Summary

psychologists image
Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior.
Quick Facts: Psychologists
2014 Median Pay $70,700 per year
$33.99 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Internship/residency
Number of Jobs, 2014 173,900
Job Outlook, 2014-24 19% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 32,500

What Psychologists Do

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

Work Environment

Some psychologists work independently, conducting research, consulting with clients, or working with patients. Others work as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with physicians and social workers or in school settings, working with students, teachers, parents, and other educators. Those in private practice often work evenings and weekends to accommodate clients.

How to Become a Psychologist

Although psychologists typically need a doctoral degree in psychology, a master’s degree is sufficient for some positions. Psychologists in independent practice also need a license.

Pay

The median annual wage for psychologists was $70,700 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of psychologists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects should be best for those who have a doctoral degree in an applied specialty.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for psychologists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of psychologists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about psychologists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Psychologists Do About this section

Psychologists
Industrial-organizational psychologists apply psychological research and methods to workplace issues.

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

Duties

Psychologists typically do the following:

  • Conduct scientific studies of behavior and brain function
  • Collect information through observations, interviews, surveys, and other methods
  • Identify psychological, emotional, behavioral, or organizational issues and diagnose disorders, using information obtained from their research
  • Research and identify behavioral or emotional patterns
  • Test for patterns that will help them better understand and predict behavior
  • Discuss the treatment of problems with their clients
  • Write articles, research papers, and reports to share findings and educate others

Psychologists seek to understand and explain thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behavior. Psychologists use techniques such as observation, assessment, and experimentation to develop theories about the beliefs and feelings that influence a person.

Psychologists often gather information and evaluate behavior through controlled laboratory experiments, psychoanalysis, or psychotherapy. They also may administer personality, performance, aptitude, or intelligence tests. They look for patterns of behavior or relationships between events, and use this information when testing theories in their research or treating patients.

The following are examples of types of psychologists:

Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Clinical psychologists help people deal with problems ranging from short-term personal issues to severe, chronic conditions.

Clinical psychologists are trained to use a variety of approaches to help individuals. Although strategies generally differ by specialty, clinical psychologists often interview patients, give diagnostic tests, and provide individual, family, or group psychotherapy. They also design behavior modification programs and help patients implement their particular program.

Some clinical psychologists focus on certain populations, such as children or the elderly, or certain specialties, such as the following:

  • Health psychologists study how psychological and behavioral factors interact with health and illness. They educate both patients and medical staff on psychological issues and promote healthy-living strategies. They also investigate and develop programs to address common health-related behaviors, such as smoking, poor diet, and sedentary behavior.
  • Neuropsychologists study the effects of brain injuries, brain disease, developmental disorders, or mental health conditions on behavior and thinking. They test patients affected by known or suspected brain conditions to determine impacts on thinking and to direct patients’ treatment.

Clinical psychologists often consult with other health professionals regarding the best treatment for patients, especially treatment that includes medication. Currently, Illinois, Louisiana, and New Mexico allow clinical psychologists to prescribe medication to patients. Most states, however, do not allow psychologists to prescribe medication for treatment.

Counseling psychologists help patients deal with and understand problems, including issues at home, at the workplace, or in their community. Through counseling, they work with patients to identify their strengths or resources they can use to manage problems. For information on other counseling occupations, see the profiles on mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, and social workers.

Developmental psychologists study the psychological progress and development that take place throughout life. Many developmental psychologists focus on children and adolescents, but they also may study aging and problems facing older adults.

Forensic psychologists use psychological principles in the legal and criminal justice system to help judges, attorneys, and other legal specialists understand the psychological aspects of a particular case. They often testify in court as expert witnesses. They typically specialize in family, civil, or criminal case work.

Industrial-organizational psychologists apply psychology to the workplace by using psychological principles and research methods to solve problems and improve the quality of work life. They study issues such as workplace productivity, management or employee working styles, and employee morale. They also work with management on matters such as policy planning, employee screening or training, and organizational development.

School psychologists apply psychological principles and techniques to education and developmental disorders. They may address student learning and behavioral problems; design and implement performance plans, and evaluate performances; and counsel students and families. They also may consult with other school-based professionals to suggest improvements to teaching, learning, and administrative strategies.

Social psychologists study how people’s mindsets and behavior are shaped by social interactions. They examine both individual and group interactions and may investigate ways to improve interactions.

Some psychologists become postsecondary teachers or high school teachers.

Work Environment About this section

Psychologists
Counseling psychologists often have their own practices.

Psychologists held about 173,900 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most psychologists were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 25%
Government 10
Offices of mental health practitioners (except physicians) 9
Hospitals; state, local, and private 6
Individual and family services 5

Nearly 1 in 3 psychologists were self-employed in 2014.

