Psychology seeks to understand and explain thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behavior. Depending on the topic of study, psychologists use techniques such as observation, assessment, and experimentation to develop theories about the beliefs and feelings that influence a person’s actions. Psychologists often gather information and evaluate behavior through controlled laboratory experiments, psychoanalysis, or psychotherapy. They also may administer personality, performance, aptitude, or intelligence tests. They look for patterns of behavior or cause-and-effect relationships between events, and use this information when testing theories in their research or treating patients. Psychologists typically do the following: conduct scientific studies to study behavior and brain function, collect information through observations, interviews, surveys, tests, and other methods, find patterns that will help them understand and predict behavior, use their knowledge to increase understanding among individuals and groups, develop programs that improve schools and workplaces by addressing psychological issues, work with individuals, couples, and families to help them make desired changes to behaviors, identify and diagnose mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders, develop and carry out treatment plans, and/or collaborate with physicians or social workers to help treat patients.

Psychologists held about 174,000 jobs in 2010. About 34 percent of psychologists were self-employed, 29 percent worked in educational services, and 20 percent worked in healthcare settings. Some psychologists work alone, which may include independent research or individually counseling patients. Others work as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with physicians, social workers, and others to treat illness and promote overall wellness. Many clinical and counseling psychologists in private practice have their own offices and can set their own schedules. Other typical workplaces include clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and community and mental health centers. Most research psychologists work in colleges and universities, government agencies, or private research organizations. Most school psychologists work in public schools, ranging in level from nursery school through college. They also work in private schools, universities, hospitals and clinics, community treatment centers, and independent practice.

Job Market and Salaries

Overall employment of psychologists is expected to grow 22 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty. Employment of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is expected to grow 22 percent, faster than the average for all occupations. Greater demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social services agencies should drive employment growth. Demand for clinical and counseling psychologists will increase as people continue to turn to psychologists to help solve or manage their problems. More psychologists will be needed to help people deal with issues such as depression and other mental disorders, marriage and family problems, job stress, and addiction. Psychologists also will be needed to provide services to an aging population, helping people deal with the mental and physical changes that happen as they grow older. Through both research and practice, psychologists are also helping other special groups, such as veterans suffering from war trauma, other trauma survivors, and individuals with autism. Demand for psychologists in the health care industry is also expected to increase, because their work on teams with doctors, social workers, and other healthcare professionals provides patients with comprehensive, interdisciplinary treatments. In addition to treating mental and behavioral health issues, psychologists work on teams to develop or administer prevention or wellness programs.

As the overall number of students grows, more school psychologists will be needed to work with students, particularly those with special needs, learning disabilities, and behavioral issues. Schools also rely on school psychologists to assess and counsel students. Additionally, school psychologists will be needed to study how both in-school and out-of-school factors affect learning, which teachers and administrators can use to improve education. Employment of industrial-organizational psychologists is expected to grow 35 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations, as organizations use these psychologists to help select and keep employees, increase productivity, and identify potential workplace improvements. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast employment growth will result in only about 800 new jobs over the 10-year period.

The median annual wage of psychologists was $68,640 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half of the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,200, and the top 10 percent earned more than $111,810. The median annual wages of psychologist occupations in May 2010 were the following: $87,330 for industrial-organizational psychologists; $66,810 for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists; and $89,900 for all other psychologists. Psychologists in private practice can often set their own hours, and many work part time as independent consultants. However, they often offer evening or weekend hours to accommodate clients. Those employed in hospitals, nursing homes, or other healthcare facilities may also have evening or weekend shifts. Most psychologists working in clinics, government, industry, or schools work full-time schedules during regular business hours.


Most clinical, counseling, and research psychologists need a doctoral degree. Psychologists can complete a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. A Ph.D. in psychology is a research degree that culminates in a comprehensive exam and a dissertation based on original research. In clinical, counseling, school, or health service settings, students usually complete a 1-year internship as part of the doctoral program. The Psy.D. is a clinical degree and is often based on practical work and examinations rather than a dissertation. School psychologists need a master’s, specialist (Ed. S. degree, which requires a minimum of 60 graduate semester hours), or doctoral degree in school psychology. Because their work addresses education and mental health components of students’ development, school psychologists’ training includes coursework in both education and psychology. Graduates with a master’s degree in psychology can work as industrial-organizational psychologists. When working under the supervision of a doctoral psychologist, master’s graduates also can work as psychological assistants in clinical, counseling, or research settings. Master’s degree programs typically include courses in industrial-organizational psychology, statistics, and research design.

Entry into psychology graduate programs is competitive. Most master’s degree programs do not require an undergraduate major in psychology, but do require coursework in introductory psychology, experimental psychology, and statistics. Some doctoral degree programs require applicants to have a master’s degree in psychology, while others will accept applicants with a bachelor’s degree and a major in psychology. Most graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology find work in other fields such as business administration, sales, or education.

In most states, practicing psychology or using the title of “psychologist” requires licensure or certification. In all states and the District of Columbia, psychologists who practice independently must be licensed. Licensing laws vary by state and type of position. Most clinical and counseling psychologists need a doctorate in psychology, an internship, at least 1 to 2 years of professional experience, and to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Information on specific requirements by state can be found from the Association of State and Provincial Licensing Boards. In many states, licensed psychologists must complete continuing education courses to keep their licenses. School psychologists must be licensed or certified to practice in schools. This credential varies by state and is usually obtained through the state’s department of education. Information on specific requirements by state can be found from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

In addition, NASP awards the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) designation, which is a nationally recognized certification. Currently, 30 states accept the NCSP as a route to licensing or certification. To become nationally certified, candidates need a minimum of 60 graduate semester hours in a school psychology program, a 1,200-hour supervised internship, and to pass the National School Psychology Examination. The American Board of Professional Psychology awards specialty certification in 13 areas of psychology, such as clinical health, couple and family, psychoanalysis, or rehabilitation. Although board certification is not required for most psychologists, it can demonstrate professional expertise in a specialty area. Some hospitals and clinics do require certification. In those cases, candidates must have a doctoral degree in psychology, state license or certification, and any additional criteria of the specialty field.

Psychologists typically need previous related work experience. To become licensed, for example, psychologists must have completed one or more of the following: predoctoral or postdoctoral supervised experience, an internship, or a residency program. School psychologists also must complete a yearlong supervised internship program to become licensed or certified.

Pacific University Program and Requirements

The School of Professional Psychology seeks students with both academic aptitude and personal qualities that will enable them to develop personally and professionally into effective psychologists and therapists. A personal interview is required for all finalists who apply to any program.


Clinical Psychology Psy.D. Program

Satisfactory completion of a bachelor's degree. A grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.4 during the last two years of study is desirable. A strong undergraduate background in psychology. Applicants do not need to have a psychology major, but a Behavioral Statistics (PSY 350) course is required. In addition, at least 3 of the 7 following courses are required as preparation for work at the graduate level.

Additional criteria that make applicants more successful Counseling Psychology M.A. Program

Admissions decisions consider many factors