You may find it fascinating to try and figure out what makes people tick. Why not turn that interest into a career in psychology? If you choose clinical psychology, you’ll be helping people with mental illness, but there are also a number of different nonclinical fields for a psychologist. You could wind up working in an industry, performing research, in education, studying how people work with machines or studying the psychology of evolution.
Education is the first step if you set your feet on the path to psychology. A bachelor’s degree is the absolute minimum, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics says most people with a bachelor’s in psychology don’t practice in the field, but wind up in fields such as business administration, sales or education. If you want to work in clinical, counseling or research psychology, you’ll need a doctorate. School psychologists may have a master’s or doctorate, or a specialist degree called an Ed.S in school psychology. You may spend as much as seven years in school for a master’s and 12 years in school if you pursue a doctorate.
Clinical and Counseling Psychology
Counseling and clinical psychology are the two subspecialties that have the most in common. Counseling psychologists tend to focus on the relatively healthy individual who needs help with emotional, social, developmental or educational problems. Clinical psychologists, however, work with people who have serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychotic problems. Counseling psychologists also tend to be generalists and are trained in a wide variety of therapeutic skills while clinical psychologists often specialize in an area such as depression or substance abuse.
Because psychology is such a broad discipline, there are a number of subspecialties outside of the clinical role. These psychologists do not counsel people but perform research or other tasks in which training in psychology is necessary. Cognitive and perceptual psychologists research how the mind works and what’s involved in memory. Community psychologists work with groups of people to try to change conditions, prevent problems and strengthen communities. Developmental psychologists study the psychological development of human beings from birth to death. Engineering psychologists try to determine the ideal working conditions for people who use machines; they work on design or other issues such as the way an assembly line is set up. Forensic psychologists work within the judicial system; they may evaluate a defendant’s mental competence or provide expert testimony in a case.
Job Outlook and Salaries
Whatever your specialty in psychology, demand is expected to grow, according to the BLS. Overall, employment for psychologists should grow 22 percent between 2010 and 2020, but if you have a doctoral degree in your specialty or a specialist or doctoral degree in school psychology, you'll have the best prospects. Salaries vary according to specialty. Clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned an average annual income of $73,090 in 2011 while all other psychologists earned $85,830. Industrial-organizational psychologists made the most, with an average annual salary of $124,160.
2016 Salary Information for Psychologists
Psychologists earned a median annual salary of $75,710 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, psychologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,390, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $97,780, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 166,600 people were employed in the U.S. as psychologists.
- American Psychological Association: What is Psychology?
- Florida Atlantic University: Counseling Psychology vs. Clinical Psychology
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Psychologists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2011 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Psychologists
- Career Trend: Psychologists
- Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images