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Significant Points

This series includes positions involving professional work relating to the behavior, capacities, traits, interests and activities of human and animal organisms. This work may involve any one or a combination of the following functions: (1) experimenting with or systematically observing organisms to develop scientific principles or laws concerning the relationship of behavior to factors of environment, experience or physiology, or to develop practical applications of findings, (2) applying professional knowledges of psychological principles, theories, methods or data to practical situations and problems, and (3) providing consultative services or training in psychological principles, theories, methods, and techniques to advance knowledge of them and their appropriate use.

Nature of the Work

Psychologists are trained in and concerned with (1) describing how an organism behaves in an environment in response to internal and external stimuli, (2) determining the reasons for the behavior (e.g., heredity, present environment, past history and learning), and (3) predicting and, as appropriate, modifying behavior. The behavior of organisms-in-environment includes sensing (seeing, hearing, etc.), perceiving (interpreting the environment), moving (walking, manipulating objects), learning and remembering, feeling and emoting, thinking, and problem solving, and socializing. Psychologists study these activities in organisms of any age, as individuals, as individuals in a group, or as a group of individuals. They may be concerned with "normal" behavior, or with aberrations of behavior, varying from slight to definitely abnormal deviations.

Psychologists describe behavior in terms of such motivating factors as external and internal stimuli, drives, motives, attitudes, interests, etc., and in terms of the neuropsychological or biochemical correlates of behavior. They view these motivating factors and behavior as the result of the interaction of hereditary and environmental factors.

Psychologists develop and use methods for accurately measuring behavior and the factors associated with it and for predicting and modifying behavior based on these measurements. They may try to modify or change the behavior of an individual in order to enable him to adjust better to his environment, or they may attempt to modify the environment to enable an individual or a group to adjust better to it.

All psychologists share a broad base of professional training which includes the concepts and use of experimental, observational and quantitative methods in the study of behavior. However, the breadth and diversity of the field are such that subject-matter or functional specialization (or both) is typical.

The field of psychology relates closely to many other fields. For instance, the statistical and mathematical methodology employed by psychologists is common to other disciplines. To illustrate: psychologists may construct mathematical models of the behavioral characteristics being studied. These mathematical models represent various units of behavior. They are modified by the addition or deletion of variables until the model provides an adequate (though highly simplified) representation of the behaviors being studied. Once established, the mathematical model may then be used for analyzing past behavior, or for understanding and interpreting patterns of behavior. Psychologists also employ established statistical methods in collecting data regarding the specific characteristics of a population under study.

Further, many of the problems studied by psychologists are also studied by psychiatrists, physiologists, neurologists, biochemists or zoologists, or by educators, social workers, lawyers, administrators, or engineers. The nature of this cross-discipline relationship is described further in that portion of the standard which discusses interdisciplinary positions.

Functions of the field

The functions of psychologists include (1) research, (2) direct services, (3) training, (4) consultation, and (5) administration. These are described briefly below:

1. Research involves the application of experimental, statistical, mathematical or other research techniques in the systematic investigation and study of the behavior, capacities, traits, interests, and activities of human beings and animals. Its purpose is to (a) advance psychological knowledge, (b) solve theoretical or practical problems, (c) furnish bases for the application of psychological data, methods, principles or techniques to the solution of problems encountered in direct services work. It includes (a) designing experiments, determining the composition of and establishing control and experimental groups, (b) developing methods of isolating and measuring the variables under study, and (c) defining the units of measurement.

2. Direct services involves the application of psychological principles, theories, methods, and techniques to the solution of problems. It includes work involving direct psychologist-client relationships in counseling, psychodiagnosis, and psychotherapy. It also includes work involving the production of tests or other personnel measurement or information-gathering devices such as rating scales, questionnaires, etc. or the application of established criteria to the solution of human factors engineering problems.

3. Training involves preparing and presenting, coordinating, or evaluating college level instruction in psychological principles, methods and techniques to increase and advance the knowledge and appropriate use of such techniques. It includes advice or coordination with colleges and universities or training institutions such as hospitals on educational programs and activities. The objective of this type of training is to provide an organized practicum in a specialized branch of psychology.

4. Consultation involves furnishing expert professional advice on the solution of problems, or on the feasibility and evaluation of projects, programs or plans in connection with research, direct services, or training.

5. Administration involves providing special staff assistance or overall guidance and direction to a major program for research or direct services. It also includes the analysis, evaluation, coordination, approval, and administration of research programs or projects, or grants-in-aid for training, that are carried out under grants to educational, research or other institutions.

These functions cut across the subject-matter specializations described below. An individual psychologist position may involve responsibility for one, more than one, or all of the functions listed.

Subject-matter specializations

The majority of the psychologists in the Federal service are engaged in research or nonresearch assignments in the following broad subject-matter areas: (1) clinical, (2) counseling, (3) personnel, and (4) engineering. These broad subject-matter areas, and representative patterns of nonresearch assignments, are described below.

(1) Clinical psychology includes the psychological assessment, evaluation and treatment of patients with problems of personality, emotional adjustment, or mental illness. Clinical psychologists typically are assigned to psychiatric hospitals, psychiatric wards of general hospitals, or to community mental health clinics. In these situations they deal with patients with behavior problems or with those who have been diagnosed as psychiatric cases. Some are assigned to general hospitals where they furnish clinical psychology services to patients with acute, chronic or severe physical illnesses. In these situations clinical psychologists are concerned with patients' problems of adjustment to their illness, with vocational rehabilitation, etc. They assist these patients, through counseling and by the use of other psychotherapeutic techniques, to adjust to long-term illness and to changes in their patterns of living and working arising out of permanent disability.

