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Preparing for a Psychology Career in High School

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Question:
Dear Psychologist,

My daughter is a junior in high school. She took a psychology class and loved it. Her best friend's mother is a psychologist, and now she thinks she wants to be one, too. How can I help her? What should she do to prepare for a career in psychology? Best wishes, Patty

Answer:
Dear Patty,

How great that your daughter got to experience a high school course in psychology. If she is truly interested in exploring this career, there are many things she can do.

Volunteering

First, help her seek out volunteer opportunities to make a difference in the life of others. Most of these volunteer roles come with training. For instance, when I was in high school I was trained as a "peer counselor." I was given information on basic issues and how to help other students get the right help. I enjoyed this work very much and it gave me a feel for being a counselor.

Other kinds of work might be helping on a hotline, working with troubled children, tutoring a child with a difficulty such as autism, or becoming a camp counselor. Any kind of role that encourages her to pay attention to others, use good listening skills, and try to be helpful can be a good first step for the field.

Psychology classes

In addition, she might be able to take additional psychology-related classes in high school such as sociology or child development. A few high schools might even have a course like Abnormal Psychology. If none exist at her high school, there are online psychology courses she could look into.

You can help her further by setting up informational interviews for her with psychologists so she can find out more about what it is really like.

If she decides to indeed go on in the field, it will be important for her to get a bachelor's degree first. Since she is really interested in psychology, she could pick that as her major. However, it is not necessary to have a major in psychology in order to go on to enroll for a doctoral degree in psychology. She could choose to study a related course area such as literature, sociology, human development, women's studies, or philosophy.

It would be great if she could get a psychology-related internship or volunteer job while she is in college. These jobs both give students a sense of what the work is like as well as provide good material for a resume. It may turn out that, in fact, she does not want to be clinician after all, or she wants to go in a slightly different direction such as education.

Psychologist Training

However, should your daughter definitively decide to become a psychologist, she will eventually need to complete her doctorate, which includes a supervised internship. Psychologists also need to finish a certain number of supervised hours in post-doctoral training and sit for a state licensing exam.

Finally, I suggest that you share with your daughter the website for the American Psychological Association. This site has a rich source of information for psychologists.

I hope it goes well for your daughter!

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