Some psychologists work alone, doing independent research, consulting with clients, or counseling patients. Others work as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with physicians, social workers, and others to treat illness and promote overall wellness.

Many clinical and counseling psychologists work in private practice. Others work in outpatient clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and community and mental health centers.

Industrial-organizational psychologists work in business settings or human resources offices. They may also work in federal or state agencies, consulting firms, or private research organizations.

Most research psychologists work in colleges and universities, government agencies, or private research organizations.

Most school psychologists work in public schools, ranging from elementary school through college. They also work in private schools, universities, hospitals, clinics, community treatment centers, and independent practice.

Work Schedules

Psychologists in private practice often set their own hours, and many work part time as independent consultants. They may work evenings or weekends to accommodate clients. Those employed in hospitals or other healthcare facilities may also have evening or weekend shifts. Most psychologists in clinics, government, industry, or schools work full-time schedules during regular business hours.

How to Become a Psychologist About this section

Psychologists
School psychologists may administer psychological tests to students.

Although psychologists typically need a doctoral degree in psychology, a master’s degree is sufficient for some positions. Psychologists in independent practice also need a license.

Education

Most clinical, counseling, and research psychologists need a doctoral degree. Students can complete a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. A Ph.D. in psychology is a research degree that is obtained after taking a comprehensive exam and writing a dissertation based on original research. Ph.D programs typically include courses on statistics and experimental procedures. The Psy.D. is a clinical degree and is often based on practical work and examinations rather than a dissertation. In clinical, counseling, school, or health service settings, students usually complete a 1-year internship as part of the doctoral program.

School psychologists need an advanced degree and certification or licensure to work. The advanced degree is most commonly the education specialist degree (Ed.S.), which typically requires a minimum of 60 graduate semester credit hours and a 1,200-hour supervised internship. Some school psychologists may have a doctoral degree in school psychology or a master’s degree. School psychologists’ programs include coursework in both education and psychology because their work addresses education and mental health components of students’ development.

Graduates with a master’s degree in psychology can work as industrial-organizational psychologists. When working under the supervision of a doctoral psychologist, master’s graduates can also work as psychological assistants in clinical, counseling, or research settings. Master’s degree programs typically include courses in industrial-organizational psychology, statistics, and research design.

Most master’s degree programs do not require an undergraduate major in psychology, but do require coursework in introductory psychology, experimental psychology, and statistics. Some doctoral degree programs require applicants to have a master’s degree in psychology; others will accept applicants with a bachelor’s degree and a major in psychology. 

Most graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology find work in other fields such as business administration, sales, or education.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In most states, practicing psychology or using the title of “psychologist” requires licensure. In all states and the District of Columbia, psychologists who practice independently must be licensed where they work.

Licensing laws vary by state and type of position. Most clinical and counseling psychologists need a doctorate in psychology, an internship, at least 1 to 2 years of supervised professional experience, and to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Information on specific state requirements can be obtained from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. In many states, licensed psychologists must complete continuing education courses to keep their licenses.

The American Board of Professional Psychology awards specialty certification in 15 areas of psychology, such as clinical health, couple and family, or rehabilitation. The American Board of Professional Neuropsychology offers certification in neuropsychology. Board certification can demonstrate professional expertise in a specialty area. Certification is not required for most psychologists, but some hospitals and clinics do require certification. In those cases, candidates must have a doctoral degree in psychology, state license or certification, and any additional criteria of the specialty field.

Training

Prospective practicing psychologists must have pre- or post-doctoral supervised experience, including an internship. Internships allow students to gain experience in an applied setting. Candidates must complete an internship before they can qualify for state licensure. The required number of hours of the internship varies by state.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Psychologists must be able to examine the information they collect and draw logical conclusions from them.

Communication skills. Psychologists must have strong communication skills because they spend much of their time listening to and speaking with patients. 

Observational skills. Psychologists study attitude and behavior. They must be able to watch people and understand the possible meanings of facial expressions, body positions, actions, and interactions.

Patience. Psychologists must be able to demonstrate patience, because conducting research or treating patients may take a long time.

People skills. Psychologists study and help people. They must be able to work well with clients, patients, and other professionals.

Problem-solving skills. Psychologists need problem-solving skills to design research, evaluate programs, and find treatments or solutions for mental and behavioral problems.

Trustworthiness. Psychologists must keep patients’ problems in confidence, and patients must be able to trust psychologists’ expertise in treating sensitive problems.

Pay About this section

Psychologists

Median annual wages, May 2014

Social scientists and related workers

$71,030

Psychologists

$70,700

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for psychologists was $70,700 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,240, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $114,290.

