A career as a psychologist requires a lot of specialized education and training. License and qualifying education all takes place at the graduate level. However, the journey begins a good deal earlier.
Take a college prep curriculum in high school. Do some career exploration.
Undergraduates often have the opportunity to take survey courses in different sub-specialties. This can help with program selection.
The American Psychological Association (APA) notes that getting some research experience at the undergraduate level can help a student make the cut at the graduate level.
Students have the option of joining professional organizations at the student stage. One option is a college-based psychology association. Some students join the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) as undergraduates.
Select a program. There are many types of psychology program offered at the graduate level. Healthcare related fields include clinical psychology, counseling psychology, and school psychology. There are additional sub-specialties like health psychology and pediatric or psychology.
The PsyD offers solid preparation for practitioner and generally takes a little less time to complete. It requires less research - but this has its downsides. Many PhD candidates receive funding for their work; PsyD students are more likely to graduate with educational debt.
The American Psychological Association notes that for some students, it is more realistic to apply first to a master’s program. The master’s can be a terminal degree for some specialties, for example, industrial/ organizational psychology. In many cases, though, a master’s program is a stepping stone toward a doctoral degree. (Students who do not go on for a doctoral degree typically find jobs in fields like human services and human resources, but are not actually psychologists. Some counseling psychology graduates become counselors.)
Complete degree requirements. Most doctoral level psychologists spend at least four years completing their graduate education. They will take practicum courses that begin to give them experience in the field - and, in some cases, references.
Some students choose to join APA divisions related to their practice area.
Students in healthcare-related fields do a formal internship that is one full-time year or two part-time years. They go through a matching process through the APA and/or the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers. Internships can be quite competitive. A student who has done practicum rotations is a particular specialty will have an easier time finding an internship in that field.
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