What Does a Psychologist Do?
The field of psychology is one that offers many areas of professional specialization within the health care sector. Thus, making the decision to work in psychology requires deep investigation and what you do is determined by which specialty you’ve chosen.
Roles of Psychology within the Health Care Sector
Psychology-related professionals play many important roles within the healthcare sector. According to the American Psychological Association, psychologists can help bridge the gap between the patient or client and the facility, company or organization, helping to ensure quality care and best practices are provided. Psychologists may work in areas beyond analyzing and treating, they may also have a role in primary care or other extended healthcare settings.
As a study published in the Journal of Family and Community Medicine notes, “advances in the biomedical and the behavioral sciences have paved the way for the integration of medical practice towards the biopsychosocial approach.” This means that heath, illness and mental status can be analyzed together, to provide a more holistic picture of what may be happening with a client or patient, resulting in more comprehensive care.
Why Psychology Is a Desirable Career Path
Psychology is a desirable career path for professionals who want to help others, whether in one-on-one sessions or from within a larger organization. When professionals can align their personal goals and skills with a career in caring for others, the choice to become a psychologist benefits not only the providers but their future patients and clients as well.
Skills Needed for a Career in Psychology
For those wondering how to become a psychologist, the first step is learning about the skills that are necessary for success across all areas of psychology. Psychology careers require being skilled at listening, building interpersonal relationships, solving problems and continuing to learn. Research skills and the ability to embrace diversity are also crucial to most careers within the psychology field.
- Listening and interpersonal communication. Work in the psychology field is based on building a level of trust with patients or clients in order to better understand their mental state and help them deal with their problems and move forward in their lives. In order to be effective, excellent listening and interpersonal communication skills are necessary.
- Problem-solving skills. Many psychology careers require professionals to think outside of the box when their client or organization presents a problem that is impeding care. As such, problem-solving skills are important for success as a psychology professional.
- Embracing cultural diversity. As with most jobs within the health care industry, embracing cultural diversity is a must for psychologists. Clients and patients come from all backgrounds, and professionals need to be prepared to embrace a range of cultural elements while providing care.
- Ambition and desire to continue learning. As new health care technologies are developed, it is crucial that health care professionals continue learning and keep up-to-date with current best practices to ensure their patients receive the best available care.
- Conducting independent research. Big research labs are not the only source of innovations. Psychology breakthroughs can come through a single psychologist uncovering insights while working with his or her own patients, or by conducting independent research. It is crucial that psychologists are attuned to new information in order to strive toward better mental health outcomes.
What Can You Do with a Degree in Psychology?
Jobs for psychologists include clinical psychologist, career counselor, substance abuse and mental health counselor, psychiatry technician, and industrial-organizational psychologist, and each has its own specific duties. Other common jobs include research technician and case manager.
Clinical psychologists help clients to identify mental, behavioral or emotional problems in their lives through interviews, tests and observation. Clinical psychologists then analyze what they’ve found in order to help improve their clients’ lives.
Education: Ph.D. in psychology, although a master’s degree may suffice for some positions
Additional Requirements: licenses, certifications and registrations vary by state and organization
Skills: analysis, observervation, problem-solving and communication.
Median Salary: $76,990
Estimated New Jobs across the U.S. by 2026: 23,800
Professionals seeking to work as career counselors will be responsible for assisting people in selecting careers and then finding jobs that best suit their lifestyles and interests.
Education: master’s degree at minimum
Additional Requirements: licenses, registrations or certifications may also be required, depending on state and location of practice
Skills: analytical, listening, speaking and interpersonal skills as well as a great depth of compassion for others.
Median Salary: $56,310
Estimated New Jobs across the U.S. by 2026: 27,200
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Counselor
Substance abuse and mental health counselors help people who suffer from problems related to alcoholism, drug addiction or other behavioral patterns. The goal of these counselors is to offer treatment and support to facilitate recovery in their clients.
Education: bachelor’s degree at a minimum, although some programs may require a master’s degree as well as an internship.
Additional Requirements: registrations, licenses and certifications may be necessary depending on state and organization of practice.
Skills: ability to communicate, listen and develop relationships with many types of people, as well as the ability to use compassion and patience to remain calm throughout client interactions.
Estimated New Jobs across the U.S. by 2026: 68,500
Professionals who offer care to those with developmental disabilities or mental illnesses are known as psychiatric technicians. Technicians often specialize in therapeutic care and monitor the physical and mental status of their patients.
Education: high school diploma and, usually, postsecondary qualifications that may be offered by community colleges or technical schools
Additional Requirements: vary between states and organizations
Skills: compassion, observational skills, physical stamina, interpersonal skills and patience.
Average Salary: $32,870
Estimated New Jobs across the U.S. by 2028: 9,500
This specialty is a new branch of psychology and offers surprising answers to the question, what does a psychologist do? Industrial and organizational psychologists use human behavior knowledge to address shortcomings in management, hiring and other areas that impact how an organization operates. The goal is to apply aspects of psychology to improve how the organization functions overall. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of industrial-organizational psychologists is projected to increase by 14% between 2018 and 2028, faster than the average growth for all occupations. Many industrial-organizational psychologists work in scientific research, management, universities and private companies.
Education: bachelor’s degree in psychology, usually followed by at least a master’s degree, if not a doctoral degree
Skills: interpersonal and communication skills, integrity, strong observation, and analytical skills.
Average Salary: $97,260
Estimated New Jobs across the U.S. by 2028: 200
The responsibilities of a research technician working in the field of psychology differ from technicians working in chemistry, biology and other fields. Research technicians assist psychologists and other team members in choosing participants for research studies, administering and monitoring experiences, and processing and analyzing data.
Education: high school diploma, though some organizations may require a bachelor’s degree in psychology
Skills: organization, attention to detail, and observational and analytical skills
Average Salary: $38,513
Case managers provide help and guidance to individuals who have suffered trauma, people recovering from addiction, ex-convicts and others. They create treatment plans for their clients and act as a liaison for their clients’ employers and medical staff. This position often works closely with psychologists, psychiatrists, and other health care providers.
Education: high school diploma, though some organizations may require an associate or bachelor’s degree in human services, psychology or a related field
Additional Requirements: vary between states and organizations
Skills: compassion, observational skills, patience, and interpersonal and communication skills
Average Salary: $39,900
Why Psychology Is a Desirable Career Path
Psychology-related professionals play many important roles within the healthcare sector. According to the American Psychological Association, psychologists can help bridge the gap between the patient or client and the facility, company or organization, helping to ensure quality care and best practices are provided. Psychologists receive training in fundamental skills, such as research, statistics, active listening and presentation skills, which are desirable in a wide range of fields, allowing them to also pursue jobs in areas that are not related to mental health.
As a study published in the Journal of Family and Community Medicine notes, “Advances in the biomedical and the behavioral sciences have paved the way for the integration of medical practice towards the biopsychosocial approach.” This means that heath, illness and mental status can be analyzed together, to provide a more holistic picture of what may be happening with a client or patient, resulting in more comprehensive care.
When professionals can align their personal goals and skills with a career in caring for others, the choice to become a psychologist benefits not only the providers but their future patients and clients, as well. Psychology is a desirable career path for professionals who want to help others, specifically with their overall health and well-being. Psychologists play vital roles in the assessment and treatment of patients. Those considering a psychology career need to ask themselves not only if psychology is right for them, but, if it is, which specialty might be the one to motivate them out of bed every morning.
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