Psychologist: Educational Requirements
Psychologists need a significant amount of formal education. Learn about degree programs, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.
Psychologists study the human mind and behavior to help patients overcome emotional or psychological difficulties. Becoming a psychologist requires obtaining a master's or doctoral degree. During this process, students might perform research, work supervised clinical rotations, and teach classes. Psychologists can choose from a variety of specialties, such as counseling, school, or clinical psychology. Besides working with individuals, psychologists might work with large companies and organizations to improve workplace productivity or employee satisfaction. They also might conduct research, publish papers and give speeches.
Bachelor's and Master's Programs
Individuals can work in the psychology field with different degree levels, but those who wish to practice independently need advanced schooling. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in every state, psychologists need a master's or doctoral degree to become licensed or certified, which is a requirement to work as a psychologist (www.bls.gov).
With a bachelor's degree in psychology, graduates can apply for a limited number of jobs with the federal government or work as assistants to psychologists. An undergraduate psychology degree can also prepare students for graduate programs. A bachelor's program in psychology usually includes courses in research methods and decision-making and core requirements in areas like developmental, social and clinical psychology.
Master's Degree in Psychology
Individuals with a master's degree in psychology may qualify to work as industrial-organizational psychologists. Some states may approve candidates with master's degrees for licensure as school psychologists. Master's programs are offered in general psychology and in concentration areas. These programs include advanced courses in research, statistics and psychological methods, often requiring the completion of a thesis or comprehensive exam as the capstone requirement.
At the doctoral level, students can choose from a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D) program. They might consider doctoral programs recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA), which accredits programs and internships for clinical, counseling, and school psychology. Most states require that people who run their own practice have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. and some state licensing committees additionally require that applicants hold a degree from an APA-accredited program.
Ph.D. in Psychology programs are geared towards those candidates who are interested in research while Doctor of Psychology programs are best suited for the practice of psychology. Individuals can begin these programs after earning a master's degree or enter directly after undergraduate studies. Students who have already completed a master's program can count some of the credits toward the completion of their doctorate.
Doctoral candidates must complete research, residencies or comprehensive exams, requirements vary by department. Students often work as teaching or research assistants in exchange for a stipend. School, clinical and counseling psychology programs could involve an extra year of supervised work experience, in addition to doctoral programs' five years of full-time study.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The BLS expected psychologists to see employment growth of 19% between 2014 and 2024, which was much higher than average for other careers. Additionally, the BLS reported as of May 2015, industrial-organizational psychologists earned a mean annual salary of $92,320, while clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned a mean annual salary of $76,040. Psychologists specializing in all other areas earned a mean annual salary of $93,050 that same year.
In summary, psychologists typically need a doctoral degree to work in research or private practice, though some positions are available with a bachelor's or master's degree.