What You Should Know About Becoming A Psychologist

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Psychology is an interesting career with a vast array of exciting specialties. The steps below outline the basic process required to enter this profession.

First of all it is important to know that there are several different types of psychologists and the educational and licensing requirements vary considerably depending on which specialty area you are interested in. Some of the job paths include forensic psychology, school psychology, sports psychology and industrial-organizational psychology among others. Moreover, different states have different laws pertaining to practicing psychologists. It is important to contact your state to ascertain the specific laws regulating the use of the title of psychologist in that particular state.

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Psychology is not a course commonly offered at most high schools. Today however, increasing numbers are beginning to offer AP Psychology classes. If your high school does offer some sort of psychology course, it is a good idea to add this class to your schedule. Beyond science and math classes, taking courses in philosophy, language, writing, history and religion can also be beneficial.

Admission into university can be competitive, so it is important to have a strong GPA and great teacher references.

Once you have been accepted to the university, it is time to begin studying psychology in earnest. As you begin to learn more about this field, you are likely to find that your interests shift towards a particular specialty aspect, which could be either cognitive, biological or developmental psychology. If you find that particular area appeals to you more than the others, consider amending your course plan to include more elective classes in that particular subject area.

Some things that could help you as a psychology undergraduate student include:

  • Seeking out research opportunities and participating in experiments whenever possible.
  • Maintaining a high GPA.
  • Take the Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE). Most graduate programs require this as a qualifying test for granting admission.
  • Developing good relationships with your instructors increases your chances of getting glowing letters of recommendation for your grad school applications.
  • Start checking out graduate programs early. Knowing the requirements of the graduate school you wish to apply to can ensure that you make the most of your undergraduate years.

The next big question you need to ask yourself is what type of graduate degree you plan to earn – Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. The Ph.D. degree tends to focus more on experimental methods and research. The Psy.D. degree focuses more on clinical work.

You will also be required to complete an internship in a clinical setting. This is an excellent opportunity to gain practical experience in your field and learn more about where you would like to work after completing all of your educational and training requirements.

After you’ve completed the educational requirements, you have to obtain a license to practice. The specific requirements for licensing are different in different states so you will need to check the law in the area where you are planning to practice. In many cases, you may also need to complete a specific period of supervised residency work after earning your graduate degree. 

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