Clinical psychologists help people deal with mental and emotional problems. Read about professional responsibilities and academic requirements for clinical psychologists here, and make an informed decision about your education and career.
In general, clinical psychologists diagnose and assist patients who are suffering from behavioral, emotional or mental problems, either on a short-term or ongoing basis. Their responsibilities include determining the roots of their patient's illnesses and issues, as well as developing plans for behavior modification and recovery. Many times, clinical psychologists work with doctors and other specialists to design intervention and other treatment plans. Depending on the patient, therapy may be provided in an individual, family or group setting.
Clinical psychologists can be found in a variety of medical facilities, including hospitals and counseling centers. Many choose to go into private practice, either on their own or with other doctors. Clinical psychologists may also be employed by nursing homes, correctional facilities, family services and schools.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2013, approximately 104,480 individuals were employed as clinical, counseling and school psychologists and earned a median annual salary of $67,760. As reported by the BLS, employment of clinical, counseling and school psychologists was projected to increase by an average rate of 11% from 2012-2022. Opportunities should be best for individuals who have completed doctoral or specialty programs in counseling, health or school psychology, as well as those with extensive research backgrounds and post-doctoral professional experience.
While a master's degree can help you qualify for a position as a psychologist assistant or even as an industrial-organizational psychologist, you'll most likely need a doctoral degree to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist, or as a college-level researcher or teacher. Completion of an undergraduate program in psychology can help you prepare for admission to a graduate program and may include topics in human development, cognition and research methodology; training in crisis intervention and counseling techniques may also be provided.
A Master of Science in Psychology can take about two years to complete; doctoral programs in psychology may require a 5-year commitment. As a graduate psychology student, you might pursue topics in cognitive psychology, behavioral therapy, interventions and psychopathology. You may also learn how to conduct intelligence tests and personality assessments; participation in clinical practicums will also be required.
The licensing criteria for independent clinical psychologists, required by each of the 50 states and Washington D.C., include a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Psychology or Doctor of Psychology (Psych.D.). Degree programs typically include the 1-year internship also required for licensure, after which graduates must acquire 1-2 years of experience in a clinical setting. Additional requirements include a passing score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.