Exploring Psychology Careers: How to Become a Contemporary Psychologist

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The television show Survivor was groundbreaking for many reasons. When it first aired in 2000, the focus was on the new genre of “reality television,” but over its nearly two decades on air, Survivor has gone from a genre-breaking show to a long-running case study in human psychology. Each season, the show explores what happens when 16 to 20 strangers are stranded in a remote location with minimal supplies while competing with one another over the course of 39 days, with a jury of eliminated players awarding one of the contestants $1 million at the end. It offers a fascinating look at how emotions, behaviors, and actions change based on circumstances and evolving social and physical conditions.

A contemporary psychologist leads a group therapy session.

When many people think of psychology, they imagine a person lying on a leather couch while a therapist asks questions about the patient’s childhood. However, modern psychology has come a long way from the days of overly formal clinicians and outdated theories. Contemporary psychologists view their field in a much more nuanced way, understanding all the factors that go into a single emotion or behavior. Continue reading to find out more about what contemporary psychology is and the current job market for psychologists.

What Is Contemporary Psychology? How the Field Continues to Evolve

Psychology emerged as a scientific field in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as different thinkers developed overarching theories that explained human development. Modern psychologists have realized there’s no one theory that answers every question about the human mind. Instead, contemporary psychology has evolved into many subfields. Psychologists explore different aspects of the human brain and how it expresses itself in the physical world or how different societal influences change the way we think, feel, and act. They may study individuals, groups, or even society. Modern psychologists understand that every individual’s psychology is a unique mix of genetics, environment, and experiences. Given this, they strive to understand how some of those traits can influence the way we think, feel, and act.

Steps for Becoming a Psychologist

Becoming a psychologist takes years of education and training, plus the right skills to effectively connect with patients and conduct research. To become a contemporary psychologist, you must complete the steps outlined below.

Get the Right Education

Becoming a licensed psychologist starts with earning undergraduate and graduate degrees. It’s helpful for future psychologists to start their collegiate path in a relevant undergraduate program, such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Such foundational study prepares students for a master’s or doctoral program. Undergraduate students develop key skills that will be necessary later in their careers, such as interpersonal communication, analytical thinking, attention to detail, empathy, and problem-solving.

According to the American Psychological Association, graduates who want to pursue a career in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or industrial and organizational psychology can enter a terminal master’s degree program that includes an emphasis on research. Many psychologists also earn a doctoral degree, which typically requires five to seven years of study. Some doctoral programs require a master’s degree, while others do not. The two main doctorates in this field are the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology and the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD).

Earn Licensure and Certification

Earning a doctorate in psychology isn’t enough to begin practicing. Many states have different requirements for licensure and certification, but all require a combination of advanced education and supervised professional experience before a psychologist can practice. In addition, to become a contemporary psychologist, individuals must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Some specialists in psychology, such as neuropsychologists and clinical health psychologists, must also earn board certification.

Psychologist Salaries

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual salary for psychologists was $79,010 as of May 2018. Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earned a median annual salary of $76,990, industrial-organizational psychologists earned $97,260, and all other psychologists earned $100,770. The industry that paid psychologists the most was the government ($96,410), followed by hospitals ($86,530), ambulatory healthcare services ($79,180), and elementary and secondary schools ($75,890).

Employment Outlook for Psychologists

The BLS expects the job market for psychologists to grow 14% between 2018 and 2028, which is nearly three times the national job market average. There were 181,700 psychologists working in the U.S. in 2018, which means the BLS projects there will be about 26,100 new jobs created in the coming years. The largest percentage of psychologists (29%) are self-employed, but many others are employed by elementary and secondary schools (24%), ambulatory healthcare services (18%), the government (10%), and hospitals (6%). Of the 26,100 new jobs created between 2018 and 2028, the BLS projects ambulatory healthcare services will add 13,700 (a 41% increase), and offices of mental health practitioners will add 10,500 (a 55.8% increase).

Learn More About Becoming a Contemporary Psychologist

The route to becoming a psychologist begins with an undergraduate program that teaches students about human behavior and cognition and inspires a passion for understanding human development and its impact on society. Through coursework that emphasizes vital skills such as research, social psychology, and multicultural psychology, Maryville University’s online bachelor’s in psychology program creates the foundation for success in postgraduate education and the professional landscape. Explore more about how Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology could be the perfect starting point for your career in contemporary psychology.

Recommended Reading

A Guide to Children’s Mental Health

New Mental Health Trends and the Future of Psychiatry

The Future of Psychology: New Methods for Helping People


American Psychological Association, Careers in Psychology

American Psychological Association, “Trends Report: Psychology Is More Popular Than Ever”

Houston Chronicle, “Tips on the Right Career Path to Become a Psychologist”

Maryville University, Online Psychology Bachelor’s Degree

Psychology Today, “Modern Psychology”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Psychologists

Very Well Mind, “Perspectives in Modern Psychology”