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Psychology: Career, Salary & Education Overview

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Psychology is an academic discipline that centers around the study of behavior, most frequently that of human beings. Those in this field, be it for research, scholarship, or any of a number of possible ways to participate here, find that their work concentrates on an investigation of why people (or animals) do and think what they do. All too frequently confused with psychology is the completely separate discipline of psychiatry, in which medically trained professionals are authorized to assess and provide treatment for mental disorders. Psychologists are able to work in a wide variety of environments, from schools and universities to prisons, hospitals, and also their own privately run practices. Studying psychology does not mean that someone has to become a psychologist; research and teaching are excellent career paths as well. Those who are indeed looking to become psychologists will need to undergo rigorous certification in order to practice on patients.

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Education for psychology truly begins at the bachelor's level of education in college. Associate's degrees are not sufficient for the field, however they can be superb ways to prefer for additional education. High school students with great communication skills and an interest in how people tick are ideal candidates for this field of study. Salary is largely contingent upon the level of education attained, as well as the experience and reputation of the professional. Those who choose to be fully fledged psychologists are often rewarded with excellent pay. The job outlook for the field is rather promising, with an especially good prediction for those looking for work in counseling. As with other professional career paths, candidates who boast the best and most intense education are able to take advantage of the majority of great jobs available.

Career Specializations

Clinical Psychology. These professionals use their psychology training to specifically study mental disorders and concerns. Unlike psychiatrists, they are not in a place to make medication recommendations, but are equipped to handle the behavioal issues that can result from a mental affliction.

School Psychology. These psychologists are extremely proficient in developmental (child) psychology, using their knowledge to support the mental and psychic well being of children in an academic environment.

Counseling. Those in this concentration are the ones who are becoming the psychologists that most people are familiar with. They employ their expertise to help patients handle social and personal dilemmas.

Research. Experimental psychology is at the foreground of this specialty. Often working for a university, they may be involved with animal research or environmental concerns.

Degree Levels Available in Psychology

  • Associate's Degree in Psychology, two years.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, four years.
  • Master's Degree, one to two years.
  • Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology, five to seven years.
  • Doctorate of Psychology, three to seven years.

Education & Certification Requirements

High school students thinking about a career in psychology should take as many relevant classes as possible to the field, such as literature, history, statistics, and of course psychology. Some students may find that their schools offer Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes in the field, of which they should take exceptional advantage; doing well in these classes and on the subsequent exams could help them earn college credit. Once in college, most students should decide to aim for a bachelor's degree as soon as possible. An associate's degree, while providing a solid foundation in the basic concepts of the discipline, will not be enough to find an occupation in the field. Most bachelor's programs provide a comprehensive assortment of exposure to various ideas and sectors of the subject, including social psychology, abnormal psychology, research methodology, developmental psychology, and clinical science. In order to participate in research or to practice psychology professionally, even the bachelor's is not enough. Students must progress to the master's and doctoral level diplomas for such positions. 

The master's degree is frequently a required one to participate in the more advanced doctoral levels of the field. People looking to become counselors can stop their studies here, and then seek certification via the Licensed Professional Counselor exam. Upon completing the master's, students can also apply to earn either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. degree. The former degree, one of Philosophy, is the program more focused on scholarship and research. The Psy.D. track is the one designed for those who would like to actively practice psychology in a therapy oriented setting. Students who are plucky can find programs that blend a focus on both research and practice, effectively training to become scientist practitioners, or vice versa. Certification and licensure is definitely required of this professional track. The American Psychological Assocation is responsible for licensing Ph.Ds or Psy.D's after they earn their diplomas, while the American Board of Professional Psychology offers state certification and licensing examinations. Those looking to focus on school psychology must seek approval from the National Association of School Psychologists.

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