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Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD of www.mybetternursinghome.com was nice enough to visit with us about her profession as a professional psychologist.

What do you do for a living?

I am a psychologist and I specialize in geriatric psychology which is working with older adults. I work mainly in nursing homes.

How would you describe what you do?

I talk with the residents to try to help them cope with the challenges that they’re facing and adjust to the nursing home environment. I work with the staff to provide the best care for the residents. I also help the families help their loved ones adjust to the nursing home as well and cope with any challenges working with the staff members and the nursing home administration.

What does you work entail?

I go to a nursing home, I’m only in one nursing home right now, though at times I have been in more than one. I work as part of the team, so I might attend a morning report, and then I have a roster of residents that I see and I generally meet with them in their rooms. Then I talk with the staff about them.

Being a psychologist is a very rewarding profession. I can always say I am doing good in the world and that’s important to me.

I may look at the medication in their chart or talk to the doctors or another staff member to try to work out any kind of problems that the resident may be having.  I consult with the psychiatrist and talk with family members to try to create a more pleasant environment for them and help them with any kinds of problems, whether they’re feeling depressed, or they’re having an issue with a roommate, they’re not getting along with the staff member, any kind of problem.

What’s a typical workweek for you?

Typically I see about thirty to forty residents of the nursing home a week. I talk with the staff every day and I have a lot of paperwork to take care of.  It’s always interesting and often challenging. When I go into work, I have a certain number of people that I need to see so it’s pretty flexible in that I start at a certain time, I see who I need to see, and when I’m finished, I can leave.

How did you get started?

I got started in the mental health field when I was in college. I started by working at a counseling center at the university I attended. It was really interesting and I felt I had an aptitude for it and I continued on to graduate school. I started specializing in geriatrics because I thought it was going to be a boom industry because there were going to be many people that needed care as they got older. I was young in my career at the time so I wanted something that would sustain me throughout my career and found that I really enjoyed it. I feel like I can be of tremendous help to the residents in the nursing homes.

What do you like about what you do?

I do feel that I am very helpful. I make a tremendous impact on the residents’ lives and I know because they tell me. I like the flexibility of the job. I like the challenges of it. I have an opportunity to be very creative in my approach to handling problems in a community setting.

Is there anything you dislike at all about your job?

Usually, being a psychologist, you see people when they’re having trouble and when they’re better they say thank you and then they leave. So one of the challenges is that when people want you and need you they’re having a hard time, so you have to get used to being with people that are having a hard time. I also find it challenging when I see people at the nursing home that are not getting the type of attention or care that they should.  That’s why I’ve been developing my work where I have the opportunity to give people on the staff ideas of how to handle problems in a different way that’s more effective and helpful for the residents.

How do you make money or how are you compensated?

My work is fee for service which means I get paid for the number of people that I see. So some psychologists that see many residents in a nursing home or see many patients in an outpatient practice would make more money.

I really don’t think you have to be crazy to see a shrink. I think that life is very challenging and that it can be incredibly helpful to have the outside perspective of somebody that doesn’t have a vested interested in your choices that you make.

And people that don’t see quite as many people would make less money.  It really depends on how ambitious you are and how much time you have to put into your work and what kind of resident population you’re working with.

How much money do you make as a psychologist?

The salary range for a psychologist is between $70,000 and $200,000. I am sure there are people who are making more and people who are making less.

How much money do you make starting out?

It depends if you’re working as a salaried employee because there may be jobs where you can get $50,000-70,000. And then if you’re starting a practice, you probably don’t make very much until you get more people coming through your door.

What education or skills are needed to be a psychologist?

First you need to get a high school degree, then a college degree, and then you need to get a graduate degree.  And you need to have a PhD level. So that could be a PhD, a PsyD(Doctor of Psychology), sometimes people work with an EDD(Doctorate of Education), but it’s a doctoral level program. And then you would have to be in a clinical study so that you can be licensed. You have to take a licensing exam in order to work as a licensed psychologist.

What is the most challenging part about your job?

I think as part of my job I tend to fall in love with everybody that I work with, at least to a certain extent, and since I’m working in a nursing home, some of them do pass away. I miss them and have to deal with losing them, so that is the most challenging part for me.

What is the most rewarding?

My residents give me such compliments, it’s quite lovely, and it’s very rewarding walking into a room where somebody is anxious or depressed and seeing them within the span of my meeting feeling so much better.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

I would caution them to think carefully about whether they are able to spend most of their time talking to people that feel bad, and are having troubles.