Other clinical psychologists are assigned to neurology units, rehabilitation beds, Nursing Home Services, medical services, surgical services, extended care programs, and domiciliaries. In these assignments they are concerned with differential evaluation of psychological factors as related to diagnosis and treatment, and perform the psychotherapeutic functions necessary for rehabilitation.

One of the functions of clinical psychologists is to administer and interpret psychological tests which are used for diagnosing mental and personality disorders, and for differentiating between organic and functional causes of behavior disorders. Data derived from psychological tests are used to determine physical and psychological diagnoses and assist the patient-care team in developing the appropriate course of treatment.

Clinical psychologists perform psychotherapy with patients, either through individual sessions or through group therapy sessions. They utilize one or more therapeutic techniques: analytic, existential, nondirective, behavior modification, etc.

Psychologists in the clinical setting commonly participate in a patient-care team which includes a physician, social worker, nurse, and others. This team determines the course and nature of a patient's psychotherapy treatment. As a member of the team a clinical psychologist may be responsible only for psychological assessment and evaluation of the patient; or he may also carry out individual or group therapy. In some cases, he may be responsible for serving as a resource person for all members of the patient-care team in creating a psychotherapeutic environment on the ward or in the hospital, and for advising other staff members on problems arising in the course of their dealings with patients.

Clinical psychologists usually work with a psychiatrist or general medical officer who is responsible for the medical care of the patient. In some situations, psychiatrists are responsible for the psychological treatment of the patient. In these situations the clinical psychologist serves as a consulting member of patient-care team. In other situations, the clinical psychologist is responsible for the psychological treatment of the patient, referring medical problems to a medical officer.

(2) Counseling psychology includes the educational, vocational and rehabilitation counseling of the physically or mentally handicapped or others in need of or seeking vocational guidance. Counseling psychologists in the Federal service are principally employed in connection with the educational counseling of veterans and non-disabled war orphans who are entitled to receive educational benefits from the Federal Government, or with vocational counseling of physically and mentally disabled veterans or others who are entitled to vocational rehabilitation benefits.

Counseling psychologists help the client to (a) learn about his abilities, capacities, interests, goals and personality needs, (b) identify and explore educational and vocational possibilities, and (c) select from among them the goals that are appropriate to his personal needs, characteristics and circumstances. They also help the client develop realistic education, training, and career plans for achieving these goals. As necessary, counseling psychologists help clients modify attitudes, feelings, or behavior patterns that interfere with their making progress in educational, vocational or rehabilitation planning.

Psychologists assist the client in arriving at considered decisions and choices regarding the educational, vocational or rehabilitation problems he currently faces. They also help him learn the bases for making valid decisions when he is confronted later by other educational and vocational choice situations. Counseling psychologists have, in addition to their basic education and training in psychology, specialized knowledge about occupations and occupational trends, and about educational facilities and programs. They are familiar with the physical, mental, educational, and experience requirements of various occupations and with interrelationships among occupations. They know specialized training resources and other community facilities for rehabilitating the handicapped.

(3) Personnel psychology includes the development of measurement concepts and tools including written tests, oral examinations, methods for measuring and evaluating experience, employment references, current job achievement, employee attitudes, etc. These concepts and tools are applied in the recruitment, selection, and retention of employees, and in employee training and development, employee-management relations, performance evaluation, job analysis, and similar personnel management processes.

The majority of the Federal positions in personnel psychology are engaged in basic or applied research, rather than in direct services work. Some positions, however, combine research work with responsibility for providing advisory service, or serving as consultants to management officials regarding the appropriate uses and limitations of personnel measurement devices, or survey techniques in gathering data for use in (a) organization planning, (b) recruitment, selection, development and full utilization of staff, or (c) development of measures of employee morale, productivity, or similar matters.

(3) Engineering psychology includes the study of human capabilities and limitations in relation to the operation or control of machines and equipment including but not limited to weapons and communications controls, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle controls, displays, signal detection and processing, information processing centers and training devices. The majority of the engineering psychologist positions in the Federal service are engaged in basic or applied research which, frequently, is carried out on a team basis with professional staff from other disciplines. A few engineering psychologists provide advisory or consulting services to technical program managers. These services relate to the engineering psychology considerations in such matters as the feasibility of proposed projects; or the desirability of expanding the production or curtailing the procurement of hardware items.

In addition, some psychologists in the Federal service are engaged in research work in experimental or physiological psychology. These psychologists carry out studies in such areas as sensation, perception, psychomotor behavior, learning, motivation, psychophysics, psychopharmacology, decision processes, communications, and neural functions, or the behavioral effect of such factors as fatigue, stress, vigilance, disease, age, or metabolism.

Still other psychologists engage in research in social psychology. Their studies may include interaction in normal and psychotherapeutic groups, motivation and morale affecting group performance, group problem solving, effectiveness of small groups, effects of social stress and similar matters.

