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Career In Psychology

7 Unexpected Things About Choosing a Career in Psychology

It’s rare that any budding professional truly understands what their future occupation has in store. More often, it takes a few years on the job before you understand the ins and outs of your chosen role. Take a career in psychology, for example.

Maybe you’ve learned what the field is like through conducting your own research and having conversations with practitioners you know. Perhaps even your own experiences with clinicians have helped you understand what life as a psychologist is like. You likely have a pretty good understanding of what the role entails, but there are a few aspects that might surprise you.

So, what is a career in psychology really like? You’ll discover some of the lesser-known facts related to this role below. You might soon recognize whether becoming a psychologist is right for you.

7 Things about pursuing a career in psychology that might surprise you

Though it’s possible to pursue numerous occupations [CS1] after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology, these facts focus mostly on clinical roles.

1. It takes commitment to become a licensed psychologist

There’s a misconception that those who major in psychology [CS2] as undergraduates lack direction or focus. In reality, many students choose this field with the understanding they’ll be devoting a huge portion of their lives to their education and training.

Most psychology roles have the same basic licensure requirements: earn a doctoral degree, complete an extensive amount of supervised clinical hours, achieve a passing score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and complete state-specific requirements. For most practitioners, this process can take a decade or more to complete.

There are some careers in psychology that only require a master’s degree, but you would still need to complete plenty of training in the form of an internship or practicum to become a qualified professional. Regardless of the specific role you’re considering, know that you’ll need to invest a fair amount of time and energy to become an appropriately credentialed psychologist.

2. There are many different career paths you can pursue

While you’re probably familiar with a handful of different careers in psychology, you might be surprised just how many options exist. The American Psychological Association (APA) currently recognizes the following 18 specialties:

  • Clinical neuropsychology
  • Clinical health psychology
  • Psychoanalysis
  • School psychology
  • Clinical psychology
  • Clinical child and adolescent psychology
  • Counseling psychology
  • Industrial-organizational psychology
  • Behavioral and cognitive psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Couple and family psychology
  • Geropsychology
  • Police and public safety psychology
  • Sleep psychology
  • Rehabilitation psychology
  • Group psychology and group psychotherapy
  • Serious mental illness psychology
  • Clinical psychopharmacology

There are also three recognized proficiencies — addiction psychology, sport psychology and biofeedback and applied psychophysiology — which require specific knowledge and skills. In addition to choosing a specific area of focus, psychologists also have numerous options when it comes to their workplace settings. You can find practitioners in schools, healthcare clinics, independent practices, nonprofits, government organizations and more.

3. Clients won’t always stick around

Simply having the requisite qualifications doesn’t mean clients will automatically line up outside your office. Even those who do make it through the door may not be inclined to continue treatment. In fact, one 2017 study that surveyed nearly 270 practicing psychologists indicates that about one-third of clients choose to terminate their sessions.  

For many people, opening up to a psychologist can be difficult. They may feel there isn’t a strong enough personal connection or that they aren’t getting anything out of it. As a psychologist, you’ll need to be comfortable with the fact that you won’t be the right choice for everyone seeking treatment. But you’ll also learn that fostering relationships, following up after sessions and offering easy payment and scheduling options are important factors for retaining clients.

4. You can be involved in the research community

Believe it or not, psychology is one of the best fields for those who want to learn from and contribute to research. Most psychology programs, even at the baccalaureate level, focus heavily on research methods. And clinicians are expected to continue their education long after graduation by reading scientific publications that can help them increase their knowledge base and incorporate new findings into their practice.

You also have the opportunity to conduct research. While this is probably most common among psychologists based at universities, any qualified professional has the ability to conduct studies. In fact, evidence suggests that research performed in a clinical setting can improve both practitioner performance and client outcomes.

5. Licensure is location-specific

The process of becoming a licensed psychologist is more or less the same all across the country, but that doesn’t mean credentials are universally accepted. There are nuances from one state to the next. Licensure requirements in Texas, for instance, include securing a score of at least 500 on the EPPP, passing the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists’ Jurisprudence Examination, obtaining a provisional license and completing 3,500 total hours of supervised experience. Each of these requirements might be slightly different depending on your geographic location.

That said, it is possible to obtain licensure in a different state. The easiest way to do so is to plan ahead by banking all of your education and training information using an online platform. You can also participate in a mobility program, which streamlines the process of obtaining credentials in another state.

6. It can be a lucrative career choice

A psychologist’s earning potential depends on their specialty, their geographic location and a number of other factors. While this clearly means salaries vary, psychologists as a whole make a good living.

The APA’s Center for Workforce Studies tool shows information about salaries from a number of perspectives. The 2017 median annual salary for self-employed psychologists, for instance, was $85,000. And the 2017 median annual salary for psychologists in the West South Central region was $91,000.

7. You could have enormous control over your career

Some psychologists like the stability of pursuing job openings at established organizations. This option can help ensure you would have a steady income and access to benefits. It would also allow you to focus solely on your role as psychologist, meaning you would devote the bulk of your time to helping clients.

But you also have the opportunity to be entrepreneurial, serving as both business owner and clinician. To be successful in going this route, you’ll need to understand legal requirements, develop a business plan, find the right office space and join insurance provider panels. Clearly, owning a private practice requires you to wear many hats.

But for the right person, the advantages of being self-employed far outweigh any frustrations that arise from determining the intricacies of loans or marketing to potential clients. You can set your hours and rates, choose your coworkers and make decisions autonomously. Many private practice psychologists find running their own business to be incredibly rewarding as well.

Find your ideal career in psychology

In all likelihood, a career in psychology is a bit different than you initially thought. You wouldn’t be the first to feel this way. Most people don’t realize just how many specialties exist or that there are so many opportunities to shape your career. It’s possible you’re even more interested in the field now that you know more about it. If you’re sure of your interest in becoming a psychologist, you might want to think about how you can begin to progress toward this career. You can start by obtaining the requisite education. Find out how you can gain the foundational knowledge and skills you’ll need by visiting the University of St. Thomas Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program page


 [CS1]Add link to “What Can You Do With a Bachelor’s in Psychology? 10 Career Paths Worth Pursuing” once published

 [CS2]Add link to “Should I Major in Psychology? 7 Signs This Field Is Right for You” once published.

About the Author — Staff

AvatarThe University of St. Thomas is the only Catholic, liberal arts university in Houston, Texas. We have 35+ undergraduate majors including STEM, Nursing, Business, Education and Pre-Med. Located in a vibrant urban environment just minutes from downtown and the famed Texas Medical Center, we welcome students of all races and religions to our diverse and collaborative campus.

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