How to Become a Psychologist

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No matter what field of work you choose to go into, there is always a long road of hard work and dedication ahead of you before you get there. Choosing a career in psychology is certainly no exception, and the work involved may be even more demanding than other career choices. Psychology is a very intricate field that requires a deep understanding of an endless list of theories, studies, and principles. Psychology is an incredibly fascinating and rewarding career choice, but it’s best to know exactly what lies ahead before committing yourself to the psychology path.

Education

If you don’t like school, psychology is probably not the best career path for you to be taking. For the most part, you’ve got to have every possible degree you can get in order to really have the best opportunities as a psychologist, and even then it’s often difficult. Get yourself into college right out of high school; you’ve got a long way to go and taking a break will only put you further back. Be sure that you choose a reputable school and obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology. It’s also wise to do a minor in a field that really interests you.

Hands-on experience is priceless and no book can ever teach you what you will learn by doing yourself. Spend time with graduate students and professors and conduct research studies. Really explore every avenue in psychology and decide where your own interests lie. There will be a lot of things that you may not like, so don’t waste a lot of time doing them. Focus the majority of your attention on the field that most interests you. Once you’ve got college taken care of, it’s time for graduate school. Hopefully you did all you could to finish your bachelor’s degree within four years so that you can get a head start. You can’t embark on your career until your education is complete, so it’s a great idea to take advantage of as many time-saving strategies as possible. Graduate school typically takes eight years, but if you push yourself, many have successfully made it out in five.

While you want a good school that has a great program in your field of interest, you should also try and find one that is inexpensive. The last thing you want is to spend the entire first ten years of your career just paying back college loans. Depending on what direction you are planning to go as a psychologist, you may be ready to start your career after graduate school. However, if you are going into research or teaching, you’ll need to take the next step and get your Ph.D.

If you are just graduating from high school and considering psychology as your college major, ask yourself right now if you are okay with the idea of just finishing school ten years from now. If so, good for you! If not, it may be time to take a look at other options.

Jobs and Salary

Because of the huge investment that psychologists make in their education and career, you would think that the salary would be a pay-off. Unfortunately this is not the case and psychologists rarely bring in large salaries. In the US, psychologists who are just starting out in clinics and research make between $45,000 and $55,000 per year. Once you get a couple of years of experience under your belt, you will be able to gain licensure and receive a slight raise. A psychologist’s salary slowly increases over time, and after about 10 years in the field after licensure you can expect to be making $65,000 to $90,000. Those numbers are great; just not what you would expect after spending so many years in school.

Some specialties in certain areas can make salaries into the 6 digits after becoming established and growing within their field. This is of course ideal, but not common. If you love psychology and enjoy your career, then the lower than expected salary may not be a big deal to you. However, if you are becoming a psychologist in the hopes of being a millionaire, it’s time to consider another road to riches.

Pros and Cons

Just because psychology looks like an exciting and rewarding job from the outside doesn’t mean that there aren’t any negatives to consider. Take a look at both sides and determine if the positives outweigh the negatives for you personally.

Pros

• It’s rewarding! You get to work directly with people and help them to overcome their problems

• You can watch the progress your patients make and know that you helped get them there

• It’s a very “white collar” job in a high class professional setting

• You will have a set work schedule; generally weekdays 9-5 with lots of flexibility

• Psychology is an incredibly diverse field that offers countless opportunities for growth and learning

• You will be working head to head with other professionals in your field

Cons

• Long hours and extra time are often required

• It is often difficult to find a good job within an established practice

• The pay varies greatly

• Since you are dealing with the problems of others, it can get extremely emotionally draining

• Private practices are very difficult to establish

• In order to get the best career opportunities, you’ve got to have as much education as possible

• Disappointment often occurs when clients don’t come back

Psychology can be an extremely rewarding career but it is up to you to decide whether the time and effort put into studying is worth it.

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Stanley C Loewen

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