Psychologist Career Information

Senior Therapist Counseling Young Patient While Sitting by Bookshelf During Therapy Session

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Imagine someone asks you to conjure up an image of a psychologist. Would you think of someone listening to a client talking about his or her problems? You wouldn't be incorrect. But, the image in your head is that of a clinical or counseling psychologist. He or she assesses individuals to diagnose their mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Then, they treat them using a variety of techniques including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Clinical and counseling psychology aren't the only areas in which one can specialize. There are several, but we will look at just a few here including those. We will also discuss school and industrial-organizational psychologists. School psychologists focus on education-related issues. Industrial-organizational psychologists apply psychological principles to workplace problems. 

Quick Facts

  • In 2016, clinical, counseling, and school psychologists' median annual earnings were $73,270. Industrial and organizational psychologists earned $82,760.
  • There were only 2000 people employed as industrial-organizational psychologists in 2014, while 155,000 people worked as clinical, counseling, and school psychologists.
  • Elementary and secondary schools employ school psychologists. Industrial-organizational psychologists work in business settings. About a third of clinical and counseling psychologists are self-employed. Others worked in hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation facilities, and mental health centers.
  • Most who work in this field hold full-time positions, but part-time work is possible, especially in private practices.
  • Since clinical psychologists must be available when their clients aren't working, many have office hours in the evenings and on weekends. School psychologists' hours are during school hours. Industrial-organizational psychologists work during regular business hours.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has given school, clinical, counseling, and industrial-organizational psychology the "bright outlook" designation because of those occupations' excellent job outlook. The agency predicts that employment for each of these areas of specialization will grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.

A Day in a Psychologist's Life

To learn about the duties for each type of psychologist, let's take a look at real job announcements on

Clinical and Counseling Psychologists

  • "Provide assessment and recommendations for appropriate treatments."
  • "Diagnose and treat various mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders."
  • "Review relevant literature, synthesize evidence-based materials, and translate complex behavioral health concepts."
  • "Conduct case management and other administrative tasks as needed."
  • "Provide referral services to outside therapists, clinics, and treatment facilities."
  • "Participate in off-hours call rotation."

School Psychologists

  • "Assess, score assessments, and attend eligibility/IEP meetings."
  • "Plan and provide clear and intentional focused instruction based on individual student IEP goals using state standards, subject matter content, and district curriculum."
  • "Consult with staff and parents, making recommendations for developmentally appropriate services and strategies to assist in improving student achievement."
  • "Act as a liaison with community agencies that provide services to children."
  • "Provide behavior consultation for students by designing and implementing measurable behavior interventions."
  • "Provide psychological services as related service per student's IEP." (Individualized Educational Plan)

Industrial-organizational Psychologists

  • "Establish effective client relationships to provide optimal client solutions."
  • "Manage the development of innovative human capital research projects."
  • "Identify opportunities for efficiencies in the work process and innovative approaches to completing the scope of work."

Education and Licensing Requirements

If you want to become a psychologist, you should consider first majoring in psychology in college.

After graduation, you will have to continue your education. There are several routes you can take to become a psychologist. Which one you choose will depend on the type of psychologist you want to be and where, geographically, you want to work.

For example, in many parts of the United States, those who provide psychological services to the public must have a doctoral degree, either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D., from a training program that is accredited by the American Psychological Association. In some areas of the U.S., you can practice with only a master's degree but often must work under the supervision of a doctoral level psychologist.

Similarly, the requirements for school psychologists vary by state. One may need a master's degree, doctorate, educational specialist degree, or a professional diploma in school psychology. Industrial and organizational psychologists need a master's degree.

Coursework may include, depending on the degree, classes in neuropsychology, ethics, social psychology, psychopathology, psychotherapy, statistics, and research design. Students also spend time getting practical experience. In clinical psychology programs, for example, students do internships and externships where they treat clients under the supervision of licensed practitioners.

Psychologists who deliver patient care must meet certification or licensing requirements in all states and Washington, D.C. Many states also license school psychologists. It is important to check the licensing requirements in the state in which you want to work to find out which type of degree you need to pursue.

What Soft Skills Do Psychologists Need?

In addition to educational and licensing requirements, individuals need certain characteristics called soft skills to succeed in this field.

  • Interpersonal Skills: Since the work psychologists do revolve around studying and helping individuals, you will need to relate to people well.
  • Communication Skills: Professionals whose work involves talking to and listening to clients must have excellent verbal communication and active listening skills.
  • Patience: Treatment takes a lot of time. You need a lot of patience to see it through to its conclusion.
  • Trustworthiness: A psychologist must be trustworthy since he or she is expected to keep what their patients tell them confidential.

What Do Employers Expect From You?

What qualities do employers want in the psychologists they employ? We found these listed in job announcements on

  • "Ability to thrive in an energetic and diverse work environment." (Clinical/Counseling)
  • "Strong crisis assessment and crisis management skills." (Clinical/Counseling)
  • "Skills in technical writing related to student records and reports." (School)
  • "Ability to work independently at a high level of professionalism." (School)
  • "Possession of excellent research and analytical skills." (Industrial-Organizational)
  • "Survey methodology, and statistical analysis, including analysis tools such as SPSS." (Industrial-Organizational)

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

  • Holland Code: Clinical Psychologists and School Psychologists - ISA (Investigative, Social, Artistic); Counseling Psychologists- SIA (Social, Investigative, Artistic); Industrial-Organizational Psychologists- IEA (Investigative, Enterprising, Artistic)
  • MBTI Personality Types: ENFJ, INFJ, ENFP, ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP, INTP (Tieger, Paul D., Barron, Barbara, and Tieger, Kelly. (2014) Do What You Are. NY: Hatchette Book Group.)

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