Clinical Psychologist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about a clinical psychologist's salary, education requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming a clinical psychologist.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Clinical Psychologist

A clinical psychologist examines a patient for any behavioral, emotional or mental problems and then makes a diagnosis and treats the patient. A state license, previous experience and a doctoral degree are typically required to become a clinical psychologist. Many clinical psychologists benefit from choosing their own hours and earning a salary that is above the national average. You can learn other upsides and downsides to becoming a clinical psychologist by continuing to read onward.

Pros of Being a Clinical Psychologist
Good job outlook due to doctoral programs being highly selective*
Mean annual income is above the national average (about $74,000 in 2014)*
It is possible to set your own work hours in private practice*
Work can be seen as rewarding since psychologists help patients improve their lives*

Cons of Being a Clinical Psychologist
A doctorate degree is needed in most cases for employment*
A state license is required to practice in the majority of states*
Weekend and evening shifts can be necessary if you're employed at a hospital or healthcare facility*
Previous work experience is needed through internships or residencies*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

As a clinical psychologist, you might treat personal issues that are only occurring on a short-term basis for a patient, or you may help with chronic and severe conditions. Many clinical psychologists have several different techniques and approaches when it comes to treating a patient. Generally, you'll start off interviewing a patient and offering several tests in order to aid in a diagnosis. You might do this on an individual basis with the patient, or you might do it in a group setting with family members or other individuals with similar problems. If necessary, you might come up with a modification program designed to help the patient overcome the unwanted behavior. Finally, you'll work with medical personnel to ensure that patients receive the best treatment possible since medication sometimes must be issued.

Job Outlook

From 2012 to 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 12% growth in employment for all psychologists. When compared to other occupations, this employment growth is about average. Mental health centers, hospitals and social services agencies are all expected to need clinical psychologists as a result of a growing demand for psychological services amongst the population.

Salary Information

The BLS found that clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned an average of $74,000 or so annually in May 2014. This means that clinical psychologists had an average hourly wage of about $35. In the top tenth percentile of wage estimates for this occupation, the BLS reported an income of around $113,000 and up. Hawaii, Rhode Island, Alabama, Connecticut, and New Jersey were the five states that paid the highest salaries on average for clinical psychologists.

Occupational Requirements

Training, Licensing and Education

Generally a doctoral degree is necessary to become a clinical psychologist, though in some cases a master's degree might be acceptable. You'll normally complete supervised experience, a residency or an internship before or after your doctoral program. Most states require clinical psychologists to be licensed and have internships and professional work experience as eligibility requirements. You'll need to apply for licensure in your state, then pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Your state may require that you participate in continuing education in order to maintain your license.

What Do Employers Want?

Trustworthiness is an important quality employers want to see in clinical psychologists. Patients have to feel safe with a clinical psychologist in order to open up. Communication skills are also important so that a good relationship can be developed with patients. Several job advertisements for clinical psychologists were examined in November 2012, and the information about what employers wanted in applicants can be found below.

  • A clinical psychologist position in New Jersey preferred applicants who were fluent in Spanish.
  • Experience with leading group sessions was required for a clinical psychologist position in Illinois.
  • A business in California needed a clinical psychologist with at least two years of experience testing for developmental delays in children.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy was emphasized in a job posting for a clinical psychologist in New York.

How to Stand Out as a Clinical Psychologist

By choosing a specific area of clinical psychology to focus on, you can offer something to employers that a standard clinical psychologist can't. For example, there are clinical psychologists that treat specific populations of people. You might focus on treating the elderly or young children. You could also offer specialty services as a neuropsychologist, health psychologist or other specialized psychologist. On the down side, specializing may require that you obtain additional training; however, it is a good opportunity to possess a skill set that others in your field might not have. The American Board of Professional Psychology offers specialty certifications in a number of areas, such as rehabilitation psychology and clinical health psychology. A doctoral degree and a license are required to be eligible for a specialty certification exam; depending on your specialty, you may also need to meet internship and postdoctoral training requirements.

Other Career Choices

If you want to focus on groups of people rather than individuals, you may want to become a sociologist. Sociologists study social institutions, cultures, organizations and groups. In this career, you'll come up with research projects that are geared towards testing your theories. You'll collect data and then analyze it in order to determine the results of your research. To enter this career, you'd need to earn a master's or doctoral degree just as you would if you were to become a clinical psychologist; however, a license is not required. Sociologists made an average of around $79,000 or so annually as of May 2011, according to the BLS. From 2010 to 2020, the BLS expected an 18% employment growth.

If you would rather focus on helping people with psychical issues instead of mental issues, you might consider becoming a family physician or general practitioner. As a physician, you'll form relationships with patients and perform physical examinations. If a patient comes to you with a problem, you'll examine the issue and recommend a course of action to treat it, such as by prescribing medication or surgery. The BLS projected an employment growth of 24% from 2010 to 2020 for physicians and surgeons. In May 2011, family and general practitioners earned about $177,000 on average.

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