Through their observations of how individuals interact with each other and with their surroundings, psychologists study and analyze human thought and behavior. They may reach their conclusions through laboratory experiments or various therapies, such as psychoanalysis or psychotherapy. Psychologists are often responsible for administering personality, intelligence and aptitude tests.
The field has many subsections, ranging from clinical psychology and school psychology to sports psychology and forensic psychology. The varying nature of the profession means psychologists may be involved in a range of activities that can include identifying and treating mental illness, working with individuals and couples in modifying unwanted behaviors or conducting scientific studies on the brain.
Psychologists work in private practice, universities, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, clinics and other settings. They may be solo practitioners, part of a group practice or members of healthcare teams that provide a range of care for patients.
Job Outlook and Salary Range for Psychologists
Roughly 174,000 psychologists held jobs in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with approximately 34% of them self-employed, 29% working in education and 20% in healthcare.
Employment of psychologists is expected to grow by 22% nationwide between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. That’s substantially more than the average growth rate of 14% projected for all occupations. Many of the new jobs in psychology will be in the fields of clinical, counseling and school psychology, although the BLS also projects increasing employment opportunities in the niche discipline of industrial-organizational psychology.
The BLS reports that the nation’s aging population means more psychologists will be needed to address the issues that come with getting older. Increasing numbers of military veterans will also need mental health professionals to help them deal with the aftermath of combat.
As of May 2012, the average salary for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $72,220, according to the BLS. Industrial-organizational psychologists earned an average of $98,800, while the average for the remainder of the profession was $86,380.
Potential salary ranges and job prospects generally vary based on multiple factors, including local market conditions, and a candidate’s educational qualifications and work experience.
Education and Training for Psychologists
A master’s, doctoral or specialist degree is required to practice as a psychologist, as is a license or certification, according to the BLS. Graduate degree programs typically require students to have a bachelor’s in psychology or to have at least completed undergraduate coursework in psychology.
Individuals with a bachelor’s in psychology may use their skills and knowledge to find employment in other professions, such as education, sales and business administration. They may also continue their education in order to pursue a career in areas such as school psychology.
In addition to having strong analytical and observational skills, psychologists generally should be patient problem-solvers and excellent communicators, the BLS notes.