Psychology Assistant Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a psychology assistant career? Read on to see real job descriptions, salary info and careers prospects to see if becoming a psychology assistant is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Psychology Assistant Career

Psychology assistants work under a supervising psychologist in many areas of applied and counseling psychology. Check out these pros and cons of a psychology assistant career to see if it's the right fit for you:

Pros of a Psychology Assistant Career
Above-average salary (about $68,500 median for first five years in the field)**
Can work in many settings (human services, management, education, clinical, etc.)*
Opportunities to assist in research in addition to other duties*
Potential to help improve people's lives*

Cons of a Psychology Assistant Career
Need a master's degree*
All work performed under supervision*
May need to deal with rude, angry, upset or emotionally unstable people*
Work entails sitting for most of the time*

Sources: *iSeek.org, **American Psychological Association.

Essential Career Info

Job Description

Psychology assistants work under the supervision of psychologists, performing administrative, counseling and research tasks. Although you can't directly diagnose or treat patients as a psychology assistant, you can help gather information and conference with your supervising psychologists to aid in forming a diagnosis and treatment plan. If you work in applied psychology, you would use your knowledge to study and improve your field, like how certain teaching mannerisms affect learning in schools or how to increase productivity through different management styles. In a research capacity, you would help to conduct experiments as determined by a psychologist, performing tests and analyzing results. Psychology assistants typically work full-time hours in offices where they spend most of their time sitting, often in close contact with patients or clients.

Salary Info and Career Prospects

The American Psychological Association's Center for Workforce Studies reported in April 2010 that those working in applied psychology with a master's degree for five or fewer years made a median annual salary of about $68,500 (www.apa.org). The same survey found that the top fields for employment for master's-level employees were private practices, business, consulting and education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that despite a projected 12% increase in employment for psychologists from 2012-2022, candidates with master's degrees in psychology may find the job market to be very competitive (www.bls.gov).

Education Requirements

Most psychology assistants have a master's degree. You don't have to major in psychology for your bachelor's degree in order to get into a master's program, but it may help when you're applying to graduate psychology programs where admissions can be competitive. If you don't major in psychology, you should take some coursework in the field, especially any introductory courses in psychology and statistics. Some master's programs focus on research and seek to prepare you for a doctoral program while others may focus more on theories in experimental or developmental psychology. Most master's programs culminate in a thesis based on your original research.

Licensing

Some states have registration or licensing for psychology assistants, though it varies by state and by the field you work in. Usually you only need to register with the state if you have completed your doctorate and are accumulating the required supervised hours, but you should check with your state's board for specific rules and regulations.

Skills

Whether you're working in counseling, education or research, you will be in close contact with people, so you need to have excellent communication skills. You should also be compassionate and caring because you may deal with people who have mental or emotional problems. You will use computers for many purposes, including testing, so you should feel comfortable using basic programs and learning ones specific to psychology.

What Employers Are Looking For

Depending on your field of psychology, you may find different job titles for psychology assistants, like research assistant or assistant counselor. Check out these summaries of job postings open in June 2012 to get an idea of what some employers may be looking for:

  • A rehabilitation center in Pennsylvania was looking to hire a drug and alcohol counselor assistant to run counseling sessions and document treatments. For this job, the company wanted someone with a registered nurse license, a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in psychology.
  • A psychiatric hospital in Hawaii was searching for a psychology associate to work a part-time day shift administering and scoring psychological assessments. They wanted to hire someone with a master's degree in psychology, clinical psychology or counseling psychology.
  • A children's hospital in Ohio was looking for a psychology assistant to work as part of a team in a specific department. The candidate should have a master's degree in psychology as well as a professional counselor license.

How to Stand Out in the Field

If you're interested in working in psychological research, you may want to gain some experience by participating in research during your undergraduate studies. You could find a professor who might let you help out or participate in an internship. To get a head-start in high school, you should take any psychology, sociology, anthropology or development classes offered by your school.

Other Careers to Consider

If you're interested in people but want to study cultures in different places and times, consider a career as an anthropologist. To study the development and behaviors of humans, you can get started with a master's degree and some experience doing field research. The BLS projected an employment increase for anthropologists and archaeologists of 21% from 2010-2020, some of which will be due to increased consulting work in the business realm. The BLS reported in May 2011 that anthropologists and archaeologists made a median annual salary of about $56,000.

