What Is Personality Psychology?

If you're interested in why people act the way they do, a personality psychology career might be the perfect fit for you. Learn more about this field.

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by Amber D. Browne

Published August 10, 2022

Edited by Desiree Cunningham
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What Is Personality Psychology?
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A person's personality encompasses the way they think, feel, and act. And psychology is an academic and clinical field centered on understanding and impacting behaviors. So, what is personality psychology?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), personality psychology is the study of a person's specific characteristics, how those traits developed, and how those characteristics work together as a whole.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects psychology jobs will increase by 8% between 2020 and 2030. If a personality psychology career piques your interest, you may have what it takes to work in this field.

What Is the Job Demand and Salary for Personality Psychology?

The BLS does not collect data specifically about personality psychology jobs. However, the BLS projects over 13,500 new jobs for all psychologists will be created between 2020 and 2030. The median salary for psychologists was $81,040 in May 2021, according to the BLS.

These professionals may earn more or less depending on their levels of education and experience, location, and specific industry. According to the BLS, substance misuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors made a median salary of $48,520 each year as of May 2021. Training and development managers earned a median annual wage of $120,130 during the same period.

Professionals who study personality psychology may also seek careers in human resources, postsecondary education, the military, private practice, or even mobile wellness app development.

What Careers Are There in Personality Psychology?

5 Popular Personality Psychology Jobs

Psychologist

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $81,040
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 8%

A psychologist studies and interprets how individuals relate to others and their environments. The BLS states most psychologists need a doctoral degree in psychology to practice, but a master's degree may be sufficient for some roles. Psychologists can work in private practice, education, or healthcare.

Postsecondary Teacher

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $79,640
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 12%

A postsecondary teacher instructs students beyond high school, mostly at colleges, universities, professional schools, and junior or community colleges. Most postsecondary teachers are required to have a Ph.D., but a master's degree may be sufficient for a position at a community college. Experience working in the field of psychology may also be required.

Substance Misuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $48,520
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 23%

A substance misuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor helps people manage addiction and behavioral and mental health conditions. Requirements range from a high school diploma to a master's degree, but most career opportunities require at least a bachelor's degree. These professionals may work in hospital settings or in private practices and mental health centers.

Training and Development Manager

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $120,130
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 11%

A training and development manager develops programs to enhance employee skills and knowledge, according to the BLS. Most industries use these managers to help increase employee job performance. A bachelor's degree or master's degree with related work experience is needed to pursue this career.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $105,310
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 8%

An industrial-organizational psychologist can apply psychological principles in a number of industries, including human resources, management, sales, and marketing, according to the BLS. These professionals facilitate training and organizational development in workplaces to improve employee productivity. A master's or Ph.D. is typically required for this role.

Personality Psychology Practice vs. Research

People with a doctor of philosophy in psychology (Ph.D.) or a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) can conduct scientific psychological research, maintain private practices, or do both, according to the APA. Students working toward a Ph.D. are generally interested in scientific research and/or teaching. Those with a Psy.D. typically offer care, providing psychology services to individuals, corporations, or organizations.

How Do I Get Into Personality Psychology?

You must have a bachelor's degree to work as an entry-level personality psychology professional. Personality psychology bachelor's degree graduates have many career options. They may work on the development of a wellness app or as a training and development specialist.

Seeking higher education can provide you with additional career opportunities and higher salaries. A master's degree in psychology or Ph.D. is required for teaching positions in postsecondary education.

To become a clinical psychologist or have a private practice for personality psychology, you must attend graduate school for a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. Or, you might want to receive a Medical Doctorate (MD) in psychiatry.

The hours of required continuing education (CE) depend on where you live. CE requirements are set by each state. According to the APA, CE can take many forms, including classes and fieldwork. CE ensures professionals stay up-to-date on developments in the field and continue learning about psychology.

How Long Does It Take to Get Into Personality Psychology?

A personality psychology degree, required for entry-level positions, typically takes four years to earn. A master's degree will add another 2-3 years of education, and a doctorate adds an additional 5-7 years.

