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10 Pros and Cons of Being a Clinical Psychologist


Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Has the human mind and people’s behavior ever been something that has always intrigued you? Do you ever ask yourself why people do certain things? Have you ever heard of a career called clinical psychology? Clinical psychology is a branch of psychology that you may find to be a rewarding career. As with any profession, this path may not be suitable for everyone. Let me guess; you are still scratching your head about what a clinical psychologist is and what are the pros and cons of being a clinical psychologist? Below you will find the answers to your questions. Keep on reading to see the top 10 pros and cons of being a clinical psychologist.


What is a Clinical Psychologist?


A clinical psychologist is a psychologist who is concerned with the assessment and treatment of patients and their families with mental health and behavioral disorders. In some cases, you will be working with those with severe psychiatric and behavioral illnesses. If you choose to pursue this specialty, you will be incorporating multiple disciplines to treat an array of psychopathology. Your assessment of patients and their families will be made through your administration and interpretation of cognitive and personality tests.


TOP CONS OF BEING A CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST

(The following are the top 10 disadvantages of being a Clinical Psychologist.)

1. You will first need to complete your bachelor’s degree.

The first step you must complete to become a clinical psychologist is to earn your bachelor's degree. This degree will take you approximately four years to complete. Keep in mind that this bachelor’s degree is just the jumping-off point to a long education road to becoming a clinical psychologist.

2. You will need to complete your master’s degree to enter the field.

After you complete your bachelor’s degree, you will then need to complete a master's degree. The minimum education requirement for the profession of clinical psychology is a master’s degree, you cannot even get your foot in the door without having successfully completed the graduate coursework. Now, some schools will require you to take the GRE even to be considered for their master’s in Clinical Psychology program. This will add even more stress to your life and even more time to complete the degree. You can expect anywhere from 1-3 years to complete a master’s program. I also want to mention that to complete your graduate work successfully; you will need to fulfill a thesis. This will require long hours of research and writing on your part.

3. If you really want to excel, you will need a Doctorate.

If you want to further advance your education in clinical psychology or if you have aspirations to climb to the top of your career, you will need a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. A Ph.D. or a Psy.D will also be instrumental if you aspire to open your own practice one day. Earning a Ph.D. or a Psy.D will not only cost you more time, around 5-7 years but will also cost you more money making it one of the top disadvantages of being a clinical psychologist.

4. Are you ready for an internship?

Many clinical psychology programs will require that you successfully complete an internship or practicum component of your education. Depending on where you plan to obtain your license to practice, you may need to complete an internship or practicum in order to be allowed to sit for your exam. Essentially when you are in the process of completing your internship or practicum, you will most likely not be paid for your services. So, on one hand you are gaining experience and on the other you are working for free. For some people this is valuable time that they could be out in the workforce earning money and could potentially be one of the deal-breakers while weighing the pros and cons of being a clinical psychologist.

5. Your education can get really expensive.

As we have discussed, you will have many years of school ahead of you if you plan on being a clinical psychologist. I just hope you know that all this schooling is not free. A bachelor's degree will cost you anywhere from $8,000 to $60,000 per year, and a master's degree in clinical psychology will cost approximately $9,000 to $30,000 per year. Finally, if you choose to pursue a doctorate degree, you will be looking at spending anywhere from $11,000 to $34,000 per year. This is sure going to add up. Let’s also not forget about your cost of living and other incidentals.

6. How do you plan on paying for your education?

So, unless you have been saving for quite some time or you have another source to pay for your education, you may end up in a bit of debt. Pursuing this career is not going to be cheap. You may have to consider taking out a loan. Taking out a loan will definitely help you pay for school, but remember you will always need to pay back more money than what you took out due to interest. Loans may also impact your credit down the road if you have not successfully paid them off. Landing yourself in debt over your education that is supposed to make you money is definitely one of the top disadvantages of being a clinical psychologist.

7. You must obtain a license to practice.

To actually practice as a clinical psychologist, you will have to obtain a state license. Each state will have its own requirements that must be met for you to be eligible to obtain a license. You will also need to successfully complete the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. It is required that you pass this exam regardless of which state you are attempting to become licensed in. It is a nationwide exam.

8. You may end up working some pretty odd hours.

As a clinical psychologist, you will be working with individuals and families who have an established behavioral or mental health concern. Crisis can arise at any time during the day. Your services may have you working late at night, on weekends or holidays. Unfortunately, you may find yourself and your schedule at the mercy of your client’s needs.