How much time off do you get/take?

Because I’m not working for any particular company, I can take as much time off as I want as long as I have coverage for the patients I am seeing. So it can vary. But of course when I take the time off, I don’t get paid. So you have to factor that in.  I typically take three or four weeks off a year.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

I think that many people have seen a lot of Woody Allen movies and so they think that they would be lying on a couch, talking to somebody that isn’t saying much. And often you have people saying “Oh you’re a shrink? I’m not crazy.” I really don’t think you have to be crazy to see a shrink. I think that life is very challenging and that it can be incredibly helpful to have the outside perspective of somebody that doesn’t have a vested interested in your choices that you make.

What are your goals and dreams of the future?

Well I find that I’ve been very helpful for individual residents in their rooms and individual nursing homes.  But my goals for the future are to bring the kind of help that I offer to them to a much larger group because I think I have a perspective that many people don’t have. And that is currently what I am working on; training staff members how to help in the nursing home and creating opportunities for families that are looking to place their loved ones in a nursing home learn from me about and how to transition their family member to a nursing home.

Is there anything that you would like people to know about what you do?

Being a psychologist is a very rewarding profession. I can always say I am doing good in the world and that’s important to me.

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Christina M. January 4, 2016 at 10:36 pm

Hi there, I’m a junior in high school with an aspiration to become a clinical psychologist. I have a few questions I hope you’ll be able to answer…
1. I have clinical depression and one of the major issues with my aspiration is my mental illness. I have it under control, however, I psych myself out with the thought that “If I’m not mentally healthy, how can I help others?” So do you think that could be an issue in the future with my dream?
2. I am not sure which specific field of psychology I would like to go into, clinical psychology is my go-to, but how did you decide which field exactly?
3. My therapist is technically a clinical social worker, how is that different? And is one career more rewarding than the other?
Thank you for your time.

Reply

Eleanor Barbera January 10, 2016 at 7:35 pm

Hi Christina,

Regarding the clinical depression, I’d look at it differently: If you’re able to achieve a graduate degree despite the challenge of depression, imagine how encouraging that would be for your patients should you choose to share that with them or how much you’d learn about yourself that would allow you to help others with similar difficulties.

Regarding the specific field of psychology, in order to be licensed to practice psychology, you’d need to have a degree (PhD or PsyD or I think there’s a newer “Doctor of Psychology” degree) in Clinical, Counseling or School Psychology. Take a look at the programs of study and see what appeals to you. Volunteer work in different settings will also help you get a sense of what’s right for you.

A clinical social worker generally has a Master’s Degree in Social Work, which is a shorter program of study. Also worth checking out. I like being a psychologist and feel the time and money spent on my education has been well worth it. The degree has given me a great degree of flexibility, which I like.

Good luck!

Dr. Barbera

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Mitch Musni December 17, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Hi, Dr. Barbera. I recently just started figuring out my life. I have a bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering, but am now just starting to figure out that perhaps I should have gone through a Psych program instead.

I’ve spent much of my time since high school being a listener and helping people figure themselves out (for free). I gain an immense sense of joy when I work with people to help them break out of their mental and psychological insecurities/walls…and I am very saddened when I can’t–which is what led me to rethink my career path towards that which involves counseling. My concern is the following:

1. I saw the educational path you outlined: college degree, grad degree, and then a PhD/PsyD. I am 29 years old…is it too late for me to start? I’m not like most of the young bucks who have commented here, asking their questions while in high school or college. I am worried about being in school for another decade and having to juggle this with a full-time job.

2. Regarding the educational path, since I have a Bachelor’s (although it’s Elec Eng), do you know if I would be able to just jump straight into a graduate Psych program? Or do I need a new Bachelor’s?

3. I have bad memory retention…short-term memory. Where many people can easily recall, I often will need some form of reinforcement to help me (in school I would always audio-record the lessons). Do you think this is a deal-breaker for being some sort of a counseling therapist/psychologist?

Reply

Eleanor Barbera January 10, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Dear Mitch,

Your BA in Electrical Engineering would be fine to get into graduate school in psychology. While most of the students in my graduate school program were just out of college or in their mid-twenties following a Master’s degree, there were a significant number of students in their early to mid-thirties and older. Regarding the short-term memory problem, perhaps there are some strategies you could use that might help you to recall information gathered during counseling sessions, such as more detailed post-session notes. You could practice in a volunteer situation (say visiting an elder at home weekly) to see if you’re able to recall what you need. The volunteer work would also show potential graduate schools that your interest in psychology is backed up by some experience.

