How to Become a Psychologist in Illinois

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What is Psychology?


Illinois is a midwestern state that is more than cornfields and flat prairie. In fact, the state is home to the nation's third largest city, Chicago, a town that is also home to a powerhouse financial sector. Indeed, the state's top industry is professional and business services, with real estate coming in at a close second. Other top industries in Illinois include manufacturing, finance, and social services such as education, healthcare, and even mental healthcare.

We often think of a psychology professional as a counselor or another caregiver in the mental health field. However, psychology professionals are found in many other roles, as well. They work in the criminal justice system, for corporations, and in other less-obvious roles. Psychology professionals have a few things in common, however.

Essentially, a psychology professional is a person who specializes in the study of human behavior. This can include consumer behaviors as well as interpersonal interactions. Psychology professionals interact with the whole spectrum of behavior, so one might work with recovering addicts and the other could be involved with aggregating data from social media websites.

A psychology professional could spend their days working with people one-on-one in a clinical setting or they might have a career that is concerned with working on a computer for a corporate concern, and a large number of psychology professionals work for colleges and universities where they either teach or conduct research, though some do both.


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Online Psychology Education in Illinois


Illinois' economy thus leans hard on mental health professionals including rehabilitation staffers, counselors, and psychologists. Not only does this sector of Illinois' economy produce a lot of revenue that is counted towards the state GDP, but it positively impacts every other industrial sector in the state. After all, when professionals in any field have personal troubles, they can turn to a psychological professional to help them overcome the difficulty and become a more effective person and worker.

To that end, Illinois' state legislature is interested in making sure that Illinois residents have ample access to psychological services. When Illinois' workers are happier, they are able to produce more for the state, and they even help maintain a more civil and functional society. To achieve these goals, Illinois supports its public colleges and universities with funds that, in part, fund psychology departments.

Illinois' psychology departments then are tasked with finding the best faculty members for their departments. They seek out top academic professionals from across the nation and offer them the best possible compensation in return for top instruction and research.

Illinois' psychology departments also seek out instructors from their local area. Licensed counselors from Illinois may be best able to teach students in master’s clinical psychology programs. They can help students understand and work within the state's licensing requirements. They may also have special insights into issues that may face local clients. For instance, a Chicago counselor may see patterns related to Chicago's notoriously harsh winters and the general stress of urban living.

Online Associate Degree in Psychology (AS)

There are many ways to launch a career in psychology, and an associate psychology degree is a great one. A two-year degree from an Illinois community college or a city college in Chicago can provide a strong foundation for later learning that psychology professionals will rely on for a lifetime. Though many will aspire to a master’s psychology degree, an entry-level position with an associate psychology degree will have long-term value for any psychology professional.

An associate psychology degree can kick-start a career in addiction counseling, for instance. Illinois community colleges also require that students complete the core college curriculum for their degree. Those courses provide students with much needed soft skills, such as communications and research skills. Those skills have immediate value in the workplace and will later help professionals complete a bachelor’s psychology degree.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (BS)

A bachelor’s degree is the level at which a psychology career can begin to truly lift off. While it's not yet enough to work as an independent counselor or in academia, a bachelor’s psychology degree may be enough to land work as a research assistant for a professor or in the corporate sector. Many states also license those with a bachelor’s psychology degree to be addiction counselors.

A bachelor’s psychology degree is often a good foundation for a career in marketing, and other fields. Since research psychology relies heavily on statistics and analytical skills, students are often able to take their degrees into the business world as analytical marketing executives. Since psychology also involves learning more about human behavior, graduates may also find careers in human resources or in non-psychological counseling fields. Ultimately, a deeper understanding of humanity is a valuable thing for anyone seeking to get ahead in business.

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Online Master's Degree in Psychology (MS)

A master’s degree is the level most psychology students are aiming for when they first declare an undergraduate psychology major. This is because a master’s degree is the minimum credential for those who wish to work in the clinical field. While it is true that many states license a bachelor’s or even associate psychology degree for addiction counseling, those professionals cannot conduct individual therapy.

A master’s psychology degree also enables students to start teaching at the college level. While a master’s psychology degree is likely to only open the door to adjunct or part-time professorships, those jobs provide great experience for later teaching, should they decide to move on to complete a doctorate. The master’s level is also where students decide to pursue clinical or research psychology. A master’s in research psychology may enable a career in marketing or as an organizational psychologist.