If you're interested in studying people but want to apply your knowledge to the business world, you could become a market research analyst. Market research analysts study various populations to try to understand consumers' habits and figure out how a company could sell a product to that market. You can get started in the field with a bachelor's degree in marketing, statistics, business, computer science or a related major. The BLS projected a 41% increase in employment for market research analysts from 2010-2020, which is much faster than average. The BLS reported in May 2011 that market research analysts and marketing specialists made a median annual salary of about $60,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Walden University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Psychology - Teaching
      • PhD in Clinical Psychology - General
      • PhD in Clinical Psychology - Health Psychology
      • PhD in Clinical Psychology - Teaching Psychology
      • PhD in Developmental Psychology - Administration and Leadership
      • PhD in Developmental Psychology - Child & Adolescent Development
    Master's
      • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Addiction Counseling
      • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Forensic Counseling
      • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - General Program
      • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Military Families & Culture
      • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Trauma & Crisis Counseling
      • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Marriage, Couple & Family Counseling
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Psychology - MS AIM Track
      • BS in Psychology - Applied Psychology
      • BS in Psychology - General Psychology
      • BS in Psychology - Human Services for Psychology
      • BS in Psychology - Preparation for Graduate Studies
      • BS in Psychology - Workplace Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Psychology - Gender Studies
      • PhD in Psychology - General Psychology
      • PhD in Psychology - Industrial Organizational Psychology
      • PhD in Psychology - Addications
      • DMFT - Military Family Therapy
      • PhD in Psychology - Health Psychology
    Master's
      • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
      • M.A. in Psychology - Gender Studies
      • MS - Health Psychology (MSPSYHL)
      • MS - Industrial/Organizational Psychology (MSPSYIO)
      • MAMFT - Couple Therapy
      • Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy in General Family Therapy
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Post University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. in Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Florida Tech

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA in Applied Psychology
      • BA in Applied Psychology/Child Advocacy
      • BA in Applied Psychology/Clinical Psychology
      • BA in Applied Psychology/Organizational Psychology
      • BA in Applied Psychology/Forensic Psychology
    Associate's
      • AA in Applied Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Liberty University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PHD: Counselor Education and Supervision
    Master's
      • MA: Professional Counseling
      • MA: Applied Psychology: Developmental Psychology
      • MA: Applied Psychology: Industrial Organizational Psychology
      • MA: Marriage and Family Therapy
      • MS: Criminal Justice: Forensic Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
      • MS in Psychology
      • MS in Educational Psychology
      • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
      • Master: Psychology/Addictions
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Psychology in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
      • BS in Psychology in Addictions
      • BS in Psychology in Applied Behavior Analysis
      • BSCJ: Forensic Psychology
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Addictions
      • Graduate Certificate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
      • Applied Behavior Analysis Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision
    Master's
      • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
      • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
      • Master in Christian Counseling of Substance Use & Addictive Disorders
      • MS in Professional Counseling
      • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders
      • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Trauma
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Psychology
      • B.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance and Sports Psychology
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Trauma
      • B.S. in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Substance Use Disorders
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders
  • Online Programs Available
    8. New England College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA in Psychology
    Associate's
      • AA in Psychology
  • Campus and Online Programs
    9. The Chicago School

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. Business Psychology, Consulting Track
      • Ph.D. Business Psychology, I/O Track
      • Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis
      • Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis, Credential Track
      • Ph.D. International Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Divine Mercy University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Psychology
      • MS in Counseling

Featured Schools

Walden University

  • PhD in Psychology - Teaching
  • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Addiction Counseling
  • BS in Psychology - MS AIM Track

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Psychology - Gender Studies
  • PhD in Psychology - General Psychology
  • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
  • M.A. in Psychology - Gender Studies

What is your highest level of education?

Post University

  • B.A. in Psychology

Education Level:

Florida Tech

  • BA in Applied Psychology
  • BA in Applied Psychology/Child Advocacy
  • AA in Applied Psychology

What is your highest level of education completed?

Liberty University

  • PHD: Counselor Education and Supervision
  • MA: Professional Counseling
  • MA: Applied Psychology: Developmental Psychology

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University Global

  • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
  • BS in Psychology in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • Graduate Certificate in Addictions

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
  • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
  • BS in Psychology

What is your highest level of education?

New England College

  • BA in Psychology
  • AA in Psychology

What is your highest level of education completed?