Clinical Psychologist: Job Description and Career Information

Explore the licensing and education requirements for a clinical psychologist. Learn about degree programs, necessary skills, employment outlook and salary to make the right career decision.

Career Definition for a Clinical Psychologist

A clinical psychologist's primary tasks are the assessment and treatment of mental health issues, including emotional or social disorders. The APA's Society of Clinical Psychology indicates that clinical psychologists may use a variety of methods for treatment including psychotherapy, marriage and family counseling, behavioral analysis and biofeedback. A clinical psychologist's job responsibilities may also include development and supervision of mental health programs. Clinical psychologists can work in private practices, mental health organizations and hospitals, with individuals, families, couples or groups of all ages and socioeconomic statuses.

Education Psy.D. or Ph.D. in clinical psychology
Job Skills Social, caring, self-aware, objective
Median Salary (2017) $75,090 (for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 14% (for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Education Required

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that some clinical psychology doctoral degree programs require an undergraduate degree or a specified amount of coursework in psychology before admission to a required and competitive Psy.D. or Ph.D. program. Prospective clinical psychologists must also complete clinical training and state licensing tests, which vary by state. Doctoral programs in this field can take up to seven years to complete. In these programs, students learn how to test and assess clients, in addition to studying psychoanalysis, psychopathology, child psychology, health psychology and research skills.

Skills Required

Clinical psychologists must have outstanding communication skills, reporting skills and interpersonal skills. They should demonstrate self-awareness, objectivity, a strong desire to help others and thorough knowledge of psychology and treatment options available to patients. The ability to collaborate with other medical professionals is also very important.

Career and Economic Outlook

Clinical psychologists can expect a large amount of job growth over the next few years. According to the BLS, more jobs should open up due to increased demand for psychological services, as well as the need to assist certain segments of the population, such as veterans and the elderly. The BLS predicts that clinical, counseling, and school psychologist jobs will grow by 14% between 2016 and 2026. According to the BLS, clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned a median of $75,090 in 2017.

Alternative Careers

Similar careers within this field include:

Mental Health Counselor

For those who want to help individuals with their emotional and mental problems but do not want to pursue a doctorate, a career as a mental health counselor is an option. Mental health counselors listen to clients and give them advice on how to deal with their problems. They also work with psychologists and doctors to arrange treatments. Every state requires licensure for this career, which involves earning a counseling or therapy master's degree, passing an exam and completing supervised hours in the field. The BLS predicts that this occupation will grow by 23% between 2016 and 2026. In May of 2017, the BLS reported that substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors received a median annual wage of $43,300.

Social Worker

In addition to providing counseling, social workers find resources and programs that will help those in need. They also respond to crisis situations and work with clients to create plans. To gain employment providing direct services, a bachelor's degree is necessary. Those who provide clinical counseling services must earn a master's degree in social work and become licensed in their state. The BLS predicts a 19% increase in employment of mental health and substance abuse social workers between 2016 and 2026. In 2017, the BLS reported a median salary of $43,250 for this occupation.


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