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Types of Psychologists

Variety of Career Paths Available for Psychologists

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Are you interested in pursuing a career as a psychologist? If so, there are many different types of careers and practice options beyond the typical, most common roles as a general therapist or counselor. Learn more about different types of roles and career paths available to psychologists. Most psychology careers require at least a master's degree or doctorate, but the rewards, demand, and compensation make psychology a very popular area of study.

To learn more, About.com solicited some information from an expert in the field. Dr. David Stephens, dean of the School of Professional Psychology at University of the Rockies, discusses the importance of a psychology degree in various career settings, ranging from hospitals and correctional facilities to health and sports venues. Dr. Stephens has served as the regional director of mental health for Correctional Healthcare Management and as the chief of Behavioral Health Services for the Colorado Department of Corrections.

1. Forensic Psychologist - Connecting Psychology to Criminal Justice

Forensic psychologists play an important role in the justice system by evaluating competence to stand trial, and assessing psychological functioning and condition to determine if psychological factors may have contributed to the commission of a crime. According to Dr. Stephens, forensic psychologists can also work as victim advocates, helping obtain justice for those affected by crimes and their families.

This role requires a master’s degree at a minimum, but most commonly a doctoral degree and professional licensure.

A quick review of listed average salaries indicates wide variability in what is reported as an “average salary.” Average salary is difficult to state, since many work in private practice and many work for state agencies, with wide variability in compensation. Potential employers are state hospitals, attorneys, private clients, forensic hospitals, courts, etc. This appears to be an area of market/career growth in psychology.

If this career sounds interesting to you, you may also want to explore other careers that combine the fields of medicine and law".

2. Sports Psychologist - Mental Training to Enhance Athletic Performance

Sports psychology is one of many career options in the field of sports medicine. Sports psychologists work to mentally train athletes and help them deal psychologically with the demands of the sport, while improving on-field performance. Sports psychologists can be hired by a team or individual athletes at any level, from amateur to professional.

Most jobs for sports psychologists require a master’s degree or doctoral degree, but do not require specialized professional licensure.

Potential employers include individual athletes, high schools, colleges, professional sports teams, the military, professional and amateur sports associations, and more. This also appears to be an area with potential for market and career growth. A quick review of listed average salaries indicates wide variability in what is reported as an “average salary.” Average salary is again difficult to state due to the wide variability in work settings and compensation.

3. Organizational Consultant - Improving Productivity in the Workplace

Organizational psychology consultants apply psychology principles to solve a professional organization's issues in human resources, management, sales and administrative areas. Often hired by companies, organizational consultants can provide advice on the quickest and least-expensive ways of meeting productivity and profit objectives.

Potential employers include virtually any business, agency or organization. There are reports that there has been some decline in demand for these positions with the economic downturn over the last several years, but the decline is not expected to continue, according to Dr. Stephens.

4. Correctional Counselor/Mental Health Provider

Correctional mental health professionals provide mental health services in a correctional facility. They can evaluate the behavior of an inmate, testify in court on behalf of an inmate, and offer opinions on the inmate’s progress (or lack thereof).

Most roles for psychologists in correctional medicine require a master’s or doctoral degree, plus a professional license. Average salaries, based on Dr. Stephens’ experience, range from approximately $40,000 - $70,000 per year. Potential employers include probation offices, courts, jails, and federal and state penitentiaries. There is continued demand for these positions as the criminal justice system recognizes the mental health needs of those who are involved in the system and/or who are incarcerated.

In addition to correctional psychology, there are a variety of medical professionals needed to work in correctional settings.

5. Career Coach – Leadership Effectiveness and Career Development

Professional career coaches help improve effectiveness at the managerial and executive levels. When hired by organizations, career coaches will assist with identifying goals, developing leadership skills and planning career objectives and moves.
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