If you’re considering becoming a psychologist, it’s important to know that their are many areas a psychologist can specialise in. This can be social, counseling, research, clinical psychology and other areas.
While some types will let you practice with a master’s or specialist degree, you will need to achieve a doctoral degree in order to work as a clinical, counseling, or research psychologist.
As a psychologist, you will be tasked with the responsibility of helping your patients with mental, emotional, or behavioural issues. This involves developing and implementing treatment plans as well as continual study into human behaviour.
There are many areas in which a psychologist can work including, schools, corporations, hospitals or private practice. Many psychologists go on to open their own private practices. However, it’s important to note that this type of work involves working evenings and sometimes weekends in order to satisfy their clients busy schedules.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering a career as a psychologist.
Education & Training
First of all, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree with a psychology major, or one that includes substantial psychology coursework. This is needed in order to gain acceptance in psychology doctoral programs. Some of these doctoral programs will also require a master’s degree in psychology as well before granting acceptance.
During your bachelor’s degree you’ll explore topics such as social psychology, consumer behavior and cognition. You may also choose more specialist modules including counseling, or focusing on specific groups of people, such as adolescents. You’ll also cover research techniques including report writing and data analysis. It’s useful to choose classes that will expose you to the different career areas as this will make it easier to find work after you’ve completed your educational requirements.
If the opportunity presents itself to work on a research project you should also jump at the chance. Understanding how to write in-depth academic papers is very useful in the field.
After your bachelor’s degree you’ll move on to studying for your master’s or doctoral degree. This involves much more advanced theoretical and practical principles and allows you the opportunity to study a single area of psychology.
Even though not all doctoral programmes require a master’s degree, it’s important to note that it can help someone to qualify to work as an organizational or school psychologist. Make sure, whatever route you choose, you achieve a degree that is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).
On top of the educational requirements, you will also need to complete and internship, residency or supervised placement. This experience gives you on the job experience, dealing with practical cases and real patients. These placements will take place in a hospital, school or government-run facility, depending on the individuals specialisation.
After graduation, you will then need to become licensed. All states require that psychologists who practice independently or in schools meet licensing and certification standards. This requires passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) for clinical and counseling psychologists.
Certifications show you professional achievements and will require experience, endorsements or exam completion to obtain. There are different kinds of certification you can receive through the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) including the Nationally Certified School Psychologist credential. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) also offers many specialty certifications in different areas, such as psychoanalysis and forensics.
Finally, it’s important to note that many states require continuing education in order to retain your license. This continual education includes independent learning, workshops, seminars, conferences or lectures. You can cover many topics such as including laws and ethics. This continual education also has the benefit of leading to higher salaries and career advancement.
- Assess a client’s needs, abilities or behaviour using a variety of methods, such as psychometric tests, interviews and direct observation of behaviour.
- Work as part of a multidisciplinary team alongside doctors, nurses, social workers, education professionals, health visitors, psychiatrists and occupational therapists.
- Devise and monitor appropriate treatment programmes, including therapy, counselling or advice.
- Offer therapy and treatments for difficulties relating to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, addiction, social and interpersonal problems and challenging behaviour.
- Develop and evaluating service provision for clients.
- Provide consultation to other professions.
- Counsel and support carers.
- Conduct applied research, adding to the evidence base of practice in a variety of healthcare settings.
- Experienced clinical psychologists may be called on to write legal reports and act as expert witnesses.
There are many areas in which a psychologist can specialise and you will need to know what area you would like to get into when starting your education. It is possible to gain the certifications afterwards, however, knowing from the onset will make career progression much easier.
Self-employment or freelance work is often possible and the preferred route for many who opt to open their own practice. Opportunities for private or clinical practice, and for industrial or commercial consultancy, are available.
Jobs are available in most large towns and cities, with fewer opportunities in rural areas which you will need to take into consideration.
Being a successful psychologist involves excellent interpersonal skills and it’s important to keep this in mind. The psychologists who master these skills tend to gain a very good reputation and go far in their fields.