On-the-job training or internships in a related field would boost your experience and could expedite your acceptance into future job roles. Find out more about networking while in school and beyond in this BestColleges mentorship guide.

The Future of Personality Psychology

Whether you want to work in human resources, education, or in private practice, there are a number of personality psychology jobs available. You can make yourself a strong applicant by pursuing certifications in life coaching, mental health facilitation, and psychological first aid.

The need to understand why people act and react continues, so the need for personality psychology professionals will likely stay strong. "The occupations that people will have, many of those don't even exist, yet," said Laura King, Ph.D., Curators' Distinguished Professor at the University of Missouri and president of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP).

Trend #1

One future personality psychology career could be to predict how a member of the armed forces might perform on the battlefield or endure difficult times. "We might be interested in knowing if you have this particular personality characteristic, does it protect you, let's say from PTSD, if this person experiences trauma," King told BestColleges regarding the evaluation of military personnel.

Trend #2

Personality psychology jobs are appearing in the mobile application sector, particularly in the development of self-improvement and motivational apps. "There are personality psychologists who are developing apps that will help people intervene to change, for example, whether they are a worrier or not, whether they are hard-working or not, things like that," King explained.

Trend #3

As a manager in any industry, you might improve your own performance by having a personality psychology degree. If you can identify specific character traits in employees and understand their personalities, you could help motivate them to ultimately enhance everyone's job productivity.

Trend #4

As an industrial-organizational psychologist, you could work as a consultant in the corporate world. Tasks like hiring and employee retainment require an understanding of personality characteristics. Personality traits affect a person's success, behavior, and motivations. Therefore, a personality psychologist could evaluate and predict how well a person may perform on the job.

Is Personality Psychology Right For Me?

Wonder whether personality psychology might be a fit for you? Take an AP course in high school or college, but keep an open mind. "If someone has taken a class in personality psychology, and all they heard about was Freud and Carl Jung and all these old, dead theories, they need to think about exploring personality the way it really exists," King said.

"The vast majority of personality psychologists actually study traits and are not preoccupied with the unconscious," she said. Instead, they work to understand how the character traits of a person can impact behavior.

You can also check out BestColleges' ultimate guide to an internship in psychology to learn more before committing to a personality psychology program.

Frequently Asked Questions About Personality Psychology

What are the highest paying jobs in personality psychology?

One of the highest-paying jobs for personality psychologists is training and development manager. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $120,130 in May 2021. Industrial-organizational psychologists earned a median salary of $105,310 during the same period, according to the BLS. An industrial-organizational psychologist might work in human resources, management, sales, or marketing.

The BLS reports that psychology professors at a college, university, or professional school earned a median annual salary of $77,860 in May 2021.

What is the difference between personality psychology and sociology?

Personality psychology is the study of a person's thoughts, feelings, and behavior, as well as how these traits work together for the individual. Sociologists also examine a person's thoughts, feelings, and behavior, but focus on how these traits are influenced by external factors.

So, personality psychologists focus on the person and their characteristics rather than the situation or external factors. "Personality psychologists are interested in things like measuring people's traits, their motivation, sometimes their attitudes, as well. We're interested in predicting their behavior from those internal characteristics," King explained.

Is personality psychology a good career?

Studying personality psychology can lead to diverse, high-paying careers in a variety of industries. It is a great career for many people. "There [are] all kinds of things a person might do, but the expertise that you gain in understanding personality and personality psychology is super portable if you think about problems a person wants to solve," King explained.

King said most students who pursue a personality psychology career are naturally curious and often wonder why people do the things they do. If this sounds like you, personality psychology may be the perfect career choice.

What can I do with a psychology degree?

There are a number of careers you can pursue with a psychology degree, including roles in human resources, postsecondary education, private practice, the military, healthcare, education, and more. There are many professional pathways for workers who understand the character traits of a person and how these traits might affect the person's personal and professional experiences.

If you have a bachelor's degree in psychology, you could also return to school for an MBA and then open a business related to personality psychology, such as in the field of self-help or motivation.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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