Typically, research in these areas is highly particularized to one aspect of the field of experimental and physiological or social psychology. Since these research positions typically are staffed on the basis of the intensity of the psychologist's knowledge of and experience in that aspect of the specialization which comprises his research assignment, the establishment of broad specializations to cover the academically recognized fields of experimental and physiological or social psychology is not necessary for personnel management purposes.

The perimeters of the above described specializations are not absolute. Depending on the nature and requirements of the psychological phenomena being studied, or the problems to be solved, a psychologist identified with one specialization may engage in professional work involving more than one specialization of the field. To illustrate: Clinical psychologists may engage in vocational counseling as a part of the overall plan of therapy for an emotionally disturbed client. Counseling psychologists may engage in therapeutic counseling with clients whose attitudes are such as to interfere with realistic evaluation and mobilization and use of their personal resources. Similarly, experimental or physiological psychologists may carry out basic or applied research relating to man's psychological capability to adapt to the long periods of relative physical inactivity and isolation involved in space flights, including consideration of the impact of the space vehicle environment on his psychological responses.


Some work in the field of psychology is, by its very nature, interdisciplinary. For example, research in the development or evaluation of man-machine systems may be carried out (1) by engineers who are highly knowledgeable in those functions in the design of complex man-machine systems which should be fully automated and those which can be better performed by man, (2) by physiologists who are highly knowledgeable about the psychological responses and biological activities and processes of man as these relate to and are affected by the machine environment, and (3) by psychologists who are professionally informed about man's behavioral capacities, abilities and motivations in relation to the requirements and design of the machine.


At full performance levels all psychologists keep abreast of the results of research in their particular areas of specialization. Psychologists in direct services work apply research findings in the analysis and interpretation of their observations and in the solution of the professional problems presented by their assignments. They may participate in, and make valuable contributions to, research projects (1) by providing observations and data to researchers, (2) by validating research findings through study of patient or other populations, and (3) by providing "feedback" to researchers on results obtained in the application of research findings. Some psychologists engage in both direct services and research work. In this situation, the evaluation of the position should take into account (1) the primary purpose of the position, and (2) the nature and extent of both the direct services and the research assignments.

Psychologist, GS-0180-05

Nature of the assignment

GS-5 assignments are planned to provide orientation to the policies, programs, techniques, and operations of the organization. Typical duties include searching files, libraries or other sources of information, published or unpublished, for designated topics and assembling data relevant to studies in progress; making or recording observations during experiments when the phenomena are readily identifiable and observable; assisting in training and conditioning laboratory animals; interviewing and obtaining data from clients or participants in research investigations, drafting test items in accordance with specific criteria or clear precedents; administering objective tests, performing statistical computations; etc.

Level of responsibility

Supervisory controls over GS-5 psychologists are close and specific, and are designed to provide increasingly more responsible experience and training to the employee.

Psychologist, GS-0180-07

As developmental assignments, GS-7 psychologists perform the less difficult and more routine professional tasks that are supportive to work performed by higher-level psychologists in one or another of the specialized fields of psychology. GS-7 assignments differ from those at GS-5 by increased responsibility for exercising judgment in the performance of the work.

Nature of the assignment

For example, GS-7 psychologists search published sources to develop bibliographies bearing on specific topics. They examine articles and abstracts and prepare comments on their pertinence or value.

GS-7 psychologists collect data through periodic observation of animal or human subjects, setting up and monitoring specialized apparatus and assuring that it is functioning properly. They administer and score a wide variety of objective tests of intelligence, achievement, aptitude and interest. They do not administer or score projective tests or psychological tests calling for a high degree of judgment in interpreting the results, or tests which are based on a need for critical observation, or broad knowledge and experience. In administering tests for research, counseling or clinical purposes, they must be familiar with and carefully follow the prescribed testing procedures, to insure standardized conditions.

GS-7 psychologists also interview experimental subjects, counseling and clinical clients, employees, and others in order to obtain specific factual data or opinions on specific issues.

They observe and note significant behavior and modes of response in the test or interview situation, and assess whether any circumstances in the situation will invalidate or significantly affect the data obtained. They compare test scores and interview responses, compare results with established norms, and present factual data to be used in interpretation of achievement, maturity, mental ability, etc.

GS-7 psychologists construct testing and other measurement devices and questionnaires that parallel existing instruments or for which prototype specifications exist. They draft and revise test and questionnaire items, gather data on performance of sample groups and results, and carry out preliminary statistical analyses in connection with the standardization and validation of items.

GS-7 psychologists work mainly with such sources as the psychological literature, previous tests and test items, work-sample data, questionnaire results, etc.

Level of responsibility

This is the advanced trainee level. Work assignments are selected to combine performance of productive work with supervised on-the-job training in both the judgmental and methodological aspects of the work. Assignments become progressively more difficult as the incumbent's knowledge and experience advance. Typically, assignments are accompanied by a discussion of the purpose and scope of the work and of the scientific and methodological issues which may be anticipated. Within this framework the GS-7 psychologist plans the approach to the assignment and applies established standard methods in the accomplishment of the work.

A psychologist of higher grade is available to provide guidance as questions arise in the course of the work. Depending on the nature of the assignment, a psychologist of higher grade may check the methodology or review the judgmental aspects of the work through discussions at various stages of completion.

