Psychologists are healthcare professionals who focus on understating how the brain and the thinking processes of humans work to influence behavior. Their in-depth understanding of how the brain works means they can help people who are dealing with mental and emotional problems. They use various therapeutic methods to help patients solve their psychological issues and start making changes that will improve their quality of life.
So, what are the pros and cons of being a psychologist? It actually takes a long time and hard work to qualify as a psychologist. Being a psychologist can be extremely rewarding in many ways, but like any other carer, it has its downsides. Therefore, as you evaluate your career paths, being aware of both sides can help you decide if working as a psychologist is right for you. If you enjoy facing new challenges, helping people, and are willing to continually learn, chances are you’ll enjoy psychology
As you consider pursuing a degree in psychology, it’s important to note that some critical skills are necessary for the job. For starters, you need to have good communication skills. Effective communication is about speaking, writing, listening, eye contact, watching your tone of voice, and most importantly, paying attention to the non-verbal cues. Other attributes of a good psychologist include patience, problem-solving skills, confidentiality, empathy, appropriate boundaries, trustworthiness, etc.
10 Pros of Being a Psychologist
1. Opportunity to work with different people
Psychologists work with people from all walks of life. You’ll get to work with children, adults, couples, and even families from different cultures and backgrounds. Your exposure to different age or population groups will broaden your perspective, especially if you’re an expat. This makes it possible to relate to your patients better and effectively help them overcome mental and emotional obstacles. Ultimately, you’ll get to meet and watch a large variety of people achieve their full potential.
2. Flexible work hours
Psychologists, especially those who work in private practices, can set their working hours. They have the option to schedule appointments with patients around their schedules, giving them plenty of time to meet family and social demands. Although those working in the government sectors and industrial settings don’t enjoy as much flexibility, they still report having control of their schedules and enough time for personal activities.
3. Ability to work for yourself
Psychology can be an excellent profession for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Many psychologists go on to establish their private practices once they gain enough experience. Going this route is not easy, and not for everyone, but it does give you complete control over your job. Apart from running your own business, if you’re working in a specialized field like forensic psychology or educational psychology, you can find self-employment opportunities as a private consultant.
4. Potential to earn high salaries
While money shouldn’t be the only reason to enter a certain occupation, we all want to make enough money to live comfortably. It’s safe to say that psychologists are generally well compensated for their work. Psychologists working full-time make an average of $75,000 a year, which is way higher than the national average. Psychologists who specialize in certain fields have the potential to get six-figure salaries. Those running successful private practices have the potential to earn $200,000 a year.
5. Lots of career choices
There are several different areas of study in the field of psychology. For starters, you can focus on clinical training, which requires psychologists to treat patients from a doctor-focused perspective and help them live better lives. Those interested in criminal justice can specialize in forensic psychology. Other specializations include counseling psychology, educational psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, cognitive and perceptual psychology, sports psychology, and so on. Psychology not only allows you to become a psychologist but also equips you with the skills needed for other jobs.
6. Range of work environments
With plenty of areas to specialize in, it only makes sense that there will be several different working environments to explore. Psychologists can work in hospitals and clinics, government agencies, rehabilitation centers, schools and universities, social service organizations, research institutions, nursing homes, and more. As mentioned earlier, they can also choose to create their working environments as private consultants or by starting their private practices.
7. Help others
If you’re looking for a job where you can make a real difference in other people’s lives, then being a psychologist is worth considering. Psychologists help patients tackle difficult issues in their lives. From traumatic events to severe mental illnesses, they get the disadvantaged back on their feet and improve their overall quality of life.
8. Job satisfaction
The basic part of this job is to help people overcome mental and emotional obstacles. This in its very nature is incredibly gratifying and fulfilling. In addition to helping people on an individual level, another source of satisfaction comes from their ability to conduct and publish research, which can change people’s minds and encourage them to improve their lives.
9. Job growth prospects all over the world
The demand for psychologists is strong and growing. This is due to the rise in mental health issues, a growing aging population, not to mention, other sectors want to collaborate with them more to help people overcome personal problems. More opportunities are set to rise in research firms, schools, businesses, and NGOs, especially for psychologists working as private consultants. You also have the opportunity to work abroad. Just ensure you provide culturally sensitive therapies and follow ethical standards set in that particular country.
