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What Do Psychologists Do?

Psychologists study behavior, mental processes and emotions by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and the environment. Psychologists concentrate on people’s behavior and, specifically, in the beliefs and feelings that influence a person’s actions.

Psychologists involved with research tend to look for broad patterns to help them understand and predict behavior using scientific methods, principles, or procedures that test their ideas. The results of research can be used to assess, diagnose, and treat mental illnesses in patients of all ages, using a variety of treatment methods. For example, therapy may be directed at individuals, couples, families or other groups. To help treat patients, psychologists may also collaborate with physicians and/or psychiatrists, who are able to prescribe medications. In some therapy and consulting contexts, psychologists may work with couples and families to help them improve their relationships, or with business people to help them improve communication skills and increase productivity. They may also work with athletes and performers to help them reduce stress and improve performance. Psychologists also work as teachers, trainers and mentors of college students and future psychologists.

Psychologists may specialize in a variety of areas:

Clinical psychologists assess, treat, and prevent mental illnesses. Some specialize in treating chronic or severe psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia and depression, while others help people deal with short-term personal issues, such as a divorce or the death of a loved one. Clinical psychologists often provide psychotherapy to create an opportunity for patients to talk and think about things that are confusing or worrying and offer patients different ways of interpreting and understanding problems and situations.

Neuropsychologists study the relationship between the brain and behavior, and typically work with patients who have sustained a brain injury or patients in stroke and head injury programs. Others may work as researchers and teachers.

Industrial-organizational psychologists study human behavior in the workplace and within organizations in the interest of improving the quality of work life and of the company itself. These psychologists are also involved in research about management and marketing.

Developmental psychologists study the physiological, cognitive, and social development that takes place throughout a person’s life. Some developmental psychologists specialize in behavior during infancy, childhood, and adolescence, or in changes that occur during maturity or old age.

Forensic psychologists apply psychological principles in the legal and criminal justice systems to help judges, attorneys, and other legal professionals understand the psychological findings of a particular case. Forensic psychologists are often designated as an expert witness and typically specialize in either family court, civil court, or criminal court. They may have earned a law degree in their training.

Social psychologists study how people relate to and influence the beliefs and behaviors of others. They explore how people’s mindsets and behavior are shaped by social interactions, and may investigate ways to improve negative interactions between individuals and groups. They less often work in consulting and therapy contexts.

Experimental psychologists study the behavior of human beings and animals, such as rats, monkeys, and pigeons, often at university and private research centers and in business, nonprofit, and governmental organizations. Experimental psychologists work to better understand thought functions such as motivation, attention, learning and memory, sensory and perceptual processes, effects of substance abuse, and genetic and neurological factors affecting behavior. Many of the topics they study are focused on mental processes, in an area of psychology known as cognitive psychology.

School and educational psychologists apply psychological principles and techniques to education-related issues. They may examine students’ learning and behavioral problems, evaluate students’ performance, and counsel students and families. They also may consult with other school-based professionals to suggest improvements to teaching, learning, and administrative strategies.

For more information about psychologists, go to:http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm. Emphasis here is placed on psychologists practicing in health care contexts, namely clinical, school, and counseling psychologists.

Where Do Psychologists Work?

Psychologists’ work environments vary greatly by specialty and place of employment. Many clinical and counseling psychologists have a private practices, where they have their own office and set their own hours. Others work in hospitals, nursing homes or other health care settings, which could include evening and weekend shifts. Some school psychologists have private practices too, although many work in educational settings such as schools and include regular daytime hours.

Most psychologists in government and industry have structured schedules. Psychologists employed as faculty by colleges and universities typically divide their time between teaching and research and may also have administrative responsibilities. Success in these contexts often requires many work hours. Some also have part-time consulting practices. Others may exclusively teach college courses.

What Do Psychologists Earn?

According to the 2018 BLS, the average salary for full time clinical, school, and counseling psychologists nationwide was $85,340, varying by specialty and geographic region. Average annual salary also varies greatly across New York State, depending on location. The NYSDOL reports that clinical, school, and counseling psychologists in New York earned an average annual salary of $92,600, (entry level-$56,880, experienced- $110,460).

According to the 2018 BLS, the average salary for full time psychologists (classified as psychologists, all other) nationwide was $96,610, varying by specialty and geographic region. Average annual salary also varies greatly across New York State, depending on location. The NYSDOL reports that psychologists in New York also earned an average annual salary of $98,510, (entry level-$53,880, experienced- $120,820).

Yearly salary and earnings for either category of psychologists can vary greatly depending on a psychologist’s specialty, employment setting, and years of experience and in practice.

Supply and Demand

According to the BLS, employment of clinical, school, and counseling psychologists is expected to grow in the U.S. by 14.3% between 2016 and 2026, and is expected to grow in New York by 15.6% during the same time period.

Between 2016 and 2026, the BLS projects that nationwide employment of other psychologists, excluding industrial-organizational psychologists is expected to grow 10.5%, and employment of all other psychologists in New York is expected to grow 18.2%.

Employment for psychologists is projected to grow because of increased demand for their services in schools, hospitals, social service agencies, VA hospitals, mental health centers, substance abuse treatment clinics, consulting firms, and private companies.