Completed work is reviewed in detail for adherence to instructions, completeness, accuracy, and thoroughness in the application of established methods and in the reporting of field observations or results. Work is reviewed particularly for evidence of understanding of the appropriate uses and limitations of the various techniques involved and for grasp of the fundamental scientific concepts of the field, as an essential to further professional development.

Personal work contacts at this level are usually confined to the exchange of information relating to a specific assignment or project.

Psychologist, GS-0180-09

GS-9 level assignments are selected to further the professional growth and development of the psychologist by providing breadth or depth of experience in applying the concepts, theories, methods and techniques appropriate to the specialization involved. GS-9 psychologists develop factual data for the use of their superiors. These assignments differ from those at the GS-7 level in that, at the GS-9, psychologists make preliminary interpretations of the validity and significance of the data. Also, at the GS-9 level psychologists begin to function with professional independence in the client contacts involved in their assignments.

Nature of the assignment

In the counseling situation, GS-9 psychologists provide factual data to clients concerning their aptitudes, interests, abilities, and achievement levels as revealed by objective tests, information concerning occupational characteristics and requirements, job opportunities, relative salaries, etc., and information regarding appropriate educational institutions, their programs and requirements. Usually, clients for whom these services are rendered have the capacity to accept, understand, and act on facts with little need for psychologically structured help in interpreting these facts; they do not have mental or physical disabilities that present serious problems in vocational or educational choice or personal adjustment. GS-9 psychologists select an appropriate combination of standard objective tests, administer and score the tests and interpret them to the client in terms of the relationship of the intelligence, interests, attitudes and aptitudes so revealed to occupational and educational requirements.

In a clinical situation GS-9 psychologists (in addition to administering and scoring a wide variety of standardized group and individual tests, which is typical of the GS-7 level) also, under very close review, may administer and interpret projective tests such as the Rorschach and Thematic Apperception Tests. In consultation with more experienced psychologists they evaluate overall patterns of personality-related characteristics revealed by tests. Patients assigned to GS-9 psychologists have been judged by more experienced psychologists as not likely to present unusual problems of evaluation.

GS-9 engineering, social, and personnel psychologists typically assist in the solution of operational problems by carrying out segments of problem-solving projects that have been planned and structured by higher-grade psychologists. As assistants to higher grade psychologists, GS-9 psychologists participate in and contribute ideas and suggestions to such aspects of the project as problem identification, formulation of the hypothesis for the solution of the problem, data collection, and final interpretation of results. They make a thorough search of the professional literature to locate, and make a critical evaluation of relevant previous work, methods used, and results obtained. They make recommendations for the design and methodology of the aspects of the project to which they are assigned. Upon approval of the design and methodology, they set up equipment, design questionnaire or other data-collection instruments. They collect, record, and analyze information, and make a preliminary interpretation of results.

In some situations the projects to which GS-9 psychologists are assigned are self-contained rather than being parts of a larger project. In these circumstances the hypothesis has been established, and the products are to be used to measure specific proficiencies, achievements, or clearly defined attitudes, opinions, or judgments. In the engineering psychology field such a project might consist of a study of the placement of monitor and control dials in a piece of equipment which is a further development or improvement of previous similar pieces of equipment. The GS-9 psychologist has available to him the data, reports, and experiences derived from previous studies. He follows the established protocol, and uses a similar statistical analysis.

Level of responsibility

GS-9 level assignments typically are accompanied by a definition of the problems involved and discussion of the objectives to be met, but are not accompanied by detailed preliminary instructions regarding sources of information or the techniques or methods to be employed. GS-9 psychologists are expected to plan their own work and follow established techniques in its accomplishment. However, the supervisor or other psychologist of higher grade is available to provide guidance should problems not previously encountered arise in the course of the work.

Proposed courses of action are reviewed in detail for completeness, adequacy of planning, appropriateness of the methods or techniques to be employed, reasonableness of scheduling and appropriateness of the conclusions and recommendations drawn from the data developed.

Psychologist-client contacts are not susceptible of detailed review. Contacts with other psychologists or representatives of other fields of science are for the purpose of exchanging information and opinions regarding the substance of the assignment or of discussing the solution to problems encountered in assignments of the type described above. Psychologists GS-9 also attend professional conferences and seminars for further training purposes. GS-9 psychologists are relied upon to recognize and refer to their supervisors those questions which are beyond the scope of their knowledge or the limits of their assigned responsibility.

Psychologist, GS-0180-11

GS-11 psychologists have full professional responsibility in the work area assigned. In comparison with the GS-9 level, GS-11 psychologists are responsible for the results achieved, rather than for following specific procedures and techniques in achieving them.

Nature of the assignment

GS-11 counseling psychologists deal with clients who represent a wide variety of vocational, educational, and disability problems, although normally not including disabilities with serious handicapping effects that require long-range vocational rehabilitation. Clients usually require skilled counseling assistance to enable them to receive, assimilate, and make realistic educational and vocational choices. GS-11 counseling psychologists are responsible for the analysis and interpretation of complete psychological data concerning the client, and for assessing factors of personality structure and dynamics as they affect findings of aptitudes and interests.

They guide the client to a realistic appraisal of his problems, and to an understanding and acceptance of his limitations and capabilities as they affect educational and vocational goals. They help the client to consider the choices available to him in terms of his needs and circumstances, and to develop appropriate vocational or educational programs. In furthering the client's program, they work with vocational rehabilitation specialists, the faculty of educational institutions, and with employers.

