Psychology and counseling – degrees and careers
A psychologist is an expert in the human mind and behavior. Psychologists work in a variety of settings, meaning there is no ‘one size fits all’ description of what it is like to be in this profession. Studying psychology at the undergraduate level can lead to other careers in mental health, including becoming a therapist or counselor. Becoming a psychologist in most cases requires a doctorate as well as state-specific licensure.
There are 2 major types of psychologists: those who do research and those who work in applied settings. Research psychologists collect information through interviews, surveys, clinical interactions with patients, or direct observation. They use this data to test hypotheses about how and why people do what they do. Applied psychologists work directly with patients or clients, helping them with their mental health or other issues.
What is psychology?
Psychology is the study of the human mind, including behavior, feelings, and mental states. The word psychology comes from the Latinized Greek words psyche (breath, spirit, or soul) and logia (study of).
What do psychologists do?
Psychologists specialize in understanding cognitive, emotional, and social processes. They do this by observing behavior and interpreting how people relate to themselves, one another, and the environment.
Is a psychologist a therapist?
Psychologists can call themselves therapists, and may choose to do so if they offer therapeutic services to patients or clients in private practice. The term ‘psychologist’ is typically reserved for someone who has completed a doctoral degree in psychology. It’s possible to become a therapist without a psychology degree.
Clinical vs counseling psychology
Clinical psychologists help individuals manage diagnosed mental illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder. Counseling psychologist offer their services to a greater variety of individuals, which can include those struggling with mental illness as well as individuals seeking help with everyday emotional, interpersonal, and physical stressors.
What education is needed to become a psychologist?
In most cases, a doctoral degree in psychology is required to become a licensed psychologist. Before entering a doctoral program, applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree. Studying psychology at the undergraduate level is an option, but not required for becoming a psychologist.
Do you need a master’s to get a PhD in psychology?
Psychology master’s programs are frequently embedded into doctoral programs, meaning you do not have to first earn a master’s but rather complete it during the initial years of your doctoral degree.
An undergraduate degree in psychology is one of the most popular bachelor programs, providing a strong foundation to continue your studies at graduate level. A master’s in psychology is a prerequisite to gain licensure and employment in non-clinical roles. Doctoral degrees are required for the majority of specializations in the field.
A psychology career offers many opportunities to specialize. Many psychologists seek advanced training in a specific field to enhance their research or practice.
One option is to become board certified in a specialty area. There are several agencies that offer board certification, but the American Board of Professional Psychology is most prominent.
Therapy vs psychology
Those interested in mental health and offering therapeutic services to the public may want to consider a career as a therapist. The branch of psychology closest to therapy is counseling psychology, and some counseling psychologists call themselves therapists. However, it’s possible to become a therapist without a psychology degree.
How to become a counselor
Becoming a licensed counselor or therapist requires a master’s degree in counseling or a related field, supervised professional experience hours, and licensure.
Mental health counseling and therapy involve providing supportive and therapeutic services to individuals, couples, or families experiencing mental health struggles or other challenges, including divorce, addictions, and poverty. Entry-level and assisting roles may require only a bachelor’s degree in counseling, while licensed counselor and therapist roles require at least a master’s as well as relevant licensure.
Best psychology graduate programs by state
Psychology is a popular major for college students, ranking sixth overall. More than 90% of psychologists in the United States report high job satisfaction. However, there are many related professions that draw on similar skills. If you are interested in working in the mental health field but do not want to get your doctorate, counseling or social work are other career options to consider.
FAQs about becoming a psychologist or therapist
What can you do with a bachelor’s degree in psychology?
This degree can be a first step towards jobs like clinical psychologists, school counselor, or academic researcher, but many additional years of study are required for those roles. HR manager and market researcher are 2 examples of jobs you can get with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Are psychologists doctors?
Yes, most psychologists are doctors in the sense that they hold a doctoral degree and can thus use the title “Dr”. However, they are not medical doctors. While some psychologists can diagnose mental illnesses, they cannot, in most cases, prescribe medication.
What’s the difference between clinical psychology vs psychiatry?
Both clinical psychologists and psychiatrists are mental health professionals and may work closely together in clinical settings. However, psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medication, while clinical psychologists cannot.
What is the fastest way to become a therapist?
Becoming a licensed therapist or counselor requires at least a master’s degree and licensure, which can take an additional 2-3 years after completing your bachelor’s. Becoming a social worker, addictions counselor, or social and community services manager takes less time and may be equally fulfilling.
American Psychological Association – Trends Report
American Psychological Association – Datapoint: Most Psychologists are Satisfied with Their Jobs
American Psychological Association – How many Psychologists are Licensed in the United States