Psychologist assistants are basically the physician assistants of the psychology community. But unlike PAs, who go to school to practice medicine under the license of a physician, psychological assistants are usually in the process of becoming licensed psychologists. It’s often a job for clinicians who’ve yet to finish their dissertation or pass their licensing exam. In some organizations, it may even be the title given to doctoral students in internships, which are instead referred to as assistantships.
Limited Job Duties
Generally, psychologist assistants assist psychologists in treating patients. They provide limited psychological services and work under close supervision, administering and scoring psychological tests, screening and evaluating patients and assisting in diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Because most psychologist assistants are training to become psychologists, they also participate in counseling sessions, but in an observational capacity. Patients must agree to their presence and sign a release, which allows the assistant to view confidential patient information. Depending on the employer, psychologist assistants may develop psycho-educational classes for family members, administer specialized therapeutic procedures and provide outpatient counseling to couples, families and groups.
Qualifications and Prerequisites
Qualifications vary by state. In California, for example, psychologist assistants need at least a master’s degree in psychology, education with an emphasis in psychology or education with an emphasis in counseling psychology. They must also hold a license as a psychologist assistant. In Delaware, assistants must hold a doctoral degree in preparation to become a psychologist, as well as 450 hours of supervised clinical practice. Tennessee has similar guidelines governing psychological assistants, but candidates must become certified in the field.
Commonly Required Skills
While most psychological assistants are in training to become psychologists, employers typically seek candidates with specific skill sets. These skills usually come through schooling and include both projective and nonprojective testing, behavioral research and psychological diagnoses. An understanding of personality theories and the dynamics of behavior are also essential.
Salaries for Assistants
In 2012, the average physician assistant earned $92,460 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though psychologist assistants follow somewhat similar educational paths, salaries are often less. In fact, the average was closer to $70,000 a year, reports Indeed, a national job seekers website.