Psychology is a broad field, in which there are a number of degrees available. One can earn an associate degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree or doctorate degree in psychology, in subjects ranging from clinical psychology to marriage and family counseling. Whether counseling individuals or groups or just becoming a researcher at a university, these educational programs may qualify students to enter the field of psychology.
Earning these degrees and gaining the experience can open graduates up to a number of career options, some of which include administrator, academic counselor, drug abuse counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, and marriage and family counselor.
Undergraduate psychology programs may cover introductions, research methods and surveys of topics within the field of psychology. Graduate psychology programs may require focusing on a specific area of the field (clinical, counseling, experimental) and writing a thesis or dissertation based on original research. Doctoral students in psychology usually complete a one-year internship in a clinical, school, counseling or health services setting.
Coursework gets much more specific once a student reaches graduate level psychology. But before that point, many who go on to become counselors and psychologists take the following courses as an undergraduate psychology student:
- General psychology (or introduction to psychology) -- A survey of major theories, topics and research methods, including social behavior, emotion, learning and personality.
- Social psychology -- Studies human interaction, focusing on processes of identity and perception, and social patterning.
- Theories of personality -- Explains and evaluates major theories of personality, such as human interest, social cognitive, trait and psychodynamics. Looks at personality assessment, analyzing how gender and cultural differences are associated with personality development.
- Experimental psychology -- Scientific inquiry and philosophy as it relates to psychology, as well as experiments conducted by students using the methods learned in class.
Certification and Licensure
In most U.S. states, a psychologist is required to be licensed, with all states requiring psychologists in individual practice to be licensed. Counseling and clinical psychologists are required to obtain a doctorate in psychology, complete an internship and a minimum of one to two years professional experience, and to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. State-specific information on licensing can be found at the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
School psychologists must be licensed or certified if practicing in school settings, with 30 states accepting national certification offered through the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). It is advisable to check current state requirements.
Work Environment and Typical Responsibilities
Psychology professionals can work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, private offices and schools. Responsibilities also vary widely in the field, ranging from helping a married couple work through their marital problems to helping someone stop using drugs. It all depends on the position.
Responsibilities of a counseling psychologist may include:
- Counseling individuals or groups through problems and crisis situations.
- Interviewing patients to collect information and data and then analyze the data to recommend counseling methods.
- Identifying emotional, psychological or behavioral issues to diagnose disorders, via the use of obtaining information from interviews, records, tests and reference materials.
- Treating patients through methods such as hypnosis, psychotherapy, stress reduction therapy and psychodrama.
Salary information and Employment Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical, counseling and school psychologists made a national mean hourly wage of $34.72 and a mean annual wage of $72,220 in May 2012 (bls.gov/oes, 2013). The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects, between 2010 and 2020, national employment growth of 22 percent for clinical, counseling and school psychologists, 35 percent for industrial-organizational psychologists and 18 percent for all other kinds of psychologists.
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Psychologists
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012: Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists
O*Net Online: Clinical Psychologists
O*Net Online: Counseling Psychologists
College of San Mateo: Psychology
Santa Clara University: Psychology
National Association of School Psychologists
Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards
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