6 Advantages of a Career in Clinical Psychology
Clinical psychology is one of the most popular disciplines within psychology – and for good reason. It is a career that offers many benefits. These benefits are derived by you both personally and professionally. But your choice to become a clinical psychologist will also benefit the clients with whom you work over your career.
Moreover, the positive changes you’re able to foster with your clients will help them to lead healthier lives. This, in turn, will have positive impacts on their friends and family. Think of it like ripples in a pond created by throwing a stone into the water – your work as a clinical psychologist is like the stone in the water that creates a ripple effect of positivity.
We’ll explore some other reasons why clinical psychology might be a good career choice for you shortly. But first, let’s quickly establish what clinical psychology is in the first place.
What is Clinical Psychology?
As a clinical psychologist, you will diagnose and treat clients who have behavioral, mental, or emotional difficulties. Some of your clients might be having a rough patch in life and simply need to talk to someone about it. In other cases, your clients might be severely debilitated by significant mental disorders.
Whatever the case, clinical psychologists’ aim is to help clients identify problem areas in their lives, help empower their clients to make positive changes, and help promote resilience in their clients to overcome future obstacles in their lives in a manner that helps maintain good mental health.
Clinical psychologists are a diverse group as well. They may specialize in different areas of clinical psychology. For example, you might elect to focus on neuropsychology but a colleague might specialize in child psychology.
Likewise, clinical psychologists might approach their work from one of many different schools of psychological thought. Clinical psychologists might espouse psychoanalysis, behaviorist, Gestalt techniques, or cognitive-behavioral therapy, just to name a few.
Clinical psychologists are also quite diverse in terms of the locations in which they work. Some are in private practice, others work in school settings, while others are employed in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or nursing homes.
The point is that while clinical psychology is a diverse field in terms of practice and theory, ultimately, the goal is the same – to listen to your client, to learn from and about your client, and to work with your client to facilitate positive life changes.
Now, let’s get into some of the primary reasons for becoming a clinical psychologist.
Clinical Psychology is Highly Engaging Work
As noted above, clinical psychologists may work in many different settings and with a variety of different populations. For example, they might work in clinics, hospitals, or schools. They may specialize in working with children, adolescents, or the elderly. It is a job that calls on a variety of skills, including interpersonal communication, analytical skills, research skills, the ability to listen and have empathy, and an interest in human behavior.
Of course, this is not a complete list of all the skills you might need or use as a clinical psychologist, but it still illustrates the point that the work is extremely diverse. As a result, no two days of being a clinical psychologist will be alike. You will have the opportunity every day to work with different people with different problems, and that can make this one of the most interesting and engaging fields of psychology to practice.
There are Solid Job Prospects
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of clinical psychology is predicted to grow at an average rate, or about three percent, through the end of the decade. While this doesn’t represent explosive growth, it indicates that this line of work will provide stability in employment over the near term.
Of course, there are things that you can do to improve your job prospects after graduation. You can pursue a higher degree – like a doctorate – or you can specialize in a certain area of clinical work, like child psychology.
Additionally, you can pursue post-graduate or post-doctoral work that improves your level of experience and education and helps your job application stand out amongst other applicants. Often, you will find that if you have specialty areas of study or experience, finding a job can be easier than it otherwise would be.
Getting a professional certification can help too. For example, there are many specialty certification options available from the American Board of Professional Psychology. This includes:
- Behavioral and Cognitive
- Clinical Child and Adolescent
- Organizational and Business
So, if you’re interested in working with children or adolescents in a clinical psychology setting, getting a certification in that specialty field will only improve your chances of realizing your occupational dreams.
This isn’t to say that you have to have a doctorate and post-doctorate experience and certification just to get a job in clinical psychology. However, these things certainly won’t hurt your chances of landing the job you want.
And if you’re interested in starting a private practice, having these additional credentials will help give potential clients a better picture of your breadth and depth of knowledge and skills. In private practice, you’re competing with other practitioners for clients. Having a higher degree with some specialized training will go a long way in making you more attractive to potential clients.
As an aside, the business component of being a clinical psychologist in private practice can feel a little off-putting. Your goal is to help people, not spend your time marketing yourself and your business. Yet, that’s precisely what you’ll need to do in private practice. People who need clinical help can’t find you if you aren’t putting yourself out there!
You Get to Help People
Psychology is a helping profession, and clinical psychology, in particular, involves working closely with individuals and helping them with their behavioral, emotional, or mental difficulties. In many cases, the difficulties that a client is having might be devastating. Their quality of life might be diminished. They may be suicidal. Or they might be struggling with very heavy feelings from the loss of a loved one.
