Careers in Personality Psychology
Personality psychology is the study of how humans feel or think about their interactions with the world around them. The chart below compares different careers that involve personality psychology.
|Personality Psychologist||Mental Health Counselor||Clinical Social Worker|
|Career Overview||Personality psychologists study and treat personality issues in individuals and help organizations understand the human thought process.||Mental health counselors diagnose and treat patients with personality and mental health issues.||Clinical social workers help clients with personality and mental health disorders become active members of society.|
|Education Requirements||Doctoral degree for clinical and counseling work as well as research positions||Master's degree||Master's degree|
|Program Length||4 years of undergraduate education; about 2 additional years for a master's degree or 4-5 additional years for a doctoral degree||4 years of undergraduate education; 2 years of graduate school||4 years of undergraduate education; 2 years of graduate school|
|Additional Training||Internship during graduate school||Supervised work or internship during graduate school||Supervised work or internship during graduate school|
|Certification and Licensing||License required for clinical and counseling work; optional certifications available||License required||License required for clinical work; some states may offer exemptions if hired for government agencies|
|Experience Requirement||Internship or residency and 1-2 years of post-graduate experience; continuing education required||2,000-4,000 hours of supervised work during graduate and post-graduate school; continuing education required||Two years or 3,000 hours of graduate or post-graduate supervised experience for clinical license; continuing education required|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||Faster than average (19%) (for all psychologists)*||Much faster than average (20%)*||Faster than average (12%)*|
|Median Salary (2014)||$68,900 (for all clinical, school and counseling psychologists)*||$40,850*||$63,572**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com (March 2016)
Many psychologists in the personality field work as researchers or as clinical and counseling psychologists. As a personality psychologist, you may strive to understand why people enjoy the company of certain people, why humans love or hate someone, what personalities men or women display, what makes people apathetic or willing to challenge themselves and what type of personality a business or person might want from another individual.
Your research can be applied to marketing strategies, environmental conservation programs, education curricula and more. You can also work in a clinical setting and help patients overcome personality disorders. Personality disorders can be genetically linked or the result of experience, such as abuse or family environment. Your work may involve listening to patients and designing treatment plans.
According to the BLS, clinical and counseling psychologists are required to hold a doctoral degree in psychology. Independent researchers need a doctorate as well, though some assistant research positions may accept a master's degree. Both master's and doctoral programs include research design courses. All states require clinical and counseling psychologists, as well as any independently practicing psychologists, to be licensed. You're eligible for licensure once you complete a doctoral program, an internship and 1-2 years of professional experience. You must also pass a licensing exam. Continuing education is typically required in order to maintain licensure.
Based on December 2012 job ads, some employers looked for the following:
- A counseling services organization in Missouri sought a licensed psychologist to administer personality, intelligence and behavioral tests. Qualified candidates needed professional experience with both children and adults.
- A Virginia state hospital needed a senior psychology associate with knowledge of personality theories, psychopathology and forensic evaluations for the hospital's psychiatric ward. The job involved evaluating and treating patients with severe mental disorders. The psychologist needed to hold a doctorate and be licensed for clinical work.
- A Georgia veterans' facility needed a clinical psychologist to uncover the psychological conditions of veterans through personality assessments and intelligence evaluations. The psychologist would also plan treatment strategies and provide various types of therapy, including behavior modification, supportive therapy and family therapy, in both group and individual settings. At least three years of experience as a licensed psychologist was required.
If you're working in a clinical or counseling setting, certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) may help you stand out from the competition. These credentials are optional, but they can highlight your professional experience and assure employers and clients of your expertise. Although the ABPP does not offer a personality psychology certification, you can earn certification in general clinical psychology or in counseling psychology. Completion of a doctoral program, an internship and postdoctoral professional experience is required in order to qualify for certification exams.
Mental Health Counselors
Mental health counselors help clients with mental problems, including low self-esteem or depression. As a mental health counselor, you listen to patients and consider treatments, like cognitive or goals-based therapy. Mental health counselors work in a number of settings, including mental health practices, medical centers and private offices. You'll typically work full-time, and you may need to work irregular hours to accommodate clients' needs.
According to the BLS, mental health counselors need a license to practice. You can earn your license after obtaining a master's degree, clocking 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised work and successfully passing your state's licensing examination. Based on December 2012 job ads, here's what some employers looked for:
- An Iowa community non-profit health care facility was looking for a mental health counselor to counsel children with psychiatric conditions, as well as their families. Case management duties were also part of the job. Candidates needed a master's degree in psychology, social work or a related field, plus a driver's license. A background check was required.
- A North Carolina health care clinic needed a mental health counselor for both parents and children. Licensure in the state of North Carolina was required.
- A Missouri non-profit health care facility wanted a mental health counselor for children and the elderly. The counselor would coordinate with other mental and health care professionals to treat clients with substance abuse or mental illness issues. Licensure, two years of experience and excellent computer skills were required.
If you plan to work in a private practice, consider strengthening your management and organizational skills to keep track of payments and patient information. In addition, strengthening your professional communication with primary care doctors or other health professionals can help you gain referrals. Demonstrating people skills and compassion for patients may lead to referrals as well.
Clinical Social Workers
As a clinical social worker, you'll diagnose mental problems in clients, offer therapeutic sessions where they can discuss their problems and plan treatment strategies. Additionally, you refer patients to other appropriate professional and social services. You may assist drug or alcohol addicts, individuals suffering from mental illness, children who are bullied at school or families dealing with the hardships of divorce.
Clinical social workers may work in a number of settings, including hospitals, medical centers, government facilities or social work practices. Social workers typically work full-time and may work nights and weekends as well.
Clinical social workers must hold a license to practice. After earning your master's degree in social work, you must obtain two years or 3,000 hours of supervised work experience before you're eligible to take your state's licensing examination. The BLS notes that some government employees may be exempt from licensure depending on their experience or academic credentials. In addition to education and licensing requirements, strong compassion and excellent problem solving skills are necessary for successful social workers. Take a look at some real job ads from December 2012:
- A New York health care center sought a licensed clinical social worker who could work with people from various cultures. The social worker would perform crisis intervention treatments for clients and refer them to pertinent social services. Three years of experience was required, though six years of experience was preferred. Bilingual candidates were desired.
- A South Carolina mental health care facility was looking for a mental health social worker. Duties involved diagnosing patients and crafting treatment plans to solve their psychosocial problems. Applicants needed a master's degree and one year of experience in human services. Those with at least six months of work experience in mental health were preferred.
- A New Hampshire mental health care clinic advertised for a licensed social worker and mental health worker who could work well on a team of professionals. Candidates were required to have four years of experience in group therapy sessions and individual counseling. In addition, applicants needed a good understanding of potential psychosocial problems in males.
There are a few specialties of clinical social work that have a more positive job outlook than others. Per the BLS, from 2010-2020, substance abuse and mental health clinical social workers were expected to see a 31% increase in employment, with about 39,500 jobs added. During the same time, a 34% jump in employment was forecast for healthcare clinical social workers, with 51,200 additional jobs expected. Both of these rates are much faster than the national average for all occupations. If you choose to specialize in one of these fields, you may have better luck landing a job than those who focus on school, family and child clinical social work.