Good luck,
Dr. Barbera

Reply

Linda Szabo September 2, 2015 at 8:43 am

Hello, Dr.Barbera
I am currently a Senior in highschool, looking for colleges to attend. however, I want to scope my search toward becoming a clinical psychologist. I have always had compassion for others, but mainly the mental well-being of others. mostly, I am interested in learning more about what the job’s tasks include as well as how to prepare for the seven years needed to reach this goal. I do understand that goals change often, but any advice about this matter would be greatly appreciated.
thanks,
Linda

Reply

Eleanor Barbera September 28, 2015 at 1:59 am

Hi Linda,

Regarding the tasks of the job, it’s important to be a good listener, to be patient and compassionate, to work through your own issues so that you’re not reacting from your own “stuff” to the things people tell you, to be timely and efficient with paperwork, and to recognize that people in all aspects of your life will see you as a role model of what mental health looks like.

With regard to preparing for school, it’s great that you know what you want to do at this point in your life. It will help a lot to have the larger goal in mind during those long years of study. As I’ve recommended to other commenters, I’d suggest trying to get practical experience in various settings through volunteer opportunities along the way. It will help you see whether this type of work is truly for you, give you a sense of what populations you enjoy working with, and show graduate schools that you’re committed to the field. If you get a part-time position in a social services-related organization — for example, a weekend receptionist at a nursing home — that would provide experience and help you to save money for your schooling.

Best of luck!

Dr. Barbera

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Allea April 25, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Hello Dr. Barbera,

My name is Allea and I am currently a sophomore attending college. I have had a passion for psychology and the health profession since I was a child. I really want to go into clinical psychology and specialize in psychotherapy, working in possibly a hospital setting. As of right now, my biggest complication is trying to find job shadowing as an undergraduate or even internship possibilities. I do see that you worked at your counseling center while in college, and I looked into that as well but unfortunately I attended the same counseling center and it is against their policy to intern past patients, which is understandable. But what would your advice be to job shadowing or internship opportunities as an undergrad?

Reply

Eleanor Barbera September 28, 2015 at 1:45 am

Hello Allea,

My apologies for the late reply. I just discovered your post here. It’s a great idea to try to get some practical experience before graduate school. If you’re interested in working in a hospital setting, I’d suggest volunteering at a local hospital. Your volunteer experience doesn’t have to be in a psychological capacity. The idea is to expose you to different populations and settings to see what appeals to you and there are many ways to be of service. Battered women’s shelters, soup kitchens, nursing homes and other social service settings often accept volunteers and will offer a great learning experience and resume-builder.

Dr. Barbera

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Amy Payne April 13, 2015 at 8:14 pm

I am working on a project for PSY/480 (Clinical Psychology) and found this information very helpful. Could you answer a few additional questions for me if possible?
1. How long have you been working in the nursing home setting?
2. What are the most common disorders you treat?
3.How do you approach therapy or treatment? Do you use specific modalities, techniques, or interventions?
4. What ethical and legal issues do you think are the most challenging or common?
5. Do you have an opinion on where you think the field of psychology is heading?

Also, I plan to enroll in a Master’s program in the fall and work towards a degree and certification in Behavioral Analysis-do you have any info/recommendations regarding this field?

Thank you,
Amy Payne

Reply

Eleanor Barbera September 28, 2015 at 1:37 am

Hi Amy,

I just discovered your post here — perhaps by now you’re already in your Master’s program. I don’t have any specific information about a Master’s in Behavioral Analysis or an opinion on the direction of the field in general, but I can answer your other questions.

I’ve worked in the nursing home setting for about 20 years and the people I see often have adjustment disorders with anxiety and depression. The approach I take is that even the most mentally healthy individual will feel stressed, anxious and depressed when experiencing health problems, living in an unfamiliar communal environment, and not being sure when and if they’ll be getting better and returning home. I help people cope with these challenges in whatever way is needed.

