In the 1920s, scientists studying the work environment at the Western Electric plant in Hawthorne, Illinois discovered productivity increased when management showed concern for the workers. The “Hawthorne Effect” revolutionized theories of worker motivation. It also demonstrated the power of psychology to understand and influence how people feel and act. Almost a century later demand for psychologists continues to grow as people seek to solve problems in every aspect of their daily lives.
Being a Psychologist
Psychologists use scientific methods to study the relationships between people’s thoughts, emotions and behavior. Some conduct research to better understand why people behave as they do. Other psychologists focus on counseling and treating patients to help them solve problems and better manage their lives. As researchers, psychologists carry out observations, interviews and experiments. As therapists, they develop treatment plans and may work with individuals or in a group treatment setting. Psychologists typically specialize as clinical, counseling, school or industrial psychologists.
Growth in Demand
Demand for the services of psychologists is strong and growing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, the BLS expects an above average growth in jobs of 22 percent between 2010 and 2020. Demand is greatest for applied psychologists. Positions for clinical and counseling psychologists who treat patients will grow about 22 percent during this period. Increasing numbers of students and interest in improving educational outcomes will lead to a similar 22 percent gain in school psychologist employment. Other specialties are expected to grow by 18 percent except for industrial psychologist jobs, which are likely to expand by 35 percent.
You need a graduate degree to work as a psychologist. A master’s degree is sufficient for a position as an industrial psychologist or as an assistant working under supervision treating patients or doing research. School psychologists must have a master’s degree specializing in educational psychology, referred to as an Ed.S. Most psychologists in other specialties have doctorates. Those who pursue a research career typically carry out original research and write a dissertation to earn their doctorates. Psychologists planning a career treating patients usually spend at least a year as an intern in graduate school and must pass comprehensive examinations instead of writing a dissertation. Although licensing requirements vary by state and by specialty, most psychologists must be licensed or certified.
Salaries and Employment
As of 2012, the BLS estimated the median annual salary for psychologists was $67,650. The top 10 percent made in excess of $109,340. At the low end, the least-paid 10 percent earned less than $38,450. Primary and secondary schools employed the most psychologists, followed by offices of other health care providers. Family and individual counseling services, state government agencies and outpatient care providers were also major employers of psychologists.