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 some fail.
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 psychology.
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 patients.
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 teachers.