It can be challenging for me, at times, when the system doesn’t support the needs of the residents. For example, residents sometimes want to purchase items such as a special lotion or a watch battery and they can’t get out to a store and staff members aren’t supposed to be running errands for them. If they don’t have a family member or friend to do this for them, it becomes frustrating and difficult for them to have their independence taken away at this level on top of other losses they’re experiencing. I find it frustrating because it would be relatively easy to correct by having a store on campus or getting them debit cards linked to their in-house accounts and offering an online shopping “activity,” etc. I consider this an ethical challenge because people are supposed to be living in a “least restrictive environment” and this is an unnecessary restriction. Another common ethical situation is that residents are encouraged to sit rather than to be mobile because of the real concern about their falling. It’s a complicated situation because of the loss of independence on the part of the resident, the need for the facility to report falls, a high fall rate seen as being a sign of neglect rather than encouragement of independence, and the risk of litigation if someone falls (perhaps even if the resident has expressed that they would prefer to take that risk rather than lose the ability to ambulate).

Good luck with the Master’s program!

Dr. Barbera

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Todd Patrick March 3, 2015 at 3:43 pm

Hi, I’m a High School freshman and I have a paper due soon. I have to interview someone that has a job that I want. You might have already answered some of these questions.

1. How many years did you go to college for?
2. Your educational background? What you got a degree for, classes, etc.
3. Likes/dislikes about your career?
4. Any advice for people interested getting a similar job?

Thanks!

Reply

Eleanor Barbera March 22, 2015 at 12:29 am

Dear Todd,

I believe I’ve answered all of these questions in my interview and in the comments below. Please take the time to read what’s already been posted.

Dr. Barbera

Reply

Fiona February 1, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Hi Dr. Barbera,

I am currently a junior in college studying psychology and minoring in education. My vague goal is to become a clinical psychologist with a focus on adolescents, but I am still a bit confused on how I should best be preparing myself. So far, I’ve been helping with research in two labs, I have interned for one semester at a resource center for women with cancer where I provided emotional support over the phone, and this semester I plan to be mentoring middle school students. With my undergraduate career slowly coming to an end, I am trying to choose my next step wisely–that is, whether I should pursue a MSW, PsyD, or PhD. What might you think are the merits and downfalls of each degree? Why did you pursue a PhD rather than a Masters? Also, what tips do you have for gaining clinical experience? I know shadowing is typically difficult because of HIPAA or other sensitive issues with dealing directly with clients, but I really wish to gain some type of clinical experience.

Thank you so much for your help! Reading your article and the comments you have left on other questions have helped immensely already.

Thanks,
Fiona

Reply

Eleanor Barbera March 22, 2015 at 1:12 am

Hi Fiona,

The reason I pursued a doctoral degree in psychology was because I was quite sure that I wanted to become a psychologist and in order to practice psychology, a doctoral degree is necessary. You can’t be licensed to provide services with a masters degree in psychology. Some of my classmates came into the doctoral program with a masters degree (which took two years) and were able to complete the terminal PhD program in one year less than I did. I figured I saved a year by entering a terminal PhD program.

For people who are unsure if they really want to become psychologists, or can’t make the time and financial commitment to a five year program, it might make sense to get a Masters degree first. After all, if I’d only completed four of the five year program and dropped out, I would have had no degree at all. If someone is considering getting a two-year degree, to me it makes more sense to get a social work degree because that is a licensable degree and you can get a job with it. If the credits are able to be applied to the doctorate in psychology in the same way the Masters degree credits are, then taking the training in two steps allows for licensable work in both steps. If I were going to take this route, I’d check with the doctoral program I was interested in to see if I could apply my social work credits.

Regarding the PsyD or PhD question, I was open to either of those types of programs and I got into a PhD program so I went with that. I believe the PhD puts more focus on research methods than the PsyD and I’ve been very happy with having the research knowledge even though I do clinical work. That said, once out in the field, I find it makes little difference which degree one has. I work with colleagues who have PhDs in clinical psychology, PhDs in counseling psychology and PsyDs and we’re all called “Dr.” and no one outside the field has any idea of the nuances of our training.

Regarding clinical experiences, it sounds like you’re doing a great job with that already. See if you like the middle school students and if so, then try more volunteer work with adolescents in different settings later on. At this phase of life, though, you have time to volunteer with different populations to see what most appeals to you without having to make any decisions about it. Any clinical experience will be highly regarded in your application to graduate school and you’ll have opportunities for more clinical experiences during your training.