10. Personal benefits
Psychologists have a deeper understanding of human nature. They understand why people act in a certain way, what their real thoughts are, what they mean when they act in a certain way, and so on. Being able to understand people’s behavior is vital everywhere. As a psychologist, you’ll have more ways to adapt to the circumstances in your own life. You’ll develop critical thinking, good communication, and even learn how to resolve personal conflicts.
10 Cons of Being a Psychologist
1. Irregular work hours
Psychologists enjoy flexible work hours, especially those in private practice, but their schedules can also be erratic. As a psychologist, you may have to offer your services at unexpected times. For instance, you can be called during off-hours to help a patient that’s facing a crisis. You might also have clients who can’t meet you during normal working hours, probably because they work all day as well. If that’s the case, you’ll need to be flexible to accommodate their schedules.
2. It can be stressful
Psychology is stressful right from school. You’ll find coursework in every psychology degree program to be quite rigorous. Then there’s the profession itself. Every day you’ll be dealing with other people’s problems. You may also have to intervene in crises where patients are at risk of harming themselves or other people, or even handle volatile situations. All these intense situations can make the job stressful.
3. Extensive education and training
An aspiring psychologist must complete four years of undergraduate studies, followed by a doctoral degree that takes 5-7 years. In some areas of specialisation, you may have to complete one more year of internship. While you take a decade to kick-start your career, many of your friends will have entered the job market and probably be earning a comfortable living. However, focus on the plentiful rewards ahead. As if 10 years of study wasn’t enough, those set on becoming licensed psychologists require up to 2 years of working experience before they can take the licensing exam. Continued education or training will be required to stay licensed.
4. Student loans
Aspiring psychologists are bound to incur huge student loan debts investing in their studies. In fact, those who want to pursue a PsyD should prepare for even more debt since their programs usually run in private institutions, where there’s less access to the traditional forms of financial assistance such as assistantships.
5. Administrative tasks
All psychologists, whether employed or running their practice, have to deal with a lot of paperwork to maintain their practices. This includes preparing psychological testing documents, intake forms, case notes, treatment plans, and any other documentation or reports needed for insurance billing. Those who want to dedicate their time to their patients may find the tremendous amount of paperwork needed to be discouraging. Dealing with insurance companies is a hassle on its own.
6. Possibility of violence
Although it’s rare, there’s a possibility of violence in people dealing with emotional and mental problems. Most of the patient assaults don’t cause serious injuries, but they can be emotionally disturbing. Psychologists must, therefore, be vigilant about staying safe when working with clients.
7. It can be a lonely profession
Psychology exposes you to many different people, but for most parts, it can be a very solitary job. Most psychologists practice in isolation where it’s just them and their patients. Sessions are always about the patient, and it’s their space. While you may get support from colleagues, confidentially requirements prohibit you from discussing your work. As such, you’ll need to have a social and emotional outlet as well.
8. It can be emotionally demanding
Listening to intensely emotional problems daily can be emotionally exhausting. Psychologists are required to be emotionally available for their patients but not over-identify with them. This means suppressing your own emotions to help solve a patient’s problems. All the emotional baggage puts psychologists at risk of burnout, depression, distress, or anxiety. This can impair their ability to do their job effectively. It’s imperative that you practice good stress management techniques and also separate your work from your personal life.
9. License is not transferable
If you are licensed to practice in one state, you might not be in another. The same goes for expats who got licensed in their home country. Licensure and training requirements differ significantly around the world. And, not just that, working in another culture or language comes with ethical challenges. If you’re thinking of moving to another country, be prepared to take additional classes and pay additional fees to get a license to practice there.
10. Setting up your own practice is challenging
As mentioned earlier, many psychologists choose to open private practice instead of following the traditional employment route. However, setting up a private practice is not an easy task. Not only do you need to perform basic tasks like finding an office and buying equipment, but you also need to establish a client base. Then, you have to handle additional issues like obtaining malpractice insurance, billing practices, tax obligation, health insurance, document management, and so on. You may be a great psychologist but how good are your entrepreneurial skills?
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.