Psychologists held about 181,700 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up psychologists was distributed as follows:
|Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists||162,000|
|Psychologists, all other||18,300|
The largest employers of psychologists were as follows:
|Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private||24|
|Ambulatory healthcare services||18|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||6|
Some psychologists work alone, doing independent research, consulting with clients, or counseling patients. Others work as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with physicians, social workers, and others to treat illness and promote overall wellness.
Psychologists in private practice often set their own hours, and many work part time as independent consultants. They may work evenings or weekends to accommodate clients. Those employed in hospitals or other healthcare facilities may also have evening or weekend shifts. Most psychologists in clinics, government, industry, or schools work full-time schedules during regular business hours.
Although psychologists typically need a doctoral degree in psychology, a master’s degree may be sufficient for school and industrial organizational positions. Psychologists in clinical practice need a license.
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 after 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.
School psychologists need an advanced degree and either certification or licensure to work. Common advanced degrees include education specialist degrees (Ed.S.) and doctoral degrees (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). School psychologist programs include coursework in education and psychology because their work addresses both education and mental health components of students’ development.
Industrial–organizational psychologists typically need a master’s degree, usually including courses in industrial–organizational psychology, statistics, and research design.
When working under the supervision of a doctoral psychologist, other master’s degree graduates can also work as psychological assistants in clinical, counseling, or research settings.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
In most states, practicing psychology or using the title “psychologist” requires licensure. In all states and the District of Columbia, psychologists who practice independently must be licensed where they work.
Licensing laws vary by state and by type of position. Most clinical and counseling psychologists need a doctorate in psychology, an internship, and at least 1 to 2 years of supervised professional experience. They also must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Information on specific state requirements can be obtained from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. In many states, licensed psychologists must complete continuing education courses to keep their licenses.
The American Board of Professional Psychology awards specialty certification in 15 areas of psychology, such as clinical health psychology, couple and family psychology, and rehabilitation psychology. The American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology offers certification in neuropsychology. Board certification can demonstrate professional expertise in a specialty area. Certification is not required for most psychologists, but some hospitals and clinics do require certification. In those cases, candidates must have a doctoral degree in psychology, a state license or certification, and any additional criteria required by the specialty field.
Most prospective psychologists must have pre- or postdoctoral supervised experience, including an internship. Internships allow students to gain experience in an applied setting. Candidates must complete an internship before they can qualify for state licensure. The required number of hours of the internship varies by state.
Psychologists typically have an interest in the Thinking, Creating and Helping interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.
If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Creating or Helping interest which might fit with a career as a psychologist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Psychologists should also possess the following specific qualities:
Analytical skills. Psychologists must be able to examine the information they collect and draw logical conclusions from them.
Communication skills. Psychologists must have strong communication skills because they spend much of their time listening to and speaking with patients.
Observational skills. Psychologists study attitude and behavior. They must be able to watch people and understand the possible meanings of people’s facial expressions, body positions, actions, and interactions.
Patience. Psychologists must be able to demonstrate patience, because research or treatment of patients may take a long time. They must also be patient when dealing with people who have mental or behavioral disorders.
People skills. Psychologists study people and help people. They must be able to work well with clients, patients, and other medical professionals.
Problem-solving skills. Psychologists need problem-solving skills to find treatments or solutions for mental and behavioral problems.
Trustworthiness. Psychologists must keep patients’ problems in confidence, and patients must be able to trust psychologists’ expertise in treating sensitive problems.
The median annual wage for psychologists was $80,370 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $45,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $132,070.
Median annual wages for psychologists in May 2019 were as follows:
|Psychologists, all other||$101,790|
|Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists||78,200|
In May 2019, the median annual wages for psychologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||88,480|
|Ambulatory healthcare services||82,250|
|Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private||76,960|
Psychologists in private practice often set their own hours, and many work part time as independent consultants. They may work evenings or weekends to accommodate clients. Those employed in hospitals or other healthcare facilities also may have evening or weekend shifts. Most psychologists in clinics, government, industry, or schools work full-time schedules during regular business hours.
Overall employment of psychologists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by occupation.
Employment of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is projected to grow because of greater demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social service agencies. Demand for clinical and counseling psychologists will increase as people continue to turn to psychologists for help with their problems. Psychologists also will be needed to provide services to an aging population, helping people deal with the mental and physical changes that happen as they grow older. Psychological services will also be needed for veterans suffering from war trauma, for survivors of other trauma, and for people with developmental disorders, such as autism.
Employment of school psychologists will continue to grow because of the increased awareness of the connection between mental health and learning and because of the need for mental health services in schools. School psychologists will be needed to work with students, particularly those with special needs, learning disabilities, and behavioral issues. Schools rely on school psychologists to assess and counsel students. In addition, school psychologists will be needed to study how factors both in school and outside of school affect learning. Once aware of those factors, teachers and administrators can use them to improve education. Job opportunities may be limited, however, because employment of school psychologists in public schools and universities is contingent on state and local budgets.
Organizations will continue to use industrial–organizational psychologists to help select and retain employees, increase organizational productivity and efficiency, and improve office morale.
Competition for jobs for psychologists will vary by specialty and level of education obtained.
Industrial–organizational psychologists are expected to face competition for positions because of the large number of qualified applicants. Industrial–organizational psychologists with extensive training in quantitative research methods may have a competitive edge.
Candidates with a doctoral or education specialist degree and postdoctoral work experience will have the best job opportunities in clinical, counseling, or school psychology positions.
There are expected to be better opportunities for psychologists who specialize in working with the elderly and in rehabilitation psychology.
For more information about careers in all fields of psychology, visit
For more information about careers for school psychologists, visit
For more information about state licensing requirements, visit
For more information about psychology specialty certifications, visit
For more information about industrial–organizational psychologists, visit
For more information about careers and certification in neuropsychology, visit
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