Psychologist: Career Summary and Educational Overview

Sep 13, 2019

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

Psychologists typically must have a doctoral degree, complete 1-2 years of experience and meet state licensing requirements to work in this career field. Psychologists may conduct research, work with clients or see patients.

Essential Information

Psychologists make their living studying human behavior and applying that knowledge to real-world situations. Psychologists use their understanding of people and problem-solving skills to work in a broad range of fields, from health care to business. Clinical and counseling psychologists - the most common specialty - typically need a doctoral degree, as well as a professional license.

Required Education Doctoral degree
Other Requirements 1-2 years of experience and state license for clinical and counseling psychologists
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 14% for all psychologists
Median Salary (2018)* $79,010 for all psychologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Summary for Psychologists

Psychologists are social scientists who study people's behavior. They work in research, education, business, marketing, counseling and health services, helping people to understand their emotions, learn how to cope with difficult times and create realistic demographic models. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), work as a psychologist generally requires a doctoral degree, although some positions are open for those with bachelor's or master's degrees ( Unlike psychiatrists, who are medical doctors, psychologists generally cannot prescribe medication for mental health.

Specialties for Psychologists

Psychologists can be found in nearly every sector of the economy, from the federal government to private practice. Many businesses employ psychologists to do research for marketing or to care for their employees' mental health. A large number of psychologists work in individual or group clinics. The American Psychological Association (APA) notes that psychologists can specialize in clinical, counseling, developmental, educational, forensic, research or industrial/organizational psychology, among other areas of interest.

Earnings and Occupational Outlook

According to the BLS in May 2018, clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned a median annual salary of $79,010, while industrial-organizational psychologists received median annual earnings of $97,260 in the same year. The BLS also estimated that job openings for all psychologists will increase by 14% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than average compared to all occupations. Prospects were anticipated to be better for psychologists with doctoral degrees in specialties.

Licensure and Certification Information

Psychologists need to obtain state licensure in order to work with individuals or provide patient care, per the BLS. Many licensure requirements include a doctorate and supervised experience, but they will vary by state. Practicing psychologists can pursue certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology in different specialty areas.

Educational Overview for Psychologists

Aspiring psychologists begin their studies by enrolling in a bachelor's degree program. Students take courses in developmental psychology, which explores how people change as they age. Discussion topics may include personality development and how the environment affects a person's psychology. They also study research methods, experimental psychology and the biological bases of psychology. Other courses may include the history of psychology and study of learning.

Master's Degree in Psychology

Students can choose to earn a Master of Arts or Master of Science in Psychology. Master's degree programs typically take 1-2 years in which students may be responsible for planning and conducting research on a topic in psychology. Coursework may also cover applied psychology, social psychology and cognitive neuroscience.

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

The Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology offers students the option to specialize in such areas as social, cognitive, quantitative, developmental, general, experimental or clinical psychology. While specific course requirements depend on the concentration that students choose, the curricula typically include researching and writing a dissertation that you orally defend. This degree program can be completed in 5-7 years.

Doctor of Psychology

This professional degree program focuses on clinical components of psychology more so than research, and prepares graduates to use the practitioner-scholar model, according to the APA. These programs can take at least four years to complete and involve clinical-skills seminars and studying intervention techniques for single clients and groups. Throughout the program, students complete multiple practicum sessions and prepare for their doctoral dissertation.

A 14% increase in employment is expected for psychologists from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the national average. Applicants with a doctoral degree, experience and licensure should have the most employment options to consider when entering this field.

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