9. If you want to have your own private practice, you will have a lot of work ahead of you.

If you ultimately have aspirations of setting up your own private practice, you will have some work to do. Not only will you need to have a doctorate degree in clinical psychology, but you will also need to have some physical aspects of your practice worked out. You will need first to have a place where you will see your patients, obtain supplies for your practice, obtain malpractice insurance and have some way to organize your required documentation. Oh, and you will also need to drum up some business. If you are just starting out, you may not have any patients. This will be a crucial component to having your own practice. All the work of starting your own practice with no guarantee that you will excel is one of the biggest disadvantages of being a clinical psychologist.

10. Do you think you have the emotional stamina for the job?

Day in and day out, you will be encountering clients with emotional and behavioral issues. This may become highly exhausting for you. Over time you may experience burnout and stress. You may then decide this is something you don’t want to do anymore. All that wasted time and money.


TOP PROS OF BEING A CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST

(The following are the top 10 advantages of being a Clinical Psychologist.)

1. You can make a pretty good living.

As a clinical psychologist, you can expect to make a good living. An entry-level clinical psychologist with less than one year of experience can expect to make around $70,000 a year. Your salary as a clinical psychologist will steadily increase from there. Factors that increase your salary will be your education level and your years of experience. Those who have been working for 20 years or more can expect to make somewhere around $100,000 a year. Having such a great earning potential is definitely a positive when weighing the pros and cons of being a clinical psychologist.

2. You can work in a variety of settings.

When you choose a career in clinical psychology, you will be able to work in a multitude of settings. A career in academia may be an option if you enjoy teaching. You could work as a counselor in the academic setting as well. Other settings you may find yourself working in are hospitals, private practices, psychotherapy centers, research centers, nursing centers, and rehabilitation facilities, to name a few. Having so many different environments that you could work in is definitely one of the advantages of being a clinical psychologist.

3. You will have some degree of job flexibility.

As a clinical psychologist, you will be able to arrange your day and patients as you see fit. Having such flexibility is one of the top pros of being a clinical psychologist. This is especially true if you work in a private practice setting. Think about this, if you worked in academia, you would be following the school calendar. This would mean you would get school breaks off throughout the year.

4. You will be improving lives.

Every day you will be working with patients and their families that have behavioral or mental health illnesses. By working with these patients and their families, you are bettering their lives. That is undoubtedly something to feel good about.

5. You will not be bored.

When you embark on a career as a clinical psychologist, you will not be completing the same tasks day in and day out. Your every day will be different. Your patients and their families will all have various reasons that they are seeking care for. Remember, variety is the spice of life and is one of the biggest advantages of being a clinical psychologist.

6. You will have a good amount of autonomy.

As a clinical psychologist, you will have a good amount of autonomy in your field. What this means for you is that you will be able to assess, diagnose and treat your patients as you see fit. I mean after all that education you have you should be proficient enough to treat your patients on your own.

7. How does it feel to be in demand?

Job security is a nice thing to have obtained in your life and is one of the pros of being a clinical psychologist. You never have to be wondering where your next paycheck is coming from. A career as a clinical psychologist means that you have chosen a field that is in demand. The demand for this field is expected to grow 3% by the year 2029. I know what you are thinking, wait that is only 3% growth. Yes, yes, it is but, it is growth in the positive direction which means that this is a field that requires your expertise.

8. You will be embarking on a pretty prestigious career.

Becoming a clinical psychologist will lead you down a path of a prestigious career. The amount of work that you will have to put into earning your degree is not for the faint of heart and is not something everybody will be able to accomplish.

9. You could be the boss.

If you have earned the credentials to open your own practice, you essentially become your own boss. Being your own boss essentially means being in control of many aspects of your own life. There are so many benefits to having your own practice and is definitely one of the advantages of being a clinical psychologist.

10. You could change the course of clinical psychology.

Through your practice and any research that you may be part of, you may develop or recognize treatments that could provide patients with better outcomes. You may find protocols that work best for specific disorders and improve the quality of life for your patients and their families.


The Bottom Line


So, what are the pros and cons of being a clinical psychologist? As you can see, there are many pros and cons to pursuing a career as a clinical psychologist. The top 10 pros and cons of being a clinical psychologist that I have listed for you I’m sure has definitely given you something to think about. The next step will be determining if this is a career that you will excel in and want to pursue. Remember, only you know what you will be happy doing for the rest of your life.


Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.