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Top 5 Most Rewarding Careers in Psychology

As the ultimate helping profession, the potential rewards in the field of psychology are numerous. The field overall is poised for satisfaction given that it provides ample opportunity for professionals to be substantially rewarded monetarily as well as emotionally and mentally. The fields that have an effective combination of all three rewards are typically thought of as the most satisfying. Since psychology is an ever-evolving field, it also requires continuing education in order for practitioners to stay relevant and informed in their practice. It is therefore, an intellectually stimulating field that offers learning opportunities throughout the career span.

School Psychologist

Working with children in any field usually presents a healthy amount of challenges; however, the rewards are many. As a school psychologist, you are in a position to have a significant impact on a child’s life especially at a period of their life where it is likely that you are the only person they may trust. It is a role that comes with great responsibility and one that needs to be tactfully managed, particularly when working with minors, but helping a child through a difficult time can be very fulfilling. With a median annual salary of $68,900 [2014] as reported by One Net, combined with helping students manage their mental health in order to realize their bright potential, this can be a very rewarding career indeed.

Organizational/Industrial Psychologist

If you have an interest in psychology and a flare for a business environment (and lifestyle) then there are many rewarding aspects of becoming an organizational psychologist. In this specialty, you’ll typically work as a strategist in a large corporation advising on human resources, management, marketing strategy and employee performance improvement. If you thrive in fast-paced, results-driven environments with a lot of interpersonal interaction, then this is a career for you. For professionals who enjoy knowing outcomes, you’ll find those rewards and positive feedback in this specialty. Additionally, organizational psychologist is the fastest-growing occupation projected for the period of 2012-2022 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and has one of the higher salaries in the field of psychology with a median annual salary of $76,950 [2014] as reported by One Net.

Military Psychologist

Those that make the ultimate sacrifice require especially dedicated individuals to provide the specialized knowledge and sensitivity for this patient population and their families. The rewards here are plentiful as helping to heal the wounds of soldiers and their families make you an extension of that soldier and their sacrifice. Salaries are competitive and vary by rank and years experience in the military.

Forensic Psychologist

Popularized by shows like CSI and Criminal Minds, the field of forensic psychology has become a major draw for professionals looking to specialize. This area holds a certain glamour to it given the cinematic portrayals of characters as forensic psychologists. Dramatic portrayals aside however, this is a field that does in fact offer intrigue, potential for drama and a dynamic work environment which can be very rewarding to many. Some forensic psychologists may work in prisons and others may deal directly with the courts during proceedings. Forensic psychologists are also in a good position for substantial compensation. In addition to base salaries if employed at a facility, which can be relatively modest but range from approximately $40,000 – $100,000 annually, there are other avenues for financial gain. Forensic psychologists are considered field experts and are often called upon to complete heavily weighted assessments and testimony for court proceedings which can offer considerable payments the further established they are in the field.

Psychology Professor

Perhaps one of the most rewarding vocations across all industries is that of a teacher. The ability to share your skills and knowledge to help others effectively help others carries a cycle of rewarding feedback. A career as a professor has other benefits as well. Tenured faculty enjoy job security along with ample time to pursue other avenues of interest, whether they be private practice, research/publication of a study, or even a sabbatical. Financially, this can be ideal as well. In a recent report put out by salary.com in April 2015, psychology professors had a median salary of $90,654. Overall, if work-life balance and financial security are top priorities for you, then a career in academia may be a good option.

How to Pave Your Way to a Career in Psychology

The Early Years

The road to a career in psychology can be challenging, exciting and highly rewarding. As with most endeavors, early planning is always recommended. If you have the option of starting early, you’ll want to take advantage of any psychology courses that may be available to you at your high school. While not a standard part of the curriculum or elective course offerings at the high school level, there is a growing trend that is leading more and more schools to adopt it. Additionally, many of the life sciences such as chemistry, biology and anatomy are also pivotal in providing a strong foundation for a career in psychology. Courses in Early Childhood Development can also aid in helping you to learn and apply course work in the stages of human development, a prevalent component of foundations in psychology. Part of both the appeal and challenge of a career in psychology is the more you know about many areas of study, the more effective you are likely to be as a psychologist. History, culture, religion and philosophy can all play significant roles in this field and inform your practice.

