Psychologist Career Guide 2024

Table of Contents

Psychologist Salary in United States for 2023

Average Annual Salary: $106,420 Hourly Rate: $51.16

Data sourced from the U.S. Department of Labor via the ONET Web API. Updated at December 8, 2023

Best Colleges and Universities for Psychologists in 2023

Best College Majors for Psychologists in 2023

Projected Job Employment for Psychologist:

Estimated YearProjected YearEstimated EmploymentProjected Employment% ChangeProjected Annual Job Opening

Psychologist Career Path Overview

A career as a psychologist can be incredibly rewarding, providing opportunities to make a significant difference in people's lives. This path involves extensive education, hands-on experience, and a deep understanding of human behavior. In this section, we will delve into the key aspects of a psychologist's career path, examining the necessary education, potential specialties, job prospects, and the steps needed to achieve professional goals.

Education Requirements

The journey to becoming a psychologist typically begins with a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field. However, this is just the first step. Most practicing psychologists hold a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D. in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. These advanced programs often require 4-7 years of study beyond the undergraduate level and include coursework in areas such as cognitive psychology, behavioral psychology, and research methods. Moreover, these programs usually require students to complete an internship or supervised residency.

Specialties in Psychology

Psychology is a broad field with numerous specialties to choose from. Some psychologists might focus on clinical psychology, providing therapeutic services to individuals struggling with mental health issues. Others might choose to specialize in industrial-organizational psychology, applying psychological principles to workplace issues. There are also opportunities in developmental psychology, studying how people grow and change over their lifespan; forensic psychology, where psychology meets the law; or health psychology, focusing on how psychological factors affect physical health and wellbeing. The choice of specialty often determines the specific career path a psychologist will follow.

Job Prospects and Career Growth

The job prospects for psychologists are generally positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of psychologists is projected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029. This growth is driven by an increased demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social service agencies. Career growth as a psychologist often involves gaining experience, continuing education, and building a reputation within the field. Some psychologists may choose to open their own private practice, while others might pursue roles in academia or research.

Steps to Becoming a Psychologist

The path to becoming a psychologist involves several key steps. After earning a bachelor's degree, aspiring psychologists typically complete a doctoral program in psychology. They then must complete an internship or supervised residency. Most states also require psychologists to be licensed. The licensing process often involves passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Some states may also require additional exams or continuing education for licensure renewal. Once licensed, psychologists can begin their professional practice, whether that's working in a clinical setting, conducting research, or teaching at a university. They can also choose to specialize in a particular area of psychology, shaping their career path according to their interests and goals. In conclusion, the psychologist career path is one of commitment and dedication. It requires advanced education, hands-on training, and continuous learning. However, the opportunity to make a positive impact on individuals and communities makes it a fulfilling choice for many.

Psychologist Career Path Education and Training

As a psychologist, your primary task will be to study the human mind and behavior. This is a complex and multifaceted field that requires extensive education and training. In this section, we will detail the education and training requirements for a psychologist career path.

Undergraduate Degree

The journey to becoming a psychologist typically begins with a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field. This four-year degree provides students with a broad understanding of the principles of psychology, including cognitive processes, human development, social interaction, and abnormal behavior. An undergraduate degree also allows students to develop essential skills such as research, critical thinking, and communication.

Graduate Degree

To practice as a licensed psychologist, an advanced degree is necessary. Most psychologists hold a doctoral degree, either a Ph.D. in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). A Ph.D. is research-focused and often leads to a career in academia or research. A Psy.D., on the other hand, is more clinically oriented, preparing students to provide psychological services directly to patients. The choice between these two paths often depends on your career goals. If you're interested in clinical work, counseling, or therapy, a Psy.D. may be more relevant. If you're drawn to research or teaching at the university level, a Ph.D. could be the better option.

Internship and Residency

Practical experience is a crucial component of psychologist training. During their graduate studies, students will typically complete an internship in a clinical setting under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. This allows them to gain hands-on experience with patient care and further develop their clinical skills. After earning their doctoral degree, aspiring psychologists must also complete a residency program. This is usually one to two years of supervised practice in their chosen specialty area, such as child psychology, clinical psychology, or neuropsychology.

Licensing and Certification

All states require psychologists to be licensed to practice. The specific requirements can vary by state, but generally include having a doctoral degree in psychology, completing an approved internship program, and passing a state exam. Some states may also require a certain amount of postdoctoral work experience. In addition to licensure, many psychologists choose to become board certified in their specialty area. This is not a requirement to practice, but it can enhance job prospects and credibility. The American Board of Professional Psychology offers certification in 15 different areas of psychology.

