A clinical psychologist is a professional who helps those struggling with mental issues by using therapy and other similar modalities. If you have an interest in learning about the human mind and would like to help others, you may want to consider this career path.
Before you make your final decision though, you should know what a clinical psychologist salary is and what it takes to become one.
What a Clinical Psychologist Is
A clinical psychologist is someone who use his or her knowledge of the human mind to help individuals emotionally, socially, or cognitively. A clinical psychologist observes and analyzes the behaviors provided by a patient. A psychologist evaluates the words and actions of the patient in regards to how it relates to other people. Once they collect and analyze this information, the psychologist uses talk therapy and other therapies to assist.
Part of the duties of a clinical psychologist is to document findings and progress of patients. From this information, the psychologist may change the course of action accordingly to provide the most effective treatment.
What a Clinical Psychologist Does
Psychologists study the cognitive, social, and emotional behaviors, patterns, and processes of people. They perform psychoanalysis on people to help diagnose disorders and other issues. Sometimes, they help people come to terms with their problems and assist them in determining an appropriate course of action.
In some cases, a clinical psychologist must perform labs to identify imbalances that could be causing problems. Sometimes, a psychologist merely listens and help the person learn to improve his or her thought process.
Clinical psychologist may provide therapy for individuals, families, and even groups. In most states, you can’t prescribe medication to patients due to limitations imposed by state laws. The only states you can prescribe medication in include Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Illinois.
Work Environment of Clinical Psychologists
Most clinical psychologists work in health and social services such as in hospitals, community mental health programs, health centers, social service offices, and child and adolescent mental health services. A majority of clinical psychologists work for the National Health Services (NHS), but it’s possible to work in a private practice.
In many cases, clinical psychologists work as a team with other medical professionals including physicians.
Qualities Beneficial to Clinical Psychologists
If you’re considering becoming a clinical psychologist, you should evaluate yourself to determine if you have the qualities to have a successful career and help your patients.
Communication and Listening Skills
You must have communication skills to effectively give your patients therapy and explain their condition to them.
In addition to communication skills, you also need to have listening skills. A portion of your job requires you to listen to what your patients have to say. You must possess observation skills as well to evaluate your patients’ behaviors and attitude. For instance, you have to watch your patients’ facial expressions and body motions to help you understand their feelings and potential reasons why.
Analytical and Problem-Solving Skills
Clinical psychologists require analytical skills in order to interpret the patients’ behaviors and diagnose problems. Additionally, as a psychologist, you must use your observations to plan a treatment.
Integrity and People Skills
No matter what you see or hear from patients, you must always keep their personal information to yourself, which means integrity is a necessity.
Because much of your job entails working with people including patients, psychologists, and other medical professionals, you must have interpersonal skills.
In addition to all of these skills, patience is a requirement. Your patients aren’t going to heal overnight, so you must have patience since results are often slow.
Your patients come into the office and often have abnormal behaviors. You have to have a nonjudgmental personality, so patients don’t feel self-conscious and are willing to share with you. You can’t criticize, or your patients won’t trust you or share their true personal thoughts and behaviors.
How to Become a Clinical Psychologist
Undergraduate Degree in Psychology
First, you earn an undergraduate degree in psychology, which takes four years unless you take an accelerated course or can create your own schedule. At this point, you don’t have to specialize because you can complete a generalized psychology program.
After you complete both your associate’s degree and your bachelor’s, you must enter into a master’s degree program in psychology. Generally, a master’s degree program takes two to three years to complete.
Master’s Degree in Psychology
Although you can specialize in a particular area of psychology, you can also choose between a master of arts in psychology or a master of science in psychology. A master of arts degree focuses on the liberal arts aspect of psychology while the master of science degree focuses on research and the science aspect of the mind.
In some cases, you have the opportunity to work under the supervision of a psychologist with a doctorate as a psychological assistant. You’ll either work in a research, clinical, or counseling setting.
Doctorate in Psychology
After you finish your master’s degree program, you must then complete a doctor of psychology degree. You want to choose this degree as opposed to a Ph.D. because it’s a clinical degree. Typically, the degree program focuses on practical work. Instead of writing a dissertation, you complete examinations.
While completing your doctor of psychology degree, you usually complete a one-year internship to gain experience. Sometimes, your internship lasts longer depending on the state you live in.
Licensure You Need to Become a Clinical Psychologist
In almost all states and even the District of Columbia, you need a license to practice as a clinical psychologist. In every state and the District of Columbia, you need a license to have your own practice or practice as a psychologist in an office.
Although the laws regarding licensure vary from state to state, clinical psychologists must complete a doctorate program in psychology and then an internship. Before you can practice on your own, you must undergo at least one to two years of experience working underneath a professional psychologist.
In order to practice as a clinical psychologist and make a clinical psychologist salary, you must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
Depending on the state you live in, as you complete your continuing education courses, you may need to complete continuing education courses. These course education you on the latest information regarding your field.
If you want to know about specific state requirements, you can visit the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
Clinical Psychologist Salary in the United States
If you become a clinical psychologist, you obviously want to know how much the average clinical psychologist salary is in the United States to determine if it’s a career for you.
Average Clinical Psychologist Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed the mean annual clinical psychologist salary in the United States was $93,440 as of May 2017. This figure is equivalent to $44.92 per hour.
The highest earners in this field made an average salary of $126,140 per year, which is the same as $60.64 per hour. On the other hand, the bottom percentile of earners made $40,210 per year or $19.33 per hour.
State Statistics About Clinical Psychologist Salary
The states that have the most jobs include California, Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, and Maryland. However, of those states, only Maryland and California make the list of states with the highest clinical psychologist salary. On average, psychologists in Maryland make $113,900 per year or $54.76 per hour. Clinical psychologists in California make an average of $109,600 per year or $52.69 per hour.
Kansas, Washington, and Alaska make the list of states with the highest salary as well. As a clinical psychologist in Kansas, individuals make an average of $104,200 per year or $50.10 per hour. In Washington, the average salary is $48.64 per hour or $101,180 per year. Those in Alaska make an average of $46.95 per hour or $97,650 per year.
Some of the states with the highest clinical psychologist salary also have the metropolitan areas with the highest salaries. For example, in Los Angeles, California, a psychologist earns an average salary of $141,890 per year, which is the same as $68.22 per hour. Psychologists who work in Baltimore, Maryland make an average of $121,670 per year or $58.50 per hour.
Job Outlook for Clinical Psychologists
If the job specifications and clinical psychologist salary are appealing to you, it’s possible for you to find a job after graduate school since the BLS projects the job opportunities will grow. In fact, the statistics indicate the number of jobs for clinical psychologists will grow by 14 percent from 2016 to 2026. This growth rate is higher than the average.
Based on the responsibilities and average clinical psychology salary, becoming a clinical psychologist could mean a rewarding future for you. However, you have a desire and dedication to become one since the education and training alone take more than eight years.