On the Job
Psychologists counsel people who have life or emotional problems. They also study human behavior and mental processes.
Sigmund Freud, considered the father of psychoanalysis, once said, "The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing." Perhaps this quote speaks to the human need to express thoughts, desires, and problems. This is the realm of psychology.There are three major types of psychologists--research, counseling, and applied. Research psychologists study people and behavior. Counseling psychologists help people solve personal problems. Applied psychologists apply psychological theories and research to real life situations.
Research psychologists study what people think, do, and feel. For example, they study what motivates people to act or think in certain ways. They design studies, collect data, and analyze the results. They interpret their results for others and use their own or other researchers' theories to explain their findings. In addition, research psychologists talk to peers, attend seminars, and read professional journals.
Counseling and clinical psychologists help people solve life and mental health problems. They begin by determining the level of a patient's troubles. They do this by asking patients questions. They may also have patients take psychological tests. Psychologists tailor treatment plans to meet the needs of each patient. In general, counseling psychologists work with people who have temporary problems, such as adjusting to changes in life. Clinical psychologists are more likely to work with people who have deeper, ongoing struggles and conflicts. Some psychologists dedicate their practice to one treatment method, such as psychoanalysis. Others use whatever method works best for each client. Some psychologists focus their practice on treating certain kinds of problems, such as phobias. Some focus their work on specific groups, such as children, adolescents, or the elderly.
Applied psychologists work in a wide range of settings. These include health and human services, management, and education. Educational psychologists focus on ways to improve the teaching and learning process. They look for ways to promote intellectual and emotional growth. They may look at what effect factors such as culture, poverty, and teaching styles have on school achievement. Educational psychologists test students for learning disabilities or talents. They talk to teachers about test results in order to decide on individual education plans. They consult with teachers, staff, and peers to develop teaching strategies and school programs.
Industrial-organizational (I/O) psychologists apply principles of psychology to the work place. Their goal is to increase productivity and the quality of work life. They commonly serve as human resources specialists. This means they identify needs and develop training programs. They identify the talents of workers and help place them in jobs they are best suited for. In addition, I/O psychologists develop tests or questionnaires that examine how employees feel about company operations.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Design research studies, collect and analyze data, and interpret findings.
- Gather information from many sources before setting up programs or treatment methods.
- Choose, give, and score psychological tests.
- Conduct individual and group meetings. Help clients understand problems, define goals, and plan changes.
- Observe individuals, groups, and systems. Check with various resource aids to identify problems and plan treatments.
- Offer plans to clients about ways to achieve goals in the classroom or at work.
- Design research methods that are appropriate for the client's questions.
- Evaluate how target populations respond to treatments or programs, using surveys or tests. Revise treatment plans as needed.
- Update knowledge by talking to peers, attending seminars, and reading professional journals.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Care for others.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Analyze data or information.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Document and record information.
- Resolve conflicts and negotiate with others.
- Provide advice and consultation to others.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Process information.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Think creatively.
- Teach others.
- Develop goals and strategies.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of job-required social interaction. They work closely with clients.
- Communicate on a daily basis by telephone, face-to-face discussions, and e-mail. They often write letters and memos, but less frequently.
- Often work as part of a medical team.
- Are sometimes in conflict situations when people are upset or angry.
- Sometimes deal with angry or rude people who may not agree with suggested changes.
- Always work indoors in hospitals, schools, industries, counseling centers, and other settings.
- May work physically near patients. They may come within a few feet, especially during counseling sessions.
- Must fully complete and be exact in their work. Errors could seriously endanger the health and well-being of their clients.
- Repeat the same activities.
- Make decisions on a daily basis that greatly impact patients and their families. They usually act independently, meaning they don't seek advice from a superior first.
- Set nearly all of their daily tasks and goals without talking to a superior first.
- Must meet strict daily and weekly deadlines.
- May work full time or part time.
- May work days, evenings, or weekends to meet deadlines or accommodate clients.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit for long periods of time.
- Repeat the same movements.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.