Best of luck,
Dr. Barbera

Reply

Isa September 9, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Hi Dr. Barbera
I’m a high school senior and I would like to know if you could answer some questions about becoming a clinical psychologist for my Senior exit.
Questions:
1.How did you become interested in this career?
2.Is There opportunity for advancement in this career field?
3.Which skill do you think is the most important to perform for this job?
4.How many hours do you work a day?How many days a week?
5.If you were hiring a person for this job,what would you look for?
6.Was it difficult to find your fist job in this field?
7. What is your advice for someone who is interested in this field?

answering some, or any of these questions would help me so much ,thanks for your time.

Reply

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD September 10, 2014 at 7:44 am

Hi Isa,

1. I became interested in psychology after volunteering at my college counseling center. The more psychology courses I took, the more I found it appealed to me.

2. There are many things you can do with a PhD in psychology, from private practice to running a group practice to holding public office and many other options. It’s very versatile.

3. Psychologists need to be good listeners. That’s the most important skill. Being present and really listening to what others have to say.

4. As a psychologist working in long-term care or in private practice, the hours can be very flexible depending on your clientele and the amount of money you need to make. Because it’s fee for service work, the more patients you see, the more money you’ll make. Psychologists who see working people often have office hours in the evenings and early mornings; in long-term care it’s a day job. If the psychologist was on staff, say at a psychiatric or veteran’s hospital, that would be a 9-5 job M-F.

5. If I were hiring a psychologist, I’d look for someone who was compassionate, professional in their demeanor, and had experience with the population they were looking to serve.

6. I had no problem finding my first job as a psychologist.

7. If you’re interested in the field, I’d suggest volunteering in a place like a crisis hotline, woman’s shelter, homeless shelter, etc so you can gain a better sense of what it means to be helping others on a regular basis.

Best,
Dr. Barbera

Reply

Jennifer May 18, 2014 at 11:21 am

Hello Dr. Barbera,

Your post solidified my decision to become a psychologist – thank you for the great post and your kindness in answering everyone’s inquiries. May I ask, how is your performance evaluated (or someone in the industry), how do you measure your success and who do psychologist typically report to? Thank you for your time.

Reply

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD May 21, 2014 at 7:14 am

Hi Jennifer,

Congratulations on your decision to become a psychologist. Regarding your question about evaluating performance, I suppose as in most careers, everybody evaluates their success differently. To some people being successful means making a lot of money, to some it means making a contribution to society, to others it means finding a way to support themselves while being present for their family, etc. As a psychologist, it’s gratifying to hear patients remark that my presence in their lives has helped them change for the better or to cope with a situation they were struggling with before. In terms of who you report to as a psychologist, if you’re in private practice that doesn’t take insurance, you basically report to your patients and to yourself and the ethical standards of psychologists. If you take insurance, there’s an added element of the insurance company requirements such as filling out treatment reports in order to be allowed more sessions with the client. If you work in a team setting, you have a responsibility to work with/report to the team. As a psychologist who works in nursing homes, it’s an interesting question: Do I report to the patient, the nursing home, the agency that hired me to work in the nursing home, or to Medicare/Medicaid/private insurance companies that are paying for the service? I put the patient first and do the right thing clinically and all else falls into place.

Best,
Dr. Barbera

Reply

Taylor A. August 3, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Hello Dr. Barbera,

I’m a high school senior and I’m thinking about studying Counseling Psychology and I wanted to know if you know if there was a way that I could shadow a Counseling Psychologist just to see what the job is like on a day-to-day basis? I was thinking about using the research and information I got from the shadowing for my senior project.
Thanks!

- Taylor A.

Reply

Eleanor Barbera August 4, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Hi Taylor,

Because of the confidential nature of the work psychologists do, it’s unlikely you’d be able to shadow a psychologist who is working with clients. You might instead volunteer for a crisis intervention center or some other organization that uses volunteers to assist people in need (battered women’s shelter, homeless shelter, etc.). That would give you a good idea of the type of work it is and whether you’d like the field and be a great subject for a senior project.

Best,
Dr. Barbera

Reply

Taylor F April 20, 2013 at 11:17 am

Hello Dr. Barbera,
All of this information I’m reading is really helping me a lot and I thank you for your time.
However, I would like to know if you could answer some questions about becoming a clinical psychologist. How many years would I need to be in college? I also am not very good in math I’ve always struggled with it.. Would there be a lot of math involved in clinical psychology? I’m a junior in high school and I will be graduating in the year 2014. I love talking and listening to people’s problems and trying to understand why they did what they did or how could help the get better. I know that the problems I will encounter will be much different than what I hear now. Do you know of anyway I could job shadow? I also would like to know if It would be better to start off in a 2-year college then transfer to a university or just go straight to a university? Oh! How much would it cost to go into this field and how much would you get paid?
Any of these questions that your able to answer would be great!
Thanks so much,
Taylor F

Reply

Eleanor Barbera April 30, 2013 at 5:56 am

Hi Taylor,

In order to become a clinical psychologist, first a student needs a four-year college degree and then a doctoral degree that takes at least five more years of study. There is some math involved in the degree — mostly statistics — but it’s manageable. If you’re interested in getting a sense of what the job might be like, you could consider doing volunteer work at a crisis intervention center or a women’s shelter or some other setting. I don’t think it matters much whether you first go to a 2-year college and then transfer to a university and it’s likely to be a lot less expensive than paying for 4 years at a university. Some graduate programs offer assistantships and other financial aid. It’s good to be cautious about taking out student loans and to find other ways to finance your education because paying the loans back is financially challenging. I believe the average salary for a psychologist is around $70K but there is a wide range in salaries depending on the type of work you do, how many hours you put in, where you practice, and how ambitious and business-oriented you are.

Dr. Barbera

Reply

John December 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Hi Doctor Barbera,
I’m finding all of this information very helpful, so thank you again for your time and advice!
I’ve already graduated collage with a four year degree, but I did not major in any kind of physiologic field. Looking back I am now wishing I had! Would you say that the foundation you received was essential to being able to succeed in a graduate degree program? (I would assume that it is) If that is the case, how much of your undergrad time directly prepped you for furthering your education? (If I were to jump back into school, I wonder how many basics classes I would need to be able to be sufficiently prepared for the next big step!?)
Thank you,
John

Reply

Eleanor Barbera December 11, 2012 at 10:53 am

Hi John,

While my undergraduate psychology background certainly prepared me for the types of classes I took in graduate school, equally if not more important were the mental health experiences I had outside of class and between undergraduate and graduate school. If you can volunteer or work at a crisis center, homeless shelter, or some other mental health setting, you’ll get the chance to see if this type of work is for you and it will prepare you for your graduate studies (as well as look good on your application).

Best,
Dr. Barbera

Reply

Stan November 7, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Hi Dr barbera, thanks for answering everyone’s questions. I’m thinking about joining a phd program but i have two questions about it. I see most PhD programs are more research oriented. What exactly does research entail? And how much math is involved because I’m really bad at math. I understand a psy dhad less research/math but there’s more available PhD programs in my area and research might be something that appeals to me I’m just not sure what it is exactly. Thanks a lot.

Reply

Eleanor Barbera November 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Hi Stan,

Psychology research generally involves posing a question of some sort and collecting and analyzing data to find out the answer to your question. This description is vague because there are so many possible options for psychology research depending on your interests and program of study. You could contact the programs you’re interested in and find out what types of research their students do in order to get a better idea. Yes, there are statistics involved. I never thought statistics was my strong suit, but I wound up being a teaching assistant for a statistics course and did fine. I hired someone to help me analyze my data for my dissertation — yes, you’re allowed to do that, as long as you know what you’re talking about when you defend your dissertation. That said, I thought the process of research was fascinating and I learned things that have helped me to make sense of studies I read about every day (not necessarily psychological studies). I’m very glad I had the research training and highly recommend it.

Dr. Barbera

Reply

Eleanor Barbera October 24, 2012 at 3:44 am

Hi Dan,

In order to do clinical work, you’d need a licensed degree. An MSW is a two-year degree and then you’d be a licensed social worker. Once out in the work world, if you’re a licensed psychologist it doesn’t really matter if you have a PhD or a PsyD and either degree takes at least 5 years to earn. The training for all these degrees differs between programs and you can investigate different programs and see what they offer. Math wasn’t my strong suit either, but I managed and even was a teaching assistant for a statistics class and did just fine. The earning power of a psychologist is generally greater than that of a social worker, but again, it depends on how ambitious and entrepreneurial you are.

Dr. Barbera

Reply

dan October 23, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Thanks a ton for getting back so quick, i have two more questions i would really appreciate if you could answer. I understand not going into psych for the money but i think its the career for me that crosses both lines of most appeal and money, so Iif money Is a goal Is there much of difference between a psy d and msw or other degree? Also how hard I’d the stats required if i have no math background and I’m really not good at it

Reply

Eleanor Barbera October 23, 2012 at 8:19 am

Dan, it’s not typical and it wouldn’t happen right away, but if you are ambitious and entrepreneurial, it’s possible to make 2ooK as a psychologist. I wouldn’t go into the field for the money though. It should be more of a passion or a calling.

