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Training for Psychologists

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Psychologist listening to female patient
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What kind of training do you need to be a psychologist? Learn more about the level of education and training required for a variety of positions in psychology.

In order to qualify as a psychologist, a master's degree or doctorate degree is required. There are a variety of degree options to choose from, and the career options available at each level can vary.

Doctoral Degrees in Psychology

In order to become a licensed clinical or counseling psychologist, a doctorate degree is required. There are two types of doctorate degrees to choose from: the Ph.D. and the Psy.D. The traditional Ph.D. in Psychology degree is a research-focused degree that qualifies graduates to work in the field of clinical or counseling psychology. Earning a Ph.D. also qualifies psychologists to teach at the university level, conduct research and practice at mental health clinics, hospitals, schools, private industry, government and private practice.

The Psy.D., or Doctor of Psychology, degree is a more practice-based educational model. Psychologists who earn a Psy.D. usually work as clinicians in mental health settings and may also work in private practice.

It usually takes around five to seven years of graduate study to complete a doctoral degree in psychology. Those enrolled in Ph.D. programs complete a final dissertation that is based upon original research, while those enrolled in Psy.D. programs may complete more clinical work and examinations instead of a dissertation. Counseling and clinical psychology programs also require an internship that usually lasts one to two years.

Specialist Degrees

In most states, those interested in becoming school psychologists must complete a specialist degree in school psychology. The Ed.S. degree in school psychology usually takes a minimum of three years to complete and consists of at least 60 graduate credit hours. In addition to the course requirements, students must also complete a one year internship.

Master's Degrees in Psychology

A master's degree in psychology requires two years of graduate level coursework. Professionals with a master's degree sometimes work in mental health under the direct supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist. Master's programs can also prepare students to become industrial-organizational psychologists, although many choose to continue on to earn their doctorate.

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the competition to get in to graduate psychology programs can be tough. Having a bachelor's degree in psychology can boost your chances of admission. Strong grades and a good score on the GRE and GRE Psychology Subject test may also boost your chances of earning a spot in a psychology graduate program.

Bachelor's Degrees in Psychology

A bachelor's degree in psychology can serve as a stepping stone to further graduate study, or it may prepare students to work in a variety of entry-level jobs. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, jobs at the bachelor's level tend to be limited. The College Majors Handbook reports that fewer than 25 percent of people with a bachelor's degree in psychology find work in jobs that are closely related to their college major. Instead, many find work in areas that are indirectly related such as social work or market research.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor reports that people with more than 24 semester hours in psychology and at least one statistics course can qualify for entry-level positions with the Federal Government. However, the competition for these jobs is particularly fierce since it is one of the few sectors of employment where one can work as a psychologist without holding a graduate level degree.

More About Psychology Careers

Reference: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Psychologists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos056.htm

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