How Do I Become a Counseling Psychologist?

If you have excellent communication and people skills and a lot of patience, you may wonder how to become a counseling psychologist. Psychology is the study of human behavior and mental processes. Counseling psychologists are professionals in the field of psychology who help individuals cope with problems and stressors in their lives.

Collectively, psychologists seek to understand, explain and sometimes modify behavior and the mental processes that cause specific behaviors. They use several methods to accomplish these goals. Some psychologists perform research in the form of scientific studies, interviews and tests or inventories that assess a person’s cognitive performance, mood or personality. Other psychologists help individuals, couples and families deal with mental or behavioral disorders or other problems. These professionals diagnose and treat such disorders.

As the job title implies, a counseling psychologist is a highly-trained professional in the field of psychology who uses his or her in-depth knowledge to help individuals manage problems in their lives. A counseling psychologist’s clients may have no diagnosed mental or behavioral disorder, but instead be simply going through a tough time. Whether the issue at hand is a relationship problem, conflict within the home environment or stress in the workplace, counseling psychologists listen to patients’ problems and assist them in determining ways to solve or cope with those problems. They help patients understand their problems, recognize and improve their personal strengths and determine where and how to find help.

To prepare for a career as a counseling psychologist, candidates need a good deal of formal schooling. First, aspiring counseling psychologists should earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field from a college or university. Upon completing an undergraduate degree, candidates must earn a master’s degree, which qualifies them to work as psychological assistants in counseling and other fields of psychology. To become a full-fledged counseling psychologist, candidates must complete a doctoral-level program, including an internship experience. Aspiring counseling psychologists may choose to pursue one of two paths toward their doctoral-level education, earning either a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. They must also earn the appropriate state licensure, which typically requires a combination of education, experience and successfully completing an examination.

Counseling psychologists earn a median salary of $66,810 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Counseling psychologists can anticipate faster-than-average job growth. The BLS estimates career opportunities for counseling psychologists to increase by 22 percent over a decade, while the expected job growth rate for all occupations is only 14 percent over that same ten-year period. Counseling psychologists also enjoy the personal satisfaction of knowing that they helped others and made a concrete difference in the lives of people who were struggling to cope with a difficult or stressful situation. If you have an interest in helping others, can interpret people’s actions accurately and have excellent listening skills knowing how to become a counseling psychologist could be the start of a rewarding new career.

Featured Degree Programs