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How to Prepare for a Career in Psychology

Looking to becoming a Psychologist?  Here are 5 of the critical steps as you prepare for your career in the field of psychology.   This list was adapted from the article How To Become A Psychologist

1. Preparation to become a psychologist begins before formal educational pursuits. Individuals who possess innate qualities of being great communicators with non-judgmental listening skills combined with sympathetic insight make great psychologists. A studious, inquisitive nature is also a must. Participating in high school courses like: psychology, health, biology, English, and computer science prepares students for future educational programs to meet career goals.

2. Attaining an associates or bachelors degree in psychology opens educational and career opportunities. A two year associates degree program in psychology offers individuals a basic understanding of fundamental and general principles. Courses in English, public speaking, communications, psychological principles, mathematics, general psychology, developmental psychology, brain and behavior, psychology of learning and memory, social psychology, cognitive psychology, social and behavioral sciences, and humanities provide a basic understanding of how the human mind operates as well as the ability to recognize mental illness. Graduates from a two year program can gain entry level employment or advance studies to bachelor degree programs. A bachelor degree program allows students a greater understanding of human behavior, emotion, and mental illness. Bachelor degree courses in the field of psychology include: statistics, counseling methods, legal and ethical issues, interpersonal skills, social analysis, abnormal psychology, and group work in theory and practice. Students who complete bachelor degree programs may work entry level case workers or continue to advanced degree programs. 

3. A masters degree program in psychology allows students to specialize training within one of many fields of psychology in a variety of settings including: schools, private practices, industry, government, research, or business. Courses in family intervention, lifespan theories, psychopharmacology, counseling and communication, ethnic counseling, career counseling, individual therapy, ethics and law, child and adolescent therapy psychological assessment, family therapy, group therapy, and diagnosis and treatment psychopathology provides students with the knowledge needed for internship endeavors. Students then complete a masters thesis and continue on to clinical experience. A year long internship under the supervision of a licensed and trained psychologist within a mental health facility allows students the opportunity to work as psychological assistants or to pursue doctoral degree programs.

4. A doctoral degree program qualifies students to become experts in the field of psychology. A doctoral degree program consists of coursework based upon practical and theoretical studies, clinical experience, and completion of a publishable dissertation. Courses concentrate on specializations within psychology including human development, theories of personality, social psychology, cognitive psychology, and quantitative research. Upon completion of an internship under the supervision of a psychologist, students must fulfill licensing requirements and write a dissertation. A candidate is then qualified to work as a psychologist.

5. Licensing and certification is administered by the American Psychological Association as determined by state boards or facility regulations. Additional certification is offered through the American Board of Professional Psychology to advance a candidates' professional goals. Most states determine certification and licensing processes to field of specialization, training background, and clinical experience. Most doctoral candidates must pass oral, written and essay examinations to qualify for licensing as well as meet continuing education requirements for license renewal.

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