Licensed Psychologist: Requirements, Duties and Career Outlook

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

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Licensed psychologists usually possess a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Psychology and may work with patients in a variety of settings, ranging from hospitals and universities to private practice. It is crucial that they develop listening, observation, and communication skills to best work with their patients.

Essential Information

To become a psychologist you must first complete an undergraduate program before going on to obtain a master's and doctoral degree. You don't have to major in psychology as an undergraduate, but you should take coursework that includes introductions to psychology, experimental psychology and statistics. Educational requirements vary depending on the field of psychology you want to pursue. For example, a school psychologist's training incorporates psychology and education, in order to prepare the graduate for working with developmental problems a student may encounter. Independent psychologists must have a license to practice. The law for licensing varies by state.

Required Education Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree
Other Requirements Licensure or certification required by most states
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 12% (for psychologists, all other)*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $100,770 (for psychologists, all other)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Licensed psychologists are social scientists concerned with understanding human thought and behavior. Individuals interested in having a career in this field may focus on a number of different areas involving mental health, such as couple and family counseling, addiction rehabilitation, or psychoanalysis. You can choose to become a clinical, school, industrial-organizational, social or developmental psychologist.

Licensed Psychologist Education Requirements

Psychologists need to earn a master's or doctoral degree before they are eligible to gain licensure in the field. Those with master's degrees can work as industrial-organizational psychologists or conduct research under the supervision of doctorate-level psychologists. Professionals with a doctorate degree must complete five years of graduate study and can work in a clinical practice or hospital. An Ed.S. specialist degree is available for those who want to work in schools and with children.

Licensing and Certification

Psychologists who work with patients must pass an examination given by a state to become licensed. Licensing requirements can vary by state and specialty, but the requirements usually include holding a graduate degree in psychology, completing an approved internship and having 1-2 years of professional experience. Some states require continuing education in order to maintain licensure.

Licensed psychologists who wish to specialize in a certain area may earn a specialty certification. Specialties include forensics, rehabilitation, psychoanalysis and clinical health. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) offers specialty certifications in these areas. The requirements for earning certification include postdoctoral training in the area of specialty, professional endorsements, several years of professional experience and passing a specialty board examination.

Licensed Psychologist Job Duties

Although all licensed psychologists focus on the mental process and human behavior, specific job duties can vary depending on their specialty.

Clinical Psychologist

Clinical psychologists work with patients and assess, diagnose and treat those living with mental illness. These professionals may provide psychotherapy services to patients and implement intervention or behavior modification programs.

School Psychologist

School psychologists work with the teachers and parents of elementary and secondary school children. Responsibilities may include addressing behavioral problems and helping children with learning disabilities. Psychologists use their education and experience to help create a healthy learning environment for students.

Research Psychologist

Research psychologists perform experiments and study both human and animal behavior. Some of the topics that research psychologists study include learning and memory, thought, sensation and perception, substance abuse, attention, motivation and behavior.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Industrial-organizational psychologists aim to improve quality of life in the workplace. They work with management to implement ways to increase productivity, as well as train and counsel job applicants.

Counseling Psychologist

Counseling psychologists help clients deal with the problems they are facing in their everyday life. These psychologists can help prevent psychological disorders by promoting mental health and helping people improve their quality of life.

Social Psychologist

Social psychologists aim to understand the way people interact with others. They may work in areas such as marketing research, systems design or organizational consultation.

Developmental Psychologist

Developmental psychologists examine the physiological, cognitive and social changes that occur throughout a person's lifetime. They may specialize in a specific period of life, such as infancy, childhood, adolescence or old age.

Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychologists usually act as expert witnesses in court cases. They can evaluate the mental status of criminals, offer psychotherapy to victims, work with child witnesses or evaluate child custody issues.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Employment of all psychologists is expected to grow faster than the national average through 2028. However, job growth is expected to vary by specialty, with industrial-organizational psychologists projected to experience employment growth at 13%, while clinical, counseling and school psychologists will see a 15% increase in jobs. Those who hold doctoral degrees in specialized areas and have knowledge of quantitative research methods and computer science should have the greatest job prospects.

In 2018, the BLS noted a median annual salary of $76,990 for clinical, counseling and school psychologists and $97,260 for industrial-organizational psychologists.

While the education requirements for all types of psychologists are extensive, aspiring professionals may enjoy good salaries and faster-than-average increases in job openings. Regardless of specialty, licensed psychologists help others by analyzing life issues and providing solutions through a variety of means, including one-on-one psychotherapy and group counseling.

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