College-Bound

You’ll want to research different undergraduate programs and ensure they offer psychology as a major and review the requisite curriculum. If you know of a niche within the field that you’d like to specialize in, it is advisable to declare a minor as well. Some common minors that coincide with psychology majors are criminal justice, sociology, anthropology and business administration. Another factor to consider when selecting a school is whether the program offers field internships or co-op programs that will allow you to gain experience and exposure in the field while you’re still in school. An undergraduate degree with relevant experience can help you to stand out and be a more attractive candidate to graduate programs and employers. Working as a Research Assistant during your junior or senior year could be a great way to round out your undergraduate experience and help you to build a network. Assisting in a research study that gets published is a productive way to begin a successful career in psychology.

Graduate School

The decision and timing of graduate school enrollment is contingent upon you and your circumstances at the time. In a field like psychology, however, a graduate degree is required in order to work in almost any capacity within the field; therefore, it is something you will want to consider. Prior to deciding whether it’s best to enroll immediately after completing your undergraduate degree or wait, you may want to consider finances, job market projections, and your field experience. If you completed any experiential education during undergraduate and you are able to afford graduate school then it is recommended that you enroll right away. On the other hand, if you do not have financial access or aide available to you and/or you haven’t had some field experience, it may be a wiser decision to obtain relevant employment first and work to finance your plans while gaining valuable experience. The latter option is important to think about because having real-world experience to apply your graduate learning to will enable to have a more enriched, learning experience.

  • Master’s Level: A master’s degree is not always required to enter into a doctoral program; however, in some instances it can help increase your likelihood of acceptance. Many do skip a master’s and apply directly to doctoral programs from undergraduate programs. If you finished your undergraduate degree in psychology with a superior academic record, received reputable scores on the GRE’s, Psychology GRE’s and/or ACT exams and have practical field experience, you may want to give yourself the opportunity to go right into a Doctoral program if that is your goal. If pursuing a master’s, there are different paths you can take depending on your aspirations. Obtaining your degree will typically require a Master’s level thesis as well as supervised practicum prior to degree award.
    • Masters in Psychology: for research, hospitals, assessments
    • Masters in Social Work: for agency social-services, management, individual therapy, group therapy, substance abuse counseling, guidance counselor
    • Masters in Mental Health Counseling: individual therapy, group therapy, private practice
  • Doctoral Level: A doctorate degree is recommended for anyone who intends to become a licensed psychologist who completes assessments, diagnostics and treatment of patients in a variety of settings. There are two primary degrees with various specialties, that prepare you for this career. In the past, the two were highly distinguishable, however more recently there is less differentiation and more balance, yet each has a lean. Both degrees usually require completion and approval of a dissertation as well as a residency.
    • Ph.D [Doctor of Philosophy]: for research and academia
    • Psy.D [Doctor of Psychology]: for practice

Licensure

In order to be an independent, practicing psychologist In the United States, Licensure is required, however specifications regarding necessary steps towards licensure can vary by state. You can expect that a State Licensing Board will review your education and experience to determine eligibility to sit for the licensing exam. Typically you’ll be required to have completed a doctoral degree in a field related to psychology along with a minimum of two years supervised field experience. The Board will complete a review of the full application and if approved, will grant permission to sit for the licensing exam. Pass the exam and you should have what you need to start a successful career in psychology.

How to Harness Your Psychology Major in Corporate Culture

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines psychology as: “the study of the mind and behavior. The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience – from the function of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every conceivable setting from scientific research centers to mental healthcare services, ‘the understanding of behavior’ is the enterprise of psychologists.” With this as the guiding principal to the study of psychology, it is easy to parlay a psychology major into corporate culture successfully. The beauty of psychology is that it is in everything and anything that involves human interaction, motivation and behavior. There is a very significant role for psychology in corporate culture both formally and informally.