Continuing Education

To maintain licensure and stay current with developments in the field, psychologists are often required to participate in continuing education throughout their career. This can take the form of workshops, seminars, self-study courses, or academic courses. In conclusion, the path to becoming a psychologist is long and requires significant dedication. However, for those with a passion for understanding the human mind and helping others, it can be a rewarding and fulfilling career choice.

Psychologist Career Path Progression

When it comes to the career path progression for a psychologist, there are many different avenues and opportunities to consider. This career path offers a broad spectrum of specializations and environments in which to work, creating a multitude of potential career progressions.

Education and Training

The first step in the psychologist career path is obtaining the necessary education. Typically, this involves completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology or a related field. However, to become a licensed psychologist, you will need to pursue advanced education. This usually entails obtaining a Master’s Degree and then a Doctorate in Psychology. During your education, you'll learn about various aspects of human behavior, research methods, and psychological theories.

Internship and Residency

After completing their doctoral degree, psychologists often undergo an internship or residency program. These programs provide hands-on experience in the field under the supervision of experienced psychologists. This is a crucial step in the career path as it gives you the opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge gained during your studies.


Once you've completed your education and internship or residency, you must become licensed to practice psychology. Licensure requirements vary by state but generally involve passing an examination and fulfilling supervised practice requirements.


Once you are a licensed psychologist, you can choose to specialize in a particular area of psychology. Some popular specializations include clinical psychology, child psychology, forensic psychology, sports psychology, and industrial-organizational psychology. Each specialization requires additional training and certification.

Career Advancement

Career advancement in psychology often involves gaining experience and furthering your specialization. As you gain experience, you may have opportunities for advancement such as supervisory roles or opening your own practice. Continuing education is also crucial for staying up-to-date with the latest research and advancements in the field.

Research and Academia

Some psychologists choose to go into research or academia. This can involve conducting research to advance the field of psychology, teaching at a university, or writing books and articles on psychological topics. To sum up, the psychologist career path progression is characterized by continuous learning, specialization, and career advancement opportunities. Whether you choose to work in a clinical setting, specialize in a specific area, or contribute to research and academia, the field of psychology offers a rewarding and diverse career path.

Psychologist Career Path Specializations and Subfields

In the diverse world of psychology, there are numerous specializations and subfields that a psychologist can venture into. Each of these specializations offers unique career paths, each with its own set of skills, training requirements, and opportunities. This section will delve into some of the most popular and rewarding specializations in the field of psychology.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychology is one of the most well-known subfields in psychology. It involves the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health disorders. Clinical psychologists often work in hospitals, mental health clinics, or private practice. They might specialize in areas such as child mental health, adult mental health, learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, substance abuse, geriatrics, and health psychology. The career path for a clinical psychologist usually involves obtaining a Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) or a Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology after a Bachelor's degree. Additional supervised experience, such as an internship or residency, is also typically required.

Counseling Psychology

Counseling Psychology focuses on helping individuals with physical, emotional and mental health issues improve their sense of well‐being, alleviate feelings of distress and resolve crises. They also provide assessment, diagnosis, and intervention for more severe psychological symptoms. Counseling psychologists often work in schools, colleges, community agencies, government organizations or in private practice. A doctoral degree is usually required for this career path along with supervised clinical experience.

School Psychology

School Psychologists are involved in the psychological assessment of children in educational settings. They collaborate with teachers, parents, and students to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments for all students. They are also involved in identifying and addressing learning and behavior problems that interfere with school success. The career path for school psychologists typically involves obtaining an advanced degree in School Psychology or a related field, as well as completing a supervised internship.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Industrial-Organizational Psychologists apply psychological principles to the workplace to improve productivity, work quality, and the work-life balance of employees. They conduct research on employee behaviors and attitudes, and how these can be improved through hiring practices, training programs, and feedback systems. To become an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, one typically needs a master’s degree in psychology, though many professionals in this field hold a PhD.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychologists apply psychological principles to legal issues. This may involve assessing an individual's competency to stand trial, providing opinions on child custody, offering clinical evaluations, and more. Many forensic psychologists also conduct research on legal issues and work in universities. A doctoral degree in psychology is typically required for this career path, often specifically in forensic psychology or clinical psychology with a forensic concentration. These are just a few examples of the many specializations within the field of psychology. Each offers its own unique career path and opportunities for making a meaningful difference in people's lives. The key is to choose the one that aligns most closely with your interests and career goals.

