A psychologist is someone who has at least an undergraduate degree in psychology, which is the study of the brain in terms of human behavior and personality. Psychologists work in a variety of settings with individual patients, businesses, hospitals, clinics, schools, prisons, communities, the government, the military, and many others. Most psychology professions require an advanced degree, such as a master's or a doctorate. To work, a psychologist must be licensed at the state or national level.
Psychologists investigate human behavior, delving into how people think, how they learn, and how they develop emotionally and socially. They use a wide range of methods to conduct research on large groups, specific populations, and individuals.
Provide effective individual, family and group psychotherapy.
Working with clients to help them make changes to their behavior through a variety of psychological therapies.
Identifying and diagnosing mental, behavioral or emotional disorders.
Administering psychological tests and assessing the results.
Developing treatment plans.
Determine realistic goals for psychotherapy.
Perform psycho-diagnostic evaluations.
Supervise staff, fellows, and interns.
Attend program development for patients treated or evaluated.
Demonstrate an understanding of patient needs when devising and implementing treatment.
Provide team consultation.
Conduct scientific studies of behavior and brain function.
Conducting research through interviews, surveys, and observations.
Test for patterns that will help them better understand and predict behavior.
Use their knowledge to increase understanding among individuals and groups.
Psychologists often start by earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Prerequisite courses include general psychology, experimental and developmental psychology, and statistics.
If you’re interested in experimental psychology, help a professor with her research project. Work with handicapped children, if you’re interested in developmental psychology. Volunteer in a mental health clinic, if you’re interested in clinical or counseling psychology. If you get hands-on experience during your psychology degree, you may find it easier to find a job after school.
Most psychology fields require a master’s degree, although doctorates are often necessary for clinical psychologists, and medical degrees are typically required if you want to be a psychiatrist. Learn about the various programs to find the psychology master’s degree that’s best for you. The school you choose will depend on your interests and the specialties of the faculty at the schools you’re considering.
Most fields of psychology require a doctorate. A Ph.D. is the traditional psychology degree which places an equal emphasis on research and clinical training. PhDs in psychology are offered by traditional universities and are highly competitive. Psychology graduate schools look for a competitive score on the GRE (1200 or more), a GPA of 3.3 or higher, and volunteer or paid experience in the field.
States normally require you to do a two-year supervised internship. This is a good idea for many reasons: you get on-the-job training; you learn whether a certain specialty is right for you, and you get the satisfaction of helping others. Internships in clinical and counseling psychology may need to be approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) because jobs in mental health sometimes require an APA-approved internship.
All states require you to fulfill certain requirements before they’ll grant you a license. You must also pass a national exam and, in some cases, present a case study to a board of psychologists.
Associate degrees typically take two years to complete and are offered at community colleges and career schools. While an associate degree isn’t likely to land graduates a job in the field, it will provide an overview of basic theories and principles within psychology and often these credits can be transferred to a four-year program.
Students can earn two types of bachelor’s degrees: a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS). Both degrees cover the basic concepts of psychology before branching off into differing studies. BS programs, however, are geared toward students who are more interested in science, are planning to earn a graduate degree in the field, or want to attend medical school. BA programs are often offered at liberal arts institutions, allowing students with diverse academic interests to take classes from other disciplines. A BA in psychology is attractive to students interested in fields beyond psychology, such as business or marketing, and those who do not plan on pursuing graduate studies in the field.
A master’s degree is the next step after completing an undergraduate program and generally takes two years to complete. As students’ progress to higher degrees, typically more job opportunities become available in the field. A master’s degree is a must-have for students interested in mental health and forensic psychology roles. As an added benefit, many master’s psychology degree programs are now offered online.
A Ph.D. or PsyD is the highest psychology degree one can attain. The former is more traditional and research driven, while the latter is a good option for students aspiring to start their own practices. A doctoral psychology degree can take four to seven years of study after a bachelor’s (including master’s level coursework), with a yearlong internship incorporated into this timeframe. As with the master’s level, doctoral degrees are highly specialized and require students to choose a specialization, such as clinical or cognitive psychology.