Psychologist Job Description and Career Profile

Career Information

Psychiatrist Treating Senior Man
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Job Description

Psychology is the study of human thought, emotion and behavior. Someone who is trained in this discipline is called a psychologist and he or she has a variety of options from which to choose when deciding on an area of specialization. The most popular areas are clinical, counseling and school psychology. Although trained differently, a clinical or counseling psychologist both assess individuals in order to diagnose and subsequently treat their mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.

A school psychologist focuses on education-related issues. Another popular area is industrial and organizational psychology. Someone who works in this area applies psychological principles to workplace problems.

Employment Facts

Psychologists held about 174,000 jobs in 2010. There were 154,000 clinical, counseling and school psychologists, 2,000 industrial-organizational psychologists and 18,000 who were employed in other specializations.

Many psychologists worked in schools or in health care settings such as hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation facilities and mental health centers. Others worked in universities. About a third of all psychologists were self-employed.

Since clinical psychologists must be available when their clients can see them, many work in the evenings and on weekends. Those who have private practices can work part-time if they wish. School psychologists generally work during school hours.

Industrial-organizational psychologists work during regular business hours.

Educational Requirements

When it comes to preparing to be a psychologist, there are a variety of options. Which one you choose depends on the area of psychology in which you want to work and your geographic location. For example, in many parts of the United States those who provide psychological services to the public are required to have a doctoral degree.

This can be either a PhD or a PsyD, but it should be from a program that is accredited by the American Psychological Association. Most states will only issue licenses to those who have completed accredited programs. In some places you can practice with only a master's degree, but often must work under the supervision of a doctoral level psychologist. Similarly, the requirements for school psychologists vary by state. One may need a master's degree, doctorate, educational specialist degree or a professional diploma in school psychology. Industrial and organizational psychologists need a master's degree.

Coursework may include, depending on the degree, classes in neuropsychology, ethics, social psychology, psychopathology, psychotherapy, statistics and research design. Students also must spend time getting practical experience. In clinical psychology programs, for example, students treat clients under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements

Psychologists who deliver patient care must meet certification or licensing requirements in all states and in Washington, DC. Many states also license school psychologists.

It is important to check the licensing requirements in the state in which you want to work to find out which type of degree you need to pursue.

In addition to educational and licensing requirements, individuals need certain characteristics to succeed in this field. Since the work they do revolves around studying and helping people, a psychologist obviously must have people skills. Likewise, those whose work involves talking to and listening to clients must have excellent communication skills. Researchers must have strong analytical skills and they, as well as psychologists who work directly with clients, must be patient.

Research and treatment both take a lot of time. What people do is as important as what they say. Good observational skills will help psychologists understand the meaning behind an individual's body language and actions. A psychologist must be trustworthy since he or she is expected to keep what their patients tell them confidential.

Job Outlook

Employment of psychologists in general is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2020. Outlook will vary by specialty. Industrial-organizational psychologists, for example, can expect a 35% increase in employment through 2020. This earned it a spot on a list of masters-level occupations expected to have the highest growth over this decade. Clinical, counseling and school psychologists are also expected to do quite well, with expected growth of 22%.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?


In 2011, salaried clinical, counseling and school psychologists in the US earned a median annual salary of $67,880 ($32.64 per hour). Salaried industrial-organizational psychologists earned a median annual salary of $94,720 ($45.54 hourly).

Use the Salary Wizard at to find out how much psychologists currently earn in your city.

A Day in a Psychologist's Life

Clinical and counseling psychologists

  • assess individuals using diagnostic tests and interviews
  • diagnose mental, behavioral and emotional disorders
  • decide what treatment methods to use
  • help individuals deal with short-term personal issues that may result from a crisis such as the breakup of a relationship, death of a loved one, a traumatic event or the loss of a job
  • provide therapy to families or couples

School psychologists

  • address problems students may be having in school
  • evaluate students' performances
  • consult with other school personnel, students and parents

Industrial-organizational psychologists

  • study productivity, management styles and individuals' work styles
  • solve workplace problems using psychological principles
  • identify an organization's training needs and then devise and implement programs that address them

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Psychologists, on the Internet at (visited January 2, 2013).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists, on the Internet at and Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, on the Internet at, (visited January 2, 2013).

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