Learn about how psychologists are positively impacting health care today
Are you interested in psychology, but not sure exactly which careers you can pursue with the degree, or how much additional education you need? Psychology is a popular liberal arts major as it can be a fascinating topic, studying the human mind, mental processes, and human behavior. As the science concerned with behavior, it is a broad field that can offshoot into many specialties and levels of training.
Become a Psychologist
- Career Plan: How to Become a Psychologist
- Career Plan: How to Become a Health Psychologist
- Career Plan: How to Become an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist
- Schools Offering: Psychology Programs
Generally speaking, what is a psychologist?
Psychologists study the individual, observing, and interpreting how people react to their surroundings and to others. They study both normal and abnormal behavior, but generally treat patients with mental or emotional problems. They primarily look for patterns, and employ scientific methods and principles to predict behavior. Psychologists develop theories to explain the patterns they observe. Ultimately they seek to predict behavior, and to explain the emotions and feelings and behavior. Application of psychology can promote healthy behavior, recovery from trauma, or even guide treatment for issues like substance abuse.
Where do the work?
We generally think of psychologists as working in mental health, but they can work in hospitals, clinics, in schools, in law, sports, forensics, and in industry or business settings. They can work in counseling, research, testing, or in educational institutions. Industrial psychology is a growing field were psychologists work with employers to assist in hiring, help boost productivity, or provide emotional support for employees. School psychology is a rapidly growing career, where these professionals work directly with young students, either individually or in a group. Clinical psychology is the largest specialty, where they treat mental illness, ranging from the severe, like schizophrenia, to mild depression. Clinical psychologists can also assist people deal with trauma or emotional upheaval caused by death or other loss. Specialization in also possible by working with a certain set of patients, such as neuropsychology, geropsychology, and child psychology.
Education and training requirements for psychologists
To work as a psychologist, you will need a minimum of master’s degree, although the requirements will vary based on the direction and specialty you choose. Industrial psychologists require only a master’s degree. To work as a clinical psychologist, you will need a doctoral degree. Psychologists who have a Ph.D. can counsel, research, and teach. They can work in private practice or conduct research. Unlike psychiatrists, who have a medical degree, they cannot prescribe any medication. It is ideal to start with an undergraduate degree in psychology as well, as gradate programs are generally competitive. As an undergraduate, you could also pursue assistant jobs in mental health centers of private practices, to learn more about the field. A bachelor’s degree could also qualify you for entry level positions. Be sure to find an educational program that is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Licensing laws vary by state, but all states require licensing.
The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) provides certification in 13 areas, such as forensic, school, group, rehabilitation, couple, family, and psychoanalysis. Certification requires a state license. This is a process that reviews education, training, and work experience. Licensure measures knowledge but becoming board certified is voluntary and measures competency, taking the licensing process essentially one step further.
Job outlook and salary ranges
According to the Department of Labor, jobs for those with graduate degrees in psychology are projected to grow between 10% and 20% by 2010. Employment is expected to grow at varying degrees for the specialties. Industrial psychologists, for instance, are projected to grow at a high rate of 26%, and school psychologists around 11% and 14% growth is projected for other specialties. The salary of a psychologist will vary depending on specialty or employer. The average industrial psychologist salary is $83,260. The average salary for a clinical or school psychologist is $66,040, and for all other psychologists the average is $86,540.
Becoming a successful psychologist requires a lot of education and training, but also necessitates certain personality traits and skill sets. Emotional stability, great capacity empathy, sensitivity, and good communication skills are just some qualifications that will help you in this job. Consider reading the websites of the APA for additional information on psychology specialties, but get started on your undergraduate degree now. This field and its specialties will continue to grow and become more specialized, as the healthcare sector is doing. If it’s the right fit for you, it could make for a rewarding career with many options for advancement.
To learn more about becoming a psychologist, you can contact schools that offer related psychology programs or learn more by reading the career plan discussion on becoming a psychologist. If you are still trying to determine the right career choice, take some time to explore additional careers in health care.