Dr. Ray’s Answer
I apologize for taking so long to respond to your question. I hope this information is not too late to be of some use to you.
By way of background, I worked as a psychologist for two community mental health centers and a juvenile probation department, for a total of eight years. I went into private practice in 1980, initially with another psychologist and eventually on my own, for a total of 34 years. I much preferred private practice. I made more money, but more importantly I could work with the kinds of clients I wanted to and do what I thought was best for them without having somebody telling me it was too expensive or not consistent with the organization's mission.
The down side is that private practice is a business and you have to think like a business person at times if you want to succeed. You have to market yourself to a degree. Also someone has to pay the rent, the telephone bill, employees if you have them, etc. It is also financially risky; most private practice psychologists I know have been financially successful but a few have not. Your income can also vary quite a bit from year to year.
Working for the right agency or organization can also be very fulfilling and it can be nice to know you will get paid at the end of the month. However, in an era of declining government funding for social services these positions can be insecure. I was laid off by two of the three agencies I worked for because of budget cuts.
There is a third possibility, which would be to work for an organization full or part time and have a private practice on the side. Many people in private practice started this way, and some made the jump to full time practice after they had built up enough of a clientele.
I hope I have given you some useful information. I wish you the best in your career pursuits.
Ray Finn, Ph.D.