Psychology, General

If you're compassionate, patient, a good listener and enjoy helping others, you might want to consider a career in psychology. Read on for related career, employment, and education information to see if this field piques your interest.

Is General Psychology for Me?

Overview

General psychology is the academic study of the human mind, especially thoughts, emotions and behaviors, along with practical instruction in mental health treatment. There are many psychology specializations, including counseling, clinical, forensic, industrial-organizational and child psychology.

Select Specializations

Clinical psychologists often work in an applied specialty, such as neuropsychology, geropsychology or child psychology. In this job, you'd be responsible for evaluating, diagnosing and treating mental disorders. You might also assist clients who need someone to help them through a distressing emotional situation, such as a death or divorce.

If you were a school psychologist, you'd work with students, as well as teachers and parents, to help ensure academic and social success in the school environment. Industrial-organizational psychologists are employed in companies and businesses to help with human resource tasks, such as screening job applicants, training new employees and designing productivity enhancement strategies. An advanced psychology degree would give you the ability to teach or do research at the university level.

Employment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that from 2012-2022, psychologist jobs overall were expected to grow at a rate of 12%, about as fast as average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). Clinical, counseling and school psychologists can expect job growth of 11% during that same decade, and industrial-organizational psychologists can anticipate faster-than-average job growth of 53%. Those with a doctoral (Ph.D.) degree in an applied specialty may have an advantage.

The BLS reported that in 2012, all psychologists in general earned a median annual wage of $69,280. The median salary among clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $67,650, and industrial-organizational psychologists earned a median of $83,580 per year for the same period.

How Can I Work in General Psychology?

Education

If working as a school psychologist is your goal, you'll need to earn a master's degree. Master's programs explore psychology topics such as the neuropsychology of learning in a school environment, multiculturalism in schools, education for autistic students and how personality affects learning. Other classes focus on research methods, statistics and ethics. You'll gain practical counseling experience through a 1,200-hour internship, 600 hours of which must be in a school setting.

If you're interested in becoming a clinical psychologist, a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or Ph.D. in Psychology degree is necessary. The Psy.D. degree would be a good choice if you want to work directly with patients. Programs cover core material, which may include an examination of different therapeutic systems, then allow for concentrated studies in your area of interest. An extensive internship in a clinical setting will be required. A Ph.D. might be better if you'd prefer doing research or teaching at the college level. Some research options to consider include biopsychology, social psychology and environmental psychology.

Required Skills

Whether teaching, researching or counseling, you'll need to be mature and compassionate. Success in this career field also requires top-notch communication skills.

Licensing and Certification

All states require that school psychologists have a license to practice, and many also require the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) credential from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). All states mandate licensing for clinical psychologists offering patient care, with specifics varying by state. In addition, the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) offers specialty board exams in 13 different areas if you want to further your professional achievements.

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