In a hospital setting, GS-11 counseling psychologists engaged in rehabilitative counseling assign and evaluate patient work performance in the hospital or provide professional advice and consultation to other hospital personnel concerning vocational aptitudes, work habits and the occupational prognosis, and plans of the patient. GS-11 counseling psychologists recognize when a client's problems of personal adjustment, including adjustment to chronic illness, permanent physical handicaps, or severe mental disturbance, preclude successful vocational or educational counseling. Typically, they refer clients requiring personal adjustment counseling to psychologists of higher grade or to other governmental or community facilities. In some situations, GS-11 psychologists employ counseling and therapeutic techniques over an extended period of time in order to help the client recognize and resolve problems relating to his attitudes towards himself, family, supervisors, etc., that affect his vocational, educational, or life adjustment. Such personal adjustment counseling is carried out subject to review and guidance by psychologists of higher grade based upon, for example, taped recordings of counseling sessions or detailed presentations of interview content and the client's attitudes and responses.

GS-11 clinical psychologists serve as members of a patient treatment unit where they perform psychological diagnosis and treatment; and participate in staff discussions of patient diagnosis, treatment, and progress. They carry out clinical psychological work in testing and assessment of personality and in individual and group psychotherapy. Some may also devote a portion of their time to the conduct of independent research studies, participate in the training of trainees or provide consultation on psychological matters to other professional and nonprofessional staff in the hospitals. GS-11 clinical psychologists work with a representative cross-section of the patient population in their work assignment unit. They use the full range of diagnostic tests for psychological assessment, and employ generally accepted psychotherapy techniques.

GS-11 engineering or personnel psychologists are assigned to projects such as (1) analyzing human capabilities and limitations in the operation or monitoring of specific machine functions in a man-machine function, (2) planning a survey of a defined population to determine attitudes and reactions to alternate forms of social or occupational organization, or (3) conducting a study to determine the predictive usefulness of existing tests for specific occupations. They exercise professional judgment and creativity in applying existing theory and available methods and precedents to the conditions and needs of a specific project. Studies typical of grade GS-11 do not involve the development of novel instruments, methods, or criteria, but the adaptation of types which have had previous successful use in similar situations. GS-11 psychologists evaluate data and reports of previous studies, analyze the results, and determine their applicability to the present project. They develop plans for the study, experimental models, proposed tests, and questionnaires; carry out statistical and other kinds of validation studies; assess results and judge their applicability and value to the problem; and make recommendations and reports to their superiors.

Level of responsibility

GS-11 psychologists typically work under the guidance and review of more experienced psychologists. Within the framework of their defined assignments they are responsible for carrying out their professional duties in accordance with generally accepted psychological theories, methods, techniques, and practices. They are professionally responsible for the application of standard and accepted theories, methods, techniques, and practices in their specialized field of psychology, for the accuracy and reliability of the data obtained, and for the basic recommendations made. They receive guidance and consultation from their superiors in areas that involve the interpretation of factual data and its application to specific cases and agency experience and practice.

The personal contact work of GS-11 psychologists is important both to the scientific effectiveness and public acceptance of their work. These contacts may include, but are not limited to, contacts with professionals in their own or related scientific fields for purposes of (a) consultation regarding projects within their area of responsibility, (b) collaboration, as a responsible staff member in the evaluation of proposed new methods or techniques, or (c) cooperation in collecting and reporting data for research purposes.

Psychologist, GS-0180-12

GS-12 psychologists carry out the full range of work in their specialized area and are professionally responsible for the soundness and validity of their recommendations, reports, and services.

GS-12 psychologist positions differ from those of lower levels in that work assignments cover the range of problems in their specialized field, require the use of a broader range of techniques and methods, and are performed with less need for consultation with superiors.

Nature of the assignment

GS-12 counseling psychologists provide psychological services to a broad range of clients presenting many combinations of vocational education, physical, and emotional disability problems. They are responsible for managing all but the most specialized of personality assessment or evaluation that is likely to arise in the counseling situation. They recognize the need for personal adjustment counseling and may provide such counseling over a period of time with professional responsibility.

GS-12 counseling psychologists are responsible for clients requiring special rehabilitation techniques and resources such as (1) those with serious multiple disabilities, (2) those who are homebound because of their disabilities, (3) those who have seriously incapacitating reactions to their physical disabilities, and (4) those who have a long history of chronic mental disability and inability to adjust to social and occupational requirements. Many of these clients require skillful assistance through a variety of therapeutic counseling techniques.

GS-12 counseling psychologists are responsible for making professionally sound recommendations on such critical matters as feasibility of education, training, and rehabilitation, desirability of hospitalization, or need of intensive psychotherapeutic intervention.

When assigned to work in a hospital, GS-12 counseling psychologists are responsible for vocational rehabilitation assessment, counseling, and vocational placement activities for all types of patients. They may arrange developmental work assignments for convalescing patients using all available hospital resources. They may provide consultative advice to work supervisors in these settings. Counseling psychologists at this level may participate in training of psychology graduate students and consult with other professionals in matters pertaining to counseling and rehabilitation. Some may also conduct research in counseling psychology.

