How to Become A Clinical Psychologist

Psychology is an applied discipline that involves the scientific study of behaviors and mental functions. Its goals are to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and human behavior using a number of principles and techniques. These professionals may use controlled laboratory experiments, psychotherapy, or psychoanalysis to collect information and help evaluate and review behavior.

What is a Clinical Psychologist?

Trained to use a variety of approaches to help individuals, clinical psychologists help people with their problems which may range from severe, chronic conditions to lesser issues like short-term personal issues. They accomplish this by assessing, diagnosing, and treating emotional, mental, and behavioral disorders. Also, they will speak with patients, run diagnostic tests, and provide patient, family, or group therapy sessions. Also, designing behavior modification programs and helping patients implement programs designed specifically for them are some other tasks that these professionals carry out. Some professionals may focus on certain specialties, and others will treat certain populations, such as the elderly or children.

Clinical psychologists are listed in the “Best Jobs in America” list by CNN (2012). This occupation may provide self-satisfaction and could give individuals an opportunity to serve the public by helping people lead healthier and happier lives.

Becoming a clinical psychologist could be a career option for those who have problem-solving and strong communication skills. Individuals who have the passion to discover and solve the intricacies of human mind and behaviors should also explore this line of work.

How to Become a Clinical Psychologist

Students who wish to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist may need to start by earning a master’s degree in psychology. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most clinical psychologists need a doctoral degree. Psychologists can pursue a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree.

A Ph.D. in psychology degree program is research based that includes a comprehensive exam and a dissertation based on original research. Students are also required to complete an internship as part of the doctoral program. The Psy.D., on the other hand, is a clinical degree and is often based on practical work and examinations rather than a dissertation.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Clinical Psychologist?

A doctoral program in psychology generally takes 5-6 years of full time study. Students also need to complete an internship as part of the doctoral program. The exact duration that it would take a candidate to complete the program depends on a number of factors such as the enrollment status of the student.

Requirements for Admissions

To enroll in a doctoral program in clinical psychology, students may have to hold a master’s or, in a very few cases, a bachelor’s degree. In addition, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are also an important factor at the time of admission. Other requirements for admissions may vary by school and the type of program students would like to enroll.

What Courses will I Study?

Doctoral programs in psychology will instruct students in a range of topics; enabling them to develop an insight into human behaviors and exploring the principles of psychology in depth. Students may also choose to study in a specialty area such as child psychology. Some of the topics of study may include:

  • Processes of emotional development
  • Processes of social development
  • Adult assessment
  • Adult psychotherapy
  • Principles of neuropsychology
  • Linear and regression statistics
  • Probability and inferential statistics
  • Case management & clinical practice

Learning Outcomes

Upon graduation, doctoral students should be able to:

  • Understand, critically analyze, and create psychological research.
  • Combine critical, empathetic, and creative thinking to develop self-knowledge, and expansion of consciousness. 
  • Bring innovation and creativity in their use of methods

What Qualities must Clinical Psychologists must Have?

Analytical Skills: It is essential for clinical psychologists to have strong analytical skills. They are required to examine the information they collect and draw conclusions from it which calls for this skill.

Patience: Clinical psychologists must demonstrate patience as treating people with mental and behavioral issues could take lot of time.

>Observational Skills: Clinical psychologists should be keen observers as well. They need to watch patients, understand and interpret their expressions and actions, and draw conclusions to treat them.

Communication Skills: Communication skills are also imperative for those who want to work as a clinical psychologist. These professionals must be able to listen to the problems of patients and offer appropriate advice.

Problem-Solving Skills: Critical to this profession are problem-solving skills. Clinical psychologists must treat patients and find appropriate solutions for their mental and behavioral issues.

Do I Need a License?

According to the BLS, psychologists need a license. Generally, clinical psychologists need to hold a doctorate degree and complete an internship to get licensed. They may also be required to have at least 1 to 2 years of related work experience. Additionally, psychologists must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. The BLS notes that clinical psychologists are also required to take part in continuing education programs in order to maintain their license.

Potential Workplaces Settings

According to the BLS, in 2012, there were about 160,200 psychologists in the US. About 31% worked in educational services and 29% were employed in the healthcare and social assistance sectors. Almost one-third of all psychologists were self-employed, the BLS noted.

Clinical psychologists work in a variety of settings including:

  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Community and mental health centers
  • Prisons
  • Juvenile justice system
  • Substance abuse clinics
  • Corporate offices
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Government

Some of these professionals work in private practice and have their own offices as well, and they are able to set their own schedules.

Opportunities for Clinical Psychologists

Overall employment of psychologists is projected to grow at a rate of 12%, which is about as fast as the average for all other occupations between 2012 and 2022. However, employment growth will vary by specialty. Demand for psychologists in various settings such as hospitals, schools, mental health centers, and social services agencies are likely to grow in the coming years. In addition, the need for clinical psychologists in the healthcare industry is expected to increase.

How Much do Clinical Psychologists Earn?

The median yearly pay for clinical psychologists in 2012 was $69,280 according to the BLS. The top 10% of psychologists made over $110,880 while the lowest 10% earned less than $38,720 a year. However, the precise income depends on a number of factors such as qualification, area of specialty, and experience.

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