How to Become a Psychologist: Job Description & Salary

We really wanted to have a good joke about psychologists for you today, but we are a’Freud that we couldn’t come up with any. As we’re sure you can glean from our tragic attempt to at humor, we are going to tell you how to become a psychologist today. So get ready for your inner child to repress all of the Freudian slips that we are about the let loose today.

How to Become a Psychologist

You’ve come to the right place today for all of the steps needed to become a psychologist and we are eager to fill you in on the details. Let’s get right down to business since we have a lot to cover today.

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor’s Degree

psych2To start the process of becoming a psychologist, you will have to earn a bachelor’s degree. When selecting your major during your first four years of schooling it’s important to select an actually psychology study path or at very least select a course load that is heavy in psychology courses. It’s important to do this so that you are ready to your master’s degree program and because it is super hard to get accepted to a graduate degree program without the proper background to back it up.

During your time in a bachelor’s degree program, you will have the opportunity to take courses in social psychology, consumer behavior, child psychology and cognition just to name a few. A huge benefit in being able to take these more concentrated classes will be that they will help to guide you in the direction of psychology that you would like to go into. By the time you’ve completed your first four years of schooling you will have a solid understanding of psychology, some laboratory and analysis experience and will be rearing and ready to earn your master’s degree.

Step 2: Complete a Graduate degree

Once you are ready to hit the ground running towards completing a master’s degree you will be able to focus on the area of psychology that you’d like to work in. With a master’s degree you will be able to work in counseling setting, in schools and industrial organizations. If you’re interested in research or working in a clinical setting then you can take your education a step further and earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree.

Step 3: Internship, Residency or Supervised Practicum

Most colleges require students to complete an internship, residency or supervised practicum in order to graduate and become licensed in their state. These are also great places to learn more and to get a real understanding of what it is like to work in your preferred field of psychological study. For the most part, internships are completed in hospitals, schools or other government run mental health facilities.

Step 4: Become a Licensed Psychologist

Every state requires psychologists that intend to practice in any professional capacity to become licensed. You will obviously have to have the minimum educational experience and internships behind you and then you will have to pass an exam like the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Once you’ve received your license, frame that baby and hang it on your wall. It’s something to be super proud of!

Step 5: Earn Extra Certifications

A good way to increase your professional skills and credibility is by going to the extra mile to earn and receive endorsements and certifications. The National Association of School Psychologists and the American Board of Professional Psychology offer extra certifications in a lot of psychological fields of study like psychoanalysis and forensics. Most of these certification will require you to complete specific requirements that usually come in the form of peer review or oral exams.

What Do Psychologist Do?

The main function of a psychologist is to study people on an emotional, cognitive and social level to see how and what determines their behaviors. With their findings they determine how people relate to each other and our environments. That’s the basic gist of what psychologists do as a whole, but let’s break it down a bit further and see some of the more specific things that they do:

  • Perform scientific experiments, studies and tests to see how the brain functions and to learn more about human behavior
  • Interview patients, clients, family of clients and other professions through the various methods of observations, interviews and surveys
  • Use research and observations of patients and case materials to help determine emotional and behavioral patterns and triggers
  • Determine if there are testable patterns that will help you in treating your patients with psychotherapy or forms of behavioral therapy
  • Use any information that is collected from your studies to better help clients in individual as well as group settings.

Psychologist Salary

It’s time to find out how much you are going to earn for listening to people talk about their issues with their mothers! We’re sure there is a nice pay off for all those years of schooling ahead as well. Off to the Bureau of Labor Statistic s we go!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does indeed have some good information for us to report on. As of May 2013 the national median salary for psychologists is $91,140 a year. Those that are newer to the field are reported to make around $42,550 and those that could give Carl Jung a run for his money are said to earn roughly $117,090 a year.

It’s hard to determine precisely what your wages will be when you are working in the field though since there are so many different directions you can go in. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does have some helpful tables that give a brief breakdown of some of the possible areas that you may work in along with the reported salaries. It’s worth a look see if you are curious.


Psychology Schools

Since we know that you will be required to get both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at a minimum in order to become a practicing psychologist, we found some schools that offer those very programs. We like to cover all the bases here and arm our reader with the most information possible. Let’s take a look now at some of the degree programs available at some well-known schools.

