (e.g., number and types of internships, skills, publications), job search strategies, and employment outcomes for recent graduates. Fifty-three respondents provided information on these topics. These are the main takeaways:

What kind of jobs do social and personality psychology graduates usually take? The most popular fields were in research and analysis, consulting, advocacy, and training and content development.

What do psychology graduates look for in industry jobs? Intellectual or skills fit, work/life balance, and applied/practical application of knowledge were reported as the most important factors when searching for jobs.

Is it common to limit the geographical scope when searching for non-academic positions? Geographical flexibility seems to be a perk of industry jobs. About 76% of respondents limited the geographical scope of their search in some way. Compare that to only 33% of respondents in the SPSP Student Committee’s academic job market survey.

What are the chances of receiving a job offer? Approximately 80.4% of respondents reported receiving at least 1-2 job offers. Of the respondents who received offers, 91.8% accepted a full-time position, 4.1% received an offer but did not take it, and 4.1% accepted a temporary, contract position.

What institutional resource is the most important? Advisor support was reported to be one of the most important institutional resources that psychology applicants have when seeking non-academic positions.

What can I do in graduate school to become a more competitive applicant? You may want to hone in on sharpening skills related to quantitative data analysis, survey design, experimental design, qualitative data analysis and lab management. Another important factor is networking—create and make use of networking opportunities. Also, take advantage of this time while in graduate school and complete industry-related internships.

Let’s talk about statistics:

Over 90% of our respondents reported still using regression, ANOVA, and multivariate analyses in their current positions as well as running experimental designs and being in charge of data management and analysis.
Over 50% of our respondents reported using linear models, multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling, and survey sampling in their current position.
Over a third of our respondents reported using qualitative data analysis, probability, nonparametric statistics, applied statistics and meta-analyses in their jobs.

What statistical software programs (or programming languages) are most useful in industry? Over 50% of our respondents indicated that they still use Excel (very popular), SPSS, R, and PROCESS macro for SPSS, SAS, and R. A majority now use SQL (Structured Query Language), Python, S-Plus, and Stata, but they were not experienced with these software programs while in graduate school.

Market yourself! These skills and experiences made the respondents stronger candidates:

Certifications (e.g., PMP - Project Management Professional Certification)
Computer programming
Consulting experience (e.g., DEI)
Data analysis experience
Data camp programs
Grant writing
Experiential knowledge
Management experience (e.g., project management)
Non-academic writing experience
Personal experience with the community in which the applicant currently works with (e.g., being a military spouse who now conducts military-related research)
Post-doctoral position
Presentation skills (general)
Presenting to non-scientific audiences
Prior work experience
Program evaluation experience
Qualitative methodology experience
Research assistantships
Teaching experience
Volunteer positions
Writing skills

How do I find jobs? Most respondents used job search websites (e.g.,  LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor) and personal referrals and connections to find jobs.

When searching for a job, applicants found the following keywords helpful:

Program Evaluation
Social Researcher/Scientist

Our respondents recommend using the following keywords to market your skills:

Application/Applied research
Attention to detail
Behavioral/behavioral insights
Intervention design
Mixed methods
Organizational behavior/behavior
People analytics/management
Presentation Skills
Product oriented/Results-oriented
Program evaluation/Programming
Public policy
Qualitative data analysis/methods/research/skills
Quantitative data analysis/methods/research/skills
Research design/organization
Social and behavioral/behavioral change
Social justice/psychology/research
Statistical analysis/packages
Work ethic

Citation: Stewart D.K., Vu, H.A., Austin, K.W., Andrade, F.C., Tissera, H., Conrique, B.G., & Vuletich, H.A. (2021). Careers Outside of Academia for Social and Personality Psychologists: Strategies and Insights about the Non-Academic Job Market: A Technical Report by the SPSP Student Committee. Retrieved from the website of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology: 

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