How to Become a Psychologist in Iowa

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What is Psychology?


When one thinks of Iowa, they might think of farming, the electoral Iowa caucuses, or of the many terrific towns and cities in the state. However, in terms of the economy, the state is led by manufacturing, finance, and real estate. With a profile like that, one might first think of Illinois, Ohio, or Michigan, states known for manufacturing and urban growth. Nevertheless, Iowa's diverse and growing economy is home to much more than pig farms.

To support this economic reality, Iowa's colleges and universities have responded with degrees and programs that produce top notch workers. Since all of these workers have human desires and motivations, they need to be periodically helped by psychology professionals who can help them achieve their dreams and live their best possible lives. At the same time, these workers help Iowa grow and develop.

From a purely business standpoint, Iowa also needs psychological professionals who can help businesses keep workers happy and productive. Organizational psychologists consult with Iowan businesses to help them devise the best managerial approaches for their business model. Organizational psychologists can also work with builders who create the physical structures where Iowans work. They consult with architects and others and ensure that workers sit a proper distance from a window, have appropriate areas in which to stroll, have lunch, or conduct meetings.


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Psychology Education in Iowa


Iowa is also home to less than pleasant social forces. Their criminal justice system is helped by the psychology majors and masters who work as forensic psychologists. These professionals conduct interviews with criminals to help determine their fitness for trial, their state of mind during the commission of their alleged crime, and more. Iowa's psychology departments thus help the state remain safe and its criminals rehabilitate in a timely fashion.

Essentially, psychology degree holders in Iowa help maintain and build the state's economy. Every industry, business, and household benefits from its psychology professionals, including social workers and research psychologists. Thus, when a student pursues a psychology degree from an Iowa institution of higher education, they are preparing to support their great state and, by extension, their entire nation.

A psychology professional can come in many different shape and forms. We might first think of a psychotherapist or counselor when we think of psychology, but the field is far broader and deeper than that. First off, the field is generally broken into two wide camps: those in research and those who practice clinical psychology. Researchers are typically attached to Iowa colleges and universities where they study the human condition. They might also teach undergraduate and graduate students as professors, but some remain in the lab.

Clinical practitioners work with the average person on a one-on-one basis, or sometimes in a group therapy setting. These psychology professionals are licensed by the state and hold a master’s degree as a minimum standard. Those with master’s degrees hold the title counselor while those with a PhD are called psychologists. Either can work in private practice provided their Iowa licensure is current.

There are other psychology professionals who work in other industries. Forensic psychologists, for instance, practice their profession in and around the criminal justice system. Organizational psychologists may work in a research capacity, though many consult with corporations. There are also addiction counselors who hold Iowa licenses but can enter their field with only a bachelor’s degree, or perhaps less.

Associate Degree in Psychology (AS)

An associate psychology degree can be very useful to those who aspire to a career in psychology, or even other fields. Over the course of a two-year associate degree, students are introduced to many of the fundamental concepts in psychology. They may also be exposed to the more analytical and research-oriented side of the field, depending on the program.

An associate psychology degree can also have other uses. For starters, students who complete a two-year psychology degree will also complete the core curriculum required by most bachelor’s degree programs. Many students will find that they have completed the first two years of a bachelor’s degree at a dramatically reduced price relative to most four-year Iowa colleges and universities.

Iowa will also allow those with an associate psychology degree to earn a license as and International Alcohol and Drug Counselor (IADC). There are other requirements for Iowa state licensure, including 5,000 hours of practical, supervised experience. This licensure and experience will only benefit professionals who desire more education in psychology.

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Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (BS)

A bachelor’s degree is often where most psychology professionals start their career. A full four-year psychology degree will entail academic experience with research, an in-depth study of psychological theory, and introductions to special topics such as organizational psychology or forensic psychology. Bachelor's degrees also provide students with opportunities to work in the field. Their developmental psychology course, for instance, will likely include a field study or internship. They can also supplement their academic work with an internship with a local rehabilitation clinic or a psychologist's office.

While in the past, a bachelor’s degree opened few doors in the psychological realm, now Iowa's students can earn a license as a drug and alcohol counselor. Given the analytical portion of the degree, psychology students often find work in marketing or even human resources, among other options. Naturally, many will want to pursue the field and will enroll in a master’s psychology degree that can launch a career in research or clinical practice.

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Master's Degree in Psychology (MS or MC)

A master’s psychology degree is generally where most psychology careers begin. With a master’s degree, both research and clinical students can gain a foothold in their field. Research oriented students can begin teaching at the college level and clinical students can earn an Iowa license to practice psychotherapy with clients in a one-on-one basis.

Others might wish to work in the corporate sector. They can study organizational psychology for this, which corporations value for its ability to evaluate their organizations and help them attain maximum efficiency. Organizational psychology students may desire an MBA, which will also provide insight into managerial theories and practices. There are even MBA programs that feature organizational psychology as a concentration. Yet another option is to work through a dual MBA program where students complete their master’s business degree alongside an MS in organizational psychology in a mere three years.

