Psychologist Education and Career Overview

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

View popular schools

Psychologists analyze human behavior through clinical studies, patient counseling, or research. The amount of education needed to work as a psychologist depends directly on what kind of work one wants to do. A master's degree may suffice for industrial-organizational psychologists, though a doctoral degree is most common for clinical, counseling and school psychologists.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Behavioral Sciences, General
  • Biopsychology
  • Clinical Psychology, General
  • Cognitive Psychology and Psycholinguistics
  • Cognitive Science
  • Community Psychology
  • Comparitive Psychology
  • Counseling Psychology, General
  • Environmental Psychology
  • Experimental Psychology
  • Family Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology, General
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Medical Psychology
  • Personality Psychology
  • Physiological Psychology
  • Psychology, General
  • Psychometrics and Quantitative Psychology
  • Social Psychology

Essential Information

Psychologists determine clients' behavioral patterns and develop ways to work through emotional or cognitive issues. Each field of psychology has many different specialties with their own educational requirements. All clinical psychologists must be licensed or certified and have obtained a doctoral degree.

Required Education Doctoral degree (Ph.D or Psy.D) for clinical psychologists
Other Requirements State licensure; specialty certification available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 19% (all psychologists)
Average Salary (2015)* $76,040 (clinical, counseling and school psychologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for Psychologists

In order to qualify for a career as a psychologist, a person must have at least a master's degree. However, those with a Master of Arts (MA) in Psychology may face limited options for specialization. Students who hold an MA may qualify for jobs as industrial-organizational psychologists. Alternatively, an individual with a master's degree can work as an assistant for a psychologist who practices in a specialized field of study.

People who have obtained a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) can become self-employed psychologists or obtain clinical, research, experimental and counseling positions. Psychologists with doctoral degrees may also perform administrative duties or train others to become psychologists.

Although graduates of a master's program may be hired as school psychologists, an Education Specialist (EdS) degree with a focus on school psychology is the usual requirement for entering the field. Due to the nature of a school psychologist's work, the curriculum is typically geared towards both the fundamentals of education and the nature of psychology.

A graduate degree program in psychology is highly competitive, and most schools require applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree in psychology. After graduation, all clinical psychologists must seek licensure or certification at either the state or national level before they can practice in the United States.

Career Overview

Psychologists work to understand patterns of behavior through observation of trends and experimentation. They use this understanding to promote behavioral development, find solutions to emotional problems and to help people learn. Methods commonly used by psychologists include lab studies using controlled groups of people, personal interviewing and discussions, hypnotherapy, administering assessment tests, performing psychotherapy or simply observing another's behavior in a natural setting.

There are many specialty fields for psychologists. For instance, clinical psychologists diagnose and treat mental disorders. Research psychologists work in lab settings to determine what factors affect behavioral patterns in humans and animals. School psychologists aid students through their school career and diagnose special educational needs. Industrial-organizational psychologists aid workers through training and counseling to improve the quality of work.

Psychologists can either be self-employed or work for an organization. In either case, psychologists must be accommodating towards their clients and possess strong interpersonal skills, in addition to having an understanding of the basic tenets of psychology and the place for which they work.

No matter their work setting, most licensed psychologists need a doctoral degree, with the exception of industrial-organizational psychologists, who can work with only a master's degree. Psychologists can specialize in one of the many fields available and may work in labs, private practice, clinics, or schools.

Next: View Schools

What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma or GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

    • BA: Psychology
    • BA: Psychology - General
    • BA: Psychology - Experimental
    • BA: Psychology - Clinical/Counseling
    • BA: Psychology - Developmental

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
    • MS in Psychology
    • MS in Educational Psychology
    • MS in Psychology - Applied Behavioral Analysis
    • MS in Psychology - Addictions
    • BS in Psychology in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
    • BS in Psychology in Addictions
    • BS in Psychology in Applied Behavior Analysis
    • BS in Criminal Justice - Forensic Psychology
    • Graduate Certificate in Addictions
    • Graduate Certificate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
    • Applied Behavior Analysis Postbaccalaureate Certificate

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Cognition and Instruction
    • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Industrial and Organizational Psychology
    • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
    • Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision
    • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
    • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
    • MS in Psychology: General Psychology
    • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Health Psychology
    • MS in Psychology: Industrial & Organizational Psychology
    • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with Emphasis in Grief and Bereavement
    • BS in Psychology
    • B.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance and Sports Psychology
    • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Trauma
    • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders
    • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Family Dynamics

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Coaching and Mentoring
    • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Psychology
    • Bachelor of Science in Psychology
    • Bachelor of Science in Psychology - Clinical and Counseling Psychology
    • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Leadership Studies

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • Counseling, M.A.
    • Counseling, M.A. Online
    • Psychology, B.S.
    • Psychology, B.S. - Emphasis in Biblical Studies
    • Psychology, B.S. - Emphasis in Clinical Counseling
    • Psychology, A.S.

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • MS in Criminal Justice Behavior Analysis

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • M.S. Nursing - Psychiatric Mental Health

    What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?