The career of a psychologist cuts across different fields of work. They study to understand the mind and behavior of individuals to make a judgment or prescribe treatment. In health facilities, they help patients with mental health challenges, while in the courtroom, they can testify against criminals. Psychologists are one of the most sought professionals and are highly educated. Most psychologists earn at least a master’s degree while others go further to earn a Ph.D. So how does one become a psychologist? How prepared should the person be? What are the career prospects? These and more will be explored in this guide.
Four steps to becoming a psychologist
If you aspire to become a psychologist then you should embrace yourself for anything at any time. Before going into the requirements, you should know that there are types of psychology, and each field has its requirements and specific homework assignments. You need to first decide on which career path you want to take and check the requirements, before taking a step. To become a psychologist you need to:
- Pursue a degree
- Get a state license
- Apply for a position
- Maintain certification
No matter your career goals or the type of psychologist you want to become, you first need to earn a degree. As already mentioned, the minimum academic requirement you need is a master’s degree in psychology. You may have to get a Ph.D. for some positions or a high-paying job. As an aspiring psychologist, start studying towards your goal at the undergraduate level and put your efforts in studies and homework writing process. At some universities, you can specialize in psychology at the bachelor’s level. The universities that don’t allow that mostly offer prospective students psychology electives in their field of interest.
Every state has specific licensure requirements. It is therefore prudent for prospective psychologists to study in their preferred state. Doing this saves you from having to go through a whole lot to earn a state’s practicing license. Psychologists have to apply through their preferred state’s board of psychology to obtain a license. The requirements vary from state to state and the field you want to practice. However, it may include a bachelor’s or master’s degree, writing a test, work experience, and a fee. Also after obtaining a state license you may be required to write an exam for professional certification.
As a potential psychologist, you earn experience during and after your academic pursuit. Depending on the type you are practicing, your first post may come with some restrictions. You may not be allowed to attend to certain cases or make prescriptions. That aside, some positions require field and work experience. You should consider these when applying for a job. You may also have to look at the certification requirements before applying for a job. As a fresh graduate, your best bet will be applying to healthcare facilities or government departments/agencies.
Never joke with your certification because many top positions require it. Some may even require a Ph.D. The certification proves your level of experience and expertise in a field. So after your bachelor’s degree, pursue a master’s and then a Ph.D. in psychology. The higher your certification, the higher your earnings.
Courses in psychology programs
The courses in a psychology program vary from university to university and the degree you are pursuing.
For an undergraduate program, you may have to start with introductory courses like experimental analysis and assignments in research methods. Both are critical skills for every professional psychologist. As the program proceeds, you will take courses like developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology.
At the graduate level, you will be introduced to advanced topics and curriculum depending on your area of specialization. You need to embrace yourself for research works and thesis writing if you are pursuing a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in psychology. Courses you should anticipate include:
- Statistical Techniques
Statistics is critical in the study of psychology, especially at the undergraduate level. The course introduces you to statistics and covers areas like data ordering, statistical data, measuring tendencies, and dispersion. Other topics include probability, hypothesis testing, and estimation.
- Abnormal psychology
In this course, you will learn about the cause and treatment of mental illnesses; as well as the classifications of mental disorders. You will learn about disorders like drug addiction, alcoholism, depression, and eating disorders.
- Social Psychology
This course integrates mental and emotional topics and covers areas like behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. You will be introduced to basic concepts and theories of social psychology and learn how to interpret psychological papers.
Other courses you will learn at the higher level include lifespan development and capstone.