The field of psychology is diverse and wide-reaching, with many different types of jobs within the profession. One such job that has been in existence for a while now is clinical psychology. Clinical psychologists work in mental health settings to diagnose and treat people with emotional or psychological issues. They use their varied tools and skillsets to help clients cope with trauma, anxiety, depression, addiction—even schizophrenia! This article will explore how to become a clinical psychologist so you can find out if this career path might be right for you.
1. What Is a Clinical Psychologist?
Diagnosing and treating mental disorders is the primary job of clinical psychologists, and they also work on improving someone’s self-esteem, confidence, and quality of life. Clinical psychologists study all sorts of mental conditions like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, or any other psychological problem people may be facing. They offer psychotherapy, test and assess people, give counseling, educate the public about mental illness.
2. What Does a Clinical Psychologist Do?
Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat patients with various mental health issues, including schizophrenia, mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder, anxiety; drug addiction; ADHD; PTSD; eating disorders, OCH, personality problems, or difficulties adapting to change. These professionals often teach at colleges and universities in addition to treating patients.
Typically, clinical psychologists work in private practice offices and hospitals. They may also work in government agencies, school systems, or corporations providing employees with psychological treatment and counseling services to support their health and well-being. Most people see a clinical psychologist only once and never again for treatment purposes; one-third of all people who see a psychologist receives about five sessions.
“In terms of how much time people spend with a clinical psychologist, as it is almost always one session,” said Dr. Lynn Bufka, associate executive director for practice research and policy at the American Psychological Association. “The problem is that treatment does not end after one session.”
3. What Is the Clinical Psychologist’s Salary?
The practice is enriching, and there is a massive demand for qualified counselors, but there’s also a lot of stress and heartache that goes along with it. With such low pay and high-stress levels, many wonder if this job is worth all the sacrifices that come with it.
Before you decide to become a clinical psychologist, you must weigh the pros and cons. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for clinical psychologists was $72,710 as of May 2013. The top 10% earned an annual salary of $111,810 or more per year, while the lowest 10% made below $34,630. The highest-paid professionals worked in scientific research and development services, earning an average of $119,560 a year.
4. What Does It Take to Become a Clinical Psychologist?
For those who want to work with patients one-on-one while helping them improve their mental health and coping skills, becoming a clinical psychologist is a great career choice. However, you will need to complete years of rigorous education and training before you can begin working with patients and earning a competitive salary with other professionals in the field.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical psychologists typically need at least a masters master’s degree in psychology; however, those with a doctoral degree in the field can expect higher earnings and more advancement opportunities, such as conducting clinical research or teaching at the university level.
Master’s degrees in psychology take an average of about five years to complete full-time; however, some graduate students may need up to seven years to finish their studies. The program includes statistics, experimental design courses, and advanced psychology topics. Furthermore, clinical research methods are an essential part of the curriculum since the job requires using scientific methods to determine which therapies work best with certain patients.
This list of courses might vary from one graduate program to another; however, it may include: Introduction to psychological assessment Health and psychopathology Personality theories Abnormal psychology social psychology Developmental psychology Therapeutic interventions Research methods.
After earning their master’s degree, students must complete at least one year of clinical experience under the supervision of a psychologist or other health care professional. This allows them to apply the lessons they learned in the classroom while getting paid. After gaining work experience, many students pursue a doctoral degree to increase their chances of landing a high-paying job in the field.
According to the BLS, doctoral students in clinical psychology must complete at least two years of supervised training, including internships and residencies. They also attend classes and seminars on research design, ethics, and treatment methodologies. In addition to coursework, students must complete a dissertation based on their original research.
After earning the doctoral degree, the first step is to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). This computer-based test takes about four hours to complete, covering topics such as clinical assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.
After passing the EPPP, graduates can become licensed psychologists in their state or province. The requirements for a license vary by location but typically include submitting an application, paying a fee, submitting official transcripts, and taking an ethics exam.
