Approximately 181,700 psychologists are employed in the United States. About 29 percent of psychologists are self-employed. Clinical psychologists may teach at colleges or universities. Or, clinical psychologists may work with patients in a private practice or a hospital, where they provide therapy after evaluation through special tests.
Many developmental psychologists teach and research in colleges and universities. Some specialize in programs for children in day care centers, preschools, hospitals, or clinics.
Social psychologists often teach and conduct research in colleges or universities. They also work for agencies of the federal or state government or in private research firms. Some work as consultants. An increasing number of social psychologists work as researchers and personnel managers in such nontraditional settings as advertising agencies, corporations, and architectural and engineering firms.
Counseling psychologists work in college or university counseling centers; they also teach in psychology departments. They may be in private practice. Or they may work at a community health center, a marriage counseling agency, or a federal agency such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Forensic psychologists work for government agencies (including those in law enforcement), hospitals, prisons, drug rehabilitation centers, law firms, community health centers that offer specialized services, and in private practice. Others teach at colleges and universities.
Consumer psychologists study consumer reactions to products or services. They are hired by advertising, promotion, and packaging companies.
Psychometrists may be employed in colleges and universities, testing companies, private research firms, or government agencies.
Educational psychologists may work for test publishing firms devising and standardizing tests of ability, aptitude, personal preferences, attitudes, or characteristics.
Those entering the field with only a bachelor's degree will face strong competition for few jobs. The university career services office or a psychology professor may be able to help such a student find a position assisting a psychologist at a health center or other location. Those with a baccalaureate degree can also pursue careers in business administration, sales, and secondary education. Positions beyond the assistant level, however, will be very difficult to attain. Those graduating from master's or doctorate degree programs will find more employment opportunities. Again, university career services offices may be able to provide these graduates with assistance. In addition, contacts made during an internship may offer job leads. Joining professional organizations and networking with members is also a way to find out about job openings. In addition, these organizations, such as the American Psychological Association, often list job vacancies in their publications for members.
For those who have bachelor's or master's degrees, the first step to professional advancement is to complete a doctorate degree. After that, advancement will depend on the area of psychology in which the person is working. For example, a psychologist teaching at a college or university may advance through the academic ranks from instructor to professor. Some college teachers who enjoy administrative work become department heads.
Psychologists who work for state or federal government agencies may, after considerable experience, be promoted to head a section or department. School psychologists might become directors of pupil personnel services. Industrial psychologists can rise to managerial or administrative positions.
After several years of experience, many psychologists enter private practice or set up their own research or consulting firms.
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Join professional associations to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers membership categories for high school and college students and professionals.
Talk to psychologists about their careers. The APA offers a database of psychologists at https://locator.apa.org.
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