Employment Outlook & Career Guidance for Clinical Psychologists

Clinical EmploymentAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, out of the reported 160,200 psychologists holding a job in 2012, nearly one-third of them were self-employed. Outside of self-employment, clinical psychologists generally find jobs in health and social care settings, such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation facilities, and community and mental health centers. Clinical psychologists are also hired in education, corporation, and government sectors.

What Type of Positions Can a Clinical Psychologist Hold?

Clinical psychologists can hold positions in education, research, management, and within a wide range of medical and community settings. Many psychologists become entrepreneurs, and start their own clinic or private practice. According to Dr. Tecsia Evans, a clinical psychologist in the SF Bay Area, career options available to clinical psychologists include:

  • Being a director or supervisor of a psychology training program
  • Providing evaluations for family court during child custody disputes
  • Being a researcher, professor or adviser for an educational institution
  • Publishing articles and self-help books in psychology
  • Doing consultant work for organizations seeking psychology experts (such as forensic psychologists)
  • Providing psychological evaluations for those seeking long term disability or worker's compensation

The type of job field or employment setting that a clinical psychologist encounters also hinges upon the type of degree he or she possesses.

"Clinical psychology graduates have many options: academia, research, clinical settings (hospitals, outpatient clinics) and private practice. The type of degree (PhD or PsyD) will influence the options to some extent. PhD's typically have more research training and typically have an easier time working in academic and/or research settings. PsyD's are more applied/clinical [and] tend to end up in more clinical settings. There are some programs that offer MA's in clinical psychology. Unfortunately, the options with an MA are much more limited, as you cannot become a licensed psychologist." – Reuben Robbins, PhD

Learn more about how to become a clinical psychologist.

Clinical psychologists also find employment within a:

  • Legal Setting: Working with incarcerated individuals, victims of crimes, and recently released criminals. The legal system offers job positions that serve clients of all ages – from youths to senior citizens.
  • Sports Therapy Setting: Working with athletes to overcome personal issues and problems that may hinder their performance level.
  • Business Setting: Working with companies to find more scientific, better-organized ways to train employees, develop and strengthen relationships between employees, and eliminate negative aspects of an employee's personality, such as hostility and timidity.
  • Military Setting: Working with military personnel (and their families) who experience difficulties readjusting to civilian life, coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, and/or dealing with combat injuries. Clinical psychologists also work with grieving relatives of soldiers, and spouses with separation issues.

Spotlight Clinical Psychology Degree Offerings

Ways for Clinical Psychologists to Increase Desirability as a Job Candidate

The characteristics deemed most desirable by employers of clinical psychologists vary according to the type of job that an applicant has applied to.

"According to Reuben Robbins, PhD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, employers within the academic and/or research field value a strong track record of publication and grant funding. He says that clinical-related jobs also take into consideration good recommendations, diverse experiences, strength in character, the ability to supervise, and experiences working with complex health systems and patients."

Other attributes of a clinical psychologist valued by employers include: 

  • Leadership skills
  • Being able to demonstrate a healthy balance between work and life
  • Published written work and/or research for academic-related positions
  • Being an active member of a psychological association (such as the APA or local association)
  • Active in the community, such as doing outreach and volunteer work
  • A team player willing to learn from and listen to others

"Having experiences working with a diverse clientele. It's always impressive when you see an applicant who has done great clinical work with a caseload that is full of clients that represent a variety of backgrounds (i.e. race, age, cultural, sexual orientation, gender, SES, religion, etc.) and a spectrum of clinical diagnoses." – Tecsia Evans @DrEvansCo

Ways for a Clinical Psychologist to Increase His/Her Salary

The desire and follow-through that a clinical psychologist shows to further his or her skills and knowledge of the field is one of the most common actions that lead to an increase in salary or job position. In the academic and /or research environment, employers often evaluate a psychologists' grant funding efforts, published works, teaching reviews, and leadership roles (such as manager, supervisor, or project lead) to determine salary increases.

Advanced training is also beneficial in both the clinical and academic settings. Those who become board certified or earn a certificate in a specialized skill (such as a particular type of psychotherapy or learning advanced data analytic techniques, as Robbins suggests) exhibit the kind of qualities that employers place in high regard. Evans also suggests becoming an expert in a sought-after or unique clinical area.

Clinical psychologists may also gain additional income outside of their place of employment by doing consultant work, coaching, conducting assessments, and offering therapy services.

See our piece on clinical psychology degrees online.

Clinical Psychologist Networking Opportunities and Organizations

Collaboration on projects is regarded as one of the best ways for clinical psychologists to network with colleagues and other professionals within the field. This may include co-leading a group or co-teaching a class. Attending social and professional gatherings provide a more relaxed environment for networking.

Conferences allow a clinical psychologist to expand his or her networking pool, and are offered on a local, regional, national, and international basis. Clinical psychologists can also network during advanced training seminars and participating in workshops.

Organizations that provide networking opportunities for clinical psychologists include:

  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • American Academy of Clinical Psychology
  • Society of Clinical Psychology
"Joining listserves is a good way to network."Reuben Robbins, PhD

Continuing Education (CE) Sources

In addition to a range of state-approved CE programs for clinical psychologists, the APA provides continuing education programs for psychologists and other mental health professionals. These professional development opportunities allow psychologists to earn CE credits in topics such as Deployment Psychology; Bipolar Across the Life Cycle; and Treating Pain with Hypnosis.