Training for Psychologists

In order to become a licensed psychologist, a graduate-level degree (master's or doctorate) is required. However, there are several levels of psychology degrees, and each level carries with it different career opportunities. Here's a basic guide of which opportunities are available at each level of educational achievement:

Bachelor's Degree in Psychology

Bachelor's degrees in psychology are most commonly used as a launching pad to graduate programs. However, there are a number of entry-level positions that can be attained with only a bachelor's degree, although competition for these positions tends to be rather stiff. In fact, only 25% of individuals with a bachelor's degree in psychology are able to find a job in the field of psychology. Others apply their degree toward a profession in an unrelated (or indirectly related) field such as market research or social work.

Some entry-level Federal Government positions require only 24 credit hours of psychology, as well as one or more courses in statistics. Because these are some of the only psychology-related positions which don't require a graduate-level degree, they are highly competitive.

Master's Degree in Psychology

Master's programs in the field of psychology typically take two years to complete. Once completed, a master's degree in psychology opens up a number of career doors. Individuals with this level of education often work in mental health centers, typically under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Many others go on to work as industrial-organizational psychologists. The majority of students with master's degrees in psychology elect to continue their education and earn a doctorate.

It can be tough to gain admittance into graduate-level psychology programs; they can be quite competitive. Students who hold bachelor's degrees in psychology are at an advantage when applying for admission, as are students with high GRE and GRE Psychology Subject scores.

Specialist Degree

If your goal is to become a school psychologist, you'll need to complete a specialist degree in school psychology. These degrees are known as Ed.S. degrees. Most Ed.S. programs require at least 60 credit hours of graduate coursework, and usually take three years to complete. On top of the required coursework, students of these programs are also required to complete a one-year internship.

Doctoral Degree in Psychology

You'll need to earn a doctorate degree in psychology if you hope to become a licensed counseling or clinical psychologist. There are two choices: the Ph.D. and the Psy.D. A Ph.D. in Psychology is the more traditional choice. This degree focuses heavily on research, and qualifies graduates to work as counseling or clinical psychologists. It also qualifies graduates to conduct research, teach at universities, and practice at hospitals, schools, mental health clinics, and government facilities.

The Psy.D. (also known as a Doctor of Psychology) degree focuses more heavily on practice than research. Individuals who earn this degree most commonly work in mental health settings or private practices as clinicians.

The requirements for each degree vary slightly, although both typically take between five and seven years to complete. Students of Ph.D. programs must produce a dissertation at the end of their studies, which must be based on original research. Students of Psy.D. programs, on the other hand, may opt to complete further examinations and clinical work in lieu of a dissertation. Beyond these requirements, doctoral students of psychology--particularly those with a counseling and clinical emphasis--also require students to complete a 1- to 2-year internship.

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