Before embarking on any new career path, it’s always a good idea to first know exactly what is required for success in terms of education, training, and skills. Psychology is no different, and the sheer size of the field and its many specializations means one never stops learning, as new discoveries and treatments are devised constantly. If being in such an ever-evolving career appeals to you, keep reading to find out how you can join this thriving and rewarding field.
The most successful psychologists are those who go on to obtain a PhD, or doctorate degree. The first step necessary for this is to earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year institution. While completing an undergraduate education in psychology, students will be introduced to the fundamental concepts of psychology and some of its most intrinsic and important divisions, such as abnormal psychology, developmental psychology/child development and personality psychology. Students will also take courses in experimental methods and research design. Additional general requirements typically include courses in statistics and philosophy as well. At this stage, students don’t generally declare a specialization within psychology; that decision is usually made at the next level in the educational process.
At the masters level students must decide on a specialization in a specific field of psychology. This is usually done by taking into account both interests and skills, as well as what field is likely to need more psychologists. One has to assess the theoretical aspects of each specialty and also each division’s related teaching philosophy. Students must also understand their educational as well as professional goals and what is actually required to achieve success after graduation and entering the workforce.
Finally, after earning a master’s degree in a chosen concentration in psychology, students can choose to enroll into a PhD program. At this point, students might be required to function as professional counselors and research writers in addition to completing their studies. By serving as a working professional, students can prove their skills and apply their abilities in a practical, real-world setting and thereby gain valuable experience. In addition to all this, students also must write a doctoral dissertation, usually applying their own clinical experiences. With their studies completed and their dissertations accepted, students can at long last begin to work unsupervised in their new career in the psychology field.
Where a psychology student goes after graduation is a matter of personal preference and the needs of the local environment. The most common course of action is to work in a clinical setting to gain experience, then perhaps striking out on one’s own to form a private or independent practice.
Psychologists are not limited to treating patients in clinical settings. They can frequently be found in university and medical research departments, where they contribute to the growing body of knowledge about the human mind. Sometimes they work in business, most often in the human resources sector, where they improve communication and relations between employees, employees, and customers. Still others fulfill teaching roles in high schools, universities, and community colleges. In this way they can share their vast knowledge and encourage others to enter the field.
In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found the average psychologist in the United States earned an annual salary of $67,880. Over the next eight years, the demand for skilled, trained psychologists is expected to rise by 22 percent nationwide, making this the perfect career option for those who are driven by hard work and the urge to help others.