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Clinical Psychologist Career Guide

Are you someone who wants to learn and understand psychological theories? Do you have the ability to relate and empathise with the emotions and feelings of others? Do you have excellent listening and communication skills AND the ability to cope with emotionally demanding situations?

Well then… a career in clinical psychology may just be for you!

A clinical psychologist is a specialist psychologists. They use psychological therapies and procedures to help clients overcome a range of problems. Such problems include depression, anxiety, challenging behaviours, neurological disorders or disabilities. It is a diverse and varied career, that offers lots of room for specialization and progression.

To become a clinical psychologist, you will need a bachelor’s degree in psychology. You will then need a master’s degree, or equivalent, in clinical psychology. After this, most clinical psychologists will need a doctoral degree. You can complete a Ph.D in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. It takes years to develop the skills and knowledge to become a clinical psychologist, but it is worth it in the end!

We might complain about long hours and intrusive strangers, but when our diagnosis and therapeutic approach works (and it often does), we can make a huge difference to people. Patients who engage with us can really turn their lives around, learn new ways of doing things, and develop new coping strategies to help them move forward. It’s incredibly rewarding; I definitely wouldn’t ever change to another career.

Hilary Mitchell

Clinical Psychologist Career Ratings

Income

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Contribution

Influence

Overview

What does a clinical psychologist actually do?

A clinical psychologist is a specialist psychologists. They use psychological therapies and procedures to help clients overcome a range of problems, including depression, anxiety, challenging behaviours, neurological disorders or disabilities. Clinical psychologists can work with individuals, families, couples or groups in a wide range of settings. Regardless of who they work with, and in what setting, the typical duties and responsibilities of a clinical psychologist include:

  • Assessing the clients’ needs, abilities or behaviour using a variety of methods (such as psychometric tests, interviews and direct observation of their behaviour)
  • Devising, monitoring and adapting appropriate treatment programs
  • Working as part of a multidisciplinary team alongside physicians, nurses, social workers, education professionals, health visitors, psychiatrists and occupational therapists
  • Offering therapy and treatments for issues relating to mental health conditions
  • Providing consultation to other professions and encouraging a psychological approach in their work
  • Counselling and supporting the carers of their clients
  • Carrying out applied research. They do this to add to the evidence base of practice in a variety of healthcare settings

Why they are needed

1 in 5 adults in the United States alone experience mental health conditions each year. Therefore, clinical psychology is a crucial profession because the work of a clinical psychologists is to treat a wide range of these disorders. Without clinical psychologists, as many as 1 in 5 adults would find life really tough. As well as treating mental disorders, clinical psychologists also work to treat a whole array of other problems. Therefore, clinical psychologists change and improve the quality of life for thousands of people.

The pros and cons of a career as an clinical psychologist

Pros:

  • A career as a clinical psychologist is a diverse career path, where there are lots of different career opportunities available and there is work available in both the public and private sector
  • The work of a clinical psychologist will always involve helping someone and improving their life. This makes it an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling career
  • As well as being rewarding and fulfilling, a career as a clinical psychologist is challenging, stimulating and thrill-seeking
  • There is a growing demand for clinical psychologists, which will create many job opportunities
  • No two days are the same when working as a clinical psychologist, which makes the job interesting and engaging
  • The career also eventually offer reasonably flexible working hours and lots of opportunities to develop skills and progress into different career paths

Cons:

  • Clinical psychologists can often work long hours. These hours can involve lots of  problem solving and emotionally exhausting, draining and challenging work
  • It can take time and commitment to become a clinical psychologist
  • It can be an incredibly dangerous and stressful career as you will have to work with unstable individuals and individuals who don’t want to receive any help. There is always the threat of patient violence
  • There is a lot of responsibility, which can be challenging
  • A career in clinical psychology can also be incredibly draining as you will spend a vast majority of the day listening to, and trying to help patients to deal with, trauma, hardship and interpersonal problems

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of all psychologists is projected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029. Specifically, the employment of clinical psychologists is projected to grow because there is a greater demand for psychological services in a variety of settings (e.g., schools, hospitals, mental health centers). People will continue to have mental health problems, and therefore clinical psychologists will still be in demand to help them. The aging population is also predicted to create a demand, because psychologists will be needed to help deal with the mental and physical changes that occur with age.

