Education Requirements for a Psychology Career

Sep 21, 2019

Psychologists are typically required to have a master's or doctoral degree in psychology. Clinical psychologists also need to be licensed. It may be possible to begin a career as a psychological assistant with a bachelor's degree.

Essential Information

It's the job of psychologists to examine human behavior, influences, processes, and methods of interaction. Psychologists can focus their work on research or treatment, and can be found in a variety of environments, from hospitals to large corporations to private practices. All psychologists require graduate training and many require a doctoral degree. In addition to years of postsecondary study, almost all states require psychologists to be licensed or certified.

Career Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists Industrial-Organizational Psychologists Psychologists, all other
Education Requirements Most clinical and counseling psychologists need a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.); School psychologists can earn a specialist degree (Ed.S.) Master's degree Ph.D. or Psy.D. usually required
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 15% 13% 12%
Average Salary (2018)* $76,990 $97,260 $100,770

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

All psychologists, whether they treat at-risk teens or spend their days at a computer performing research, require, at the very least, a master's degree. Below are descriptions of four careers within the psychology field and specialized education paths.

Psychological Assistants

While jobs in most psychology professions require graduate education, psychological assistants may find work with a bachelor's degree. These individuals assist psychologists with research, treatment and administrative duties. With experience, psychologist assistants may take on jobs with greater responsibility, like managing a laboratory.

Bachelor's programs include coursework that may range from neuroscience to social behavior. Some programs require students to select courses from major concentration areas, including clinical and social psychology. Basic prerequisite courses in math and foundation-level psychology may need to be completed before a student can declare psychology as their major.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

Industrial-organizational psychologists are concerned with improving quality and productivity in workplaces. According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychologists, Inc., these professionals apply psychological principles to areas relevant to business, such as talent management, assessment, organizational development and performance. They may work directly with the employees through training or counseling.

Prospective industrial-organizational psychologists need a master's degree to practice. Most colleges and universities offer a master's degree program in industrial-organizational psychology. These curricula educate students to recognize, diagnose and plan strategies to solve organizational problems. They combine advanced coursework in cognitive behavior and psychology and behavior development with research in organizational psychology.

School Psychologists

School psychologists identify children with learning difficulties or behavioral problems and plan programs for them. Typically, they work with students, their parents and school personnel to create an efficient learning environment. Outside of schools, they may work for clinics, hospitals or juvenile justice centers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most states require school psychologists to earn a specialist degree or its equivalent ( Educational specialist (Ed.S.) degrees in school psychology include topics in counseling, child development and assessment. Ed.S. programs typically last three years and include a 1-year internship, in which they work with students, faculty members and licensed school psychologists.

Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychologists use their knowledge in science and experience with patients to help people of all ages cope and adapt with hardships. These professionals may work in a concentration, such as health or neurology, as well as give interviews, conduct group sessions or administer diagnostic tests. As such, clinical psychologists work in many industries, including rehabilitation, substance abuse and general consulting.

The BLS indicates that most state licensing boards require clinical psychologists to have a doctorate. Individuals may enter a doctoral program directly after undergraduate school or earn a master's degree and transfer credits toward their doctorate. When pursuing a doctorate, students may choose from Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) programs. The difference is that Ph.D. programs are research-based and Psy.D. programs are geared more toward the practice of psychology.

Both Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs typically have research or experience requirements. Ph.D. programs include research-based coursework, while Psy.D. programs largely require courses in applied psychology. Topics may include substance abuse, neuropsychology and counseling. The BLS reports that some psychology Ph.D. programs require one additional year of supervised clinical experience.

Career and Salary Information

The BLS estimates a 14% job growth for all psychologists in the years 2018-2028. In May 2018, the BLS stated that counseling, school and clinical psychologists earned a mean annual wage of $85,340. Industrial-organizational psychologists earned $109,030 as a mean annual salary in 2015.

Psychologists focus on human behavior and factors that influence behavior. There are many areas of specialization for psychologists. Industrial-organizational psychologists focus on people in the workplace, clinical psychologists attempt to help people with personal issues, and school psychologists focus on addressing behavior issues affecting the education process.

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