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Careers in Psychology

One factors that many psychologists will tell you prompted their decision to pursue a career in psychology career was their desire run their own business. Today, nearly 34 percent of psychologists are self-employed, mainly as private practitioners and independent consultants, which is four times the national average for all other occupations.

The nature of psychology is to study mental processes and human behavior by researching, observing, analyzing, and interpreting how individuals and other living creatures relate to one another and their environment. Like other social sciences, psychology revolves around the formulation of theories, or hypotheses, which are intended to explain what is observed. But unlike other social science disciplines, psychologists often concentrate on individual behavior, more specfically in the beliefs and feelings that influence a person's thought patterns and ultimately their actions.

Psychology is truly a very diverse field that provides a plethora of career opportunities for qualified professionals. Psychologists perform a large variety of duties in a number of diverse industries. For example, psychologists working in the field of health services may provide mental evaluation and healthcare services in clinics, hospitals, schools, or in the private sector. They may also be employed in applied settings, including industry, business, nonprofit organizations, or government, providing training, conducting research, designing organizational systems, or acting as advocates for psychology.

While psychologists apply their knowledge and skill in a vast range of endeavors, including human services, healthcare, education, management, sports, and law, they usually focus on one of the following career specializations.


Therapist Career Specializations
Therapy is a popular and growing career field that offers opportunities for psychology students and therapists.


Psychologists held about 180,200 jobs in 2012. Educational institutions employed about 29 percent of psychologists in positions other than teaching, such as counseling, testing, research, and administration. About 21 percent were employed in healthcare, primarily in offices of mental health practitioners, hospitals, physicians' offices, and outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers. Government agencies at the State and local levels employed psychologists in correctional facilities, law enforcement, and other settings.

After several years of experience, some psychologists—usually those with doctoral degrees—enter private practice or set up private research or consulting firms. About 35 percent of psychologists were self-employed in 2012—mainly as private practitioners.

In addition to the previously mentioned jobs, many psychologists held faculty positions at colleges and universities and as high school psychology teachers.

Job Outlook

Employment opportunities for psychology professionals are expected to grow as fast as average for all other jobs in the United States. Job opportunities will be best for individuals with a doctoral degree from an accredited university in an applied specialty, such as health or science, and those with a specialist or doctoral degree in school psychology. Master's degree holders in fields other than industrial-organizational psychology will likely face a lot of competition. Career opportunities will not be as plentiful for bachelor's degree holders although opportunities will exist.

Employment change. Employment opportunities for psychologists and other psychology professionals is expected to grow 12% from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all other career fields. Employment grwoth will be due to increasing demand for psychological services in hospitals, schools, social service agencies, substance abuse treatment clinics, mental health centers, consulting firms, and private companies. If you're looking for a job these industries are a good place to start your job search.

An increasing demand for school psychologists will be generated by growing awareness of mental health and behavioral problems, such as bullying, as they related to students ability to progess and learn in an educational enviroment. School psychologists will also be required to fulfill general student counseling on a variety of other issues, including working with disabled students or with special needs students, addressing drug abuse, and managing and consulting personal crisis.

Ever rising healthcare costs associated with unhealthy lifestyles, such as alcoholism, smoking, and obesity, which have made prevention and treatment more critical will continue to spur demand for qualified clinical psychologists. A growing number of employee assistance programs, intended to assist workers with personal problems, also should lead to new employment opportunities for a variety clinical and counseling specialties. A growing number of clinical and counseling psychologists will be needed to help people productively cope with job stress, depression and other mental disorders, marriage and family problems, as well as a variety life altering addictions. An increase in the elderly population will also increase the demand for psychologists trained in geropsychology to help people cope with the physical and mental changes that occur as individuals age. Forecasts indicate that there will be a growing demand by the public and private sector for psychologists specially trained to work with returning veterans.

Industrial-organizational psychologists and related psychological specialties who are equiped to boost worker productivity and retention rates in a wide range of businesses will also be in high demand. Specifically, industrial-organizational psychologists will be called upon to help companies and organizations deal with issues such as antidiscrimination policies and workplace diversity. Psychologists' with expertise in survey design, analysis, and research, capable of design tools for marketing evaluation and statistical analysis will find job opportunities to be plentiful.

Job prospects. Again, job opportunities will be most plentiful for professionals who have a doctoral degree from a top university in an applied specialty, such as heathcare or counseling, and those with a specialist or doctoral degree in school psychology. Psychologists who have work experience or extensive training in quantitative research methods and computer science are predicted to have a competitive advantage over applicants without comparable training or experience.

Psychology professionals with a masters degree in fields other than industrial-organizational psychology are likely to face competition for jobs because of the limited number of positions that require only a master's degree (most requiring both a masters degree and doctoral degree.) Those candidate who possess a master's degree will find jobs as psychological assistants or counselors, providing mental health services under the direct supervision of a licensed psychologist. Still, other psychologists may find career opportunities involving research and data collection and analysis in government, universities, or private companies.

Job opportunities directly related to psychology will be not be as pentiful for bachelor's degree holders as many job candidate will possess both a bachelor's degree and post graduate degree. Bachelor degree holders will likely find jobs as assistants in rehabilitation centers or in other positions involving research, data collection and analysis. Psychology professionals with a bachelors degree who meet State certification requirements may become high school psychology teachers.

Earnings Information

In 2010, the median wage for counseling, clinical, and school psychologists was $64,140. The middle 50% of these professionals earned between $48,700 and $82,800 a year. The lowest 10% of psychologists earned less than $38,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $107,000. The median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists were:

Offices of other health practitioners $68,400
Elementary and secondary schools 65,710
State government 63,710
Outpatient care centers 59,130
Individual and family services 57,440

In 2010, the median annual wages of industrial-organizational psychologists were $77,010. The middle 50% earned between $54,100 and $115,720. The lowest 10% of psychologist earned less than $39,000, and the highest 10% earned more than $150,000.

In 2010, about 31% of all psychologists were union members.


Any psychologist who has a private practice, or provides services directly to patients, must fulfill certain licensing and certification requirements. This is mandated by state and federal law.

These requirements vary, depending on the state you live/work in and your specific area of focus (clinical, counseling, school, etc.). In the end, it's your responsibility to know the requirements for your particular situation. A state license is essentially a seal of approval, verifying that the psychologist is sufficiently trained and capable of providing effective services to his or her clients. Typically, state licenses only allow psychologists to practice within the realm of their training and education.

Clinical and counseling psychologists are usually required to hold a doctorate degree in psychology before being considered eligible for licensure. After earning this doctorate, psychologists must pass a standardized licensing exam, which is administered by the state licensing board. This exam may consist of multiple choice questions and/or essay and verbal response sections. Once again, these requirements vary from state to state.

It is not uncommon for psychologists to be required to undergo a two-year internship or residency, as well as passing the exam.

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