How to Become a Clinical Psychologist

Careers in Demand: How to Become a Clinical Psychologist

Are you interested in the rewarding career of a clinical psychologist? Before you dive in to any career, you shouldn’t make a decision until you learn what it’s all about and what it takes to achieve the goal. In clinical psychology, several major career paths exist including treating patients, conducting research and teaching psychology. Clinical psychology involves the observation, analysis and treatment of patients with various mental disorders, either in practice or research. Regardless of a psychologist’s specific path, the proper education and licensing is required. Let’s explore the field so you can determine if clinical psychology could be the occupation for you.

Clinical Psychology Careers and Salary

Clinical psychologists are in demand in private practice, hospitals, schools, universities, ambulatory healthcare, businesses and government agencies. With the call for better mental health treatment in the U.S., clinical psychologists will figure prominently, and projections for job growth were set at a 14% increase from 2004 to 2014. Special populations such as the growing elderly segment, veterans, and, more recently, people who are suffering depression and anxiety over changes during the pandemic need therapists to help them achieve a better state of mind through involving and counseling but do not prescribe medication.

The potential income for a position is an important factor in choosing a career. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual salary of $78,200 for clinical psychologists, counselors, and school psychologists, lower than both the annual wage of $88,480 for hospital psychologists and $96,870 for the government employed. While demand may drive median salaries up in some scenarios, consider the large investment in time and money to earn the required degrees and licenses along with the income potential prior to making a decision.

Clinical psychologist education requirements

The education requirements to become a clinical psychologist are great and extend beyond the university. As stated by The American Psychological Association, a clinical psychologist is required to complete:

  • An undergraduate degree
  • A Master’s degree
  • A Doctoral degree
  • Required training, internship and licensing by the state 

This can differ in certain cases, such as a student going straight from the undergraduate program to the Doctoral level. The undergraduate and/or Master’s degree major field of study should relate to clinical psychology, and all programs must be properly accredited. 

Following graduation with a Doctoral degree, clinical psychologists must complete their state’s licensing requirements. This may involve an internship, supervised experience for up to two years, and passing the licensing examination. Note that licensing, once obtained, has requirements for regular renewal, including continuing education hours. After all licensing is obtained, full-time clinical psychology employment or private practice awaits.

How Do I Know If Clinical Psychology is for Me?

Now that you know about the education and licensing requirements, you can see that becoming a clinical psychologist involves many years of determination, dedication, and hard mental work. You must be able to handle that mental stress and strain and live with the anticipation of a fully realized career in psychology for around a decade. If you thrive on learning and studying your craft and aren’t put off by the long process, clinical psychology could be for you.

 

Financially, so many years of funding education and living expenses while in school can be daunting. Look for programs that offer funding for students in the field, possibly involving working with a professor, doing research or student teaching. Some students stay in school full-time and work part-time, while others work full-time and attend school part-time. Accredited online programs have made earning degrees more accessible, opening possibilities for people who wouldn’t be able to live away to attend school. You must decide if you want to study in a field that will affect your finances for many years.

 

Another determiner of a career match for you can be whether you would enjoy the work involved. Ask yourself:

 

  • Do I have excellent interpersonal and communications skills?
  • Am I sensitive to the needs of others and their differences?
  • Am I perceived as a trustworthy person?
  • Do I show empathy toward others with difficult issues?
  • Do I know myself well-enough to not let my emotions get in the way of treating patients?

 

While this list of questions is incomplete, it will give you an idea of the types of characteristics you’ll need to succeed in clinical psychology. As for task clinical psychologists perform, they may vary based on the specialty and the work environment but have some commonality. Can you see yourself:

 

  • Counseling patients
  • Discussing sensitive issues
  • Developing treatment plans
  • Coordinating with doctors, educators, social workers, and other professionals 
  • Conducting interviews and tests
  • Observing, analyzing, and diagnosing patients
  • Taking notes during sessions
  • Conducting research
  • Creating reports

 

Again, use this list as a general guideline and conduct additional research to learn more. If you aren’t sure if this profession is for you, you may not want to commit yourself to the challenging and lengthy education process.

 

The True Reward of Becoming a Clinical Psychologist

 

The biggest payback on becoming a clinical psychologist isn’t the money. It’s knowing that you are helping people, either individually in treatment or for society as a researcher. You’re answering the cries for help of those with mental disorders. 

 

As a school psychologist, you may help children who are depressed and can’t talk to people at home. In a hospital setting, you may the one person that gets through to a patient that’s been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, or, in private practice, aid a patient with addictive behavior. As a researcher, you may discover a breakthrough in treatment for people with eating disorders. Now that you know the rewards and you’re armed with information on becoming a clinical psychologist, the decision is in your hands.

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