But your skills and talents as a clinical psychologist are what will help your clients overcome their current difficulties and return to living a better life. That’s a powerful thing to think about! Working as a clinical psychologist can be an opportunity to make a genuine difference in people’s lives.
Making such a significant difference in the life of someone else is obviously very rewarding. Just imagine the feeling you get when a client has a breakthrough and begins to move closer to being well again. How awesome! Then just imagine how the client feels. Making progress toward their goals, changing their unwanted behaviors, or finally being able to live a good life in spite of mental illness can overwhelm your clients with joy.
The rewards aside, let’s not forget that this is a very demanding job. You might have to work nights and weekends or be on call. You will be mentally and physically drained. You’ll probably even be frustrated and angry at points in your career as well. But despite the hazards of the job, there are few careers that offer so many personal rewards as clinical psychology.
Pay Can Be Quite Good
Though most people enter this field because they want to help others, there is the undeniable truth that money makes the world go ‘round. You can’t work for free, so knowing that clinical psychology can be a very good-paying career is simply icing on the cake.
According to the BLS, psychologists make a mean yearly salary of $82,180. This means that half of psychologists make more than this while the other half make less. As a result, the pay scale is quite wide: the lowest ten percent of earners make closer to $46,000 per year while the highest ten percent of earners make nearly $140,000 per year. A six-figure income like that is definitely a bonus.
But earning six figures doesn’t usually happen right out of college. Instead, you’ll likely be at the lower end of the pay scale and work your way up over the years to the higher end. While years of experience certainly have great influence over how much money you can earn, it isn’t the only factor at play.
As noted earlier, having a higher level of education can help you in your job search. It will also help you earn more money. For example, all other things being equal, a clinical psychologist with a doctorate and post-doctorate studies under their belt will earn more money each year than a clinical psychologist that only has a doctorate.
What’s more, a clinical psychologist with 20 years of experience can command a higher wage than one with just one year of experience.
There are exceptions to these rules, of course, but by and large, the more education you have and the more experience you have, the more money you can earn as a clinical psychologist.
Clinical Psychology Challenges Your Problem-Solving Abilities
Another reason to become a clinical psychologist is the opportunity to problem-solve – a challenge that many people enjoy.
No two clients are alike, even if they have been diagnosed with the same mental disorder. This means that the manner in which you approach treatment will be different from one person to the next. Even if you work with identical twins that have the same mental illness, your treatment of one twin might vary significantly from the approach you take with the other.
These individual differences in human behavior make clinical psychology a challenge. Your ability to identify the root problem, build rapport with the client, devise a treatment plan, and carry out that plan will be challenged by the idiosyncrasies of each client. You’ll need to analyze information, develop ways of explaining each client’s behavior, predict how the client might do with certain types of interventions, and eventually problem-solve a way to help the client control their unwanted behaviors in a way that is supportive, understanding, and empathic.
It’s a tall task, to be sure.
The work of a clinical psychologist is rarely monotonous or routine. Instead, as noted above, clinical psychologists will find themselves in a variety of situations in which they need to figure out the best way to approach treatment based on both a person’s diagnosis and the person’s needs.
You might work with people on resolving emotional or behavioral issues, like depression or anger. You might counsel a divorced mom who’s having trouble communicating with her children, who blame her for the breakup. You might develop a treatment plan for addressing a person’s drug dependency. Unique problems that need solving will abound!
Individuals who enjoy analyzing problems and coming up with a solution are likely to enjoy work as a clinical psychologist. Again, this is hard work and draining work, but knowing that the fruits of your labor genuinely help someone overcome a dark period in their lives is some kind of reward!
Varied Career Paths
The variety of career paths available is another good reason to become a clinical psychologist.
Clinical psychologists might work in schools, mental health clinics, prisons, or hospitals. They might eventually go on to teach at a university and train other clinical psychologists. Clinical psychologists can write books, offer consultation services, or run their practices. They may even go to work with law enforcement with a specialty in forensic psychology.
With so many career paths available in clinical psychology, you have the benefit of pursuing your true passion for helping people. Whether it’s in a clinical setting in private practice, helping law enforcement in investigating crimes, working with kids with developmental disabilities, or something in between, you’ll be able to find your calling and put your skills to work in helping people lead happier healthier lives.
Clinical psychology is a stimulating and fast-growing field that offers many opportunities to people who are both empathetic and analytical and who are good communicators. The variety of jobs, the rewards that the job offers, and the chance to help people are among the many excellent reasons to become a clinical psychologist.
B.A. Social Studies Education | University of Wyoming
M.S. Counseling | University of Wyoming
B.S. Information Technology | University of Massachusetts
Updated June 2021
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