Informal: where having a psychology degree and background will aid in improving the performance of certain roles within a corporate environment.
Manager and Human Resources Professional

First of all, any management position can potentially benefit from an education in psychology. Managers have the challenging task of motivating others to perform to certain, defined standards. This can be difficult with even the most positive, motivated team. Add a mixture of personality types and tight deadlines and managers can really have their work cut out for them. A major component of the study of psychology is understanding what motivates human behavior. For a manager in a corporate environment, or someone who is looking to secure this type of position, a psychology degree can definitely provide you the ‘soft-skills’ necessary to be a manager that gets results. Think back to Psych 101 and the concepts of positive reinforcement vs. negative reinforcement, incentives, rewards, conditioning, the role of memory and communication. It is safe to assert that a manager who has a good understanding of human behavior and motivation will likely be a more effective manager, thus verifying a significant overlap of foundational psychology with corporate management.

Another ideal bridge between a psychology background and corporate culture can be found in human resources, talent acquisition and recruiting. Matching the right person with the right role within in a company is a skill, one that requires an ability to read people well, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and draw hypotheses about what their potential can be. Moreover, HR professionals often need to anticipate how different people will work together. An understanding of group dynamics, teams, and interpersonal communications is another major skill set relevant to corporate culture that is taught and practiced in psychology.

Formal: what a psychology professional is in a corporate culture.
Organizational/Industrial Psychologist

Psychology is such a major player in the workplace across all industries, that a whole field was created and dedicated to the study and science of the workplace. Organizational Psychology, also known as Industrial Psychology, is a relatively new offshoot within the field but has gained in popularity quickly and continues to grow. Organizational Psychologists are serving pivotal roles within large corporations advising their human resources, management and marketing strategies resulting in lucrative and productive outcomes. Organizational Psychologists function as strategists within a company and their value is gaining in recognition. BLS reports that Organizational Psychologists are the fastest growing occupation for the projected period of 2012 – 2022 across fields. Combine the projected growth with a median pay of $83,580/annually, and transitioning into a corporate culture as an Organizational Psychologist can be an advisable next step.

A Beginner’s Guide to Networking in the Psychology Industry

Play the long-game by employing the 3 C’s

Connect

The key to networking is to start early and always follow-through. One of the benefits about the field of psychology is that there are many ways to take advantage of networking opportunities. As a student, you’ll want to network with other students, your professors and your advisors. This could mean collaborating with another student on a special project or area of interest you both share to help establish yourselves as ‘colleagues.’ Attend your professor’s office hours and ask for recommendations for additional sources of information to pursue about class topics; you’ll make an impression. Networking is about the 3 C’s, connecting, collaborating and cultivating the relationship.

Collaborate

Too many make the mistake of attempting to network by asking for favors or referrals first. To the contrary, the best way to network is to offer something to the other person. This will show them that you are not afraid to take initiative and will help them to remember you and want to collaborate with you in the future. When meeting them, pick their brain about areas of the field they are interested in or passionate about. If there are shared interests, this can help reinforce the connection. If there are differing interests, then take advantage of openings to point out complementary ways to combine areas for potential collaboration.

Cultivate

When a connection provides you with their contact information, use it! This is the follow-through part that is so vital to creating and expanding your network. Go ahead and shoot them an email within a few days of your meeting to ‘remind’ them that it was nice having met them. You may even want to take it a step further and send a link to a relevant current event or article that you think they’ll find interesting or that is perhaps related to a topic you two had discussed during your initial meeting. Do not email them the next day and ask for a favor.
The best method is to establish a relationship first, offer something of yourself second, ask for support third. This is why starting early in your academic career is an important precursor to your professional career. The best methods require that you take time to cultivate your network and lay the ground work before you “need” anything. For example, if you start networking as a freshman, then when you need a recommendation letter for graduate school as a senior, you’ll likely have no problem securing several. Not only will you have a network of mentors who are willing to recommend you for graduate school, but these individuals will actually know you and have something meaningful to say about you because you cultivated that relationship over the years.