Also spurring demand for psychologists will be the rising health care costs associated with unhealthy lifestyles, such as smoking, alcoholism, and obesity, which have made prevention and treatment more critical. The growing number of elderly in the U.S. will also increase the demand for psychologists who can help people deal with the mental and physical changes that occur as individuals grow older. There also will be increased need for psychologists to work with veterans.

Job opportunities will be the best for psychologists with a doctoral degree in an applied specialty, such as neuropsychology, school psychology, or clinical psychology. Those psychologists with master’s degrees will also have good prospects as industrial-organizational psychologists.

For more information on employment projections of clinical, school, and counseling psychologists by New York labor regions, 2024-2026, click here.

Educational Program Requirements

A master’s or doctorate degree, and a license, are required for most psychologists. In New York, psychologists earn a doctorate degree in psychology from a program registered or accepted as equivalent by the New York State Education Department. Psychologists with doctorate degrees with the letters Ph.D., Psy.D. and Ed.D. have all met the same educational requirements. In addition, New York psychologists complete two years of supervised experience, including one year after the doctorate degree. They must also pass a national licensing exam.

Acceptance to graduate psychology programs is highly competitive. A doctorate degree (Ph.D.) generally requires about five years of full-time graduate study, culminating in a dissertation based on original research. A Doctor of Psychology degree (Psy.D.) is often based on practical work and examinations in lieu of a dissertation.

New York Licensure Requirements

In most states, practicing psychology or using the title of “psychologist” requires licensure or certification. This is also the case in New York, where licensure is necessary unless one works in an “exempt setting”. Exempt settings include chartered schools, settings operated by the government, and most colleges and universities; these tend to include those psychologists who focus on research and do not provide health care services to patients or clients. Psychotherapists are not necessarily licensed as psychologists in New York.

To be licensed as a psychologist in New York, an individual must have earn a doctorate degree in psychology from a program approved by the New York State Education Department, complete two years of supervised experience, including one year after the doctorate degree, and pass a national licensing test. This nationally recognized test is the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), developed by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB).

For more information on New York State licensure requirements, go to: http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/psych/psychlic.htm.

For more information on the national licensing test for psychologists, go to: http://www.asppb.net/

Financial Support

Psychology students should check first with their college or university financial aid office to learn what scholarships, loans, and funding opportunities might be available.

Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology, offers updates on awards, grants, and scholarships available for psychology students. Check the Psi Chi Web site for information: http://www.psichi.org/Awards/

The American Psychological Association (APA) also has information about various types of awards and funding opportunities for psychology students on their Web site: http://www.apa.org/education/grad/funding.aspx.

Education Programs in New York (subject to change)

Adelphi University
P.O. Box 701
Garden City, NY 11530-0701
(800) ADELPHI (233-5744) or (516) 877-4739
Alfred University
1 Saxon Drive
Alfred, NY 14802
(607) 871-2212 or (607) 871-2115
The Graduate Center
The City University of New York

365 Fifth Ave., Room 6304.01
New York, NY 10016
(212) 817-8705
Brooklyn College
The City University of New York

5401 James Hall
2900 Bedford Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11210
(718) 951-5601
Queens College
The City University of New York

6530 Kissena Boulevard
Office SB E318
Flushing, NY 11367-1597
(718) 997-3200
Columbia University
Teachers College

525 West 120th Street
New York, NY 10027-6696
Fordham University
Rose Hill Campus
226 Dealy Hall
Bronx, NY 10458
(718) 817-3775
St. Francis College
180 Remsen Street
Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201
(718) 522-2300
Hofstra University
200 Hauser Hall
Hempstead, NY 11550
(516) 463-5624 or (516) 463-5662
Long Island University
Brooklyn Campus

Humanities Building, 8th floor
1 University Plaza
Brooklyn, New York 11201
(718) 488-1068
Long Island University
C.W. Post Campus

720 Northern Boulevard
Brookville, NY 11548-1300
(516) 299-2377
The New School for Social Research
80 Fifth Ave.,7th Floor
New York, NY 10011
(212) 229-5727 ext. 3119 or 3223
New York University
6 Washington Place
New York, NY 10003
(212) 998-7920 or (212) 998-7900
Pace University
New York City Campus
41 Park Row, 13th Floor
New York, NY 10038
(212) 346-1506
Syracuse University
430 Huntington Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244-2340
(315) 443-2354
University of Rochester
Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology
Meliora Hall
P.O. Box 270266
Rochester, NY 14627-0266
(585) 273-3264
St. John’s University
8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
(718) 990-5541
University at Albany
State University of New York

Department of Psychology
Social Sciences 399
1400 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12222
(518) 442-4820
Binghamton University
State University of New York

Psychology Department
P.O. Box 6000
Binghamton, NY 13902-6000
(607) 777-2449
University at Buffalo
State University of New York

Department of Psychology
Park Hall, Room 204
Buffalo, NY 14260-4110
(716) 645-3651
Stony Brook University
State University of New York

Department of Psychology
Stony Brook, NY 11794-2500
(631) 632-7855
Yeshiva University
Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology

Rousso Building
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
1165 Morris Park Ave.
Bronx, NY 10461
(718) 430-3945

Additional Web Links

For more information on psychologists, go to:

American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/; or

New York State Psychological Association at: http://www.nyspa.org/.

For more information about psychology education programs and degrees or a career in psychology, go to the Psychology Career Center Web site: http://www.psychologycareercenter.org/

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