How To Become A Psychologist: A Complete Guide (With Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 1 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you are interested in the mental health field, you might consider a career as a psychologist. It can be rewarding work understanding how people think, behave and interact. To become a psychologist, you need advanced education and clinical training. In this article, we discuss how to become a psychologist, what a psychologist does, what is the average salary, what skills do they require and answer some other common questions about the profession.

How to become a psychologist

A bachelor's degree in psychology is the minimum education required to get started with psychology as a counsellor. Once you enter the field, you can pursue further studies, get specialisation and gain experience to advance your career. The following are the steps on how to become a psychologist:

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1. Earn a bachelor's in Psychology

Bachelor in Psychology (Honours) is offered as part of a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Sciences (B.Sc.) degree, which provides you with a strong foundation for the career. You may choose the bachelor's degree that best suits your interest or study background. A B.A. in psychology can be a good choice if you want to study the liberal arts and allied subjects such as literature, sociology and anthropology. While a B.Sc. in psychology can be the ideal choice if you are interested in biology, chemistry and other science subjects.

Upon completion of a three-year bachelor's degree, you are qualified to work as a counselling psychologist.

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2. Get specialisation with a master's degree

An undergraduate degree is the first step towards becoming a psychologist. But the master's degree helps you choose the specialisation and get a deeper understanding of the field. Both Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.Sc.) offer a two-year-long postgraduate degree with a specialisation in areas such as clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, development psychology, counselling psychology, educational psychology, forensic psychology and social psychology.

After earning your master's degree, you are qualified to work as a psychologist in hospitals, schools, colleges and similar organisations. Apart from that, you can also pursue other psychology professions such as mental health counsellor, youth development manager, alcohol and drug counsellor in various government and private sectors. But if you are looking to start your own private practice, you can pursue a doctorate and get a licence.

3. Pursue a doctorate degree

A doctorate in psychology is the highest-level graduate degree you can get in the field. Getting a doctorate degree opens up opportunities for you to get into research work or start your own private practice. The length of the program can be between three to five years, during which you produce research projects and a dissertation. Typically, after the completion of the Ph.D., students choose to pursue private practice in clinical psychology, a career in research and analysis or become professors in universities.

Related: How To Become A Counselling Psychologist

Tips for becoming a psychologist with a distance education

A distance learning program is another option for becoming a psychologist. This option is preferable if you have do not have a bachelor's degree in psychology or if you want to improve your current career prospect. You can pursue a distance M.A. in psychology from colleges such as IGNU (Indira Gandhi National Open University) or Nalanda Open University. The eligibility criteria for admission is a bachelor's degree from any recognised university. Upon completion of the course, you can gain some practical experience in schools or hospitals and begin your career as a psychologist.

Popular psychology specialisations

Here are some of the popular psychology specialisations and their work profile:

Clinical psychologists

Clinical psychologists assess and treat individuals suffering from mental illness and psychological problems. As a clinical psychologist, you may work in hospitals or private clinics to help your individuals with counselling sessions and treatment plans. This is one of the most common specialisations that psychology students choose.

Social psychologist

Social psychologists study the effect of social influences, perceptions, activities on the behaviour of individuals and groups. With this specialisation, you can work in a variety of industries to understand and influence social behaviour such as market research companies, public relations agencies and corporate organisations. As a social psychologist, you have career opportunities to become a market research professional, consultant, public relations professional or political strategist.

Organisational psychologists

Organisational or industrial psychology is the study of applying the psychology theory to tackle workplace issues and improve productivity. Organisational psychologists often work in large companies, developing management and individuals policies. The key areas of work in this specialisation include employee selection, ergonomics, organisational development, training and development, work-life and performance management.

Educational psychologists

Education psychology is the study of how people learn. It includes examining the pedagogy, teaching methods and learning process. As an educational psychologist, your goal is to understand and implement ways to improve education and academic results. For this, you may work with teachers, students, parents and schools to develop learning programs, implement pedagogy methods, perform psychometric tests and useful learning materials. It is also important to understand that educational psychologists are not the same as school psychologists whose focus is to help individual students with career and education counselling.

Forensic psychologists

Forensic psychology is the specialisation that applies psychology in the forensic and legal fields. As a forensic psychologist, you use your expertise for criminal justice, analyse the mind of the offenders, advise police on criminal psychology and develop correctional programs. The work areas for this specialisation typically involve police departments and forensic laboratories, but you may also work in hospitals, universities & colleges and research centres.

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The average salary of a psychologist

Psychologist salaries may vary depending on a candidate's level of education and experience and their specialisation and any relevant certifications. Employment type, industry and geographical location may also impact potential earnings. The average salary of a psychologist is ₹26,859 per month while that of a clinical psychologist is ₹25,243 per month. Other professionals in psychology, such as behavioural therapists may earn ₹35,690 per month while, therapists and counsellors earn ₹18,363 and ₹17,099 per month, respectively.

FAQS about becoming a psychologist

Here are some commonly asked questions about becoming a psychologist to help you learn more about this career:

What does a psychologist do?

A psychologist is a professional who studies patterns of human thought, emotions and behaviour. They observe and analyse individuals to determine their mental health state and diagnose psychological conditions. Duties for a psychologist might include:

  • Document individual analysis to determine behavioural and emotional patterns.

  • Identify symptoms of various mental health conditions to diagnose individuals.

  • Creating mental health plans tailored to individual needs and mental health goals.

  • Conducting psychotherapy and behavioural counselling sessions with individuals.

  • Collaborating with physicians, nurses and social workers to provide comprehensive care.

  • Perform experiments and administer tests on individuals to identify patterns when in a research setting.

What skills does a psychologist require?

Here are some of the important skills for a psychologist:

  • Communication: It's necessary for psychologists to translate field terminology into easy-to-understand language to ensure the clients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. They can also adapt their communication style to help clients feel more at ease.

  • Interpersonal skills: These professionals use interpersonal skills to promote trust between them and their clients. They also use empathy and active listening to better understand what their clients are going through.

  • Research and analysis: These professionals need a good understanding of how to review and utilise research in their practice and conduct research processes as necessary. It is important to have strong statistical and analytical skills to help them assign symptoms to a specific condition.

  • Problem-solving: It's important to have keen attention to detail and critical thinking to assess clients and determine the most appropriate treatment plan.

What is the work environment for psychologists like?

Psychologists can work in a variety of environments, but most work in office or clinical settings. They may have their own practice or work in one of the following settings:

  • Hospital or health clinic

  • Government agencies

  • Management consulting firms

  • Academia and schools

  • Market research firms

  • Law firms

  • Sports associations

  • Correctional institutions

Those in private practice can typically set their own hours, while those working for others are assigned hours or shifts depending on the employer. Most work is indoors with hours of sitting required. Psychologists can expect to use a computer as well to log notes and conduct research.

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

A psychologist is a mental health professional who focuses on observing and assessing patients and counselling them through their behavioural and cognitive treatments. They can provide an objective diagnosis on a variety of mental health conditions as well. A psychiatrist is a licensed medical doctor who uses psychology as a basis of their medical practice. These healthcare providers may also assess and diagnose patients, but they can also prescribe medication to patients whose treatment plans require it. In addition, these professionals earn their M.D. or D.O

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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