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PhD Degree in Psychology (PhD)

A doctorate degree in psychology is the gold standard for psychology professionals. This degree will bring elevated professional esteem, higher pay, and many more opportunities. When a clinical psychology professional earns a doctorate, they can work as psychologists, charge more for their services, and enjoy an elevated status in the psychological community.

Research psychologists likewise earn greater status and esteem when they hold a PhD. Since the field is ultimately a scientific field, research psychologists who can complete a dissertation that attracts attention in the academic community can enjoy great rewards. A PhD can enable them to land a tenure track position in an Iowa college or university. There, they will be able to teach both graduate and undergraduate students. Meanwhile, they will have time to develop their research with the help of university resources.

Become a Psychologist in Iowa


Becoming an Iowa psychology professional is a process that begins in early life. Psychology professionals are often thoughtful, helpful, and caring children who might show an early love of reading and a keen interest in the motivations of others. Though there is no set of personality traits that can be identified as predictors of whether a child will become a psychology professional, there may be fundamental skills and talents that emerge as a child develops.

In school, future psychology professionals will tend to thrive in both the humanities and the sciences. These kids will love reading novels and other works of fiction while also excelling in mathematics and science courses. Meanwhile they may express a constant fascination with human behaviors and emotions. Many will pursue extra-curricular activities, such as volunteering at a local hospital or community service organizations including scouting.

In high school, students should seek out psychology or even sociology courses to help fuel their interest in their chosen field. Along the way, they should seek out coursework in statistics or the sciences. Any background working with the scientific method will be of tremendous utility later in their psychological careers.

When it comes time to venture off to college, students should look for the best accredited psychology departments in Iowa universities. While an undergraduate psychology degree is mostly foundational, larger departments may offer interesting courses that can help students realize their long-term goals. That is, some departments may offer upper-level coursework in special topics such as forensic psychology, child psychology, personality theory, or cognition and brain science.

Even in their undergraduate years, students should start looking at graduate programs. Those who are driven to work in clinical psychology should seek out internships or other experiences that will prepare them for that field, which can be very demanding on a personal level. Another possible option is for undergraduate students to begin work in the drug and alcohol rehabilitation field. There is a tremendous need for professionals to address the addiction epidemic; plus, even undergraduate students can earn an Iowa license in the field. Later, if they choose a master’s psychology degree in clinical psychology, they can possibly convert their experience into credit towards eventual licensure and private practice.

Careers for Psychology Graduates


  • Social Work Assistant:
    This position can be attained with an associate psychology degree or even a mere high school diploma. Assistants help social workers maintain their schedules, and they may even engage in meaningful interactions with clients, such as initial intake-style interviews. In fact, this is a terrific position for those who desire a long-term career in social work or who think they want a bachelor’s psychology degree.
  • Social Worker:
    This position can be held by people with nearly any level of degree. To become licensed, they’ll need to achieve a master of social work degree and then earn their Iowa LCSW degree. With an LCSW designation, social workers can work one-on-one with clients in a psycho therapeutic environment.
  • Human Resources Specialist:
    Though this isn't exactly a psychology career, HR specialists can benefit from a strong background in psychology. In fact, this can be a great option for those who pursue psychology as a concentration in their MBA studies. This job can involve working with employees to find the help they need and a background in psychology can help provide needed insights and sensitivities.
  • Child Counselor/Psychologist:
    This is a vital specialty that enables psychology professionals to help very young clients overcome difficulties that may arise from trauma or chemical imbalances. This specialty should be pursued in one's master’s psychology program. Sometimes child psychologists focus on special therapeutic modalities, such as art or music therapy.
  • School/Education Psychologist:
    To become a school psychologist or counselor, students need to earn a master’s education degree with a focus on counseling. Iowa may also require that school counselors earn a teaching certification by way of passing the relevant PRAXIS examinations, among other requirements.
  • Psychiatrist:
    These psychology professionals used to be nearly the only option for people who sought help with their personal problems. To become a psychiatrist, students need to complete medical school and then a residency in psychiatry. Once they enter practice, psychiatrists spend much of their time focusing on their patients with an eye to adjusting their medications and ensuring correct diagnoses have been provided. They also spend time listening to their patients relate their experience with psychiatric medications.
  • Psychologist:
    Once a psychology professional earns a PhD in clinical or other psychological fields, they can earn this title. For those in clinical practice, this degree means that they can charge a bit more for their services while earning more respect from colleagues. They may also find it easier to publish articles and will be highly sought for teaching positions.
  • Teacher:
    This field requires far more than simply conveying curriculum to students. Teachers play many roles in any given moment: counselor, parent, social worker, disciplinarian, etc. To become a teacher, all professionals need to earn a bachelor’s degree in education and then satisfy the Iowa school board's requirements for a teaching certificate.
  • Career Counselor:
    While these professionals don't conduct psychotherapy with their clients, they do help people change their lives. Career counselors typically work for Iowa colleges or universities. They help students decide what field they want to pursue and then help them move toward the degree and career of their dreams. To become a career counselor, most need a master’s degree that builds on a bachelor’s psychology degree.

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