What a degree in psychology can mean for your arts career

A degree in psychology doesn’t always mean a career on the couch. Here are some other career opportunities available to graduates.
What a degree in psychology can mean for your arts career

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The intersection of the health and arts disciplines has always proved productive. We can see this in recent initiatives like Westmead hospital’s ArtsLab and the arts festival targeting mental health, Big Anxiety

It’s this direction — where the arts merges with health — that’s leading innovation in research and experimentation, now developing under the moniker ‘Creative Health’. As governments and funding bodies recognise the benefits of creative health programs and the ways in which the arts can positively impact a person’s mental health and improve quality of life, we are seeing more artists and arts workers interested in career opportunities in this space. 

Both psychology and counselling intersect in the space of Creative Health, and if you’re interested in stepping into this field, you may have considered upskilling by studying a degree in Psychology. On the other hand, you may be interested in understanding how people behave and think, but don’t see yourself becoming a therapist. 

Either way, you’ve probably asked yourself, where can psychology take you in the arts? It can be a tricky space to navigate career-wise. Here’s some ideas to get you started.

Creative Health Careers

  • Dance movement therapy
  • Dramatherapy
  • Music therapy
  • Visual art therapy

Because psychology is fundamentally the study of human behaviour, there are many different pathways and career options in both fields and a degree in psychology doesn’t necessarily lead to a career as a psychologist. 

The combination of psychology and counselling with creative practice is proving particularly rich. In what’s known as creative arts therapies, where music, visual arts, and performance blend with more traditional counselling and therapy, people are finding relief and new forms of rehabilitation.

For creative practitioners, studying a degree in psychology can instead lead to a career in counselling, where many find work as an expressive art therapist. Some practitioners have also moved into performance psychology to work with dancers and performing artists on the psychological underpinnings of their practice and movement. 


  • UX Design
  • Product Design
  • Industrial Design

Just because you’re the kind of person interested in studying how people behave, doesn’t mean you have to become a therapist. Instead, many people put their psychology degrees to good use by pursuing careers in UX, product design, or even industrial design, where knowledge of how people interact with their environments is incredibly useful.

UX design is all about creating online experiences with the user in mind, and a degree in psychology has proven to be a solid foundation for many people who have pursued a career in this field. As Lillian Xiao writes on UX Planet, ‘Studying psychology helped me develop an intuitive understanding of core human needs, learn how to experiment creatively, and to make decisions in the face of uncertainty.’  

Similarly, good product design looks to understand the emotions and behaviours of humans and then uses this knowledge to motivate people to buy or engage with a product. 

Research and Marketing 

  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Graphic Design

Many people who work in the arts shift into marketing and advertising roles at some point, or work as arts marketers full time. Getting bums in seats or into galleries is, afterall, a big part of what we do in the arts. And so knowledge of people's needs, wants and behaviour is useful when it comes to creating marketing campaigns. 

In many cases, the more creative a campaign is in the way it engages audiences, the better the result. But fundamentally, this comes down to understanding human behaviour and involves many areas of psychology, like designing surveys to collect research and exploring data.

Monash Online have created an infographic which shows you the pathways to becoming a psychologist and the wide variety of careers available to graduates. To find out more, visit Monash Online.

Brooke Boland

Tuesday 30 April, 2019

About the author

Brooke Boland is a freelance writer based on the South Coast of NSW. She has a PhD in literature from the University of NSW. You can find her on Instagram @southcoastwriter.