How to Become a Psychologist: Education Requirements & Qualifications

Jul 09, 2019

Psychologists need a significant amount of formal education. Learn how to become a psychologist and explore degree programs with a psych major. You can also examine the job duties and qualifications for psychologists to see if this is the right career for you.

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Psychologist Job Overview

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 school, clinical, or counseling 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.

Qualifications for Psychologists

Psychologist Education Bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in psychology
Licensure/Certification Private practice, Ph.D. or Psy.D. often require state licensure
Experience Practicum, internships, and volunteer work all valuable
Key Skills Empathy and compassion; analytical, listening, and communication skills
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 14% growth for psychologists
Mean Annual Salary (2018) $109,030 (for industrial-organizational psychologists)
$85,340 (for clinical, counseling and school psychologists)
$95,610 for psychologists specializing in all other areas)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Educational Requirements for Psychologists?

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, the degree needed to be a psychologist is either a master's or doctorate. These degrees are necessary to become licensed or certified, which is a requirement to work as a psychologist (www.bls.gov).

Undergraduate Psychologist Training

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.

Graduate Psychologist Training

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.

Doctoral Programs

At the doctoral level, students can pursue psychologist study through 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 14% between 2016 and 2026, faster than average for other careers. Additionally, the BLS reported as of May 2018, industrial-organizational psychologists earned a mean annual salary of $109,030, while clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned a mean annual salary of $85,340. Psychologists specializing in all other areas earned a mean annual salary of $95,610 that same year.

In summary, psychologist schooling requirements typically consist of a doctoral degree to work in research or private practice, though some positions are available with a bachelor's or master's degree.

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