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What's the Job Description of a Personality Psychologist?

Research what it takes to become a personality psychologist. Learn about job duties and education and certification requirements to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Personality Psychologist?

The focus of a personality psychologist is on how patterns of thinking, feeling and behavior differ from individual to individual. They are particularly interested in understanding personality traits and how a person's personality traits affect the person as a whole. They may study how experiences, beliefs and attitudes affect the development of a person's personality, and they may also study personality disorders or treat people with personality disorders, including paranoid personality disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. The following chart provides an overview about becoming a personality psychologist.

Degree Required Master's degree or doctoral degree
Training Required 1-year internship or residency
Education Field of Study Psychology
Licensure or Certification All states require practicing psychologists to be licensed; board certification in 13 specialties is available
Job Growth (2018-2028) 14% increase (for all psychologists)*
Median Salary (2018) $79,010 (for all psychologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Are the Types of Personality Psychologist Careers?

According to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), as a personality psychologist you would focus on understanding human behavior, both individual and group, as it relates to attitudes, beliefs and actions (www.spsp.org). Some of the specific career titles you may want to explore, as listed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), include behavioral, clinical, experimental or industrial-organizational psychologist (www.bls.gov). Subspecialties within personality/social psychology include health psychology and political psychology.

What Types of Duties Would I Perform?

Your duties depend upon the nature of your position as well as the industry within which you work. As a personality psychologist, you might work with institutions that provide social services to the elderly or to people with disabilities. In the closely related field of social psychology, you might assist a business by helping it design training programs or by studying decision-making patterns.

The American Psychological Association (APA) also indicates that you could be a psychometrician (www.apa.org). You would be involved with various facets of the psychological testing process. This includes creating, analyzing, evaluating and administering tests for research purposes as well as for individual clients. Since personality psychologists are often involved with quantitative psychology, the APA states that your position may include designing research studies as well as statistical analysis.

What Are the Requirements?

For some positions, an M.A. or M.S. may be sufficient; however, a Ph.D. is generally preferred, according to the SPSP. This is due, in part, to the competitive nature of the field. If you have a clinical specialty, the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) recommends obtaining board certification (www.abpp.org). In some cases, the ABPP indicates, you could begin this process while you are still in school.

If you have a master's degree and are interested in psychological assessment tests, you may want to become a certified psychometrist. According to The National Association of Psychometrists (NAP), earning a Certified Specialist in Psychometry (CSP) credential from the Board of Certified Psychometrists may assist you with career establishment and advancement (www.napnet.org).

Where Could I Work?

Personality psychologists may work in a variety of public and private industries. The BLS states that you could have a private practice or be employed as a business consultant or market researcher. You may, according to the SPSP, find positions teaching in a university business, political science or psychology department. Other career options you may find interesting include lab or field research and government or non-profit consulting.

The BLS states that you could work with doctors and other professionals in hospitals and physical rehabilitation programs. Other places you could work include mental health centers, crisis counseling centers and drug treatment programs.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Special education teachers and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors may also work with individuals with personality disorders, and therefore may have some aspects of their work that are very similar to the work that personality psychologists do. Special education teachers work with students with special needs. A student with obsessive-compulsive disorder, for example, may need special assistance because their ability to function in school is affected by their disorder. Special education teachers modify lesson plans and adapt their teaching techniques and classroom structure to help the students they work with succeed in an educational environment. They need a bachelor's degree and a teaching license to work in their field. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors are also likely to work with individuals with personality disorders. Like personality psychologists they may meet with these individuals to assess their conditions and work on developing strategies to help their clients make positive choices and avoid self-destructive behaviors. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors need a bachelor's degree.