How to Become a Psychologist
Psychologist Careers & Degrees

A psychologist diagnoses and treats a patient who suffers from mental illnesses and disorders, provides counseling services, helps people to modify their behavior, and conducts research into human behavior.

One of the major differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist is that a psychiatrist has a medical degree and can prescribe drugs.

If you are interested in human behavior, enjoy studying, and have good interpersonal skills then you might like to become a psychologist.

There are many different sectors of this field that you can work in, so you can find a role that caters to your interests.

Psychologists work in hospitals, health care facilities, and from their own consulting offices.

Much of their work comes from referral for private psychologists or from a hospital if they are staffed there.

Education Requirements to Become a Psychologist

If you would like to become a psychologist, you should take subjects in english, science, and the humanities while you are in high school.

You will need to get good grades to earn a place in college.

At college you will need to complete a bachelors degree with a major in psychology, followed by a masters degree.

This will allow you to gain a position as a psychologist’s assistant, or as a researcher in the field of psychology.

It’s a good idea to take up one of these positions while you are still studying.

To work as a psychologist you will need to earn a doctorate as well.

It’s a good idea to decide on which area of psychology you intend to work in early on.

You can then choose coursework and work placements that reflect these interests.

Your work in college will consist mostly of theoretical work, but you will also need to participate in supervised work practice and internships.

To become a psychologist, you will need to be a sound and stable person emotionally.

You will need to be able to communicate well with your patients, and also be a very tolerant and patient person when you need to be.

Having the ability to keep your clients problems at arms length is a very valuable skill.

Psychologist Job Description

There are many different roles that a psychologist may find themselves in throughout the course of their career.

Here are some of the more common tasks you could find yourself completing:

  • Meeting with a patient
  • Obtaining a medical history
  • Devising a treatment plan
  • Providing counseling
  • Prescribing exercises and activities to aid treatment
  • Administering tests
  • Diary management
  • Report writing
  • Keeping accurate patient records

Many people think psychologists just help people with emotional problems, but they do much more than that.

A sports psychologist helps athletes train at their best and overcome mental barriers.

A neuropsychologist assists people with a brain injury or condition to live their lives to the fullest.

Here are some of the areas you could work in when you become a psychologist:

  • Clinical psychologist
  • Sports psychologist
  • Industrial psychologist
  • Nueropsychologist

Psychologist Salary and Career Path

Many psychologists will start their career working as a researcher or an assistant to a psychologist while they are completing their doctorate.

Upon completion of their certification within their state, they will start working as a psychologist, usually within a hospital.

Later in their careers, many go on to work in private practice and open their own offices.

Some move on to specialize in other areas of psychology or within other areas of the healthcare industry.

Many become psychology teachers at high schools and colleges.

Similar roles could include:

  • Psychiatrist
  • Medical Researcher
  • Case Manager
  • Social Worker
  • Psychology Teacher
  • Counselor
  • Human Resources Officer
  • Speech Pathologist

The median salary of a psychologist is $68,000 a year.

The area of specialization, geographical area, and place of employment will all have an impact on a psychologist’s earning capacity.

Those in urban areas will make more than those in rural areas, and those who work in private practice will often earn more than those who work for schools or hospitals.

If you are interested in people, have great communication skills, and enjoy study and research then it’s likely you would enjoy a career in psychology.

Job prospects are good for those that complete a doctorate program and it is set to grow in the future.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$87,450
$45K
$59K
$87K
$102K
$132K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$69,190
Alaska$83,770
Arizona$65,400
Arkansas$73,050
California$111,750
Colorado$92,840
Connecticut$92,790
Delaware$80,060
District of Columbia$106,900
Florida$77,460
Georgia$90,760
Hawaii- NA -
Idaho$60,880
Illinois$75,050
Indiana$80,750
Iowa$83,090
Kansas$69,530
Kentucky$66,940
Louisiana$96,040
Maine$80,700
Maryland$79,870
Massachusetts$90,180
Michigan$90,700
Minnesota$84,550
Mississippi$72,470
Missouri$81,700
Montana$64,160
Nebraska$71,130
Nevada$83,280
New Hampshire$89,000
New Jersey$95,680
New Mexico$73,550
New York$96,170
North Carolina$80,670
North Dakota$92,370
Ohio$77,440
Oklahoma$66,400
Oregon$112,010
Pennsylvania$85,170
Rhode Island$84,120
South Carolina$68,040
South Dakota$77,560
Tennessee$78,270
Texas$73,920
Utah$88,480
Vermont$70,120
Virginia$88,880
Washington$77,700
West Virginia$54,780
Wisconsin$86,920
Wyoming$78,620
Puerto Rico$54,920

The top earning state in the field is Oregon, where the average salary is $112,010.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Oregon - $112,010
California - $111,750
District of Columbia - $106,900
New York - $96,170
Louisiana - $96,040
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists, OCC Code 19-3031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a psychologist do?

Psychologists study human behavior and the human mind by observing the way people interact with each other and the way they relate to their environment.

Some psychologists work in research, trying to understand the human mind and its functions and the social and emotional processes of the mind.

They can also study human behavior, social processes, mental characteristics and attitudes of a person or group.

Many psychologists also work with patients, helping people cope with traumas and existential crises.

Psychologists study and treat a wide range of problems, from work, family related problems to PTSD and the effects tragedies have on people.

As a psychologist, you can also work in a school setting, with educators, social workers, law-enforcement officers, and parents.

No matter where you work, you observe, administer tests, evaluate behaviors, propose strategies to help people cope with existential crises and overcome psychological problems.

The field is highly specialized, some psychologists are experts in marriage, others specialize in substance abuse, behavioral disorders or mental problems.

Industrial-organizational psychologists try to solve work-related problems.

Psychologists need analytical skills, communication skills, integrity, observational skills, and patience.

QuestionHow much does a psychologist make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for psychologists was $79,010 per year as of May 2018, $37.99 per hour respectively.

Salaries vary widely based on the psychologist’s expertise and his or her education.

Some earn less than $40,000 a year, while others make more than $120,000.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a psychologist?

Psychologists need a bachelor’s degree and a master’s or doctoral degree.

A bachelor’s degree in psychology can cost anywhere between $8,000 and $60,000 a year, depending on the school.

Doctoral programs cost between $8,000 and more than $40,000 annually for a period of 4 to 7 years.

In order to be able to practice as a psychologist, you will also need a state license.

QuestionWhat is the demand for psychologists?

According to BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), employment of psychologists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.

More psychologists will be needed in hospitals, schools, mental health centers, and social service agencies.

Competition is expected to vary depending on the specialty and the level of education.

Psychologists who specialize in working with the elderly should have better job prospects.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a psychologist?

All entry-level positions within the psychology field require the completion of a bachelor’s degree (which takes around four years to complete).

Psychologists typically also need a doctoral degree in psychology and a license.

Most psychologists, no matter if they are clinical, counseling or working in research, hold a doctoral degree which usually can be completed in 4-7 years.

Practicing psychology requires a license and for getting it you need a doctorate degree, to complete an internship and most states require at least one year of supervised clinical experience.

Those who meet the licensing requirements have to also pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

Many states require licensed psychologists to complete continuing education classes in order to keep their license.

If you want to become a psychologist you should be ready to spend between 8 and 12 years in higher education.

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