Median annual wages for psychologists in May 2014 were as follows:

Psychologists, all other $92,110
Industrial-organizational psychologists 76,950
Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists 68,900

In May 2014, the median annual wages for psychologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government $85,400
Hospitals; state, local, and private 80,420
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 70,200
Offices of mental health practitioners (except physicians) 69,940
Individual and family services 58,610

Psychologists in private practice often set their own hours, and many work part time as independent consultants. They may work evenings or weekends to accommodate clients. Those employed in hospitals or other healthcare facilities also may have evening or weekend shifts. Most psychologists in clinics, government, industry, or schools work full-time schedules during regular business hours.

Job Outlook About this section

Psychologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Psychologists

19%

Social scientists and related workers

12%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Overall employment of psychologists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by occupation.

Employment of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is projected to grow 20 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Greater demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social services agencies should drive employment growth.

Demand for clinical and counseling psychologists will increase as people continue to turn to psychologists for help with their problems. Psychologists will also be needed to provide services to an aging population, helping people deal with the mental and physical changes that happen as they grow older. Psychological services are also needed for veterans suffering from war trauma, for survivors of other trauma, and for individuals with autism.

Employment of school psychologists will continue to grow because of the raised awareness of the connection between mental health and learning and the need for mental health services in schools. School psychologists will be needed to work with students, particularly those with special needs, learning disabilities, and behavioral issues. Schools rely on school psychologists to assess and counsel students. In addition, school psychologists will be needed to study how factors both in school and outside of school affect learning, which teachers and administrators can use to improve education. However, opportunities may be limited, because employment of school psychologists in public schools and universities is contingent on state and local budgets.

Employment of industrial-organizational psychologists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 400 new jobs over the 10-year period. Organizations will continue to use industrial-organizational psychologists to help select and keep employees, increase organizational productivity and efficiency, and improve office morale. 

Job Prospects

Competition for jobs for psychologists will vary by specialty and level of education obtained. Industrial-organizational psychologists are expected to face competition for positions because of the large number of qualified applicants. Industrial-organizational psychologists with extensive training in quantitative research methods may have a competitive edge.

Overall, candidates with a doctoral or education specialist degree and post-doctoral work experience will have the best job opportunities in clinical, counseling, or school psychology positions. Candidates with a master’s degree will face competition for most positions, and many of them will find jobs with alternative titles, as nearly all states restrict the use of the title “psychologist” to Ph.D. or Psy.D. degreeholders.

Most graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology find work in other fields such as business administration, sales, or education. However, they may be able to find work in the field of psychology as assistants to psychologists.

Employment projections data for psychologists, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Psychologists

19-3030 173,900 206,400 19 32,500 [XLSX]

Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists

19-3031 155,300 185,900 20 30,500 [XLSX]

Industrial-organizational psychologists

19-3032 2,000 2,300 19 400 [XLSX]

Psychologists, all other

19-3039 16,600 18,300 10 1,600 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of psychologists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2014 MEDIAN PAY Help
Anthropologists and archeologists

Anthropologists and Archeologists

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans. They examine the cultures, languages, archeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world.

Master's degree $59,280
Market research analysts

Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts study market conditions to examine potential sales of a product or service. They help companies understand what products people want, who will buy them, and at what price.

Bachelor's degree $61,290
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists

Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with family and other relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Master's degree $42,250
Physicians and surgeons

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Doctoral or professional degree This wage is equal to or greater than $187,200 per year.
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

See How to Become One $70,790
School and Career Counselors

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help students develop academic and social skills and succeed in school. Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions by helping them develop skills or choose a career or educational program.

Master's degree $53,370
Social workers

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers—clinical social workers—also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

See How to Become One $45,500
Sociologists

Sociologists

Sociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions, and processes that develop when people interact and work together.

Master's degree $72,810
Special education teachers

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Bachelor's degree $55,980
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help the client recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.

Bachelor's degree $39,270
Survey researchers

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys and analyze data. Surveys are used to collect factual data, such as employment and salary information, or to ask questions in order to understand people’s opinions, preferences, beliefs, or desires.

Master's degree $49,760

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about careers in all fields of psychology, visit

American Psychological Association

For more information about careers for school psychologists, visit

National Association of School Psychologists

For more information about state licensing requirements, visit

Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards

For more information about psychology specialty certifications, visit

American Board of Professional Psychology

For more information about industrial-organizational psychologists, visit

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology

For more information about careers and certification in neuropsychology, visit

American Board of Professional Neuropsychology

O*NET

Clinical Psychologists

Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists

Counseling Psychologists

Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

Neuropsychologists and Clinical Neuropsychologists

Psychologists, All Other

School Psychologists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Psychologists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm (visited February 09, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

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2014 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2014, the median annual wage for all workers was $35,540.

On-the-job Training

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Entry-level Education

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Work experience in a related occupation

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Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2014 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2014, the median annual wage for all workers was $35,547.