Psychologist Education and Career Overview

Psychologists require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties, and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Psychologists determine clients' behavioral patterns and develop ways to work through emotional or cognitive issues. Each field of psychology has many different specialties with their own educational requirements. All clinical psychologists must be licensed or certified and have obtained a doctoral degree.

Required EducationDoctoral degree (Ph.D or Psy.D) for clinical psychologists
Other RequirementsState licensure; specialty certification available
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)*12% (all psychologists)
Average Salary (2013)*$72,710 (clinical, counseling and school psychologists)

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for Psychologists

In order to qualify for a career as a psychologist, a person must have at least a master's degree. However, those with a Master of Arts (MA) in Psychology may face limited options for specialization. Students who hold an MA may qualify for jobs as industrial-organizational psychologists. Alternatively, an individual with a master's degree can work as an assistant for a psychologist who practices in a specialized field of study.

People who have obtained a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) can become self-employed psychologists or obtain clinical, research, experimental and counseling positions. Psychologists with doctoral degrees may also perform administrative duties or train others to become psychologists.

Although graduates of a master's program may be hired as school psychologists, an Education Specialist (EdS) degree with a focus on school psychology is the usual requirement for entering the field. Due to the nature of a school psychologist's work, the curriculum is typically geared towards both the fundamentals of education and the nature of psychology.

A graduate degree program in psychology is highly competitive, and most schools require applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree in psychology. After graduation, all clinical psychologists must seek licensure or certification at either the state or national level before they can practice in the United States.

Career Overview

Psychologists work to understand patterns of behavior through observation of trends and experimentation. They use this understanding to promote behavioral development, find solutions to emotional problems and to help people learn. Methods commonly used by psychologists include lab studies using controlled groups of people, personal interviewing and discussions, hypnotherapy, administering assessment tests, performing psychotherapy or simply observing another's behavior in a natural setting.

There are many specialty fields for psychologists. For instance, clinical psychologists diagnose and treat mental disorders. Research psychologists work in lab settings to determine what factors affect behavioral patterns in humans and animals. School psychologists aid students through their school career and diagnose special educational needs. Industrial-organizational psychologists aid workers through training and counseling to improve the quality of work.

Psychologists can either be self-employed or work for an organization. In either case, psychologists must be accommodating towards their clients and possess strong interpersonal skills, in addition to having an understanding of the basic tenets of psychology and the place for which they work.

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