Psychology may be one of the most revered (and popular) disciplines - and for good reason. Humans have always been eager to understand the delicate workings of their minds and those of others. When you become a psychologist, you get to take this interest a step further. You can also start helping others in multiple ways.
This article will help you decide whether becoming a psychologist is right for you, giving you a complete roadmap on how to become a psychologist and how to make the first steps towards your new career.
You will learn:
A psychologist studies thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and how to apply this knowledge to help people change their thinking and behavior.
A psychologist is a person who is professionally trained in psychology, usually with a relevant master’s or a doctoral degree.
Be it helping clients in the midst of a crisis, doing research, or applying the principles of psychology in non-clinical settings, if you are thinking about becoming a psychologist, you can specialize your career in areas that fit your personal preferences.
Psychologists can choose to be academics (theoreticians and researchers), or practitioners, or combine the two.
You can also focus on general psychology or any of the vast array of specialized subdisciplines.
Depending on the selected area of expertise, you can be either a clinical or non-clinical psychologist. Each of these two broad categories also has many branches in which every psychologist can find their ideal career path.
Clinical psychology explores the pathology of human experience. Clinical psychologists can work in mental health clinics, as part of a team of helping professionals. Or, they can start their own psychotherapy practice.
Non-clinical psychologists, on the other hand, can decide to work in any of the many branches of psychology. You can find these professionals in business, schools, army, hospitals, NGOs, marketing… Wherever there is a need to understand how we as humans think, feel, and act, rest assured there is a psychologist there somewhere.
Psychologists’ salaries vary and are based on the different career paths one can take as well as different states and countries.
However, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, psychologists were making nearly $80,000 per year on average. This number translates to an average of $38 per hour. The lowest-paid psychologists were earning $20/hour, while those on the highest end of the profession were charging approximately $89 per hour of work.
Job prospects for psychologists are projected to grow much faster than other occupations in the next couple of years. Which is great news when you are thinking about whether and how to become a psychologist.
As a psychologist, you can also consider building your own practice or practicing online. These options provide more opportunities to scale your practice and multiply your income.
Psychology is a massive scientific field and, thus, it is difficult to be exhaustive in listing all the different types of psychology careers out there. However, to help you determine how to become a psychologist, we will name a few of the most sought-after specializations.
Clinical psychologists work with human psychopathology. In most cases, clinical psychologists work as a part of a team of professionals. These experts together help a person suffering from mental health disturbances of any sort.
Some clinical psychologists work on diagnosing patients and determining the nature of their disorders. Other clinical psychologists are also involved in the therapeutic process, as well as the follow-ups once patients get better.
Clinical psychologists often work as psychotherapists and counselors in private practice.
Clinical psychologists, on average, earn between $50,000 and $108,000, depending on their state and country.
Psychologists that decide to practice psychotherapy need to undergo additional psychotherapy training and acquire a license to practice. After they have passed the licensure examination, they are free to call themselves psychotherapists. They can then treat mental disorders and mild disturbances in therapy sessions.
The average yearly income for therapists is $48,600, but, it is possible to earn as much as $82,000 annually as a therapist and more.
If you are interested in working with children, becoming a school psychologist can be an interesting choice for you.
School psychology is a branch of psychology that looks into different aspects of a child’s development and education. School psychologists are involved in developing and implementing curriculums. In essence, they help navigate teachers, parents, and pupils through the child’s school years and possible problems that may arise during this period.
Depending on several factors as a school psychologist, you can expect to be paid between $58,000 and $100,000.
If you are aiming for a higher wage within the field, consider becoming an industrial psychologist. They earn an average of $109,000 a year.
Organizational psychologists apply knowledge of human psychology to solve work-related issues. They are involved in recruitment, selection, training, evaluation, and anything else that might happen in a workplace and concerns human behavior.
Forensic psychology is one of the fastest-growing specializations, in part because the US has the highest incarceration rates in the world. Forensic psychologists work both with civic and criminal legal systems. So, if you are interested both in psychology and law, this might be the perfect career for you.
You could be involved in custody cases, work with inmates, advise punitive measures and propose reintegration activities.
An average salary for forensic psychologists is $69,000.
Let’s start by answering the question, ‘how long does it take to become a psychologist?’
Becoming a psychologist can take anywhere between 8 and 12 years from the moment you have graduated from high school. It all depends on your area of specialty, as well as your chosen career path. You can find employment with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, but you can also decide to go all the way and earn a Ph.D. and a psychotherapist’s license, for example.
There is not one single path to becoming a psychologist. However, all psychologists must undergo college education in an accredited institution to be able to practice psychology in any subfield. Many specializations also require additional licensure or training.
Nowadays, online studying is becoming increasingly popular. Online education often allows for much greater flexibility so that you can adjust the speed and volume of content with your schedule and preferences. If you pick an established school, the quality of the knowledge acquired online should match that of the on-campus program.
Here are the general steps to becoming a psychologist, and the time needed for each.
