Examining the Psychology Field

Psychology, according to Lisa Cohen, is the “systematic study of mind and behavior” (1). This branch of Social Science has so much diversity when choosing a field that it may be overwhelming, to say the least. Psychologists can choose from working as clinicians, teachers, consultants, authors, evaluators, and the list goes on (Cohen 1). The field of psychology a person pursues will dictate their training, education, and salary that will come with the profession. Some people get confused with the difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist, as both “can diagnose and evaluate mental illness” (Cohen 2). The main difference is that psychologists do not prescribe medication and their highest degree is a Ph.D., whereas psychiatrists are medical doctors who have completed medical school with an M.D. after their name. To know whether one should pursue the field of psychology, research is required in what type of education, training, licensing, and desired traits are needed, and the expected salary, job outlook, and alternative career choices.

Education should be the first topic because there are quite a few factors that decide on how much education is required. Describing how long it takes to become a psychologist depends on what specialty field someone wants to pursue (Cherry). If one wants to be a clinical psychologist who diagnoses people with mental or emotional disorders and treat them accordingly, then just getting a bachelor's degree will not be enough (“Clinical Psychologist”). This field requires not only a bachelor's degree but an additional four to seven years to get a doctorate (Ph.D.). Once a graduate degree is obtained, one must also pass a state licensing exam to practice in their home state. Another field of study that has gained popularity recently is an environmental psychologist, who often observe and research how the physical environment affects people’s mood or work environment. This field requires a master's degree in addition to a bachelor's and will take another two to three years of study; however, the nice thing is that a Ph.D. is usually not necessary (Cherry). A third field of study in psychology and where someone can make the big bucks is an industrial-organizational psychologist, who works with Human Resource departments to provide employee testing, training, and development (“Industrial-Organizational Psychologist”). These psychologists need at least a master's degree, but a Ph.D. is preferred. There are many other specialty fields in psychology to research, such as, forensics, educational, or social psychology which all require similar education but have different salary ranges.

Next on the agenda and probably most important when considering the psychology field is salary and job outlook. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, “psychology graduates had the lowest starting pay of any field ($30,000)”, with the median salary of $72,580 in 2015 (Cherry). Clinical psychologist job opportunities have a bright outlook for the future with salaries ranging from $44,040 to $129,310, depending on what part of the country one resides (“Clinical Psychologist”). An industrial-organizational psychologist, as previously mentioned make the big bucks, so if money is important then this is the job to pursue. These psychologists make anywhere from $52,350 to $192,150, with the average being $97,260 (“Industrial-Organizational Psychologist”). According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the demand for the psychological profession is expected to rise by 19% through 2024, which is “faster than the average for all other professions” (Cherry). Specialty fields, such as environmental, school, forensics, and industrial-organizational psychologists are also expected to be in high demand in the next decade.

When considering a career in psychology, one must realize the skills and traits necessary for this profession as well as what is expected on the job. Some basic skills and abilities include communicating with others, listening without interrupting, solving problems, and helping people understand their reactions to emotional situations (“Clinical Psychology”). On the job, a psychologist should expect to diagnose emotional, psychological, or behavioral disorders and be able to use that information to conduct tests and provide the right treatment for their patient. They should also be able to conduct research in the field and report their findings, such as, why people choose to recycle, or finding solutions to pollution or climate change. This will definitely depend on which specialty field of psychology they choose (“Career in Climate and Environmental Psychology”). Examples of places where a psychologist might work are mental health facilities, prisons, schools, government offices, or private practice (Cherry). One should be prepared for all types of environments when considering a career in psychology.

Some psychologists, after being in the profession for several years may decide to step outside the psychology world and look for an alternative career. This should be considered as an option while studying in college. Not only should one take the required classes to become a psychologist, but they may want to take classes that broaden their options for the future. Examples of these classes include foreign languages, business management, public health, or a computer technology class (Hassan). They may want to volunteer for a non-profit organization, or “seek out internships at local businesses” during college to expand their education (Hassan). These examples can give someone more options in furthering their career or having something to fall back on if the psychology field ends up not working out for them.

Becoming a psychologist requires extensive research in education, training, licensing, and traits needed in the field, as well as what salary to expect, job outlook, and being prepared for an alternate career if necessary. A psychology career has great diversity so planning early, such as, during undergraduate study for a specialty field is important (Cherry). Doing the research now will save significant time and money in the future and allow someone to focus in graduate school on their field of study. The more research someone does, the better they will be prepared for all aspects that arise when deciding on their future career in psychology.