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What is it like to be a psychologist?

Psychologists study the human mind. They also try to explain why people act as they do. They do research to test their ideas about people's actions. Research methods vary. They may get data from lab tests, interviews, and surveys.

Psychologists usually specialize. Some help people with mental problems. Others help people deal with divorce and death of a family member or friend. They work with people of all ages, but some work mainly with old people or young people.

Psychologists help people deal with problems of everyday living. Some work in schools to help students with behavior problems. Others help solve problems in places where people work.

Some psychologists do research at colleges and private research centers. They study behavior using human beings and animals, such as rats and monkeys.

Working conditions vary. Some work as part of a team. Some psychologists have their own offices and set their own hours. However, they may also work evenings and weekends to meet with their clients. Those who work in schools and clinics usually work regular hours.

How do you get ready to become a psychologist?

Psychologists have to go to school for a long time. Some need a Ph.D. degree. This takes 5 to 7 years of study after completing college. To get a Ph.D. degree, you usually have to write a long paper on a topic that you think of.

Persons with a master's degree in psychology may work in some specialties. A master's degree in psychology usually requires at least 2 years of study after college.

A bachelor's degree in psychology is enough to qualify as an assistant to psychologists and other professionals in places like community mental health centers. Some may do research.

Psychologists who have their own practice need a license from the State where they want to work. A license requires certain education and work experience, and passing a test. Psychologists who work with patients must be good with people. Those who do research have to be able to work by themselves and as part of a team.

How much does this job pay?

In the largest specialties, the middle half of psychologists earned between $38,560 and $66,970 in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $30,090. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $87,060.

Earnings vary greatly. Earnings of successful, self-employed psychologists can be much higher.

How many jobs are there?

Psychologists held about 139,000 jobs in 2002. They work at many different places such as schools, hospitals, research firms, businesses, and government agencies.

What about the future?

Employment of psychologists is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2012. More will be needed to help students, workers, and many people with personal problems.

Psychologists with a Ph.D. degree will have the best chance to get a job. Persons with good computer and research skills will have an advantage. Persons with just a master's or a bachelor's degree will face more competition for jobs.

Are there other jobs like this?

  • Clergy
  • Counselors
  • Doctors
  • Social workers
  • Teachers—special education
Where can you find more information?

More information about psychologists can be found in the Careers Database.

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

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