Career paths

The career path to becoming a clinical psychologist begins with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, or another related field. You will then need to earn a master’s degree, or equivalent, in clinical psychology. After achieving a masters degree, you can work as a psychological assistant under psychologists who have achieved a masters degree.

To advance your career even further and have the best opportunities, the next career step is to achieve a doctoral degree. You can complete a Ph.D in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. To achieve a PH.D, you will have to pass a number of comprehensive exams and write a dissertation based on original research. Whereas a Psy.D is based on practical work and examinations, opposed to a dissertation. You will most likely need to complete a 1-year internship as part of this program.

Example Job Titles for Clinical Psychologist

Below is a list of common job titles in the Clinical Psychologist field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for all psychologists in 2019 was $80,370. The lowest 10% earned less than $45,380 and the highest 10% earned more than $132,070 per year. Specifically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that clinical psychologists have a median annual salary of $78,200.

The highest paying industry was the government, which had a median annual salary of $96,870. Hospitals were the second highest paying industry, with a median annual salary of $88,480. This was followed by ambulatory healthcare services ($82,250) and elementary and secondary schools ($76,960).

Autonomy and flexibility

Like many careers, autonomy and flexibility increases with the more experience and knowledge you have. Due to the specialist and challenging nature of a lot of the work, most clinical psychologist will be supervised by someone else in the early phases of their career and will therefore have less flexibility and autonomy. However, with experience and further education (Ph.D or Psy.D), clinical psychologists quickly become well educated and well respected. Therefore, they will quickly be able to be in control of their decisions and working schedule.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be a clinical psychologist, based on average annual salary and number of job available, are:

  1. Nevada, where the average annual salary is $107,235
  2. California, where the average annual salary is $107,328
  3. Wyoming, where the average annual salary is $94,856
  4. Utah, where the average annual salary is $103,926
  5. Delaware, where the average annual salary is $92,392

The worst states, according to Zippia, are Virginia, Georgia, Hawaii, Minnesota and Florida

Work environment

Clinical psychology is the largest psychology sector, with 171,500 jobs in 2019. Clinical psychologists may work as part of a healthcare team and collaborate with other healthcare professionals.  Or, they may open their own practice. Either way, clinical psychologists will tend to work inside in well ventilated and heated offices. They typically work in small teams where their co-workers are non-competitive, supportive and are working to achieve the same common goal.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Clinical Psychologist careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Clinical Psychologist career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Clinical Psychologist.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DISC

  • None

Enneagram

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

Personality types

It is very likely that a successful clinical psychologist will be the INFJ personality type. INFJ’s, or ‘the Counselor’ are highly emotionally intelligent. They seek to understand others and bring out the best in each individual, which is key to being a successful clinical psychologist. INFJ’s are also compassionate, dedicated and able to intuit others’ emotions and motivations. All of these things will make a successful clinical psychologist, as they need to be able to relate to and understand their clients.

Accomplishment and mastery

The career path to becoming a clinical psychologist requires commitment and dedication. Therefore, once qualified, clinical psychologists will feel a huge amount of accomplishment and mastery. Throughout their entire career, clinical psychologists will continue to feel accomplished – each time they help someone overcome their issues and improve their life, clinical psychologists will feel hugely rewarded, satisfied and accomplished.

Meaning and contribution

The work of a clinical psychologists is incredibly meaningful: they play a crucial role in improving the lives of many. Without clinical psychologists to develop treatment plans and offer psychological support, thousands of people would suffer with mental health disorders and other issues. Overall, it is undoubtable that the work of a clinical psychologist has incredible meaning and importance to the lives of many.

