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What is the biggest struggle in becoming a Psychologist?

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Dr. Ray’s Answer

Dear Aimaya,

For me the biggest struggle was the amount of schooling I had to go through before I could work in the field. I decided as a freshman in college that I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, but it took me a total of 10 years before I obtained my Ph.D. and my first job. In my case I fooled around as an undergraduate and didn't have very good grades, so I stayed at the same school and got a master's degree to prove I could do graduate level work. I also wound up having to do both a master's thesis and a doctoral dissertation. You can be smarter than I was and cut the time to 7 or 8 years.

Since you live in Texas I will add that the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists decided this spring to allow some people with masters' degrees in psychology to practice independently. This means that you could get a bachelor's and master's degree and probably be able to have your own practice. You may already know that people with masters' degrees in counseling, marriage and family and social work can also practice independently. I am glad I have a Ph.D. but don't know I would make the same decision in the current situation.

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Karen’s Answer

Many of the top positions in Psychology require a doctoral degree, especially if you want to be a psychotherapist. If you are interested in heading up research, you would mostly go for a doctoral degree. Probably the most challenging aspect of this, as seems to be in any field, is the doctoral dissertation.

I hold an undergraduate degree is Psychology which enabled me to get positions in the editorial department of a major test publisher, an activity worker with children in a state institution, and a nursery school teacher. I later obtained a master's degree in child development and a doctoral degree in education. I had contact with psychologists as colleagues throughout my career and am a member of the American Psychological Assocation.

If you wished to take a more clinical / therapy/counseling approach, getting a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) would be an option. Ph.D. holders also become clinicians. However, there are opportunities in psychology for persons with Bachelor's degrees in psychology and with Master's (MA or MS) degrees such as working in research projects or direct work with people without having a therapist role. The American Psychological Association has many resources about preparation for, and careers in, psychology. Its publication the APA Monitor, often has relevamt articles. For direct work with people there are other professions/fields as well, such as Social Work. MSWs do clinical work without holding a doctoral degree although one can obtain a doctoral degree in Social Work. Persons interested in working with children have a varierty of options: early childhood care and education, and child and youth work. Check out NAEYC (The National Association for the Education of Young Children; and ACYCP ( The Association for Child and Youth Care Practice) . The latter is concerned with work with young people in a variety of settings, eg group and residential programs, after school programs, and the like.

Karen recommends the following next steps:

Check out the organizations mentioned - e.g. American Psychological Association, for further information on careers in psychology. Libraries often have career resources. School counselors may of course be helpful. In fact, School Psychology is one career option in the field.

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Meghan’s Answer

The most difficult part is the amount of schooling that is required.

I was interested in pursuing a career in psychology. I got a bachelors degree in psychology and loved it. However, the idea of being in school for another 6 years with low income jobs was too stressful for me to do. If you have the ability to get through the schooling then I hope that you continue to pursue it! We always need good new psychologists in the field.

The debt was already a lot for me just with undergraduate school. Adding on 6 more years of debt just seemed overwhelming. I never wanted to be in a position where I thought I would be unable to pay back the debt I owed. That is what lead me to the field of real estate instead.

I hope that this helps to give you perspective. Thank you for your question!