Psychology can be an interesting, engaging, and rewarding career path for those who’ve got the aptitude for it. It might be for you if you find yourself drawn to the mental health field or see yourself happy in a position where you can study human behavior, thoughts, and interactions.
Mental health issues, intrapersonal conflicts, interpersonal conflicts, substance abuse, and phobias are some of what psychologists help people through. There are many more paths a psychology career could take. But most begin with the same basic steps.
This article will discuss the six main steps to building a career in psychology.
Building A Foundation
Psychologists study human behavior and the mind—and most career paths lead to doing it to either help a specific client in their life, contribute towards the global pool of psychological research, or both. But every psychologist in every specialization starts their degree with the same basic steps.
- Pursue A Bachelor’s Degree
A bachelor’s degree is the first and most basic requirement you must fulfill to build a career within the field. Usually, students get a degree in psychology. But you might be able to start with a similar mental-health-related major and do psychology in graduate school, depending on your location and institution.
A bachelor of arts or bachelor of science (depending on the institution) in psychology usually includes general, developmental, and experimental psychology; and statistics. These courses are often partnered with others throughout the humanities and other health-related fields, like gender studies or biology.
- Try To Gain Experience During Undergrad
More specifically, volunteering at organizations, contributing to research projects, or participating in internships. Your time as an undergrad is an opportune moment to explore your options more before you choose a specialization, and there are psychology internship advantages.
Finding places where you can participate in various specializations lets you discover what you do or don’t like. Also, you’ll meet more experienced psychologists. You could learn from their experiences or even build connections that may help your future career.
After Bachelors: Work, Research, Specialize
After getting your degree, you typically have two choices: find a job with your existing qualifications or attend graduate school. There’s no singular correct path, and everyone has different goals and circumstances.
- Start Working (Not For Everyone)
Most bachelor’s degrees in psychology leave you ready for several job opportunities, although they may not all be ‘psychology career’ jobs. Still, it’s a time to experience a working environment and a fulfilling job. Examples of jobs include market research analyst, real estate agent, technical writer, human resources, and graduate recruitment counselor.
This is a great option for aspiring psychologists who aren’t quite sure where to specialize or if they wish to continue in psychology. You may also want to save money for graduate school (because that can be expensive) before studying further.
- Specialize With A Master’s Degree
Earning a master’s degree with a specialization is essential if you ever want to work as a counselor or psychologist. This rule technically depends on where you live and the laws in your area, so do your research. In most countries, a master’s degree is the minimum requirement for building a career related to psychology.
Earning a master’s degree usually takes two years, and you can choose from many specializations. Examples include clinical psychology, development psychology, forensic psychology, cognitive psychology, counseling psychology, health psychology, and environmental psychology.
Whether you can practice psychology depends on your specialization and the laws wherever you live. It’s advisable to research what a master’s in your field of interest affords you before committing.
The Final Steps
You’ve earned your master’s degree with a specialization in your chosen field. You’ve experienced some work and contributed to research along the way. Now what? Well, many students decide to finish their studies at the highest qualification, opening more career paths.
- Pursue A Doctorate
A doctorate in psychology is the highest degree of education you can achieve in the field. It may also be required to build the career you want, depending on the specific area in which you wish to specialize.
Many doctoral students then decide to open their own practice, go on to conduct research in their area of interest, or get involved in education at higher institutions.
- Get Licensed In Your Field/Specialization
Most countries require you to meet specific requirements and earn some level of license before you can legally begin practicing. If you’re in the US, it usually varies between states. Additionally, you might be required to take national exams.
Remember that not every specialization requires you to get a license, like experimental psychology (in many cases). But a license may be a requirement to begin your own practice or work in certain institutions.
Building a career in psychology is a long journey, often spanning years. Your career could take many paths, and there are various areas of specialty to choose from, each with different requirements. Start by earning a bachelor’s, then a master’s in your chosen field. If needed (or wanted), get a doctorate and become a licensed practitioner. And finally, remember to gain some experience—through work, volunteering, research, and internships—along the way.