Psychology is a diverse discipline grounded in the scientific study of the mental and emotional nature of animals and human beings. It involves studying mental functions, processes, and behavior, and can be applied to help explain various aspects of human activity, from mental health problems to family dysfunction, alcoholism, and other issues.
By incorporating research from the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities, the field of psychology provides important insight into the way our physical and mental state and external environment intertwine and affect our thoughts and actions.
Many psychologists work as private practitioners but are also employed in hospitals, schools, private industry, government, nursing homes, clinics, and other health care facilities. In addition to a master’s or doctoral degree, a license is required for most psychologists, and because of the employment growth expected for the occupation, admission to graduate level psychology programs has become increasingly competitive.
- Students looking to pursue graduate degrees in psychology will most likely be required to major in psychology during their undergraduate career, or at least take classes with a heavy emphasis on psychology. (Guide to Psychology)
- Students who land research opportunities with leading professors or psychologists are favored when applying to graduate schools since the field of psychology has a significant research emphasis. (Guide to Psychology)
- In most cases, psychologists are required to complete a baccalaureate program followed by either a master’s or doctoral degree and the completion of state licensing exams. (Colleges and Careers)
- When applying to graduate programs in psychology, research experience, graduate test scores, and psychology background all play an important role in admissions. (NASP Online)
- Psychologists with a Ph.D. or Psy.D. qualify for a wide range of job opportunities, and the degree generally requires five to seven years of graduate study, including completion of a dissertation, practical work, and/or examinations. A master’s degree generally requires at least two years of graduate study along with a thesis based on an original research project. (Health Guide USA)
- A doctoral degree and a license are usually required for independent practice as a psychologist, but individuals with a master’s degree in psychology may work as industrial-organizational psychologists or as psychological research assistants. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- In some states, even the basic classification of being a psychologist is subject to stipulations. For instance, in California, recognition as a psychologist requires a doctorate in the field of psychology or education, in addition to passing state licensing exams. (About.com)
- Psychologists with doctoral degrees generally treat patients with mental and emotional problems and serve as scientists researching the phenomenon of human behavior. (Simply Hired)
- Psychology is a tremendously varied field; thus, psychologists have a range of daily tasks that vary based on whether they work in laboratories, hospitals, courtrooms, schools and universities, community health centers, prisons, or corporate offices. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- Psychologists conduct research on the relationships between behavior and environment and behavior and brain function in order to assist and treat patients. They also opass on valuable information to the scientific community. (Colleges and Careers)
Job Outlook and Salary
- The salary range can have a significant increase after multiple years of experience in the field of psychology. For example, school psychologists could have a salary increase from $40,000 to $70,000 per year after gaining 20 years of experience. (Payscale.com)
- Median annual wages for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists are around $64,000 while median annual wages of industrial-organizational psychologists are around $77,000. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- Employment of psychologists is expected to grow as more schools, medical facilities, consulting firms, nonprofit organizations, and government organizations are demanding the skills of psychologists. (Health Guide USA)
- Job prospects should be the best for people who have a doctoral degree from a leading university in an applied specialty such as counseling or health, and those with a specialist or doctoral degree in school psychology. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- Employment of psychologists is expected to grow 12 percent from 2008 to 2018 -- about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty; for example, clinical, counseling, and school psychologists will have 11 percent growth; industrial-organizational psychologists, 26 percent growth; and 14 percent growth is expected for all other psychologists. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- Clinical psychologists observe patients to diagnose and evaluate their mental and emotional disorders. They identify psychological, emotional, or behavioral issues and develop individual treatment plans to help clients work through their problems, modify their behavior, and improve their mental health.
- Counseling psychologists help clients by using counseling services to develop therapy and treatment plans based on their individual needs. They assist clients by interpreting psychological tests and by providing opportunities for them to talk about their issues and understand their problems.
- Developmental psychologists examine the systematic psychological changes that occur over the course of the different stages of life from infancy to adulthood, including changes with motor skills, cognitive development, and identity formation. Many focus on just one specific life stage but some also look at the disabilities that occur across various stages.
- Industrial-organizational psychologists study behavior in work settings and promote positive and productive worker attitudes and behaviors. Some of their tasks may include policy planning, facilitating organizational development and change, and identifying training and development needs.
- Neuropsychologists are clinical or counseling psychologists with specialized training in brain behavior relationships. They understand the neurobiological causes of brain disorders and specialize in diagnosing and treating these illnesses using a medical approach.
- Research/Experimental psychologists conduct research and perform experiments that look at patterns of behavior in order to learn more about the human mental processes and functions. Some of the topics they look at include learning processes, the effects of drugs, and motivation.
- School psychologists use their training in clinical and educational psychology to diagnose and treat mental disorders, learning disabilities, and cognitive, behavioral, and emotional problems. They work with students who have behavioral or learning problems and use child and family therapy to address individual issues.
- Social psychologists look at the way society influences and affects an individual and they use research from sociology among other fields to inform their work in organizational management, marketing, program and systems design, and many other fields. Many social psychologists examine group dynamics, the nature of leadership, thinking patterns, and perceptions of the world.
- Therapist: Like the many different avenues of psychology, there are many different types of therapy related to being a psychologist. Just to name a few, occupations such as art, music, occupational , and recreational therapist, as well as substance abuse, employment, and academic counseling are available to psychologists.
- Teaching: This is another field relevant to psychology is education which also has many different applications. For example elementary and preschool teachers, and teachers who work with the visually, mentally, hearing impaired, and learning disabled can enter these careers with a background in psychology. Also in this category are college and university professors.
- Public Relations Representative: This job focuses on portraying a chosen image or perception of people and products. Who could be more adept at mastering the complexities of human thought and belief, guiding the masses toward acceptance of an expertly engineered portrayal or image, than one who has studied extensively the mental processes of people?
- Polygraph Examiner, Parole Officer, and Criminal Investigator: Given the rising popularity of crime solving dramas such as the CSI series, there has also been rise in law enforcement and investigatory prep classes in high schools across the nation. Since individuals in the aforementioned occupations are all actively involved with deciphering the inner workings of criminal minds, psychologists can definitely put their acquired mind probing skills to use in these fields.
- Lawyer: Following the investigative trend of law enforcement careers, becoming a lawyer is another common field of psychologists. A background in psychology serves as a good precursor to law school since this career involves strategic methods of gathering evidence, and crafting persecutory or defense arguments in an effort to convince the judge or jury to take a certain side.
- Neurologist and Neurosurgeon: Whereas psychology relates to theories and concepts of how the mind operates, neurology handles physical aspects of the brain such as structure and wave patterns that possibly denote abnormalities. And as the name implies, neurosurgeons have the daunting task of surgically correcting brain abnormalities. Both of these professions offer a more hands on application of psychology, literally.
- Psychiatrist: Psychiatry is the medical application of psychology, where psychiatrists are able to evaluate and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders through counseling and in some cases the prescribing of medications.
- Speech Pathologist: This profession deals with the study of human communication and the analysis of speech and language skills based on personal background and psychology. Additionally, speech pathologists are qualified to diagnose and determine treatment for speech disorders.
- Research Assistant:Tthis career involves working with a head scientist in a determined field of psychology in an effort to contribute new data to the scientific community. Research assistants are responsible for setting up designed experiments, in some cases running the experiments, and recording data.
- Pharmacologist: These individuals analyze the effects of drugs and in some cases hazardous agents such as harmful gases on human and animal organs and tissue as well as the physical effects on the body.