Schooling and Training Options for a Psychologist

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a psychologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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There are a variety of educational paths and training requirements for psychologists depending on what they want to specialize in. Degree requirements range from master's to doctoral and these degrees frequently need to be accompanied by a license or certification. Those seeking a career in this field can choose to go into school, clinical or industrial-organizational psychology.

Essential Information

Psychologists observe and study people and their behavior. Because psychologists have the option of specializing in a number of areas, degree requirements vary; however, psychologists need a graduate degree. Those interested in teaching or working in private practice must be licensed and hold a doctoral degree.

Required Education Master's degree, doctoral degree for most positions
Other Requirements Licensure or certification
Projected Job Growth* 19% between 2014 and 2024
Median Salary (2015)* $70,580 (clinical, counseling and school psychologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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  • Behavioral Sciences, General
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  • Forensic Psychology, General
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
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What Training Options Are Available for Psychologists?

Psychologists need at least a master's degree in order to practice. Those interested in teaching and research positions or opening up a private practice typically need a doctorate.

Degree programs for aspiring psychologists allow them to specialize in one of several different areas. Students could enroll in degree programs that prepare them for work as experimental psychologists who perform research on human and animal behavior or forensic psychologists who act as expert witnesses in court proceedings and help legal professionals understand the psychological aspects of each case. Programs are also available for aspiring developmental psychologists who study behaviors exhibited in infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age.

Coursework varies by specialization area, but tends to include core courses in subjects such as perception, abnormal behavior, cognition and research methods. Some of these specialization options are profiled below.

School Psychology

School psychologists may be required to earn a master's degree in school psychology or an Education Specialist degree (Ed.S.). These professionals complete coursework and clinical experiences that train them to work with teachers, parents and school administrators. They also learn how to help students achieve academic, social and emotional success through classes covering child and adolescent development.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychologists make up the majority of psychology professionals. They treat such disorders as phobias, depression and schizophrenia. They also help people deal with issues like divorce and death. Doctoral programs in this field include an internship and can also allow students to train in such sub-specialties as child psychology, neuropsychology, geropsychology and health psychology.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Industrial-organizational psychologists strive to improve the quality and conditions of the workplace by addressing management problems, counseling job applicants and enhancing workplace productivity. These psychologists can enter the field after completing master's degree programs that cover such topics as organizational leadership, organizational behavior and workplace motivation.

Licensure Requirements

Psychologists who provide patient care services and those working in private practice must be licensed. Although requirements for licensure vary by state, each state typically administers a standardized test to applicants who've met education and internship requirements. Many states also require psychologists to complete continuing education courses in order to renew their license.

Psychology students can specialize in a variety of fields, including experimental psychology, forensic psychology, and developmental psychology. This can lead to work in schools, businesses and workplaces, or even one's own practice. First, psychologists must complete the minimum of a master's degree and pass any standardized tests required for certification.

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