At this level counseling psychologists carry out the full range of vocational, and education counseling services, practices, and techniques. Their assignments differ from those characteristic of GS-11 in terms of the broad range of clients with whom they deal. They typically provide extended personal adjustment counseling services for those clients requiring such counseling rather than referring them to others once the need has been recognized.

GS-12 clinical psychologists typically perform psychodiagnosis and psychotherapy at a level of professional maturity for the full range of mentally disturbed patients normally found in psychiatric or general medical hospitals or in community mental health centers. They make psychological assessments, and present diagnostic and treatment recommendations to the professional team which includes physicians, social workers, and nursing staff. They participate as full members of the team in formulating patient treatment plans, contributing their knowledge of psychological and personality assessment and evaluation.

GS-12 clinical psychologists utilize any therapeutic technique or combination of techniques indicated by the specific needs of the patient. They organize, structure, and conduct group therapy sessions, consulting with the professional treatment team on the selection of patients and objectives to be sought.

Level of responsibility

GS-12 psychologists operate as mature professionals in their particular areas of assignment. The nature of their responsibility is similar to that described at the preceding level. The responsibility of the psychologist is enhanced, however, by the seriousness of the problems they are called upon to solve at grade GS-12, the diversity and complexity of the methods and techniques employed, and the breadth and depth of knowledge which they must employ in resolving the problems posed by their assignments.

Typically, the course of action decided upon by the GS-12 psychologist is accepted as being professionally sound in light of current scientific information. Working relationships with their superiors are largely consultative. They keep their superiors informed of the status and progress of individual cases and projects. They may seek advice from senior specialists on unusual or uniquely complex client responses, and similar matters, or on matters of agency policy, practice, and requirements.

Personal work contacts are similar to those at GS-11. They are enhanced in importance by the greater complexity of the subject matter dealt with, and the added weight which is given to the observations of psychologists occupying positions at this level. Some GS-12 psychologists may make presentations to psychologists who are in internship programs.

Psychologist, GS-0180-13

GS-13 psychologists are characteristically highly skilled in the delivery of professional services and serve as resource people to other psychologists, staff members, and operating officials. They work with full professional responsibility for their actions and advice. Positions at this level differ from GS-12 psychologist positions in the complexity of the cases assigned and in their being called upon to serve as advisers, consultants, and resource people to other persons concerned with patient treatment and care.

Nature of the assignment

GS-13 nonsupervisory counseling psychologists provide highly skilled counseling services to clients with difficult and complex problems of personal adjustment or vocational rehabilitation. They typically deal with such clients as:

(1) multiple paraplegics or other homebound clients, who have severe emotional or family relations problems resulting from their disability;

(2) chronic mentally disturbed patients or alcoholics; or

(3) mentally disturbed or other clients with a long history of unsatisfactory vocational adjustments.

Such counseling psychologists see clients who are either initially assigned to them or who are referred to them by other staff psychologists who are not as experienced in counseling such difficult cases. GS-13 counseling psychologists also serve as advisers to other staff members who are working with clients having problems of the type described above.

GS-13 counseling psychologists establish and maintain effective working relationships with other related professional services and activities of the organization. This includes establishing and maintaining effective liaison with Government and private agencies and potential employers to aid in vocational placement and rehabilitation of acutely or chronically disabled persons.

Some GS-13 psychologists are responsible for providing all psychological services to a special rehabilitation unit such as a sheltered workshop, an incentive therapy program, or a special exit rehabilitation program. They provide professional training to psychology students and other staff as appropriate in all matters pertaining to counseling psychology.

GS-13 clinical psychologists have overall responsibility for providing the full range of psychological services in a given work area; for example, a specified number or kind of bed patients, or a population area for outpatient services. Examples of responsibilities at GS-13 include responsibilities for all psychology services for (1) a minimum of 30 patients on a psychiatric unit, (2) a specified number of medical patients, surgical patients, (3) a Day Treatment Center, (4) Day Hospital, (5) admissions programs, (6) specialty programs such as spinal cord injury, restoration center, extended care, nursing home unit, or (7) to patients considered for or undergoing renal dialysis, heart surgery, or organ transplant. These GS-13 clinical psychologists serve as consultants to other staff clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, nurses, social workers, nursing assistant staff, and other staff in their given work area. They promote and preserve a psychotherapeutic atmosphere among the professional treatment staff, participate in developing treatment programs for patients, and advise and consult with all levels of professional staff concerning psychological characteristics and behavior changes of clients. For example, they provide advice regarding appropriate staff responses toward a patient or specific environmental factors which will stimulate more self-reliance, reduce anxiety, or achieve more socially adaptable behavior patterns.

GS-13 clinical psychologists may be assigned special program responsibilities in areas such as training, program coordination, research or consultation. Training responsibilities at the GS-13 level include planning professional aspects of training for psychology trainees within the given work unit to which the psychologist is assigned. Program evaluation may include special research-investigation designed to test program effectiveness. Consultation includes consultation to community resources and/or to segments of the organization other than those to which he is primarily assigned.

GS-13 clinical psychologists may also function as an authoritative source of information in a specialized area of clinical psychology, such as the use and interpretation of tests to differentiate between functional and organic damage to the patient, the organization and conduct of group therapy sessions for schizophrenics, the management of out-patients, etc. GS-13 clinical psychologists with this kind of assignment are recognized among the staff as highly knowledgeable in their field. They play a key role in the total clinical psychology program and are frequently consulted by many members of the staff on problems related to their specialized field.

Such clinical psychologists are recognized as skillful in using many kinds of therapy techniques, based upon their judgment of the patient's needs, length of patient's stay in the hospital, etc. They perform their functions in a mature fashion with full professional responsibility for the psychological treatment plan for the patient.

Level of responsibility

GS-13 psychologists exercise full professional responsibility for their findings, interpretations, decision, recommendations and reports. They keep abreast of new concepts and techniques in their specialty areas and apply them as appropriate in direct services work. They must be thoroughly familiar with all aspects of their employing agencies' policies, program objectives, and established practices as these affect the psychology program. They act with full professional authority within those policies, precedents, etc. They are responsible for recognizing the need for further development or modification of accepted policies and procedures, for recognizing the professional and administrative implications involved in such changes, and for making proposals and recommendations.

GS-13 counseling psychologists are specialists in dealing with clients who have complex vocational rehabilitation or personal adjustment problems. As such their advice and counsel is sought and their opinion given weight by their peers both within and outside their employing agency. They frequently work in collaboration with their counterparts in State, city or private organizations in seeking solutions to particularly complex vocational rehabilitation or adjustment cases or problems.

GS-13 clinical psychologists typically serve as leaders in a patient-care team, including representatives of their medical-care disciplines. They speak and deal responsibly concerning professional and scientific matters in their specialized subject-matter area both within and beyond their own organization. The findings, conclusions or recommendations of psychologists at GS-13 are accepted as being professionally sound and are given substantial weight by their professional and organizational superiors.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

A master's or doctoral degree, and a license, are required for most psychologists.

Education and training. A doctoral degree usually is required for independent practice as a psychologist. Psychologists with a Ph.D. or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) qualify for a wide range of teaching, research, clinical, and counseling positions in universities, healthcare services, elementary and secondary schools, private industry, and government. Psychologists with a doctoral degree often work in clinical positions or in private practices, but they also sometimes teach, conduct research, or carry out administrative responsibilities.

A doctoral degree generally requires about 5 years of full-time graduate study, culminating in a dissertation based on original research. Courses in quantitative experimental methods and research design, which include the use of computer-based analysis, are an integral part of graduate study and are necessary to complete the dissertation. The Psy.D. degree may be based on practical work and examinations rather than a dissertation. In clinical, counseling, and school psychology, the requirements for the doctoral degree usually include an additional year of post-doctoral supervised experience.

A specialist degree or its equivalent is required in most States for an individual to work as a school psychologist, although some States credential school psychologists with master's degrees. A specialist (Ed.S.) degree in school psychology requires a minimum of 2 years of full-time graduate study (at least 60 graduate semester hours) and a 1-year full-time internship during the third year. Because their professional practice addresses educational and mental health components of students' development, school psychologists' training includes coursework in both education and psychology.

People with a master's degree in psychology may work as industrial-organizational psychologists. They also may work as psychological assistants conducting research under the direct supervision of doctoral-level psychologists. A master's degree in psychology requires at least 2 years of full-time graduate study. Requirements usually include practical experience in an applied setting and a master's thesis based on an original research project.

Competition for admission to graduate psychology programs is keen. Some universities require applicants to have an undergraduate major in psychology. Others prefer only coursework in basic psychology with additional courses in the biological, physical, and social sciences, and in statistics and mathematics.

A bachelor's degree in psychology qualifies a person to assist psychologists and other professionals in community mental health centers, vocational rehabilitation offices, and correctional programs. Bachelor's degree holders may also work as administrative assistants for psychologists. Many, however, find employment in other areas, such as sales, service, or business management.

In the Federal Government, candidates must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum of 24 semester hours in psychology, or a combination of education and experience to qualify for entry-level positions. However, competition for these jobs is keen because this is one of the few ways in which one can work as a psychologist without an advanced degree.

The American Psychological Association (APA) presently accredits doctoral training programs in clinical, counseling, and school psychology, as well as institutions that provide internships for doctoral students in school, clinical, and counseling psychology. The National Association of School Psychologists, with the assistance of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, helps to approve advanced degree programs in school psychology.

Clinical psychologists in Louisiana and New Mexico who prescribe medication are required to complete a post-doctoral master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology and pass a National exam approved by the State Board of Examiners of psychologists.

Licensure. Psychologists in a solo or group practice or those who offer any type of patient care—including clinical, counseling, and school psychologists—must meet certification or licensing requirements in all States and the District of Columbia. Licensing laws vary by State and by type of position and require licensed or certified psychologists to limit their practice to areas in which they have developed professional competence through training and experience. Clinical and counseling psychologists usually need a doctorate in psychology, an approved internship, and 1 to 2 years of professional experience. In addition, all States require that applicants pass an examination. Most State licensing boards administer a standardized test, and many supplement that with additional oral or essay questions. Some States require continuing education for renewal of the license.

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) awards the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) designation, which recognizes professional competency in school psychology at a national, rather than State, level. Currently, 31 States recognize the NCSP and allow those with the certification to transfer credentials from one State to another without taking a new certification exam. In States that recognize the NCSP, the requirements for certification or licensure and those for the NCSP often are the same or similar. Requirements for the NCSP include the completion of 60 graduate semester hours in school psychology; a 1,200-hour internship, 600 hours of which must be completed in a school setting; and a passing score on the National School Psychology Examination.

Other qualifications. Aspiring psychologists who are interested in direct patient care must be emotionally stable, mature, and able to deal effectively with people. Sensitivity, compassion, good communication skills, and the ability to lead and inspire others are particularly important qualities for people wishing to do clinical work and counseling. Research psychologists should be capable of detailed work both independently and as part of a team. Patience and perseverance are vital qualities, because achieving results in the psychological treatment of patients or in research may take a long time.

Certification and advancement. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) recognizes professional achievement by awarding specialty certification in 13 different areas, such as psychoanalysis, rehabilitation, forensic, group, school, clinical health, and couple and family. To obtain board certification in a specialty, candidates must meet general criteria which consist of having a doctorate in psychology, as well as State licensure. Each candidate must then meet additional criteria of the specialty field, which is usually a combination of postdoctoral training in their specialty, several years of experience, and professional endorsements, as determined by the ABPP. Applicants are then required to pass the specialty board examination.

Psychologists can improve their advancement opportunities by earning an advanced degree and by participation in continuing education. Many psychologists opt to start their own private practice after gaining experience working in the field.


Psychologists held about 170,200 jobs in 2008. Educational institutions employed about 29 percent of psychologists in positions other than teaching, such as counseling, testing, research, and administration. About 21 percent were employed in healthcare, primarily in offices of mental health practitioners, hospitals, physicians' offices, and outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers. Government agencies at the State and local levels employed psychologists in correctional facilities, law enforcement, and other settings.

After several years of experience, some psychologists—usually those with doctoral degrees—enter private practice or set up private research or consulting firms. About 34 percent of psychologists were self-employed in 2008—mainly as private practitioners.

In addition to the previously mentioned jobs, many psychologists held faculty positions at colleges and universities and as high school psychology teachers.

Job Outlook

Employment of psychologists is expected to grow as fast as average. Job prospects should be the best for people who have a doctoral degree from a leading university in an applied specialty, such as counseling or health, and those with a specialist or doctoral degree in school psychology. Master's degree holders in fields other than industrial-organizational psychology will face keen competition. Opportunities will be limited for bachelor's degree holders.

Employment change. Employment of psychologists is expected to grow 12 percent from 2008 to 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment will grow because of increased demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, social service agencies, mental health centers, substance abuse treatment clinics, consulting firms, and private companies.

Demand for school psychologists will be driven by a growing awareness of how students' mental health and behavioral problems, such as bullying, affect learning. School psychologists will also be needed for general student counseling on a variety of other issues, including working with students with disabilities or with special needs, tackling drug abuse, and consulting and managing personal crisis.

Spurring demand for clinical psychologists will continue to be the rising healthcare costs associated with unhealthy lifestyles, such as smoking, alcoholism, and obesity, which have made prevention and treatment more critical. An increase in the number of employee assistance programs, which help workers deal with personal problems, also should lead to employment growth for clinical and counseling specialties. More clinical and counseling psychologists will be needed to help people deal with depression and other mental disorders, marriage and family problems, job stress, and addiction. The growing number of elderly will increase the demand for psychologists trained in geropsychology to help people deal with the mental and physical changes that occur as individuals grow older. There also will be increased need for psychologists to work with returning veterans.

Industrial-organizational psychologists also will be in demand to help to boost worker productivity and retention rates in a wide range of businesses. Industrial-organizational psychologists will help companies deal with issues such as workplace diversity and antidiscrimination policies. Companies also will use psychologists' expertise in survey design, analysis, and research to develop tools for marketing evaluation and statistical analysis.

Job prospects. Job prospects should be best for people who have a doctoral degree from a leading university in an applied specialty, such as counseling or health, and those with a specialist or doctoral degree in school psychology. Psychologists with extensive training in quantitative research methods and computer science may have a competitive edge over applicants without such background.

Master's degree holders in fields other than industrial-organizational psychology will face keen competition for jobs because of the limited number of positions that require only a master's degree. Master's degree holders may find jobs as psychological assistants or counselors, providing mental health services under the direct supervision of a licensed psychologist. Still, others may find jobs involving research and data collection and analysis in universities, government, or private companies.

Opportunities directly related to psychology will be limited for bachelor's degree holders. Some may find jobs as assistants in rehabilitation centers or in other jobs involving data collection and analysis. Those who meet State certification requirements may become high school psychology teachers.


For historians, median annual wages were $54,530 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $33,570 and $77,290. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $96,530.

Related Occupations
Sources of Additional Information

For information on careers, educational requirements, financial assistance, and licensing in all fields of psychology, contact:

  • American Psychological Association, Center for Psychology Workforce Analysis and Research and Education Directorate, 750 First St. NE., Washington, DC 20002. Internet:

For information on careers, educational requirements, certification, and licensing of school psychologists, contact:

  • National Association of School Psychologists, 4340 East West Hwy., Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20814. Internet:

Information about State licensing requirements is available from:

  • Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, P.O. Box 241245, Montgomery, AL 36124. Internet:

Information about psychology specialty certifications is available from:

  • American Board of Professional Psychology, 600 Market St., Suite 300, Chapel Hill, NC 27516. Internet:

Information on obtaining Psychologist positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; and
  • Office of Personnel Management, Position Classification Standards.

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