Psychologists and counselors study the human mind and
behavior. Generally, they also make a living trying to help
people understand and overcome their troublesome emotions and
behaviors. Psychologists apply their knowledge in many
different areas, including health, management, education,
law, and sports.
Psychologists and counselors must have strong communication
skills and be able to quickly assess emotionally charged
situations. They must be able to learn new methods and skills
on an ongoing basis. They also need to be interested in
people and the functioning of the human mind.
A day in the life?
Area of specialty and place of employment will have a
lot of bearing on the working conditions in this field. Those
specializing in school and clinical areas, and counselors
with their own private practices will generally set their own
hours, but will often see their patients in the evening and
on weekends. Those working in hospitals and other health
facilities will usually be required to work shifts that
include weekend and evening hours. School psychologists tend
to work normal daytime hours.
While most psychologists work directly with patients on a
day-to-day basis, some are being hired by organizations,
including the government and educational institutions. They
use their knowledge in organizations to help design better
products and improve services. They also may work to analyze
marketing efforts to explain why some projects succeed and
Education and training
Simply having a degree in psychology is not sufficient
education to practice, although it is the first step. Both
psychologists and counselors must have graduate degrees and
applicable work experience to be eligible for a professional
license. And most states require that individuals be fully
licensed before they can legally practice as psychologists.
And all states require full licensure before a psychologist
can operate a private practice.
While counselors must have at least a master's degree in
psychology or a related field, clinical psychologists need a
PhD or doctor of psychology (PsyD) degree. School
psychologists will therefore have their PhD or a doctorate of
education (EdD) degree. Each of these programs requires four
to seven years of graduate work.
Aspiring counselors and psychologists must also undergo an
extensive internship program. The process, which can last for
two years or more, starts while the applicant is still in
graduate school. After graduation, there is usually another
one to two years of supervised postdoctoral work.
Applicants must also pass the national Examination for
Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). Each state has
its own requirements for passing the exam and some may even
administer additional tests. Roughly half the states allow
those who have completed a master's degree in psychology to
take the EPPP. In those states, master's level candidates who
pass the EPPP can assess and meet with patients in almost the
same capacity as fully licensed psychologists. For the exact
requirements in your state, you can contact the Association of
State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB).
Due to the ever increasing similarities between counselors
and psychologists, the requirements necessary to become a
counselor are becoming more difficult. Currently, 45 states
require counselors to pass a professional certification exam.
Most use the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and
Certification (NCE), administered by the National Board for
Certified Counselors Inc. (NBCC). Applicants must already
have a master's degree in a field where at least half of the
course work relates to counseling.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the
number of jobs for psychologists will grow at about the
average rate for all jobs, while the rate of growth for
counselors will be significantly higher. Employment will grow
the fastest in healthcare, mainly in outpatient mental health
and substance abuse treatment clinics. Jobs will also arise
in schools, public and private social service agencies, and
management consulting services.
Companies and organizations will increasingly use
psychologists and those with psychology backgrounds to assist
them in the research and design of products, services, and
marketing activities. This is because businesses are using
more sophisticated techniques to conduct their marketing
campaigns, causing them to rely more on psychologists to help
conduct marketing research and lead advertising campaigns. An
increase in employee assistance programs in most companies
will bring on job growth for industrial psychologists.
Candidates with doctorates and psychology degrees in areas
such as counseling and health will enjoy high levels of
employment in the coming years, as will those individuals
with quantitative research methods and computer science
training. However, few good opportunities will arise for
those with only bachelor's degrees. Those with master's
degrees in psychology will qualify for positions in the
fields of school and industrial-organizational
Managed care has had an effect on employment in this field
because the majority of these professionals work in the
health care industry. Managed health care organizations
(HMOs) typically pay for only about 20 hours of psychotherapy
treatment per year. Therefore, many psychologists are finding
it difficult to make a living, and are forced to offer
services at reduced rates or seek employment in other fields.
But many have actually found opportunities in managed health
care, especially counselors and psychologists with master's
degrees. Group healthcare has seen a boost as well, as
managed health care supports this type of treatment, in which
one counselor is responsible for treating a group of
Positions that involve heavy research and advising include
licensed psychological practitioner (LPP), psychological
associate, psychological examiner, clergy, physicians and
surgeons, social workers, sociologists, and special education