In most cases, completing your undergraduate studies will take you an average of four years. With further training, you can become a psychologist even if you do not major in psychology, which is good news for those with a bachelor degree considering a career change. However, a bachelor’s program in psychology provides the soundest basis for the profession. You may start working with a bachelor’s degree as a social worker, for example, or gain entry to a psychology related career.
The time needed to complete postgraduate-level studies in psychology varies. You may expect to spend anywhere between one and four years on acquiring your master’s degree. In most cases, it will take you two or three years to become a Master of Psychology.
Many psychologists decide to stop at this level of education without proceeding to a doctoral program as there are plenty of job options and career opportunities for master’s degree holders.
A choice made by many of those who wish to practice psychology is entering a doctoral program after their undergraduate studies. In this way, you can earn your Ph.D. or Psy.D in approximately seven to eight years after completing your undergraduate program. Somewhere in the middle of your doctoral studies, you will earn your master’s degree.
A doctoral-level degree is necessary for psychologists who want to open up their private practice, teach at universities, or work as a child, health, or social psychologist. If you are certain about your ideal career path, entering a Ph.D. program after your undergraduate studies may be the right choice for you.
However, there is also the option of starting your doctoral-level studies after you have acquired a master’s degree. There are many different programs and specializations, and it is up to you and your personal preferences which road you will take. If you already have an M.A. in psychology, gaining a doctoral degree will take you another two to three years.
Depending on your area of professional engagement, you may need to complete a certain amount of supervised experience after your graduation. This is especially true for clinical psychologists.
You may also expect to have to go through additional training or courses and modules, such as those required for school psychology or psychotherapy.
Furthermore, for many areas of psychology as a profession, before being able to start practicing, you may need to apply for a license. The requirements vary state by state. On average, you will be required to complete around 3000 hours of supervised experience, as well as a one-year internship.
The licensing process includes passing an exam offered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. You will also need to renew your license usually every two years.
It is best to seek information about these aspects of your education and practice from official institutions. In the US, it is the American Psychological Association (APA). In the UK, you may seek advice from the British Psychological Society (BPS).
It is difficult to say exactly how much it costs to become a psychologist. The prices vary greatly depending on the state/country, the prestige of the school, program/specialization, and the choice between online or on-campus studies.
In some cases, there are options to receive financial aid and in some countries, you can even earn a master’s degree with free tuition.
If you are thinking about becoming a good (and well-paid) psychologist, it is advisable to try and enter one of the top-ranking programs available. They can provide the best value to their graduates, even though the costs may initially be higher. The graduate programs in such schools cost between $10,000+ for the public and $40,000+ for private institutions.
Becoming a psychologist is an arduous effort. However, if you do not want to (or can not) invest all that time and money into the endeavor, there are other options to explore. Although you can not become a licensed psychologist without a university degree, you can still make psychology your life calling.
Look at non-regulated careers for helping professionals.
For example, you can become a life coach and guide others towards realizing their full potential, without having to gain a degree. Then there are professions such as hypnotherapist, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) or Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) practitioners, who apply psychology knowledge in assisting people through life hurdles in various ways.
A fantastic option is to sign up for training in Rapid Transformational Therapy® (RTT®). It is a method that its founder, world-renowned author and therapist, Marisa Peer, invested three decades to develop and perfect. RTT combines NLP, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and other leading techniques to help clients overcome multiple physical, emotional and cognitive issues.
You can now download a free RTT Course Prospectus and learn how to help people achieve lasting positive changes rapidly and permanently. By choosing to be trained in RTT methods, you will have access to everything you need to be able to start practicing and helping others in a few months.
In addition to learning the skills and techniques you need to transform clients, this course will also equip you with essential marketing and business knowledge on how to build a busy practice.
As you’ve learned, psychologists work in a range of settings. Therefore, it can be difficult to pinpoint what makes a person click with the profession. Yet, there are a few shared factors across different careers within psychology that you may want to consider before deciding to invest effort, money and time into becoming a psychologist.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, when you want to become a psychologist, there is a skill set that needs to be developed alongside your professional knowledge. This profession requires excellent analytical and problem-solving capabilities, as well as observational skills.
Psychology is, in a considerable majority of cases, about working with people. Therefore, for a psychologist to be successful, they need to be comfortable in social situations. In other words, assertiveness, acceptance and self-acceptance, openness, empathy, warmth, as well as flexibility all add up to make a good psychologist and a therapist.
Perseverance and motivation
Becoming a psychologist takes years. Becoming a well-paid one might take an additional few years of effort and determination. Even after you do acquire your degree and license, you may need to undergo the renewal process every couple of years.
Psychology is an ever-developing discipline. To stay on top of the game, be prepared for a lifetime of continued learning and professional development. As you can see, becoming a psychologist requires genuine motivation and wholehearted interest in the subject but it is also one of the most rewarding and fulfilling professions.
If you feel that understanding the intricacies of the human mind is your life purpose, psychology could be the perfect profession for you! Alternatively, if you would like to find out more about how you can train in one of the most effective therapeutic approaches available, you can download this free RTT Course Prospectus to learn more about the quicker route to a fulfilling and rewarding career transforming lives.
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