Behavioral Psychologist: Career and Salary Facts
Are you intrigued by human behavior and psychological theories? Do you want to assist others with resolving issues that interfere with their day-to-day lives? If so, you may be interested in a career as a behavioral psychologist. Schools offering Applied Behavioral Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Activities Will I Perform as a Behavioral Psychologist?
In general, you would use a variety of theories and practices to observe, interpret, predict, analyze and address human behavior, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). You would also assist your clients by understanding their belief systems, emotional responses and actions in order to maintain, alter and prevent certain behaviors (www.bls.gov).
In order to perform your job, you'll use a variety of techniques and methods such as direct observation, hypnosis, psychotherapy, personality tests and surveys. Since behavioral psychologists are often involved with ongoing clinical research, usually focusing on specific projects throughout your career; these will depend, in part, on your area of expertise or interest.
Where Could I Work?
According to the BLS, depending upon your education and experience, you have several options. You may want to have a private practice or work as an industry-specific consultant. Other workplace environments to consider include medical and counseling clinics, drug treatment and rehabilitation programs, hospitals, medical schools, non-profit agencies and universities.
A January 2012 search for behavioral psychologist positions at the American Psychology Association (APA) shows that you could also work for the court system as a juvenile advocate or for a center that specializes in treating attention deficit disorder and other disruptive behaviors. You may also be interested in seeking a postdoctoral fellowship at a trauma center (www.apa.org).
Will I Need to Specialize?
Psychologists, in general, have some type of specialty, according to the APA. As a clinical psychologist, for example, you may choose to work with adolescents or gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered clients to address short and long-term issues related to anxiety, depression or phobias. As a community psychologist, you might work with specific social groups to improve their overall quality of life; this may include assisting disaster victims with obtaining resources or redrafting school policies to address bullying.
The APA also lists other specialties, such as educational psychology. If you are interested in learning and teaching processes, as well as how specific educational practices and settings affect different groups of people, then you may want to explore this specialty further.
What Type of Degree Will I Need?
In order to work in private practice or other settings, such as school systems or private industry, the BLS states you usually need a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. In order to obtain a Psy.D., you may take an exam rather than write and defend a dissertation; you will probably be required to work an extra year under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist.
If you have a master's degree, some states may allow you to work directly with clients, according to the BLS. If you specialize in school psychology, for example, you could obtain an Ed.S. degree. These programs usually require you to participate in a year-long internship prior to completing your degree. If you have a bachelor's degree, and want to further explore your career options, the BLS states that you could work as an assistant for a correctional program or community center or qualify for an entry-level position for the government.
What Credentials Will I Need?
According to the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), all states require you to be licensed and certified in order to have a clinical practice. If you want to become board certified in a specific area, you need to refer to that board's specific requirements (www.abpp.org).
The ABPP lists over ten areas in which you could specialize. These include child and adolescent, forensic and group psychology as well as organizational and business consulting, police and public safety and rehabilitation.
What Salary Can I Expect?
According to a May 2010 BLS report, the median salary for a psychologist is $32.12 per hour and $66,810 per year. The APA's 2009 salary survey lists the median salary for college and university faculty at $76,090 per year. Research-based clinical and social psychologists averaged $80,500 per year, and licensed clinical psychologists with a Ph.D. averaged $87,015 per year.
To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below: