If you are considering a career in psychology, you want to be sure that there is plenty of room for growth in your field. Both during the early stages of a psychology student’s career in the field and after the student has acquired a license and years of experience, the opportunities for advancement are many and varied. The field of psychology needs head researchers, academic department leaders, managers of mental health staff and entrepreneurial self-employed counselors.

From Intern to Psychologist

For aspiring psychologists who are just starting out, career advancement accompanies educational progress as well as an increase in experience. Aspiring psychologists may begin working in their field long before they have earned a doctoral degree and the official title of psychologist. Often, psychology students begin getting relevant work experience through internships or practicum experiences. These experiences provide aspiring psychologists with their first opportunity to work with patients in a hands-on way, under the supervision of an experienced psychologist.

As they complete their undergraduate or master’s level degrees, these interns may be able to move into entry-level psychology jobs, such as working with patients in a mental health or rehabilitation center. Although employees at this level work with patients directly and may even contribute to their treatment plans, they don’t have personal control over the clinical treatment or mental health counseling help that patients receive. For aspiring psychologists who intend to go into research rather than clinical practice or counseling, research assistant jobs allow employees to become part of research studies and become familiar with the logistics of the research process as well as their area of interest.

Once a psychology student has completed a doctoral degree program and one or two years of experience, they may begin the process of obtaining a license, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. They can now become full-fledged psychologists, but that doesn’t mean they are out of opportunities for advancement.

Advancement Opportunities for Experienced Psychologists

For seasoned psychologists, the advancement opportunities depend on long-term goals. Research psychologists might graduate from helping other researchers with existing studies to develop their own project ideas and acting as principle investigators in their own research. They may also pursue senior roles in academia, such as becoming department heads or deans in the university setting where they conduct their research.

Counseling psychologists may take on managerial roles at established mental health and rehabilitation facilities, or they may set out to open their own private practices. Clinical psychologists have similar opportunities to enter high-level positions at hospitals and other healthcare centers. The American Psychological Organization reports that many psychologists with advanced degrees are now shifting their focus to prevention of mental and emotional disorders rather than merely treating disorders once they exist.

From the earliest stages, the field of psychology allows many opportunities for career development. Practiced psychologists with a lot of experience and an advanced education are the ones in the best positions to become innovators in the field.