Steps to Become A Psychologist

Psychologists enjoy a high job growth rate in the US, at 14%. This rate, listed on the US Bureau for Labor Statistics for the years from 2018 to 2028, is much faster than the average for all occupations. This high demand for psychologists will be driven by the growing need for these professionals in schools, mental health centers, hospitals and social service agencies. Psychologists will also be needed to provide services to an aging population, helping people deal with age related problems.

Veterans will also need the services of psychologists, as they recover from war trauma, as do people with developmental disorders such as autism.

Psychologists will also be hired by schools, colleges and other educational institutes, to deal with the affects of mental health on learning. School psychologists will be needed to work with students, specifically those who have special needs, behavioral issues or learning disabilities.

If you think you can thrive in this industry and make a positive contribution towards improving peoples’ lives, then becoming a psychologist might be the thing for you. The following guide on the steps to become a psychologist in the US provides a detailed look into a psychologist career.

What Does a Psychologist Do?

Psychologists study different kinds of human behaviors through observations, interpretations and recordings. They use their findings to improve the quality of life of their clients. The typical duties of a psychologist include the following:

  • Conducting scientific studies of brain function and human behaviors
  • Observing and surveying individuals to collect useful data
  • Identifying psychological issues and diagnosing disorders
  • Researching and identifying patterns in behavior
  • Discussing treatment plans with patients
  • Writing research papers and reports on the findings of various studies
  • Supervising interns and counseling professionals

Steps to Become a Psychologist

If you want to join this field, there are a series of steps you will need to follow.

Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s Degree

It is recommended that you go for a bachelor’s degree in psychology, though no particular major is required at this stage. You will have to ensure the completion of certain prerequisite courses, depending on the graduate program you intend on applying to.

Step 2: Get a Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in psychology would be sufficient for certain psychology careers, such as those in school and industrial psychology. In order to get admitted into a master’s program, students will have to provide their GRE scores, letters of recommendation and any previous research experience.

Step 3: Get a Doctorate Degree

This is the minimum amount of education required to qualify for licensure for psychologists, especially clinical psychologists. Students can complete a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. A Ph.D. would be ideal for those who want careers in research, while a Psy.D. degree would be best for those who want to practice as clinical psychologists.

Step 4: Get Some Experience

Students are typically required to complete a 1-year long internship as part of the doctoral program. Most prospective psychologists will be required to have some form of experience, pre- or post-doctoral, to qualify for licensure. The number of hours required of supervised experience would vary from state to state.

Step 5: Get a License

All states in the US require psychologists to be licensed to practice. The exact laws vary by state, though most would require a doctorate in psychology, at least 1 to 2 years of supervised professional experience and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

How Much Does a Psychologist Earn?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies Psychologists into three categories – Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists; Industrial-Organizational Psychologists; Psychologists, all other. The annual median wage for Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists was $78,200 in May 2019, with the highest paying state being Oregon ($112,010).

For Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, the annual median wage in 2019 was $92,880, while the highest paying state was California ($145,410).

For all other psychologists, the annual median wage was $101,790, while the highest paying state for this category was California ($117,610).

The annual mean salary outlook also varies according to industry. The top paying industry for Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists was Child Day Care Services ($120,130), for Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, it was Scientific Research and Development Services ($162,590) and for all other Psychologists, it was Offices of Other Health Practitioners ($133,710).

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