5. What Skills Are Required?
Since this is a highly specialized field, clinical psychologists need to be compassionate and good listeners. They must also have strong critical thinking skills since they will use scientific research methods to develop effective treatment plans for patients.
The BLS adds that it is essential for clinical psychologists to understand human behavior because their job requires them to work with actual patients in real-life settings. This means they must be skilled communicators and deal with patients who may be in distress or uncomfortable in a clinical setting.
6. The Benefits of a Career in Clinical Psychology
Some of the benefits of a career in clinical psychology include:
Clinical psychologists can work in a wide range of employment environments due to the diversity of skills required within the profession.
• The number of clinical psychology jobs is expected to increase 23% between 2012 and 2022 (much faster than average; O*Net, January 2017). Many people are concerned that too few qualified candidates will be available to fill these positions.
• The median salary for clinical and counseling psychologists in the United States was $68,640 (2016; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
• There is a growing need for qualified clinicians across many functions, including child & adolescent mental health services, sexual offender treatment programs, senior care programs, and public/community mental health services.
• Clinical psychologists can work with people of all ages, conditions, and cultures.
• Many clinical psychologists enjoy the varied nature of their role; they may conduct psychotherapy for an hour in the morning, complete assessments or evaluations in the afternoon, and be involved in teaching/training later on in the day.
7. The Disadvantages of a Career in Clinical Psychology
Some of the disadvantages of a career in clinical psychology include that it is not as financially rewarding as other fields. There are limited employment opportunities that do not require a doctorate, and the field has limited advancement potential.
Limited Financial Rewards
Clinical psychology pays more petite than some other career paths. For example, psychologists who work in elementary or secondary schools typically earn less than an equally qualified teacher with the same experience and education level. (Hill, 2000)
There are also limited opportunities for clinical psychologists to work full-time. Most spend a significant amount of time on research or administration rather than direct patient care. Additionally, there remain too few employment opportunities in most areas of the United States; “For every 100 individuals with a clinical psychology doctoral degree, there were 170 available jobs in 2004.” (American Psychological Association, 2006)
Lack of Promotion Opportunities
There are also limited advancement opportunities for those who work as clinicians. No clearly defined career path leads from the entry-level position to the top of one’s field; “There is no generally accepted structure for adult clinical psychology training. There are almost as many different types of internships and postdoctoral programs in adult clinical psychology as there are programs in which such training takes place.” (American Psychological Association, 2006)
8. How Long Does It Take to Become a Clinical Psychologist?
Becoming a clinical psychologist doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes many years of schooling and training to become a licensed practitioner. In the United States, it typically takes about eight years of post-secondary education to earn a doctoral degree in psychology. After that, there is usually a one-year internship, followed by three years of supervised practice. In total, it can easily take 10 to 12 years of education and training before you are fully qualified.
9. Top Recruiting Companies for a Clinical Psychologist
Some of the top recruiting companies for a clinical psychologist include:
- Soliant Health
- Academic Work
- Lighthouse Group Healthcare
- Reach Health Services
- Delta Healthcare Providers
- Aspen Medical Staffing
10. Best Colleges to Study Clinical Psychology
When it comes to studying clinical psychology, there’s more than just picking a college and majoring in the subject. Graduating from a good college with renowned faculty and alumni can provide you with opportunities for future internships or full-time jobs. For some students, even getting accepted into a good college is difficult. Here’s our list of the Top 10 Best Colleges to Study Clinical Psychology!
- the University of California at Los Angeles
- Stanford University
- Columbia University in the City of New York
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT
- Brigham Young University
- Brown University
- Duke University
- University of California at Berkeley
If you are interested in a career as a clinical psychologist, there is no better time to start than today. All you have to do is attend an accredited school and then work towards a license to get started on the path. Clinical psychologists can enjoy a wide range of job opportunities because this type of healthcare professional deals with mental health issues within patients from all walks of life. Whether it’s depression or anxiety, if your goal is to help people feel happy again by getting them back on track mentally so they can live their best lives possible, being a clinical psychologist might be the perfect profession for you!