Where to Connect

If you’re still in school, you can join psychology clubs, participate in studies, and sign up to be a Research Assistant. These opportunities will serve to put you in more social environments with like-minded individuals and aid in relationship building that is outside the typical academic or professional environment. Also as a student or a professional, volunteering is a great way to get involved in your community network, which can be a good place to start your path.
Once you’re working in the field, you’ll want to join the many professional psychological associations that have vast networks of members. These often provide directories of other members as well as hosting large and small networking events that you can attend. The field of psychology is largely based on referrals and recommendations, so it is important to take pointed steps to build your network early, let people know who you are and what you’d like to do in your career. Then you need to stay in touch. Reach out, have lunch or coffee, brainstorm ideas looking for opportunities to collaborate. Another resource would be to subscribe to newsletter publications and follow current events in the field, attend symposiums, conferences and the like. These types of events are designed for networking, so you’ll want to take advantage, and attend when possible.

5 Progressive In-Demand Fields for Therapists

Gone are the days of Freudian couches and shrinking heads. While there is still substantial psychoanalytic practice in the mental health community, in more recent years, there’s been a shift from traditional analysis and interpretation towards more holistic wellness and treatment of the mind, body and spirit. In addition to these influences, the mental health field is also incorporating more evidenced-based treatments that can be considered a more cost-effective treatment model. If you’re looking to make your foray into the field of psychology, you may want to consider a specialty field that is on the rise.

Mental Health Counseling [MHC]

The MHC degree started to gain in popularity as an alternative to an MSW as the roles for social workers began to shift away from individual therapy and private practice and more towards agency-based employment. Those seeking to establish their own practice and have individual clients were opting to pursue the lesser known MHC degree given that the curriculum was more focused on clinical diagnosis and treatment. Now, however, MHC’s are in high-demand in response to industry changes that came about from the Affordable Care Act which resulted in more insured patients. More coverage translated to psychologists in private practice raising their rates, effectively leaving a dearth of affordable mental health treatment. Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) are a more affordable alternative for both the insured and uninsured which means LMHCs are less costly for insurance companies, as well, and are therefore a preferable option. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS], this trend is projected to lead to a 28.5 percent growth in Mental Health Counselors for the period of 2012-2022 as compared to approximately 11 percent average labor market growth.

Organizational/Industrial Psychology

The industry has seen an overwhelming rise in the specialized field of organizational psychology. A niche specialty with wide application and opportunity for lucrative results, this field is attracting many students and current professionals. At the core of any psychological study or practice is an understanding of human behavior and motivation. Harnessing this knowledge in the workplace and applying the principals of psychology to marketing outcomes, human resources, management and employee performance improvement initiatives can have profound effects on a company’s results. BLS reports that Organizational Psychologists are the number one fastest growing occupation for the projected period of 2012 – 2022 with a 53% growth rate. Combining psychology with increasing profit margins can be a highly valuable skill set and corporations have caught on to this idea leading to a significant demand for these professionals.

Expressive Therapies

Primarily art therapy and music therapy (can also include dance, writing, drama and horticulture therapy), this specialized field has maintained consistent growth in recent years. Traditionally, expressive therapists would aid the creative process for their patients; however, more recently there has been a shift in their methods and function. No longer just for the creatively blocked, the focus in this specialty is on the process of creation and how that supports mental health. The end game is not necessarily the finished piece, but rather the healing that takes place through the creative, expressive process that brings what’s inside out.

Nutrition Therapy

The progressive idea of whole-body psychology leads the demand for the last two growing fields for therapists. With the vilification of processed food and the onset of sustainable living and organic eating, food has taken on a primary role in mental illness when addressing ‘overall wellness,’ which inarguably influences mental health. Robert Hedaya, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center asserts that nutrition is an “incredibly effective way to manage mental illness.” There is a cross-section of modalities trending now that are dual licensures for MHCs/MSWs with RDs and Certified Nutritionists.

Yoga/Meditation/Mindfulness

Studies have shown that the mind-body connection is a powerful one and Western medicine is starting to embrace this as more standard practice. Yoga and meditation are being prescribed by mental health and medical professionals to serve as alternative or complementary treatments for various afflictions including but not limited to: chronic illness or pain, depression, anxiety, respiratory illness, stress, trauma, digestive disorders and autoimmune disease. With the rise in scholarly support of its effectiveness, more therapists are taking advantage of specialized yoga certification trainings in order to incorporate yoga into their therapeutic treatment. Others are pursuing training as a Mindfulness Coach, offering another integrative niche where they practice mindfulness during therapy sessions with their patients.