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Psychology as a Career

If studying people, finding solutions to hard problems and tackling research fascinates you, then a career in psychology may be a great option for you. Teaching, assessments, therapy and research are all duties of this career path.

To become a licensed clinical psychologist, you will need an undergraduate degree, as well as a doctorate in psychology. A master’s degree may be sufficient for some school and industrial organization positions. Practicing psychologists also need a license or certification.

Because most clinical, counseling and research psychologists will spend between eight and 12 years in a higher education setting, you could possibly transfer two or more times as you work to earn your doctorate. You may also need to complete a supervised internship to obtain a license, increasing the time to earn your first paycheck as a psychologist. In 2019, the median salary for psychologists was $80,370 with a projected growth rate of 3% between 2019 and 2029.

You will need to plan carefully to ensure you choose an education path where credits will transfer, and you have the funding to complete your studies. You may decide to begin working when you finish your bachelor’s degree to gain hands-on experience as you work toward your doctorate. Consider licensure requirements and internships. If you are already working in the field, research licensure requirements ahead of time so you’ll be ready when you transfer.

Visit the Military Spouse Interstate License Recognition Options for up-to-date legislation and licensure information for your specific state. Ease your job search by investigating job options with Military Spouse Employment Partnership companies and organizations. Maintain a network with others in your field to make it easier to find another position when you relocate.

Several psychologist specialty areas exist and often the time it takes to complete your degree depends on your choice. Some of the more popular areas of practice include the following specialties.

  • Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Patients may have short-term personal issues or severe, on-going conditions.
  • Counseling psychologists assist patients in finding the strengths or resources to manage problems at home, work or in relationships. Some types of counseling psychologists include mental health, substance abuse and marriage and family therapists.
  • Developmental psychologists study the psychological progress and development that takes place throughout life. They may focus on children and adolescents or study aging and problems facing the elderly.
  • Forensic psychologists use psychological principles in the legal and criminal justice system to assist judges, attorneys and other legal specialists in understanding the psychological aspects of a case. They typically specialize in family court, civil court or criminal court.
  • Industrial-organizational psychologists study issues including workplace productivity, management or employee working styles and employee morale.
  • School psychologists apply psychological principles and techniques to education-related and developmental issues including student learning and behavioral problems and suggest improvements for teaching, learning and administrative strategies.

Similar occupations where you can use your skills and education include the following:

  • Mental health counselor – Bachelor's degree plus two to three years of graduate school
  • Marriage and family therapist — Master's degree
  • School and career coaches — Master's degree
  • Social workers – Bachelor’s degree
  • Sociologists – Master's degree

Finding employment

Search for federal job opportunities for psychologists on USAJOBS. Check for positions with the partner organizations of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership.

Professional organizations and networking

Join a professional organization in your chosen field to gain a better understanding of current industry practices and policies. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Network with other professionals in your industry to give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to get an interview at your new location.

Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.

Next steps

If you are considering a career as a psychologist, review the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Take self-assessments to make sure your skills and interests align with this career path. Investigate whether you are eligible for My Career Advancement Account Scholarship assistance and use the Scholarship Finder to see if money is available to help fund any classes or certifications you might need.

If you move due to a PCS, your service branch can now help reimburse licensure and certification costs up to $1,000. Each service has its own procedures for reimbursement, so be sure you know what your branch requires.

If you are considering self-employment, be sure to visit the Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment section of MySECO. Call 800-342-9647 and speak with a career coach for assistance with choosing a school, finding scholarship funding, searching for a job or overcoming challenges.

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