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Online PhD Degree in Psychology (PhD)

A doctorate is the ultimate psychology degree. Those in the clinical space are able to convert this into the title of psychologist, which enables them to charge more per hour while they also enjoy enhanced status in the professional community. The degree is also required for some professions, such as forensic psychology, and it's virtually required for a career in academia. A PhD will open up the possibility of a tenure track position with a university. PhDs in universities can also choose to be research faculty or professors who lecture graduate and undergraduate students alike.

PhDs are also in demand by corporate America. Companies are always interested to work with organizational psychologists who can help them navigate the changing realities in human resources. A PhD might create a research report that discusses, for instance, employee performance relative to compensation and companies may pay large sums to learn more about this issue. PhDs can also consult with various entities including law firms and police departments.

Become a Psychology Professional in Illinois


Psychology is a very popular topic. Everyone is interested to know why they and their fellow humans behave as they do. Even very young children are known to assess their peers' behaviors, attitudes, and preferences. However, not everyone is certain about how to turn their curiosity into a profession in the field of psychology.

Illinois students who are interested in becoming a psychology professional can get started early. These days, many high schools offer introductory psychology courses. Those that don't offer psychology courses may have programs whereby upper-level students can take a course or two through their local community college. This way, high school students who are interested in psychology can begin to study the field.

Yet another option for Illinois students interested in psychology is to find online courses. These may even be free courses that let students get their feet wet without incurring any financial debt.

Naturally it's vital for budding psychology professionals to earn a bachelor’s psychology degree. The full four-year psychology degree will instill deep knowledge of psychological theories. Undergraduate psychology degrees also require a course in research methods, which allows students to get their feet wet with designing and carrying out a psychological experiment.

After graduating with an undergraduate psychology degree, students can then move on to a master’s psychology degree. A master’s degree is vital for those who wish to work as independent counselors and it is a prerequisite for a doctorate in psychology. While counseling professionals can always stop their academic work with a master’s degree, those who desire a position in research or academia should earn their doctorate.

There are other options for those with an undergraduate psychology degree. Students who are adept at statistics and analytical work can consider working in marketing. Those who are more interested in psychological theories might be better suited to a position in human resources or management. Their insights into human behavior will be very helpful when working with current employees and candidates. Psychology can also be applied in any number of professions that require working with people: customer service, healthcare, and sales are just three options.

Careers for Psychology Graduates


  • Clinical and Counseling Psychologists:
    These positions require a minimum of a master’s psychology degree and a state license. The job involves working one-on-one with clients who need counseling support to overcome their difficulties. Licensure opens up the possibility of working as an independent business or through a mental health facility.
  • School Psychologists:
    These psychological professionals must have a a Master of Education with a concentration in school counseling to work in schools. School psychologists must also earn an Illinois teaching credential in order to work in schools. Some school psychologists choose to work in private practice, however. To make this transition, it's vital to consult with the Illinois licensing board to ensure that one has the proper credentials.
  • Sociologists:
    While this field is often considered to be the exclusive domain of academia, sociologists also work in the corporate environment. Sociologists can be of great use as consultants and counselors to corporations who need greater insight into the market and even into their employees. Most sociologists need a master’s degree to work in their field.
  • Educational and Guidance Counselors:
    Guidance counselors work with students to help them achieve their long-term career goals. Guidance counselors need to earn a degree in education and a teaching credential to work in the schools. Most often, a guidance counselor works in a high school, but there are also career counselors who work in colleges. To work at the college level, it's often required that you hold a master’s degree, for which a psychology background is very useful.
  • Career Counselors and Advisors:
    Career counselors typically work in colleges where they help the student body position themselves for success in the career of their choosing. This position requires a master’s degree, though there is no licensure required. A big part of this position is spent organizing career fairs that cater to student interests. Career counselors can also administer personality tests and help students use the results to pick the field that may suit them the best.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors:
    These counselors may work with a wide range of clients. The title may sound like they focus on addiction but, in reality, they work with people in recovery from diseases and injuries. Their clients may need support learning to live with a disability, for instance, or learning to cope while they return to their old selves.
  • Substance Abuse Counselors:
    Illinois, like many states, offers a variety of licensure levels for this field. Those with less than a master’s degree can become licensed, but they cannot work one-on-one with clients. However, they can work in the field of addictions and gain invaluable experience, especially if they intend to pursue a master’s degree and a full counseling license.
  • Mental Health Counselors:
    This is the most visible psychology career field. Mental health counselors often work in private practice where they conduct hourly counseling sessions with patients who need help overcoming difficulties in their lives.

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