Psychologist

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Average Salary Range: $60,000 to $79,999

Average Hourly: $ 37.99

Education Minimum: Master's degree

Number of Jobs: 181700

Jobs Added to 2028: 26100

Growth: Much faster than average

What Psychologists Do

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and to their environments. They use their findings to help improve processes and behaviors.

Duties

Psychologists typically do the following:

  • Conduct scientific studies of behavior and brain function
  • Observe, interview, and survey individuals
  • Identify psychological, emotional, behavioral, or organizational issues and diagnose disorders
  • Research and identify behavioral or emotional patterns
  • Test for patterns that will help them better understand and predict behavior
  • Discuss the treatment of problems with clients
  • Write articles, research papers, and reports to share findings and educate others
  • Supervise interns, clinicians, and counseling professionals

Psychologists seek to understand and explain thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behavior. They use techniques such as observation, assessment, and experimentation to develop theories about the beliefs and feelings that influence individuals.

Psychologists often gather information and evaluate behavior through controlled laboratory experiments, psychoanalysis, or psychotherapy. They also may administer personality, performance, aptitude, or intelligence tests. They look for patterns of behavior or relationships between events, and they use this information when testing theories in their research or when treating patients.

The following are examples of types of psychologists:

Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Clinical psychologists help people deal with problems ranging from short-term personal issues to severe, chronic conditions.

Clinical psychologists are trained to use a variety of approaches to help individuals. Although strategies generally differ by specialty, clinical psychologists often interview patients, give diagnostic tests, and provide individual, family, or group psychotherapy. They also design behavior modification programs and help patients implement their particular program. Some clinical psychologists focus on specific populations, such as children or the elderly, or on certain specialties, such as neuropsychology.

Clinical psychologists often consult with other health professionals regarding the best treatment for patients, especially treatment that includes medication. Currently, only Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, and New Mexico allow clinical psychologists to prescribe medication to patients.

Counseling psychologists help patients deal with and understand problems, including issues at home, at the workplace, or in their community. Through counseling, these psychologists work with patients to identify their strengths or resources they can use to manage problems. For information on other counseling occupations, see the profiles on high school teachers.

Work Environment

Some psychologists work independently, conducting research, consulting with clients, or working with patients. Others work as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with physicians and social workers, or in school settings, working with students, teachers, parents, and other educators. Those in private practice often work evenings and weekends to accommodate clients.

Work Environment Details

Psychologists held about 181,700 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up psychologists was distributed as follows:

Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists 162,000
Psychologists, all other 18,300
Industrial-organizational psychologists 1,400

The largest employers of psychologists were as follows:

Self-employed workers 29%
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 24
Ambulatory healthcare services 18
Government 10
Hospitals; state, local, and private 6

Some psychologists work alone, doing independent research, consulting with clients, or counseling patients. Others work as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with social workers, and others to treat illness and promote overall wellness.

Work Schedules

Psychologists in private practice often set their own hours, and many work part time as independent consultants. They may work evenings or weekends to accommodate clients. Those employed in hospitals or other healthcare facilities may also have evening or weekend shifts. Most psychologists in clinics, government, industry, or schools work full-time schedules during regular business hours.

Job Outlook

Employment of psychologists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects should be best for those who have a doctoral degree in an applied specialty.

How to Become a Psychologist

Although psychologists typically need a doctoral degree in psychology, a master’s degree may be sufficient for school and industrial organizational positions. Psychologists in clinical practice need a license.

Education

Most clinical, counseling, and research psychologists need a doctoral degree. Students can complete a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. A Ph.D. in psychology is a research degree that is obtained after taking a comprehensive exam and writing a dissertation based on original research. Ph.D. programs typically include courses on statistics and experimental procedures. The Psy.D. is a clinical degree often based on practical work and examinations rather than a dissertation. In clinical, counseling, school, or health service settings, students usually complete a 1-year internship as part of the doctoral program.

School psychologists need an advanced degree and either certification or licensure to work. Common advanced degrees include education specialist degrees (Ed.S.) and doctoral degrees (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). School psychologist programs include coursework in education and psychology because their work addresses both education and mental health components of students’ development.

Industrial–organizational psychologists typically need a master’s degree, usually including courses in industrial–organizational psychology, statistics, and research design.

When working under the supervision of a doctoral psychologist, other master’s degree graduates can also work as psychological assistants in clinical, counseling, or research settings.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In most states, practicing psychology or using the title “psychologist” requires licensure. In all states and the District of Columbia, psychologists who practice independently must be licensed where they work.

Licensing laws vary by state and by type of position. Most clinical and counseling psychologists need a doctorate in psychology, an internship, and at least 1 to 2 years of supervised professional experience. They also must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Information on specific state requirements can be obtained from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. In many states, licensed psychologists must complete continuing education courses to keep their licenses.

The American Board of Professional Psychology awards specialty certification in 15 areas of psychology, such as clinical health psychology, couple and family psychology, and rehabilitation psychology. The American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology offers certification in neuropsychology. Board certification can demonstrate professional expertise in a specialty area. Certification is not required for most psychologists, but some hospitals and clinics do require certification. In those cases, candidates must have a doctoral degree in psychology, a state license or certification, and any additional criteria required by the specialty field.

Training

Most prospective psychologists must have pre- or postdoctoral supervised experience, including an internship. Internships allow students to gain experience in an applied setting. Candidates must complete an internship before they can qualify for state licensure. The required number of hours of the internship varies by state.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Psychologists must examine the information they collect and draw logical conclusions.

Communication skills. Psychologists must have strong communication skills because they spend much of their time listening to and speaking with patients or describing their research.

Integrity. Psychologists must keep patients’ problems in confidence, and patients must be able to trust psychologists’ expertise in treating sensitive problems.

Interpersonal skills. Psychologists study and help individuals, so they must be able to work well with clients, patients, and other professionals.

Observational skills. Psychologists study attitude and behavior. They must understand the possible meanings of facial expressions, body positions, actions, and interactions.

Patience. Psychologists must demonstrate patience, because conducting research or treating patients may take a long time.

Problem-solving skills. Psychologists need problem-solving skills to collect information, design research, evaluate programs, and find treatments or solutions to mental and behavioral problems.

Source:

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Psychologists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm (visited ).