Psychologist Careers: Duties, Skills, Salary and More


The psychologist career path has twists and turns. Heres 10 things you need to know.

A psychologist career appeals to curious, helpful and compassionate people. Psychologists interact with people and study human behavior. The job requires a doctoral degree and a license, which takes several years to achieve. It is a great career choice for a INFJ personality type.

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Psychologist Duties

What does a psychologist do? Psychologists study how people relate to themselves, their surroundings and to other people. They identify behavioral and emotional issues and diagnose patients. They must be good at communicating abstract ideas. These ideas include feelings, emotions, and thoughts.

  • They can study people and gather information in a laboratory setting.
  •  They use various testing tools to measure personality, intelligence or aptitude. 
  • They look for behavior patterns to help treat patients.

States That Have the Highest Psychologist Salaries

How much do psychologists earn? As of May 2019, the average annual salary of a psychologist was $88,770.

Half of all workers earned more than $80,370. The top 10% of psychologists earned more than $132,070 a year while the lowest-earning 10 percent earned about $43,380, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.Opens in a new tab.

Psychologist Required Education

What degree does a psychologist need? In order to be a licensed psychologist, you need to earn a doctorate degree.

Most earn a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). In clinical, counseling, school, or health service roles, you also need to complete a 1-year internship.

A counselor should also have at least a masters (doctorate preferred) and be licensed. School psychologists need an Ed. S. or Ph.D. and certification or a license to work.

These programs mix education and psychology because you will address the mental health of students. Industrial-organizational psychologists need at least a master’s degree.

Master’s degree graduates can work as psychological assistants in clinical, counseling, or research settings if they are supervised by a licensed psychologist.

Must-Have Psychologist Career Skills

If one of your career goals is to practice psychology, credentials are only part of what you need. You also have to demonstrate the following job skills.

  • Analytical: You must draw logical conclusions from the information you collect.
  • Communication: You must listen to, interpret, and present information to people who do not have expert knowledge of psychology.
  • Integrity: Psychologists must be trustworthy and not share what their patients tell them in confidence. They must also maintain boundaries within a patient-client setting.
  • People skills: You work directly with people of all dispositions. You have to help people and build relationships with them.
  • Patience: You must have patience and be willing to stick with the research or patient work as long as it takes.

Types of Psychologists

General Psychologists

General psychology means that you study mental behaviors and psychological functions. If you want to attempt to understand the human mind — its functions, responses, how it can be improved and kept stable — general psychology may be your calling.

It’s not just how to become a psychologist, but what kind of psychology or counseling practice you want to pursue. Below are the most popular career options.

Clinical Psychologist Career

Clinical psychologists use science and psychology to treat people with mental illness. They give psychological tests, advise patients and develop treatment plans. Their goal is to improve the mental well-being of patients. They can specialize in the disorder they treat or the type of people they treat, such as children. They work closely with medical doctors to g9ve medicines to patients with mental disorders.

Counseling Psychologist Career

Also called counselors, they help people cope with and understand problems that involve their home and/or work. These jobs include marriage and family therapistsOpens in a new tab., substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, and social workersOpens in a new tab..

Forensic Psychologist Career

These psychology experts are often portrayed on TV crime dramas. The real-life ones help judgesOpens in a new tab.attorneysOpens in a new tab., and law enforcement understand the case from a psychological view. They testify as expert witnesses in court cases. They specialize in subjects such as family, criminal or civil cases.

In Organizations

They use psychology and research to solve problems and improve the work-life quality in an organization. They look at workplace productivity, employee work styles, and overall morale.

In Schools

School counselors take note of student learning and behavioral problems. They design and put performance plans into action.

They also measure how the plans perform. As you might guess, a school psychologist counsels students and their families. 

Counselor vs a Psychologist

A counselor has a master’s degree. The work with a client is short-term. It usually centers on one issue.

A psychologist, on the other hand, has a doctorate degree (a psychiatrist has an MD). Therapy with a psychologist covers many issues and is a long-term treatment.

Psychologist Job Outlook

Psychologist jobs are projected to growOpens in a new tab. by 14 percent by 2028. There were about 138,130.

Work Schedules

A perk of being a psychologist is they set their own schedules. Often, they meet with clients in the evenings or on weekends. If they work in hospitals, they may have evening or weekend shifts.

If they work in clinics, government, industry, or schools, they have regular business hours.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Practicing psychology requires a license. Licensing laws vary by state and by type of job. You can see what your state requires on this site. Association of State and Provincial Psychology BoardsOpens in a new tab..

There is no fast way to build your psychology credentials. You’ll need to:

  • Get or already have a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
  • Earn a master’s in psychology ( 2-3 years).
  • Earn a doctorate degree (3-4 years.).
  • Complete an internship (2 years).
  • Finally, you must take the licensing exam.

So if you are starting from having a bachelor’s, expect to invest about 8 years into this career change.  

Jobs with a Master’s Degree in Psychology

If you are wondering the psychologist career path, you can find a job with a master's degree.

You cannot be a licensed psychologist with a master’s degree in most states. Check out this list of requirements for your state. Opens in a new tab. But there are plenty of jobs for people with a master’s degree in psychology.

If you decide to go with a master’s in clinical psychology, you will likely find work in the mental health field.

Research assistants, lab managers or market researchers need a master’s in Experimental Psychology.

People with a master’s in Applied Psychology work in organizational or forensic psychology.

You can have a psychologist career in a wide selection of other industries. These include:

  • Vocational rehabilitation provider
  • Self-reliance specialist
  • Developmental specialist
  • Drug and alcohol specialist
  • Employment counselor
  • Human resources analyst
  • Parole officers
  • Psychology program manager
  • Rehabilitation counselor
  • Social service manager
  • Jobs in Health Care and Mental Health Services include
  • Behavioral counselor
  • Health project coordinator
  • Psychiatric technician
  • Rehabilitation specialist
  • Group home coordinator
  • Family services worker
  • Child protection worker
  • Childcare supervisor
  • Jobs in Business, Sales, Marketing and Advertising
  • Human resources manager
  • Advertising agent
  • Market researcher
  • Employee trainer
  • Public relations representative
  • Project manager
  • Sales representative
  • Store manager

Career Change After 40: Should You Be a Psychologist?

The hard truth is you will have to spend at least 8 years to earn your stripes as a psychologist. But it can be done. 

If you’re set on a career change after 40, check out this post. Still not sure if you need a change, check out this definitive guide of 5 signs you need a career change.

Resources and Professional Organizations

Not Sure About a Psychologist Career?

If you are unsure if this career is for you, take a free career assessment test. It will help you find out more about who you are. I love the 16Personalities test. It is easy to understand and you can get detailed results for free.

I wrote all about my experience here. Finding a career that you love is possible when you know and accept who you are. When you try to be something you’re not, rather than who you are, you choose a career path that doesn’t fit.

You should figure out why the job appeals to you. Is it the research, helping people, or the thought of having your own practice? Do you have the time to invest in pursuing the psychologist career path? The world needs amazingly patient and compassionate people to become psychologists. Good luck and think about it.

Psychologists Careers: 10 Things to Know About the Job
How to Be a Psychologist Guide

Tracey Lamphere

Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

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