Boston University Metropolitan College

 Our first stop is a bachelor’s degree and we found an interesting psychology program at Boston University Metropolitan College. The Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree program at BUMC gives students there first glimpse into the wide road of this field. This program sets students up to continue towards the next leg of the journey to become a licensed psychologist as well as providing the necessary skills to pursue a great many other careers.

Students that complete the Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree program will be able to take some pretty interesting classes during their time at BUMC. Let’s sneak a peek now at some of the course options:

  • Psychology of Learning: This class teaches students about different theories and techniques of learning in a variety of setting. Students will examine the effects of problem solving, memory, reward and punishment and reinforcement schedules on different animal species
  • Psychology of Personality: This course will provide a realm of understanding for students in areas of development, organization and change. Students will be able to see the diversity among psychoanalytic, humanistic and social learning schools of thought
  • Social Psychology: Students will study how the behavior, feelings and thoughts of one person or a small group of people can change the behaviors of others. An in depth look at areas like attitudes, aggression and attraction will be covered as well

New York University

New York University offers a Psychology Masters program that is unlike most others in the country. The program at NYU allows students that chance to study at one of the most prestigious departs of psychology and be surrounded by more than 35 top notch professors. Students in the master’s program have the option to select one of two paths to earn a degree. They are:

  • Master’s of Arts in General Psychology: This first program is designed to allow students to move throughout the different areas of psychology and shape their own coursework as they so desire. Some of the areas of specialization that are offered in this program are Forensic Psychology, Social and Consumer Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Cognition/Perception, Developmental Psychology and even Neuroscience.
  • Master’s of Arts in Industrial / Organizational Psychology: This degree path is quite a bit different that the aforementioned one. This program is geared towards students that intend to work in professional organizations like human resource departments or consulting firms.

With both master’s programs, students are able to prime themselves to continue on to doctoral programs if they would like. There is a fluidity of learning in the NYU psychology department that enables students to plot their own points and take control of their educational success.

Here are a few more schools you could consider:

Sorry, we could not find any matching schools

Different Fields of Psychology

There are many different areas of psychology that you can specialize in and each is pretty interesting. If you are going to spend all those years in school, you might as well specialize in something that is interesting and that you are passionate about. Here are the major areas of psychology that you can work in as a psychologist. Which one will you choose?

  • Aviation: Yep, there are psychologists that actually study the behavior and personalities of pilots and other supporting flight staff. There is a good reason for this type of psychological study too. The main goal is to maintain airline safety and develop new ways to train staff and keep passengers safe. Aviation psychologists will also work with the airlines to aid in hiring employees that are up for the job.
  • Biopsychology: Psychologists that specialize in biopsychology do a lot of research on the brain and how it can impact our behavior. There is a lot of focus on how disease that affect the brain and brain injuries may alter behavior and psychological health.
  • Clinical: Clinical psychology is one of the most common forms of practice. In clinical settings, psychologists use various assessments to determine the appropriate diagnosis for patients as well as tailor the treatments that are necessary for those that may be suffering from mental illness. Clinical psychologists will perform psychotherapy as a form of treatment in many cases.
  • Cognitive: Cognitive psychologists get inside of their clients heads and try to determine how they thing. They then try to assist them in their decision making and problem solving abilities.
  • Community: Community psychology is definitely not all that common, but is still beneficial, especially in our society where hiding mental illness is becoming the norm. Community psychologists are tasked with educating the community about mental illness and help to develop outreach and prevention programs.
  • Comparative: As a comparative psychologist you will work with both humans and animals. There is obviously some comparing going on here, hence the name. Comparative psychology is the study of how different species behave and then comparing and contrasting them for research purposes.
  • Consumer: For an interesting perspective on branding and to gain a grasp on how to best sell a product, companies seek out consumer psychologists. Nearly every bit of marketing that you see is geared precisely to a specific demographic and it’s mostly due to the insight of a psychologist.
  • Counseling: When most people think of a psychologist they think of someone asking them how they feel about things. This is counseling and a general psychologist will provide this type of psychotherapy for many different types of psychological issues.
  • Cultural: A cultural psychologist will examine different cultures and their people to see how their behavior is influenced by their society
  • Developmental: In developmental psychology there is a great deal of research performed that examines how our species has developed over time. The main periods of life that are examined by developmental psychologists are early childhood, adolescence, adulthood and late adulthood.
  • Forensic: Acting as a forensic psychologist will require you to work closely with law enforcement and have a deeper understanding of criminal and deviant behavior.

