Is psychology that dream job you’ve always wanted to have… But you just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet? Obtaining a Ph.D. is quite a challenge. So maybe you put off the idea of studying psychology in order to do something that felt more feasible. Maybe you’re thinking about going back to school to pursue what you’ve wanted to do. However, you can’t help but wonder:
Am I too old to become a psychologist? Not necessarily. If you’re mentally capable of studying the subject matter and you have the time, money, and passion for obtaining a degree, you’re able to become a psychologist. You will have to spend long hours studying math and science, and it could take up to ten years.
A little passion will go a long way when it comes to obtaining a psychology Ph.D. Continue reading to learn what exactly a practicing psychologist does and how to earn the degree.
What Does a Psychologist Do?
You need to have a clear idea of what a psychologist does in their career before you make the decision to pursue the necessary education for it. You might think of someone lying on a sofa in front of a doctor in a chair when you think of psychology. That’s only partially true. Psychologists can work in several different areas and in different ways.
Practicing psychologists help people with the following:
- Coping with stress or difficult situations
- Overcoming addiction
- Diagnosing conditions and mental illnesses
- Explaining how a person feels, thinks, or behaves
- Managing chronic illnesses
- Evaluating personality, intellectual skills, strengths, and weaknesses
A psychologist will help their patient understand themself and why they behave the way they do. This can aid patients in coping with or overcoming depression and anxiety, among other mental illnesses.
Psychologists will use a variety of therapy styles to help their patients, including:
There are many different styles of therapy. So the psychologist must work with the patient to decide which methods will best suit them. Some patients may need medication for anxiety or depression. In these instances, the psychologist will work with psychiatrists, pediatricians, and physicians to gauge which therapeutic treatment will help with the medications.
Only a handful of states in the United States will allow psychologists to prescribe medication to patients. If you want to be a psychologist that can prescribe medication, you will have to pursue additional education and training.
How to Become a Psychologist
Becoming a psychologist isn’t easy. Psychologists have one of the highest levels of education a healthcare professional can receive. That means they must spend long hours studying to earn their degree.
To become a psychologist, you will need to:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree
- Enroll in a graduate program
- Decide your degree and specialty
- Earn a doctorate degree
- Complete a psychology internship
- Get licensed
You can’t become a practicing psychologist without a bachelor’s degree. Ideally, you will need a B.A. or B.S. in Psychology. Whether you will need a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science will depend on which classes you want to take and what you want to study later on. It’s best to discuss with your academic advisor if you’re not sure which you should earn.
A bachelor’s degree will take about four years to complete. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you might be able to use it if it’s from a related field and was recently earned. You will have to check with your university to see if it will transfer.
Before you enroll in graduate school, you need to have a clear idea of which path you will take. What area of psychology do you want to study?
Will you go straight to a Ph.D. or will you earn a master’s degree first? A master’s degree might not be necessary. Some programs will allow you to begin working towards your Ph.D. as soon as you’re enrolled in graduate school.
A master’s degree can propel you toward that goal quicker, however. With a master’s degree, you will look more qualified when you apply to a Ph.D. program. A master’s degree will allow you to skip some necessary courses. So it shouldn’t take any extra time if you acquire both a master’s and a Ph.D.
Internship, Doctorate Degree, and License
The last few steps of obtaining the Ph.D. typically get tangled up together. Indeed, they aren’t exactly a linear process.
A 2-year internship is usually required for you to graduate and get licensed. Most universities will require that one year is completed before you graduate. The second internship year is typically completed after graduation, and before you can receive your license.
You cannot graduate or get licensed without an internship, so it’s very important that you do this.
License requirements vary by state. You will need to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and a jurisprudence exam about the specific regulations and laws in your state. Your state might require you receive additional training about domestic violence, ethics, or suicide intervention.
You will have to renew your license frequently. Depending on your state, it could be yearly or every few years.
Challenges of Becoming a Psychologist
Becoming a psychologist is highly involved and intense. If you’re debating how dedicated you are to the idea of becoming a psychologist, consider these challenges:
- Time. You will spend many hours studying each day for at least six years. Will you be able to commit to this? Is your family ready to commit to this?
- Money. Most licensed practicing psychologists earn a minimum base salary of $100,000 a year. And you might even begin as high as $150,000 a year. The pay is worth all the hard work. But is it worth the penny-pinching you must do while you earn the degree? Consider how much it will cost to earn the degree and how much you can earn while you’re studying for about ten years.
- Emotional attachment. As a psychologist, you have to hear the problems of many people, including children. You might feel inclined to reach out and offer a hug. But you must remain detached and professional for their sake. This can be difficult for many empathetic people.
Am I Too Old?
You’re never too old to obtain an education and achieve your career goals. However, if you are returning to school as an older adult, you need to be sure that your brain is still capable of complex math. Indeed, statistics is a big part of psychology! You should also consider if you’re physically capable of staying up late to finish assignments since that’s the inevitable fate of any college student.
If you have to start from scratch and earn a bachelor’s degree, assume you have to spend ten years studying. After that, how many working years do you have left? If you’re in your fifties or younger, you have plenty of time to become a psychologist. If you’re in your sixties or older, the answer will greatly depend on your own judgment.
A psychologist must love what they do since it takes so long to earn their degree. Without enough dedication, you might not graduate. You can earn it at any age if you’re willing to put in the hard work. All the years of hard work will definitely pay off once you get your license and start earning a paycheck.
- All Psychology Schools: Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology: Education and Career Options
- American Psychological Association: What do practicing psychologists do?
- All Psychology Schools: Learn How to Become a Psychologist
- All Psychology Schools: Psychology, Counseling & Social Work Licensing Requirements
- Careers in Psychology: Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Psychologist