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What is a Psychologist

Psychologists may work in various settings, from clinics to schools, workplaces, organizations, or private practices. Their job, essentially, is to assess and diagnose mental or emotional disorders in their patients.

They do not stop after arriving at a diagnosis, though. Treating patients with therapy or choosing from a wide variety of alternative options and methods is also their job. If they do not seem to have access to the appropriate tools, they will refer their patients to specialized therapists or other treatment facilities.

You will need an extended period of education and experience to qualify as a practicing psychologist. The road to get there is not easy, and the position is demanding on many levels, but the ability to help people is always extremely powerful and fulfilling.

What Does a Psychologist Do

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

Learn more about what a Psychologist does

How To Become a Psychologist

Although psychologists typically need a doctoral degree in psychology, a master’s degree is sufficient for some positions. Psychologists in independent practice also need a license.

Education

Most clinical, counseling, and research psychologists need a doctoral degree. Students can complete a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. A Ph.D. in psychology is a research degree that is obtained after taking a comprehensive exam and writing a dissertation based on original research. Ph.D programs typically include courses on statistics and experimental procedures. The Psy.D. is a clinical degree and is often based on practical work and examinations rather than a dissertation. In clinical, counseling, school, or health service settings, students usually complete a 1-year internship as part of the doctoral program.

School psychologists need an advanced degree and certification or licensure to work. The advanced degree is most commonly the education specialist degree (Ed.S.), which typically requires a minimum of 60 graduate semester credit hours and a 1,200-hour supervised internship. Some school psychologists may have a doctoral degree in school psychology or a master’s degree. School psychologists’ programs include coursework in both education and psychology because their work addresses education and mental health components of students’ development.

Graduates with a master’s degree in psychology can work as industrial-organizational psychologists. When working under the supervision of a doctoral psychologist, master’s graduates can also work as psychological assistants in clinical, counseling, or research settings. Master’s degree programs typically include courses in industrial-organizational psychology, statistics, and research design.

Most master’s degree programs do not require an undergraduate major in psychology, but do require coursework in introductory psychology, experimental psychology, and statistics. Some doctoral degree programs require applicants to have a master’s degree in psychology; others will accept applicants with a bachelor’s degree and a major in psychology. 

Most graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology find work in other fields such as business administration, sales, or education.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In most states, practicing psychology or using the title of “psychologist” requires licensure. In all states and the District of Columbia, psychologists who practice independently must be licensed where they work.

Licensing laws vary by state and type of position. Most clinical and counseling psychologists need a doctorate in psychology, an internship, at least 1 to 2 years of supervised professional experience, and to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Information on specific state requirements can be obtained from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. In many states, licensed psychologists must complete continuing education courses to keep their licenses.

The American Board of Professional Psychology awards specialty certification in 15 areas of psychology, such as clinical health, couple and family, or rehabilitation. The American Board of Professional Neuropsychology offers certification in neuropsychology. Board certification can demonstrate professional expertise in a specialty area. Certification is not required for most psychologists, but some hospitals and clinics do require certification. In those cases, candidates must have a doctoral degree in psychology, state license or certification, and any additional criteria of the specialty field.

Training

Prospective practicing psychologists must have pre- or post-doctoral supervised experience, including an internship. Internships allow students to gain experience in an applied setting. Candidates must complete an internship before they can qualify for state licensure. The required number of hours of the internship varies by state.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Psychologists must be able to examine the information they collect and draw logical conclusions from them.

Communication skills. Psychologists must have strong communication skills because they spend much of their time listening to and speaking with patients. 

Observational skills. Psychologists study attitude and behavior. They must be able to watch people and understand the possible meanings of facial expressions, body positions, actions, and interactions.

Patience. Psychologists must be able to demonstrate patience, because conducting research or treating patients may take a long time.

People skills. Psychologists study and help people. They must be able to work well with clients, patients, and other professionals.

Problem-solving skills. Psychologists need problem-solving skills to design research, evaluate programs, and find treatments or solutions for mental and behavioral problems.

Trustworthiness. Psychologists must keep patients’ problems in confidence, and patients must be able to trust psychologists’ expertise in treating sensitive problems.

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Average Salary
$84,572
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
14%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
8,567
Job Openings
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Psychologist Career Paths

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Average Salary for a Psychologist

Psychologists in America make an average salary of $84,572 per year or $41 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $132,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $54,000 per year.
Average Salary
$84,572
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12 Psychologist Resume Examples

Learn How To Write a Psychologist Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Psychologist resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Choose From 10+ Customizable Psychologist Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Psychologist templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Psychologist resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

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Psychologist Demographics

Psychologist Gender Distribution

Male
Male
35%
Female
Female
65%

After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among Psychologists, 64.8% of them are women, while 35.2% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among Psychologists is White, which makes up 79.0% of all Psychologists.

  • The most common foreign language among Psychologists is Spanish at 62.3%.

Job Openings

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Psychologist Education

Psychologist Majors

Psychologist Degrees

Bachelors

46.5 %

Masters

25.9 %

Doctorate

23.0 %

Top Colleges for Psychologists

1. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

2. Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$18,454
Enrollment
40,108

3. University of Maryland - College Park

College Park, MD • Private

In-State Tuition
$10,595
Enrollment
30,184

4. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

5. Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,740
Enrollment
5,567

6. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$50,420
Enrollment
7,582

7. Washington University in St Louis

Saint Louis, MO • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,399
Enrollment
7,356

8. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

9. University of California - San Diego

La Jolla, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$14,167
Enrollment
30,279

10. SUNY at Binghamton

Vestal, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$9,808
Enrollment
13,990
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Top Skills For a Psychologist

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 11.7% of Psychologists listed Mental Health on their resume, but soft skills such as Analytical skills and Communication skills are important as well.

  • Mental Health, 11.7%
  • Psychological Services, 10.4%
  • Crisis Intervention, 9.2%
  • Treatment Plans, 8.4%
  • Group Therapy, 7.7%
  • Other Skills, 52.6%

Best States For a Psychologist

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a Psychologist. The best states for people in this position are Massachusetts, California, Vermont, and Connecticut. Psychologists make the most in Massachusetts with an average salary of $110,406. Whereas in California and Vermont, they would average $106,467 and $102,669, respectively. While Psychologists would only make an average of $101,585 in Connecticut, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. California

Total Psychologist Jobs:
660
Highest 10% Earn:
$162,000
Location Quotient:
1.52
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Oklahoma

Total Psychologist Jobs:
69
Highest 10% Earn:
$131,000
Location Quotient:
1.51
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Massachusetts

Total Psychologist Jobs:
107
Highest 10% Earn:
$166,000
Location Quotient:
0.78
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Psychologists

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Top Psychologist Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ Psychologists and discovered their number of Psychologist opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that Oregon State University was the best, especially with an average salary of $73,398. Minnesota State Fair follows up with an average salary of $72,933, and then comes Washington State University with an average of $79,196. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a Psychologist. The employers include Doctor On Demand, Harvard University, and Health Care Specialists of America

Psychologist Videos

Becoming a Psychologist FAQs

Do psychologists get paid well?

Yes, psychologists get paid well. With that said, there are many different types of psychologists with varying educational requirements.

Most psychology jobs can be broken down into research, applied, and counseling. A psychiatrist, for example, would be grouped into counseling, while an industrial-organizational psychologist would be grouped as spoiled.

How hard is it to become a psychologist?

It is pretty hard to become a psychologist. Most psychology fields require at least a master's degree, if not a doctorate. It depends on what type of psychologist you would like to become.

How long does it take to become a psychologist?

It takes about 6 to 12 years to be a psychologist. Most psychologists have at least a master's degree, if not a doctorate. In some cases, time spent in clinical or residency programs is also required.

Is a psychiatrist better than a psychologist?

No, a psychiatrist is not better than a psychologist; the two serve different functions and purposes. Both psychiatrists and psychologists treat people with mental illness. Psychologists are counselors who administer talk therapy to help people.

Is a psychologist a doctor?

No, a psychologist is not a doctor. However, many psychologists are doctors. Depending on their training, Psychologists can earn medical degrees such as psychiatry or a research-based doctorate such as a developmental research psychologist.

Is an LCSW better than a psychologist?

No, an LCSW is not better than a psychologist. Clinical psychologists have a doctoral education that leads to a higher salary than LCSWs, while LCSWs have slightly better career prospects regarding job growth and ease of entry into the occupation.

Is psychology a good career?

Yes, psychology is a good career. Although it takes some work to become a psychologist (6 to 8 years), working as a psychologist can be lucrative and rewarding. Psychologists can work in a range of industries or even for themself.

What is being a psychologist?

Being a psychologist means someone who is highly trained to study the mind and behavior. Considering the very complexity of the mind, there's no wonder there are many different types of psychologists out there. While most people think of Freud when they think of psychology, there are many other ways one can be a psychologist.

What is the difference between a clinical social worker and a psychologist?

The difference between a clinical social worker and a psychologist is that clinical social workers hold a master's degree, while psychologists must obtain a doctorate.

The human services field is full of overlapping professions that might seem pretty similar at first look. When it comes to psychologists vs. social workers, however, there are some pretty clear differences.

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

The difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is related to the amount and type of educational training. This difference is reflected in earning differences between the two, with psychiatrists averaging $200,000 a year compared to $86,000 a year for psychologists.

What is the role of a psychologist?

The role of a psychologist is to assess, diagnose, and treat the psychological problems and the behavioral dysfunctions resulting from or related to physical and mental health. In addition, they play a major role in promoting healthy behavior, preventing diseases, and improving patients' quality of life.

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