Are you fascinated by people's behavior? Are you curious about what motivates people to do what they do and act as they do? Then a career as a psychologist, a health care professional who studies human behavior and the mind, may prove to be a satisfying choice. Here's how to take the first steps in this career:
The path to becoming a psychologist is a long road that involves first obtaining both a bachelor's and a master's degree, preferably from an institution approved by the American Psychological Association (APA). Most budding psychologists make psychology their major and take as many courses involving human behavior and the mind as possible, in addition to coursework in the sciences and mathematics which helps them becomes analytical thinkers. Reading the works of Sigmund Freud, considered the father of psychoanalysis, is recommended, as is polishing your language, written and communication skills, all traits needed in a successful psychologist practice.
Then graduate work toward a Ph. D in psychology or Psy.D., doctorate in psychology is mandatory in order to take state licensing exams in order to legally function as a psychologist. If you want to pursue a position in research, teaching or counseling, a Ph.D is the classic doctorate necessary to becoming a psychologist. The Psy.D. degree, a newer degree offered by some institutions, will also enable you to be licensed to diagnose and treat mental disorders in clinical settings and is often the degree pursued by individuals wishing to practice in a clinical or school setting. Unlike a psychiatrist who is also a medical doctor, psychologists may not prescribe medications to patients.
Part of the process of getting a doctoral degree will involve practical experience as a psychology intern, supervised by those already licensed and practicing in the field. Psychoanalysis, the investigation of the subconscious mind, will be part of the curriculum, so expect to undergo therapy sessions as part of your academic studies.
Once you receive your degree and successfully pass the National Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), you must also make the necessary applications to be licensed by your state to practice. You may choose to work at the college or university level in teaching or research. You may decide to specialize in a certain niche of the population, such as child psychology or criminal psychology. You may want to cater to high fee clients in a private practice, or work in a public mental health office for lower-income patients. You may decide to work on the corporate level in human resources.
The study required to become a psychologist requires time, dedication and strong motivation. But if the human mind and its motivation are endlessly fascinating to you, a career as a psychologist is worth the investment.