Contemporary Psychology: Definition and Career OverviewContemporary Psychology: Definition and Career OverviewContemporary Psychology: Definition and Career Overview

When many people think of psychology, they imagine a person lying on a leather couch while a therapist asks questions about the patient’s childhood. However, this is a dated stereotype. Contemporary psychology has come a long way from the days of overly formal clinicians and outdated theories. Modern psychology professionals view their field in a much more nuanced way, understanding all the factors that go into a single emotion or behavior.

Modern psychology has evolved to become a much broader field, which allows those with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology degree to explore a dynamic range of careers, including roles that go beyond traditional psychology pathways.

Contemporary Psychology Definition

What is contemporary psychology? Essentially, it is the integration of traditional psychological theories with modern perspectives on human thought and behavior. Contemporary psychology professionals tend not to identify with a particular school of thought defined by previous theories. Rather, they align their practice with different perspectives, such as behavioral, cognitive, cross-cultural, and humanistic.

These perspectives allow psychologists to examine different aspects of the human brain and how various societal elements influence it. This can ultimately allow them to understand how a subject thinks, feels, and acts. This subject can be an individual, but it can also be a group or segment of society. Modern psychologists also study how genetics, the environment, and experiences can influence specific behaviors.

How to Become a Contemporary Psychology Professional

Becoming a psychologist takes years of education and training, plus the right skills to effectively connect with patients and conduct research. However, there are a number of contemporary psychology professions that can be achieved without a psychologist license.

Contemporary Psychology Professions

Those who are interested in pursuing careers outside of the psychology field may find that a bachelor’s in psychology degree establishes a solid foundation. A background in psychology can lead to fields such as business, education, and marketing, though some professions may require a master’s degree or certification. These careers allow graduates to apply the principles of psychology and human behavior to real-world settings. Examples of contemporary psychology careers include the following:

Contemporary Psychologist Education

Becoming a licensed psychologist starts with earning undergraduate and graduate degrees. It’s helpful for future psychologists to start their collegiate path in a relevant undergraduate program, such as the online psychology degree offered by Maryville University. Such foundational study prepares students for a master’s or doctoral program. Undergraduate students develop key skills that will be necessary later in their careers, such as interpersonal communication, analytical thinking, attention to detail, empathy, and problem-solving.

Graduates who want to pursue a career in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or industrial and organizational psychology can enter a terminal master’s degree program that includes an emphasis on research. Many psychologists also earn a doctoral degree, which typically requires five to seven years of study. Some doctoral programs require a master’s degree, while others do not. The two main doctorates in this field are the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology and the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD).

Contemporary Psychologist Licensure and Certification

Earning a doctorate in psychology isn’t enough to begin practicing. Many states have different requirements for licensure and certification, but all require a combination of advanced education and supervised professional experience before a psychologist can practice. In addition, to become a contemporary psychologist, individuals must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Some specialists in psychology, such as neuropsychologists and clinical health psychologists, must also earn board certification.

Typical Contemporary Psychology Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual salary for psychologists was $81,040 as of May 2021. School psychologists earned a median annual salary of $78,780; clinical and counseling psychologists earned $82,510; industrial-organizational psychologists earned $105,310; and all other psychologists earned $102,900. The industry that paid psychologists the most was the government ($103,850), followed by hospitals ($99,300), ambulatory healthcare organizations ($83,770), and elementary and secondary schools ($78,830).

Other contemporary psychology roles come with a range of salaries. For example, the median annual salary for social science research assistants was $49,720 in 2021, according to the BLS, while career counselors earned $60,510 and market research analysts earned $63,920.

Contemporary Psychology Career Outlook

The BLS expects the job market for psychologists to grow by 6% between 2021 and 2031; this is just above the 5% growth rate that the BLS predicts for the average profession. There were 181,600 psychologists working in the U.S. in 2021, and the BLS projects there will be about 11,300 jobs created in the coming years. The largest percentage of psychologists is either self-employed or employed by elementary and secondary schools (27% in each category), followed by ambulatory healthcare organizations (21%), the government (9%), and hospitals (5%).

Career counselors have a higher-than-average growth rate of 10% between 2021 and 2031, while the outlook for market research analysts is 19% over the same period.

Contemporary Psychology Curriculum

An undergraduate psychology curriculum focuses on the clinical, social, and biological elements of human behavior. It also covers modern psychology theories. Maryville’s online bachelor’s in psychology curriculum gives students the opportunity to explore the complexities of modern psychology with courses including the following:

  • Human Development Through the Lifespan: This course concentrates on the impact different elements have on people’s growth and development, emphasizing growth in Western cultures.
  • Abnormal Psychology: This course highlights the nature, symptoms, and treatment strategies associated with abnormal behaviors.
  • Social Psychology: This course highlights the psychological impact of human-to-human relationships, discussing how these relationships shape human behaviors.
  • Human Cognition: This course covers human cognition concepts such as language, attention, and memory. It also explores the relationships between cognition and neural bases.

The fully online degree also features a social science research sequence: a series of courses that teaches students how to conduct research, analyze data, and present relevant findings.

Graduates earn a fundamental understanding of psychology that can then be applied to different specialty areas, such as children’s mental health or human diversity.

Learn More About a Career in Contemporary Psychology

The route to becoming a psychologist begins with an undergraduate program that teaches students about human behavior and cognition and inspires a passion for understanding human development and its impact on society. Through coursework that emphasizes vital skills such as research, social psychology, and multicultural psychology, Maryville’s online BA in Psychology program creates the foundation for success in postgraduate education and the professional landscape. Explore why Maryville’s online BA in Psychology could be the perfect starting point for your career in contemporary psychology.

Recommended Readings

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

Social Isolation Impact on Cognitive Health

Forensic Psychology vs. Clinical Psychology: Choosing a Path


Indeed, How to Become a Counseling Psychologist

Indeed, How to Become a Psychologist

Indeed, How to Become an Industrial Psychologist Step by Step

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Human Resources Specialists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Market Research Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Psychologists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, School and Career Counselors and Advisors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social Science Research Assistants

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Survey Researchers

Verywell Mind, “Major Perspectives in Modern Psychology”

Verywell Mind, “The Origins of Psychology”

Be Brave

Bring us your ambition and we’ll guide you along a personalized path to a quality education that’s designed to change your life.