Stress, anxiety and other emotional problems affect many people during their personal and professional lives. While emotional turmoil may seem inevitable at times, clinical psychologists seek to help people deal with such problems as they arise.
A rewarding career that focuses on the health and well-being of patients of all ages, clinical psychology may be an appealing option for students interested in mental health, therapy or the provision of direct patient care.
Job Outlook for Clinical Psychologists
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment growth of 19% from 2014-24 for the category of professionals that includes clinical psychologists. This rate of growth, which significantly outpaces the national average for all occupations, reflects an increased interest in the potential of psychologists to assess and treat common disorders, including depression, stress and addiction.
As the population continues to age, demand is expected to grow for psychologists who specialize in treating seniors.
Job Duties for Clinical Psychologists
Clinical psychologists are employed to help people understand and deal with mental, emotional or behavioral disorders. In many cases, a clinical psychologist’s role will involve speaking with clients to help them understand the perceived cause of an ailment. Some clinical psychologists may favor the use of diagnostic tests, while others may favor analysis of a particular point in a patient’s life. Clinical psychologists may also specialize in working with specific groups of people, such as children, the elderly, couples or military veterans.
After diagnosing a patient, the next step is to develop and recommend a suitable course of treatment. In most states, clinical psychologists are not authorized to prescribe medication. If a clinician decides that a prescription is warranted, patients may be referred to practicing psychiatrists for further diagnosis. In other cases, clinical psychologists may design a process of behavior modifications or exercises to help patients deal with issues.
Many clinical psychologists are in private practice and set their own work schedules, which may include after-hours and weekend appointments. Other clinical psychologists are employed by hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities.
Potential Salary for Clinical Psychologists
The average annual wage for the category of professionals that includes clinical psychologists was $78,690 as of May 2016, the BLS reports. The top 10% of earners had salaries exceeding $120,320 a year.
Employment prospects and potential salary ranges typically vary based on an individual’s work history and educational qualifications, as well as factors such as local market conditions and employer type.
Education and Training for Clinical Psychologists
Prospective students can take a step toward a clinical psychology career by enrolling in an undergraduate program such as a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology with a concentration in Clinical Psychology.
Such programs should prepare students to:
- Understand various methods of assessing and treating behavioral disorders
- Identify the biological components of motivation, learning, emotion and memory
Upon completing a bachelor’s degree, students will likely need to work toward a doctoral degree in order to practice as a clinical psychologist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes two options for doctoral-level studies: a PhD in psychology; and a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree.
Beyond formal educational qualifications, clinical psychologists typically require a license to practice professionally. While requirements vary among states, most licensing programs require a doctoral degree in psychology, an internship, several years of professional experience and a passing grade on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), according to the BLS.
Is a Career in Clinical Psychology Right for You?
The field of clinical psychology can accommodate individuals with a strong interest in research as well as those who wish to spend most of their time in clinical practice. Fundamentally, it is a profession focused on direct patient care. Clinical psychologists must be able to listen and make recommendations, and an effective clinician is likely to be empathetic and patient.
If you enjoy the prospect of working closely with people on sensitive issues and helping them process and deal with short- and long-term problems in their lives, a career as a clinical psychologist may be an excellent choice.