Psychologist Overview

Psychologists study the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social aspects of behavior, and provide mental health care in hospitals, clinics, schools, and private practices. They conduct laboratory experiments and perform intelligence, performance, personality, and aptitude tests. Psychologists obtain information through surveys, questionnaires, interviews, observation, and clinical studies.

There are many different types of psychologists, including the following:

  • Clinical psychologists
  • Counseling psychologists
  • Developmental psychologists
  • Industrial-organizational psychologists
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Research psychologists
  • School psychologists

Clinical psychology is the most common subspecialty. Clinical psychologists work in hospitals, private practices, and clinics. They help patients deal with illnesses (e.g., stroke, chronic pain), injuries (e.g., spinal cord injury), and personal crises (e.g., divorce, death of a loved one).

Counseling psychologists assist patients in coping with every day living. They advise patients based on various test results and interviews, and often work in university counseling centers, hospitals, and in private practice.

Developmental psychologists specialize in behavior and development during specific stages of life (e.g., infancy, childhood, adolescence, elderly). They also study the effects of developmental disabilities.

Industrial-organizational psychologists attempt to improve productivity and quality of life in the workplace. They are involved in marketing and management research; conduct screening, training, and counseling; and are often hired as consultants.

Neuropsychologists specialize in the study of brain behavior relationships. They have extensive training in brain and spinal cord function and how that function affects cognitive activities such as awareness, reasoning, judgment, learning, and memory.

Research psychologists study human behavior and the behavior of laboratory animals in research centers, universities, government agencies, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. They conduct experiments dealing with motivation, thinking, attention, and memory.

School psychologists work with teachers, parents, and school personnel to resolve learning and behavioral problems in elementary and secondary schools. They improve learning and teaching strategies, classroom management, and parenting skills, and attempt to reduce substance abuse. School psychologists also work with students with disabilities and with gifted students.

Psychologist Educational Requirements

A master's degree in psychology requires at least 2 years of graduate study and qualifies a psychologist to work as an assistant under the supervision of doctoral-level psychologists, and conduct research and psychological evaluations. Requirements usually include practical experience and a master's thesis based on original research. Courses in psychology; biological, physical, and social sciences; statistics, and mathematics are often required. A master's degree is required for industrial-organizational psychologists.

School psychologists must have a master's degree and must complete a 1-year internship. They also often have an educational specialist degree (Ed.S.). Guidance counselors are usually required to have 2 years of graduate study and 1 year of counseling experience.

Clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists must have a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). A doctoral degree requires 5 to 7 years of graduate study. A Ph.D. requires a dissertation based on original research, and a Psy.D. requires practical work experience and examinations. They also must complete a 1-year internship.

Psychologists who offer patient care must meet certification and licensing requirements in the state in which they practice. Requirements include training, experience, an approved internship, and examinations. There are various boards (e.g., American Psychological Association, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, American Board of Professional Psychology) that offer accreditation to qualifying psychologists.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 22 Jan 2002

Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015