Psychologist Career Path Job Market and Outlook

The job market for psychologists is an area of constant growth and change, reflecting the evolving needs of our society. As our understanding of mental health deepens, so too does the demand for professionals who can navigate this complex and important field. In this section, we delve into the current state and future outlook of the psychologist job market.

Current Job Market

The employment landscape for psychologists is highly favorable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of psychologists is projected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. There are currently over 181,700 jobs in this field in the U.S., indicating a robust job market. This growth is driven by several factors. One is the increasing recognition of the importance of mental health in overall wellbeing. This has led to a greater demand for psychologists in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social service agencies. Moreover, the aging population is contributing to the demand as they may require help dealing with age-related psychological issues.

Future Outlook

The future outlook for psychologists is promising. The BLS projects a steady job growth rate in the next decade. However, competition for jobs may be strong because more students are being drawn to this career due to its positive impact on individuals and communities. Emerging trends also suggest a promising future for psychologists. The increase in telehealth services is expected to open up new opportunities for psychologists, allowing them to provide services remotely. Additionally, there is a growing need for psychologists who specialize in helping people deal with issues like stress and anxiety, particularly in the context of global events like pandemics or economic recessions.

Specializations and Niches

There are several specializations within psychology that could affect job prospects. Clinical psychologists, for instance, are in high demand due to the increased need for mental health services. Industrial-organizational psychologists are also sought after as businesses recognize the importance of employee mental health in productivity and workplace culture. Moreover, areas like neuropsychology and forensic psychology present unique career opportunities. Neuropsychologists can work in research or clinical settings, studying the brain-behavior relationship. Forensic psychologists often work in legal settings, helping to assess defendants or provide expert testimony. The job market and outlook for psychologists is positive, with steady growth projected over the next decade. As society continues to recognize the importance of mental health, the need for skilled psychologists across various specializations is expected to rise. Whether you're interested in clinical work, research, or a niche area of psychology, there are ample opportunities to build a rewarding career in this field.

Psychologist Career Path Salary and Compensation

If you're considering a career in psychology, one of your questions may be about the financial aspect. It's important to understand the potential salary and compensation packages that are typically associated with this profession. Like many other careers, the salary of a psychologist can vary greatly based on numerous factors such as education, experience, geographical location, and area of specialization.

Entry-Level Psychologist Salary

To start with, an entry-level psychologist can expect to earn a median salary of around $60,000 per year. This figure can be higher for those with advanced degrees or specializations. Entry-level psychologists typically have a doctoral degree in psychology and are just starting out in their careers. They may work in various settings such as hospitals, schools, government organizations, or private practices.

Mid-Career Psychologist Salary

As a psychologist gains more experience and expertise, their earning potential increases. Mid-career psychologists, those with about five to ten years of experience, can expect to earn a median salary of around $80,000 to $100,000 per year. These professionals may also hold supervisory or leadership roles which contribute to higher earnings.

Experienced Psychologist Salary

Experienced psychologists, those with more than ten years of experience in the field, can earn over $100,000 per year. These professionals often hold high-ranking positions in their organizations and have built a strong reputation in their field.

Specialized Psychologists Salary

Specialized psychologists, such as clinical psychologists, industrial-organizational psychologists, or forensic psychologists often command higher salaries due to their specialized skills and knowledge. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), industrial-organizational psychologists are among the highest-paid in the field, earning a median annual wage of $111,150 as of May 2020.

Compensation Beyond Salary

Beyond the base salary, psychologists may also receive additional compensation. This can include bonuses, profit sharing, or commissions, especially for those who run their private practices. Furthermore, benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off are typically part of the compensation package for psychologists employed by organizations.

Geographical Differences in Salary

Geographical location also plays a significant role in determining a psychologist's salary. Psychologists in urban areas or in states with higher costs of living typically earn more than their counterparts in rural areas or states with lower costs of living. In conclusion, a career as a psychologist can be financially rewarding, particularly for those who specialize and gain extensive experience in their field. It's worth noting that the intrinsic rewards of helping others and contributing to the understanding of human behavior can be just as fulfilling for many professionals in this field.

Psychologist Career Path Tips for Success

Embarking on a career as a psychologist can be rewarding and fulfilling. However, achieving success in this field requires careful planning, dedication, continuous learning, and certain skills. Here are some practical tips to help you navigate the psychologist career path successfully.