Life fit

Clinical psychologists in private practice or who are independent consultants often set their own hours, which can offer excellent life fit. But, they may have to work evenings or weekends to accommodate clients. However, other clinical psychologists, such as those employed in hospitals or other healthcare facilities, will have less control over the hours they work and may also have evening or weekend shifts. Most clinical psychologists who work in clinics, government, industry, or schools work full-time schedules during regular business hours.

Who will thrive?

First and foremost, school psychologists must have empathy in order to thrive. The key part of their job is to relate to, and understand, a vastly different variety of people. With this empathy comes the patience to understand the patients needs and put in the time, effort and resources to help them. You must also be able to remain calm in stressful situations and work well under-pressure. Communication skills are also key to thriving as a clinical psychologist, as you will have to work as part of a multidisciplinary team and will therefore need to communicate with lots of other people. Finally, in order to thrive you must be self-motivated and willing to commit to the educational requirements.

Who will struggle?

You will struggle as a clinical psychologist if you are the opposite as to what is previously mentioned. Those who do not have the desire to commit to doctorate degrees should perhaps consider an alternative career path. This is because it is virtually impossible to become a successful clinical psychologist without the degree – you will simply not have the knowledge and skill required. Similarly, those who lack empathy and patience will not be able to work with the client and help them understand what they need and will therefore struggle as a clinical psychologist. On top of all this, the whole career is focused around human interaction. From working as part of a team to interacting daily with clients. Those who do not thrive and enjoy interacting with others will ultimately feel drained and uninspired by the amount of social interaction that occurs as a clinical psychologist.

Requirements

Skills and talents

  • Communication skills are essential as a clinical psychologists will have to establish relationships with their clients and with other healthcare professionals
  • Written communication skills, as clinical psychologists will need to write reports and keep files up to date
  • Problem solving and decision making skills are essential as clinical psychologists will have to make difficult decisions regarding client treatment and progress
  • Leadership and teamwork skills are important clinical psychologists often work closely with others in small teams
  • Observational skills, as clinical psychologists must observe and understand their clients behaviour
  • Integrity, as clinical psychologists must keep patients problems in confidence and patients must be able to trust them

Education

To become a clinical psychologist, you will need a bachelor’s degree in psychology followed by a master’s degree, or equivalent, in clinical psychology. After this, most clinical psychologists will need a doctoral degree. You can complete a Ph.D in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. To achieve a PH.D, you will have to pass a number of comprehensive exams and write a dissertation based on original research. Whereas a Psy.D is based on practical work and examinations, opposed to a dissertation. You will most likely need to complete a 1-year internship as part of this program.

Certificates

In most states, practicing psychology or using the title “psychologist” requires licensure. In all states and the District of Columbia, psychologists who practice independently must be licensed where they work.

Most clinical psychologists need a doctorate in psychology, an internship, and at least 1 to 2 years of supervised professional experience. They also must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Information on specific state requirements can be obtained from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. In many states, licensed psychologists must complete continuing education courses to keep their licenses.

How to Become

Summary

A clinical psychologist is a specialist psychologists. They use psychological therapies and procedures to help clients overcome a range of problems, including depression, anxiety, challenging behaviours, neurological disorders or disabilities.

It is a diverse and varied career, that offers lots of room for specialization and progression. Good clinical psychologists are in increasing demand and this is unlikely to slow down. This means that there are job available in a wide range of locations.

Immediate action

Sounds like something you’re interested in doing? Great!

Well, Like many careers, to get your foot in the door, it is always advisable to seek an internships or relevant work experience whilst completing your undergraduate and/or postgraduate degree. Work experience can even include things such as working for a mental health charity, working in a hospital or school, or being a carer.

Education and learning

To become a clinical psychologist, you will need a bachelor’s degree in psychology followed by a master’s degree, or equivalent, in clinical psychology. After this, most clinical psychologists will need a doctoral degree. You can complete a Ph.D in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree.

Skill development

Clinical psychologists learn many of the skills they need through their education and training. It takes years to develop the skills and knowledge to become a clinical psychologist, but it is worth it in the end!

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Clinical Psychologist careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

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