Dr. Barbera

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dan October 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Hi thanks for your time. I as well would like to be a psychologist but I am also very ambitious about making money. While i know it’s not likely is it possible to make 200,000 a year as a clinical psychologist?

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Taylor N October 20, 2012 at 11:35 am

Hello, I really hope you see this because I know it has been some time since your last post. I am currently in 10th grade and I am considering a Psychology based career. I am looking for a time and place to do a job-shadow. Until I can find someone in my area to do one with, may I ask you some questions?

Around how much would it cost to pay for all of the schooling?
Is there any type of scholarships you can think of to help me through school?
If you could go back and pick a different branch of Psychology, what would it be?

I am also looking into Criminology but I live in a small town and until I have a set plan I don’t want to move away from home, do you know of any things that would be a good career: pays well, but also rewarding in other ways. I have looked into Drug Counseling but I don’t think that is exactly for me. I’m more into helping people and not being the bad guy if they do something wrong.

Thank you for reading, and thank you in advance if you respond.

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Eleanor Barbera October 21, 2012 at 11:26 am

Hi Taylor,

It’s great to be thinking ahead to the type of career you’d like. For a PhD in psychology you’d need an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree, so there are definitely significant costs involved. The amount depends on what school you go to. I took out student loans when I was an undergraduate, and worked over the summers and on breaks to minimize the amount of loans I needed. When I was in graduate school I had an assistantship and tuition waiver so the costs were relatively manageable. You can see what type of funds are available at the schools you’re looking into and choose a school based on the financial aid. It’s best to minimize loans if possible because they are not fun to pay back.

I’m quite happy with the branch of psychology I choose, but I do envy the summers off of the school psychologists and admire the earning power of ambitious industrial-organizational psychologists. The helping professions are not as high-paying as some other fields, but there are great rewards on a daily basis and if you are entrepreneurial, there are opportunities to make a good living.

Best of luck,
Dr. Barbera

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Eleanor Barbera May 11, 2012 at 4:09 am

Dear Ashlyn,

If you’re ambitious, and entrepreneurial, it’s possible to make more than $90,000 a year as a psychologist. It’s a very flexible profession. Here’s a link to a site that gives information about different types of jobs psychologists can hold: http://psyris.com/pages/text/a6.html

Some psychiatrists get additional training so that they counsel people as well as provide medication. Psychiatrists go to medical school and then specialize in human behavior. The training for psychologists focuses on human behavior the entire time. In some states, psychologists can get additional training and apply for prescription privileges.

While it’s important to consider salary when choosing a career, recognize that you’ll be spending decades engaging in your chosen field, so it should be one you enjoy and find fulfilling.

Dr. Barbera

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Ashlyn May 8, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Dear Doctor Barbera,

I’m in high school interested in pursuing a career in psychology or psychiatry. I’d prefer to pursue psychology, but I want to make more than $90,000 a year. I know it”s highly unreasonable, which I why my other option was psychiatry because they made more money. What do you think? Do psychiatrists do more than supply medication, for example actually counsel patients like pyschologists? And what exactly do pyschologists do besides counsel people? I’m having a hard time finding out a lot of ‘realistic information’ on the internet, and would really appreciate your answers! Thanks a bunch!

-Ashlyn

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Eleanor Barbera April 15, 2012 at 9:27 am

Hi Marissa,

Psychology is all about asking questions, so you’re halfway there!

–For more info on Industrial/Organizational Psychology, check out this website: http://www.siop.org/

–It’s been many years since my undergraduate days, but I recall the class schedule to be very diverse, with classes in departments other than psychology. You could try checking with colleges to see the required coursework for a psychology degree.

–I studied statistics, which provided a sound background for evaluating research results and making sense of many everyday news reports.

–I’ve never regretted studying psychology. You really need to get a PhD in order to work in the field, which is a big time commitment, and worthwhile, with sound clinical training. If the time commitment (at least 5 years of graduate work) doesn’t appeal to you, social work school is two years and offers the opportunity for licensed clinical practice. In terms of any changes in the process of getting a PhD, while many students in my class were planning to start private practices, there wasn’t any training on how to set up the business of a private practice. If that’s the direction you’re thinking of, then I’d suggest looking for a program that offered some practical coursework on the business of psychology.

