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Begin a Career as a Psychologist

By Joe Cooper
Published on December 7, 2009.

Psychologist Job Duties

Psychologists study the human mind and human behavior, performing research and patient care in a variety of settings. The specific job duties of a psychologist can vary depending upon their areas of specialization, including:

  • Clinical psychologists - These health care professionals often work in counseling centers, independent or group practices, hospitals, or clinics. They help mentally or emotionally disturbed patients adjust to life, deal with illnesses or injuries, or deal with times of personal crisis. Sub-specialties within this field include health psychology and neuropsychology.
  • Counseling psychologists - Counseling psychologists work in university counseling centers, hospitals, and independent or group practices, advising people on how to deal with the everyday, life problems.
  • School psychologists - School psychologists work in elementary and secondary schools. They work with parents, teachers, and administrators to improve classroom management, provide advice on parenting skills, counter substance abuse, and help gifted students and students with disabilities.
  • Industrial-organization psychologists - These psychologists work with businesses and apply psychological principles and methods to improve productivity, efficiency, and quality of work life.
  • Developmental psychologists - Developmental psychologists work in applied psychology fields such as organizational consulting, marketing research, or systems design.
  • Experimental or research psychologists - These psychologists study behavior processes in a range of species, sometimes using humans and animals as subjects.

Psychologist Job Skills

The job skills of a psychologist include:

  • Emotional stability and maturity
  • Ability to deal effectively with people
  • Excellent communication and patient interaction skills
  • Sensitivity and compassion
  • Ability to lead and inspire others
  • Ability to work independently or as a member of a team
  • Excellent observation and listening skills
  • Patience and perseverance

Psychologist Income

Psychologists earned an average annual salary of $59,440 in 2006, with the middle 50 percent earning between $45,300 and $77,750, the lowest 10 percent earning less than $35,280, and the highest 10 percent earning more than $102,730.

Psychologist Training and Education

A doctoral degree is usually required for employment as a licensed clinical or counseling psychologist. Psychologists can earn either a Ph.D. of Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) degree, which usually requires 5 to 7 years of study with a dissertation, or a 1-year internship, depending on the type of degree. Many doctorates are available through online degree programs.  No matter what your specific area of interest within psychology may be, there are a variety of online schools designed to help you achieve your educational and professional objectives.

Psychologists must also earn a license in each state, as well as meet any other requirements for that state or region. Most states certify individuals with a master's degree in school psychology after completion of an internship.

Psychologists can earn the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) designation from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) awards, which recognizes professional competency in school psychology at a national, rather than state, level. As of 2006, 29 states recognize the NCSP and allow certified psychologists to transfer credentials from one state to another. To pass the NCSP exam, candidates must complete 60 graduate semester hours in school psychology; a 1,200-hour internship, 600 hours of which must be completed in a school setting;

Psychologist Employment

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that psychologists held around 166,000 jobs in 2006. Around 29 percent worked at health care institutions, and many worked in offices of mental health practitioners, hospitals, physicians' offices, and outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers. They also worked for state and local governments, in correctional facilities, law enforcement, and other settings.

Psychologist Job Outlook

For psychologists with doctoral degrees, opportunities are expected to grow between 2006 and 2016. For psychologists with a bachelor's degree and/or master's only, these opportunities will be limited.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts "faster-than-average employment growth" for psychologists, especially for those with training in a specific specialty. Counselors and industrial psychologists will also enjoy job growth, as educational institutions and business use their services to help manage challenges and position for growth in years to come.

About the Author
Joe Cooper is a freelance education and technology writer and edits medical literature. He holds a bachelor's in American Literature from UCLA.
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