Psychologists are experts in the intricate workings of the human mind and how cognitive functions are linked to behavior and environment. The term "psychologist" often evokes the image of a psychotherapist. In fact, those who pursue careers in psychology can choose to serve in any of several capacities.
Psychologists conduct experiments, work as consultants, test intelligence and personality, provide leadership training and perform marketing research. As scientists of the mind, psychologists often develop hypotheses and test them through observation, experimentation and evaluation. Many psychologists are innovators, whose approaches evolve based on research and acquired knowledge.
Day in the Life of a Psychologist
The field of psychology offers a wide variety of opportunities which you can begin to explore in this psychology career guide. There are many roles for psychologists in the workforce; consequently, the work setting of a psychologist can vary by the place of employment and the subfield. Those in private practice set their own hours. They typically provide evening and weekend sessions in order to accommodate the schedules of their patients. Most psychologists that are employed by the government or in industry have structured work schedules.
Here is a more detailed look at several specialties:
- The largest area of specialization is clinical psychology. Clinical psychologists help families and individuals. They provide group psychotherapy for people dealing with emotional problems. Some of the specializations in clinical psychology are neuropsychology, health psychology and geropsychology. Neuropsychologists examine the relationship between the brain and behavior. Health psychologists examine how psychological, biological and social factors affect health and illness. Geropsychologists deal with the problems of the elderly.
- School psychologists work in schools or district offices to help resolve student behavioral or learning problems.
- Counseling psychologists offer advice to patients regarding how to deal with the problems of everyday living.
- Developmental psychologists analyze cognitive, physiological and social development that occurs throughout life.
- Industrial organizational psychologists improve productivity and the quality of work life by using psychological principles and research methods.
- Experimental or research psychologists analyze behavioral processes by studying human beings and animals.
- Social psychologists study how people interact with each other and also with their social environment.
Important Characteristics for Psychologists
Whatever their specialty, successful psychologists are generally astute observers, good listeners, skillful analysts, strong leaders and compassionate individuals. Psychologists should be mature and sensitive. They also need good communication skills with individuals and in groups. Being able to inspire and lead others are also important assets for the occupation.
Typical Steps for Becoming a Psychologist
Given the variety of careers in psychology available today, educational requirements may differ. However, there is a basic path to begin the journey regardless of the specialty an aspiring psychologist hopes to pursue:
- Talk to practicing psychologists to learn about specific jobs in the field and the profession in general. Determine whether psychology is right for you and which specialty interests you.
- Learn about educational requirements for your preferred profession. The most competitive psychologists hold a Ph.D. or doctorate in psychology (Psy.D.). A Psy.D. is usually required if you intend to practice as a clinical psychologist. A school or industrial-organizational psychologist, on the other hand, may be able to obtain a job with a master's degree.
- Pursue your psychology education. Choose a school (or schools) that can lead you to the degree you need to secure a job and that can help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to succeed.
- Obtain licensure, if necessary. Licensing requirements vary by state. However, all states have licensing requirements for psychologists who offer patient care, whether in clinics, private practices or schools.
- Psychologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,