– I had no interest in becoming a psychiatrist, which entails medical school (and blood). Psychiatrists provide psychotropic medications and in general spend far less time with their patients than psychologists. I find it much more interesting and rewarding to help people through the therapeutic relationship, and to collaborate with psychiatrists on behalf of patients as needed.

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Marissa Johnson April 13, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Dear Dr. Barbara,

Firstly, I’d like to thank you so much for even posting this article and answering questions the way you do. I’ve been looking up psychology on the internet for a while know and as a junior in high school there’s only so much of the logistics that I get (lol). Anyways, I was gonna ask if …
- you could expand in detail about what an industrial psychologist does
- what did the itenerary of an averge day in class (college) consist of?
- what all types of math you need/studied and how were they helpful
- if you could change anything about psychology/the process of getting a degree/ just anything under the umbrella of psychology what would it be and why?
- why didn’t you become a psychiatrist

answering some, or any of these questions would help me so much; as you can see I have a laundry load of questions about psychology and could really use youe help :) thanks

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Eleanor Barbera March 20, 2012 at 5:58 am

Hi Ally,

I’d agree that being a psychologist is not generally a huge money maker, but it’s possible to earn $80-90,000 a year depending on the area of psychology you choose. Industrial/organizational psychologists are likely to make more money than school psychologists, for example. (But school psychologists have the summers off, and that’s hard to beat!) Psychology is a very flexible career, and there are many options. Many psychologists in private practice start out taking the relatively low fees offered by insurance companies, and as their practice builds up, they raise rates and take patients who pay privately. Entrepreneurial types will be able to make the most of the healthcare environment. Remember, though, that if you have to pay off student loans, this can substantially affect your disposable income until the loans are paid off, so carefully consider ways of paying for your education as you go along.

Good luck!

Dr. Barbera

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Ally March 18, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Dear Dr. Barbera,
I would like to be a counseling psychologist and work with people. I just graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology. I majored in psychology because I really liked it. In fact I loved it! I like working with people with mental health issues. But, now I keep getting told that I chose a starving artist job. I am worried that I will not make enough money as a psychologist with the new US healthcare system. It worries me because I really love psychology and working with people, but I don’t want to make a bad career choice. It is hard for me to let go of what I love. As far as money goes I would like to get a Ph.d and earn about $80,000 – $90,000 a year, and work with people during the day. Are these impossible goals? Am I making a bad career choice?

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Eleanor Barbera February 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Hi Hanna,

Becoming a psychologist requires 4 years of college, followed by 5-7 years of graduate school, depending on how quickly you’re able to complete the requirements. In order to receive a PhD in psychology, which is a doctorate of philosophy in psychology, I took several statistics courses, which were challenging but manageable, and worthwhile in terms of understanding research results. Some people practice as psychologists with a PsyD, which is a doctorate of psychology, and that degree may have different requirements (and possibly less math). Regarding paperwork, in order to get the degree, there are tons of papers to write. Once you have your degree and are in practice, there are tons of papers to write, depending on what type of psychology you’re doing. With teenagers, you would probably have to document every session and perhaps write reports, depending on the situation. Once you get used to it, the paperwork becomes routine.

Best,
Dr. Barbera

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hanna February 25, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Hi Dr. Barbera I’m a high school student looking for the right career. I am a very caring person and love to help people. I have considered becoming a psychologist but most likely for teenagers. I was wondering exactly how much schooling was involved and how many years that took. Also I was wondering how much math skills are needed for this career be cause math is not my strongest subject. And last but not least I was wondering what kind of paperwork is fully involved. Thanks so much.

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Eleanor Barbera December 29, 2011 at 5:53 am

Hi Dana,

Yes, I love my job as a psychologist. I also enjoyed going to school, but I’d say the hardest part of school was that it took a long time. It requires perseverance and stamina. I’d suggest volunteering in a setting where you can get exposure to mental health issues — a crisis center, a women’s shelter, a nursing home — to see if it’s something you like and would want to make into a career. The volunteer work will also help you get into a doctoral program, if you decide psychology is right for you.

Good luck!

Dr. Barbera

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Dana Rogers September 20, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Hello my name Is Dana. I have been debaiting about what I would like to do after high school. I have been looking for someone who is in the same career path as I. I need/want someone to look up to, someone to help me, and guide me. I truly need help with deciding what classes I want to take. I really need to know is this exactly what I what. The question I really would like to ask is do you love your job? What was the hardest part in college?

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