Education and Training

To become a psychologist, you'll need to start by earning a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field. This will provide you with a solid foundation in psychological theories and research methods. After your undergraduate studies, you'll need to pursue a master's degree or a doctorate in psychology. Specializing in a specific area such as clinical, counseling, or forensic psychology can enhance your career prospects. Remember that education is an ongoing process. Even after obtaining your degrees, continuing education will help you stay updated with the latest research and techniques in your field.

Obtain Relevant Experience

Practical experience is crucial in the field of psychology. Try to gain as much experience as possible through internships, practicums, or research projects during your academic studies. This will not only give you hands-on experience but also help you understand the practical applications of psychological theories.

Get Licensed

In most jurisdictions, psychologists need to be licensed to practice. The requirements for licensure vary by state and specialty but typically include a doctoral degree in psychology, an internship, and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Make sure to check the specific licensing requirements in your area.

Develop Essential Skills

Successful psychologists possess certain skills and qualities. These include excellent communication skills, empathy, patience, problem-solving abilities, and analytical thinking. Developing these skills will help you interact effectively with clients and solve complex psychological problems.

Networking and Professional Associations

Joining professional associations such as the American Psychological Association can provide valuable networking opportunities. These associations often host conferences and seminars where you can meet other professionals in your field, learn about the latest research, and even find job opportunities.

Stay Informed about Industry Trends

Keeping up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in psychology is important. You can do this by reading professional journals, attending workshops and seminars, and participating in webinars.

Seek Supervision and Mentorship

Having a mentor or supervisor can be extremely beneficial, especially early in your career. They can provide guidance, support, and feedback to help you develop your skills and navigate the complexities of the profession. Remember that success doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, effort, and dedication. But with the right preparation, skills, and mindset, you can achieve a rewarding career in psychology.

What is a Psychologist?

A psychologist is a professional who studies the human mind and behavior. These professionals use various methods, such as observation, assessment, and experimentation, to explore and understand feelings, emotions, and thoughts. They apply their knowledge to help individuals or groups overcome or manage psychological issues including mental illnesses, emotional disturbances, and behavioral problems. Psychologists can work in various environments, such as private practices, hospitals, schools, corporations, government agencies, and more.

What Does a Psychologist Do?

Psychologists perform diverse roles depending on their area of specialization. They might conduct psychological tests, provide counseling or psychotherapy, conduct research, or teach in colleges and universities. Some psychologists work with specific populations like children, the elderly, or people with mental health disorders. Others focus on specific areas such as sports psychology, organizational psychology, or forensic psychology. However, common tasks include diagnosing mental health conditions, creating treatment plans, collaborating with other healthcare professionals, and providing crisis intervention when necessary.

How to Become a Psychologist?

Becoming a psychologist typically requires an advanced degree in psychology—usually a Doctorate (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). However, some positions may only require a Master's degree. The path starts with earning a Bachelor's degree in Psychology or a related field. Students should then pursue a Master's degree in Psychology, followed by a Doctorate. During these programs, students will gain experience through internships or practicums. After completing their education, aspiring psychologists must pass state licensing exams and fulfill any additional requirements to practice legally.

What is the Career Outlook for Psychologists?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of psychologists is projected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029—about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, demand may vary by specialty. For instance, more psychologists will be needed to help people deal with mental health issues, overcome addiction, and manage stress. Psychologists specializing in working with the elderly or veterans are also expected to be in high demand.

What Skills are Needed to Become a Psychologist?

Successful psychologists need a variety of skills. They must have excellent observation and communication skills to understand patients' issues and explain treatment plans effectively. Problem-solving skills are essential for diagnosing mental health conditions and developing effective treatment strategies. Furthermore, psychologists must possess empathy and patience to support those struggling with mental health issues. Analytical skills are crucial for interpreting data from psychological tests and research studies, while integrity and strong ethical standards are vital due to the sensitive nature of their work.

How Much Does a Psychologist Earn?

The median annual wage for psychologists was $82,180 in May 2020, according to the BLS. However, earnings can vary greatly depending on the psychologist's specialization, location, years of experience, and type of practice. For example, those working in government or hospital settings often earn higher salaries than those in educational services or private practice.

What are the Different Types of Psychologists?

There are many different types of psychologists, each focusing on a different aspect of human behavior. Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat mental illnesses and emotional disorders. Counseling psychologists help people deal with life changes, such as divorce or job loss. School psychologists work with students to improve learning and behavior. Industrial-organizational psychologists apply psychological principles to workplace issues. Other types include developmental psychologists, forensic psychologists, health psychologists, neuropsychologists, and more. Each specialty has its own educational and licensing requirements.