Grab the Popcorn…

We found a super cool video for you today and we know that you are going to find it uber helpful. We love YouTube for many reasons and videos like this are at the tippy top of our list.

Psychology student, Alicia Basin put this video together in hopes of answering some important questions that future psychology students may have. She didn’t just rely on her own experiences to assess the scope of becoming a psychologist. She took it up a notch and interviewed not one, but two psychologists that have been in the field for a long time. We are both impressed with her thoughtful questions and a bit enlightened by the response of the psychologists that she interviewed.

It’s not a long video, but packed with information. Grab a quick snack and give it a gander.

Game Changers of Psychology 

Psychology didn’t really begin to emerge as a study until about the late 1800’s. We have come a long way over the years, but psychology wouldn’t be what it is today if it wasn’t for the early pioneers in the field. Let’s learn a bit about some of the men that laid the groundwork for you!

B.F. Skinner

B.F. Skinner was a pioneering psychologist that specialized in behaviorism. He solidified his place in psychological history during his time at Harvard University where he performed a great many psychological experiments. Many of the studies on behavior today can still feel his impact and most often when animals are studied. His “Skinner box” is still used to this day and many rats have enjoyed a snack when pressing that lever and they were never the wise that is was all an experiment.

Jean Piaget

We owe much of how we approach child psychology to Jean Piaget. His main field of study was dedicated to breaking down the way that children grow and learn intellectually. Piaget is best known for his four theoretical stages of child development: the sensorimotor, the preoperational, the concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage. His theories are still implemented and studied to this day and his impact on psychology was indelible and profound.

Sigmund Freud

 While some of Freud’s theories and perspectives may be a little bit controversial in some professional circles, there is no way to deny that he had a huge impact on psychology. His theory of the Id, the Edo and the Superego are still heavily discussed in the field. Freud also is credited with influencing many of the great psychological minds that came after him. We also have him to thank for pop culture references like “Freudian slip”, “repression” and “denial”. While we may often make light of a few of his theories, we can’t help wondering if it is because we are repression some forgotten trauma from our childhoods…Just kidding!

Kurt Lewin

Social psychological owes a lot to Kurt Lewin and his inventive use of scientific methods and use of experiments to examine social behavior. Many psychologists, especially those in social and behavior psychology value Lewin as the preeminent psychologist of the 20th century. His Field Theory has also withstood the test of time and been repeated to similar results. The Field Theory essentially supports that each person’s individual traits and their external environment will have an impact on behavior.

Final Grade


Your psychological reaction to reading that we are going to give a final grade likely means that you are repressing some old memory of a bad report card in high school. Ok, so that may or may not be true, but we like to play Freud on our downtime. Here are our thoughts on some areas of this career that we are not in denial about.

Degree vs. Debt: B-

Six years of schooling can really hit your wallet hard and sometimes it can take a bit of time to really get working in the field (according to our psychologist friends). The salary that is usually earned in this field is pretty good and does make it possible to pay back those loans though, so just be patient until you get patients.

Difficulty of Degree: B

We can speak from experience here and say that this degree isn’t super hard, but it is a lot of information to cram into your brain. There isn’t a ton of math or hardcore science courses that are required (phew) and it’s all pretty interesting stuff if this is a subject that interests you.

Happiness Quotient: B+

For the most the happiness quotient for psychologists is pretty high. You get to work in a field that is interesting and will always keep your brain buzzing. On top of the intellectual stimulation that you will receive, you will also be helping people and society as a whole. That in and of itself is pretty darn cool if you ask us – we know you didn’t actually ask us, but that’s beside the point.

Job Outlook: B

The job growth is just right for psychologists with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that there is an expected growth of 12% from 2012 to 2022. This growth rate is about average when comparing it to other professions. There may be a bit more or less growth within specific specialties of psychology, but as of now there aren’t any reports because the field is so vast.

Sources and Recommended Reading

This was a particularly fun piece to write and let us get out some of the psycho babble that has been stuck in our head since we were psychology majors in college. Here are a few of the interesting sources that we used to fatten this bad boy up. We hope you had fun with us today and feel free to stop by again if you need some psychoanalysis done!

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