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A psychologist is a person who studies psychology, the systematic investigation of the human mind, including behavior, cognition, and affect. Psychologists are usually categorized under a number of different fields, the most well-recognized being clinical psychologists, who provide mental health care, and research who conduct substantive and applied research.

Statistics for licensed psychologists

These statistics are from the United States Department of Labor dated 2004 unless noted otherwise.

  • Employed psychologists: 179,000
  • 2/5 self-employed
  • 1/4 employed by educational institutions (in positions other than teaching)
  • Median income for all clinical psychologists: US $54,950
  • Median income for clinical psychologists in private practice (2001): US $65,000-88,500 (depending on experience)[1]
  • Median income for industrial/organizational psychologists: US $71,400

Contrast of licensed psychologist with psychiatrist

In the U.S., licensed psychologists hold a doctorate in their field, while licensed psychiatrists hold a medical degree with a specialty in psychiatry. Psychiatrists are physicians who have earned an MD or a DO, whereas psychologists have earned a PhD, PsyD, or EdD. Psychiatrists generally spend shorter periods of contact time with clients/patients, and the principal method of treatment is psychopharmacology. Conversely, clinical psychologists generally rely upon psychological assessment and the use of psychotherapy to relieve psychological distress. It is not uncommon for people suffering from mental illness to combine these services to maximize their impact. Many psychologists conduct research-based, standardized cognitive and projective testing to guide the diagnosis of intellectual disabilities, behavioral/mood disorders, and personality disorders; these test results also inform treatment approaches. Administration and interpretation of the majority of these standardized test instrutments require specialized training in psychology.

Education and training

Professional licensing requirements

United States and Canada

Licensed psychologists, in virtually every jurisdiction and state in Canada and the U.S., are required to have obtained academic doctoral degrees (typically a PhD or PsyD). These academic programs typically take four to six years of postgraduate work to complete and offer some combination of rigorous training in research, clinical practice, and the science of psychology. Licensed psychologists can contribute to scientific research in the form of a dissertation. In this sense, the PhD in professional psychology is a hybrid academic/professional degree (with a greater focus on academics), and university programs in professional psychology are not only academic but are also training programs typically characterized by rigor and intensity. Some psychologists have a professional degree in psychology (PsyD), which focuses more on clinical practice, and include similarly rigorous coursework, supervised professional training, internship, and developing the ability to conduct and interpret academic research. The majority of PsyD programs also require a dissertation, which can include quantitative or qualitative research, theoretical scholarship, program evaluation or development, critical literature analysis, or clinical application and analysis.

State-by-state exemptions

Similar restrictions apply across the United States, although application of these restrictions varies state-by-state. Most states include exemptions from licensing in order to use the title "psychologist" if they are teaching in universities, or if they are certified by the state's department of education as a school psychologist and are practicing psychology within the scope of their employment in a school district. In most states, self-employed psychologists offering services to the public, whether they are clinical, counseling, school, or industrial psychologists must be licensed, which usually requires an advanced degree, two years of supervised experience, and passing written and oral examinations. The licensing may carry the title of licensed psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist, or some other title depending upon the state or province and the license involved.

Psychiatric medication

In some areas, psychologists cannot obtain a license to prescribe psychiatric medications. Prescription privileges in the United States have recently begun to increase, e.g., in New Mexico, Louisiana, and Guam.


Within Australia, the title 'psychologist' is also restricted by law. Use of the title is reserved for individuals registered with government regulated Psychologist's Registration Board in each state of Australia. Minimum requirements for registration is an approved four year bachelors degree majoring in psychology and either two years of further accredited study or two years of work supervised by a registered psychologist.[2] Membership requirements with the Australian Psychological Society is higher than the individual state boards. Restrictions apply to all who want to use the title 'psychologist' in any of its forms. However, the terms 'psychotherapist', 'social worker', and 'counselor' is currently self-regulated with several organization campaigning for government regulation.[3]

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the use of the title 'psychologist' is restricted by law. Initially, only 'clinical psychologist' and 'registered psychologist' were restricted (to people qualified as such). However, in 2004, the use of psychologist is now limited to only those registered psychologists (including clinical psychologists). This is to prevent the misrepresentation of other psychology qualifications in the mental health field. Academic psychologists (e.g., social psychologists) are now only able to refer to themselves as 'researchers in psychology'.

United Kingdom

In the U.K. the use of the title "chartered psychologist" is protected by statutory regulation. At present the registration in order to use the title 'psychologist', 'psychotherapist' or 'therapist' is voluntary, in other words it is not required by any Act of Parliament, but the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy is campaigning with other related organisations for the statutory regulation of the 'talking therapy' professions. Only psychotherapists who meet the training requirements of UKCP and abide by its ethical guidelines are included on the UKCP's register of psychotherapists. The Royal College of Psychiatrists and the British Psychological Society are special members of the UKCP.

See also


External links

cs:Psycholog hu:Pszichológus nl:Psycholoog fi:Psykologi sv:Psykolog