What Do Psychologists Do

Psychologists perform a multitude of duties, such as carrying out scientific research to study the human brain function, observing and interviewing subjects to collect the required data, identifying emotional, behavioral and psychological issues among their patients and diagnosing disorders. In addition to that, psychologists also look for patterns in behaviors and use their findings to understand why their patients act the way they do. They also prescribe medications and discuss treatment plans with clients.

Psychologists basically aim to understand and explain the thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviors in humans, using various measures. They also conduct lab experiments, psychotherapy or psychoanalysis to understand patient behaviors. They also administer various kinds of tests such as personality, performance, intelligence and aptitude tests.

If this line of work sounds interesting to you, you might want to read on further to see how to become a psychologist in the US.

Steps to Become a Psychologist

Before we begin, it is important to note that becoming a psychologist is a time-consuming process that requires a lot of dedication and hard work. The following steps would shed some light on this matter:

  1. Complete a Bachelor’s Degree
  2. Bachelor’s degrees in psychology are being offered by many colleges across the US. Students also opt for degrees in pre-med, anthropology and sociology. Do note that it is important to maintain a good GPA and engage in practical activities at this stage, to form a solid foundation for higher studies ahead.

  1. Get a Master’s Degree
  2. Even though this is an optional step, getting a master’s degree can make you a better candidate for future studies and job placements. This degree would not, however, be enough to qualify for licensure. Students can go for joint masters and doctoral programs that take far less time than a separate master’s and a doctoral degree.

  1. Complete a Doctoral Program
  2. This is the minimum amount of education you need to practice as a psychologist in the US. Students have the option of choosing from two paths – the PsyD and the PhD. The former is ideal for those who want to practice in clinics and hospitals, while the latter is meant for those who want to head on to the research side of psychology.

  1. Fulfill Training Requirements
  2. Training requirements would vary from state to state. You are advised to get in touch with your local state board of psychology to get information about the specific requirements and the number of training hours needed.

  1. Get Your License and Stay Licensed
  2. Licensing requirements vary for every state but are generally similar. Most states would require graduating from an accredited doctoral program, completing a predefined number of training hours as supervised experience and successfully clearing the licensing examinations.

After getting your license, it is important to also retain it. This is done through continuing education programs.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Psychologist?

It can take you around eight to twelve years to become a psychologist. Additional years may be required in case of some specialties. This time frame includes 4 years for a bachelor’s degree and an additional 4 to 6 years for a PhD or a PsyD degree. If you have chosen to go into a specialized field of psychology such as clinical psychology, you might need additional training.


How Much Can I Make as a Psychologist in the US?

In 2018, Psychologists in the US made $79,010 in annual median wages, which is approximately $37.99 per hour. The government was the top employer for psychologists in the country, paying the highest salaries at $96,410. The second highest paying employer was hospitals, state, local and private included, paying an annual median wage of $86,530. The top paying states for Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists were California, Oregon and New Jersey, paying $108,350, $103,870 and $98,470 respectively.

What Is the Job Outlook for Psychologists in the US?

The employment for psychologists is expected to grow by 14% in the years from 2018 to 2018 – a growth rate which is substantially higher than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary according to the occupation level in this field. For instance, Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists are expected to experience a growth of 15%, Industrial-Organizational Psychologists will experience a 13% growth and all other Psychologists will experience a 12% growth.

Job prospects are also going to vary according to the classification of psychologists. For instance, Industrial-Organizational Psychologists are going to face tough competition because of the large number of qualified applicants for jobs. Those with a lot of training in quantitative research methods may have a competitive edge.

Applicants, who have a doctoral degree with postdoctoral work experience, will have ideal job opportunities in clinical, counseling or school psychology jobs.

Opportunities will also be available for those who specialize in working with the elderly and in rehab centers.

This information has been taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is the Work Environment like for Psychologists in the US?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 29% of psychologists were self-employed workers and 24% worked in elementary and secondary schools. Self-employed psychologists usually determine their own office hours or may also work on a part-time basis as independent consultants. They may also have to put in weekends or evenings to accommodate clients. On the other hand, psychologists who are employed by hospitals or healthcare facilities may also have to put in evening or weekend shifts. Most psychologists in clinics, industry, schools or the government, work full-time schedules with regular working hours.