What you need to know
Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments. They use their findings to help improve processes and behaviors.
Some psychologists work independently, conducting research, consulting with clients, or working with patients. Others work as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with physicians and social workers, or in school settings, working with students, teachers, parents, and other educators. Those in private practice often work evenings and weekends to accommodate clients.
Some of the things a psychologist might do:
- Conduct scientific studies of behavior and brain function
- Observe, interview, and survey individuals
- Identify psychological, emotional, behavioral, or organizational issues and diagnose disorders
- Research and identify behavioral or emotional patterns
- Test for patterns that will help them better understand and predict behavior
- Discuss the treatment of problems with clients
- Write articles, research papers, and reports to share findings and educate others
- Supervise interns, clinicians, and counseling professionals
- Analytical skills: Psychologists must examine the information they collect and draw logical conclusions.
- Communication skills: Psychologists must have strong communication skills because they spend much of their time listening to and speaking with patients or describing their research.
- Integrity: Psychologists must keep patients’ problems in confidence, and patients must be able to trust psychologists’ expertise in treating sensitive problems.
- Interpersonal skills: Psychologists study and help individuals, so they must be able to work well with clients, patients, and other professionals.
- Observational skills: Psychologists study attitude and behavior. They must understand the possible meanings of facial expressions, body positions, actions, and interactions.
- Patience: Psychologists must demonstrate patience, because conducting research or treating patients may take a long time.
- Problem-solving skills: Psychologists need problem-solving skills to collect information, design research, evaluate programs, and find treatments or solutions to mental and behavioral problems.
The average pay for psychologists in the United States ranges from $46,270 to $137,590 as of May 2020.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Overall employment of psychologists is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Greater demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social service agencies should drive employment growth.
Demand for clinical and counseling psychologists will increase as people continue to turn to psychologists for help with their problems.
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 by 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 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.
Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Psychology.