How to Become a Psychologist

How Do You Become a Psychologist, and What is a Career in This Field Like?

A fascinating profession that enables those who pursue it to work in a variety of settings to examine and address an array of issues involving the human mind, obtaining a degree in psychology can lead to a very rewarding career. Students may earn a psychology degree at the Associate, Bachelor, Masters, and Doctoral level. Doctorate students may choose to earn a Ph.D., which focuses more on research, or a Psy.D., which is a clinical degree that qualifies students to diagnose and treat mental illness. An Associate degree usually takes two years to complete, while a Bachelor typically takes four.

Resource: Top 10 Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology

Once a student obtains a Bachelor degree, a Master’s degree in psychology may take an additional two to three years to complete. After completing a Master’s degree, students may work toward a Ph.D., which is usually completed within five to seven additional years, or the Psy.D., which may be completed within four to seven years beyond the Master’s. With degrees available at every level of study, general personality characteristics of people who may enjoy working in the psychology field include an interest in psychology, biology, and general study of the brain and human behavior, an appreciation for research, and the ability to work well with people, especially if a career in a school or clinical setting is desired. However, the psychology field is so varied, that there are job settings that suit different types of individuals.

Steps to Becoming a Psychologist

With so many colleges, universities, and institutes across the country, deciding on a psychology program may seem cumbersome. In addition to location and cost, prospective students should consider factors such as school and program reputation and ranking. Choosing to study psychology at a college or university that is highly ranked by reputable publications is generally a sound choice, as future employers will recognize the prestige of the school itself. Some other schools may have individual programs that receive a higher ranking than the college or university itself. Students may also benefit from attending a school that may simply have a decent ranking as a college or university, but is well-respected specifically for its psychology program. In 2012, U.S. News and World Report ranked Harvard University’s psychology department as number one in the world based on academic and employer reputation. Super Scholar awarded Arizona State University received the top honor for its online psychology program. Beyond attending school and obtaining the required degrees, students who wish to become a licensed psychologist should research licensing requirements for the state in which they would like to practice. Licensing generally requires successfully completing an exam, which may have a written and oral component.

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After Becoming a Psychologist

Once the prerequisites to becoming a psychologist are complete, an entire world of exciting careers is opened up to psychology job seekers. Those who are interested in a career with a focus on education may work in schools as a counselor. Nationally, school counselors have a favorable salary outlook, earning over $56,000 per year. Forensic psychology is a fascinating career field for job seekers who are interested in criminology. Forensic psychologists tend to be highly skilled in their field of interest and may earn over $85,000 each year on average. Clinical psychology and counseling is a broad field that allows the psychologist to work directly with patients. Clinical psychologists earn over $73,000 on average each year. The field of psychology offers many career avenues, many of which are projected to grow over the next few years. With vast career rewarding career options, high salary expectations, and projected growth, psychology is an excellent field of study with long term career potential.

Related: 50 Most Affordable Selective Small Colleges for a Psychology Degree