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What they do:

Psychologists study mental processes and human behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people and other animals relate to one another and the environment. The field of psychology is very diverse with many different ways to apply their knowledge and expertise.

Psychologists generally work in one of two broad areas: research psychology or applied psychology. Research psychologists investigate physical, emotional, social, cognitive and biological bases of human thought and behavior. They often conduct experiments and may work at a college or university, or be employed by a business or government office.

Applied psychologists use their knowledge of human behavior to solve real world problems or to help people overcome psychological distress. They may work directly with clients or in government, industry or nonprofit settings. 


  • Four year undergraduate education in a college or university (Bachelor’s degree). Having a bachelor’s degree in psychology can boost your chances of admission to get into a graduate psychology program, as competition for these programs can be tough.

  • Master’s Degree or doctoral degree in psychology, which generally takes 2 years. Keep in mind that depending on what you would like to do, employment for psychologists can be difficult with only a master’s degree and not a doctoral degree.

  • A doctoral degree is required in order to become a licensed clinical or counseling psychologist. It usually takes around 5-7 years of graduate study to complete a doctoral degree in psychology.

  • In most states, those interested in becoming school psychologists must complete a specialist degree in school psychology.  

  • All states require psychologists to be licensed and/or certified.

What they make:

The median annual wage of a psychologist in May 2015 was $72,580 ($34.89 per hour) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Where they work:

Psychologists work in a variety of settings including:

  • Mental health clinics

  • Schools and universities

  • Psychiatric hospitals

  • Medical hospitals

  • Private practice offices

  • Government offices

  • Corporations and small businesses

Some psychologists work independently, doing research or working only with clients. Others work as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with physicians, social workers and other professionals to treat clients.

Psychologists with their own private practices often work evening and weekend hours to accommodate the schedules of working clients.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of psychologists is projected to grow 19% 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.


For more information, read Careers in Psychology from the American Psychological Association.


Updated February 2017