Is Psychology Right for Me?

If you’re considering pursuing a career in psychology, it’s important to assess your skills and interests and see where they fit in with this dynamic career path. Psychology is a broad discipline, and there are many specialty areas that will complement your personality and long-term career goals. So how do you know that psychology is the right career path for you?

Since there is no crystal ball, you’ll have to investigate this career for yourself and determine whether or not you’re the right fit. Fortunately, there are many specialty areas in this field, making it attractive to students who enjoy working with others, conducting research, teaching college courses and observing human interaction and behavior.

What do Psychologists Do?

Psychologists are professionals that study human behavior and the human mind. They work in a variety of settings such as schools, clinics, hospitals and private practices. Many are qualified to work in government sectors, businesses and mental health facilities as well. Some psychologists work individually with clients while others treat clients in collaboration with a team of doctors. Research psychologists, on the other hand, focus their efforts on conducting studies, formulating hypotheses and collecting data. With the wide range of specialties in the psychology field, there are many areas to pursue.

What Types of People Work in the Psychology Field?

Since the field of psychology is so broad, people with all personalities and backgrounds are drawn to this profession. Generally speaking, those that enter this career path have a genuine concern for helping people overcome their problems and cope with their emotions. They enjoy learning about human behavior, why we act the way we do and the variables that influence our behavior. Some people may not be as interested in discussing feelings but instead enjoy conducting studies. The research and design portion of the psychology career is ideal for those who enjoy math, numbers and statistical research.

What are the Educational Requirements?

With so many branches to psychology, you can start off your academic career by earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in any area you choose. After completing a bachelor’s program, you will need to pursue a master’s degree, which is where you will be more specific about the area you want to engage in. Look for master’s programs that will meet your needs and offer the programs that sync up with your long-term career goals. For example, if you enjoy working with children, the master’s program you select should offer child psychology courses and research opportunities involving children.

For those that want to go into teaching or conduct research, a doctorate degree will be necessary. In fact, many psychology professionals choose to get a doctorate degree since it’s highly respected and opens up many new job possibilities. There are two routes to take: a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. degree. A Ph.D. is best for those that are interested in conducting research and teaching psychology courses at a university. This degree is also more challenging to complete, so if research and teaching doesn’t interest you, take the path of the Psy.D. degree instead. With less stress, less requirements and a focus on working with people instead of research, this doctorate degree is just as well-respected.

You will also need hands-on experience that will start during your first four years in undergraduate school. Look for programs that offer clinical experience, internships and research work that you can participate in. There is also testing, certification and licensing that will be necessary as you move along in your academic career. Certification and licensing are dependent on the state you will be working in as well as the particular niche.

How Much Can I Earn?

Salary earnings are always a motivating factor for why people choose the careers they do. It’s difficult to determine how much you can and will make because there are so many branches of psychology. For a starting point, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that psychologists actually had the lowest starting pay of any field, clocking in at about $30,000. Not to mention, the hours are often long and draining at these levels and don’t follow a typical 9-5 business schedule.

Fortunately, the pay gets better. The United States Department of Labor reports that the average psychologist makes $48,700 to $82,800. Generally, the pay gets better as psychologists move out of healthcare settings and into their own private practices where they can set their own hours, have more control over their salaries and generate a presence in the community.

What Skills and Qualities Should I Have?

Not everyone is cut out for the psychology career, so before you delve into a bachelor’s program, ask yourself these questions:

- Do you enjoy working with others?
- Do you cope well with stress?
- Do you enjoy listening to others’ problems?
- Do you take pride in helping others work through their issues?
- Would you mind working in a doctor’s office, hospital or other healthcare setting?
- Are you willing to spend seven to nine years in school?
- How well do you deal with high-stress situations?
- Do you like to work with children? Teens?

In addition to answering these questions, you should also have the following qualities:

- Compassion
- Communication
- Literacy
- Ethics, Values and Morals
- Patience
- Trustworthiness
- Interpersonal Awareness
- Emotional Stability
- Open-Mindedness

What is the Job Outlook for Psychology?

According to the United States Department of Labor, the job outlook for psychologists is excellent, with this field expected to grow faster than the average occupation. The most in-demand psychologists will be clinical psychologists, industrial-organizational psychologists and school psychologists. As we gain a better understanding for how the human mind works, what variables influence human behavior and how we can treat those who struggle from mental disorders, the field of psychology grows and becomes more respected. It’s a wonderful career to pursue and has a bright future.

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