More than 181,000 psychologists practiced in the U.S. as of 2018, with numbers projected to rise by 14% over the coming decade. Becoming a psychologist takes years of education, focus and determination, but earning your license and getting to help others every day often makes the process more than worth it. If you’ve thought about becoming a psychologist but don’t know where to begin – or exactly what the journey entails – you’re in the right place. Here you can learn step-by-step what it takes, from starting your undergraduate degree and choosing a psychology specialization to earning your state license.
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PROGRAM: BA – Psychology
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FAQs About Becoming a Psychologist
How long does it take to become a psychologist?
Figuring out how long it takes to become a psychologist depends heavily on the type of psychologist you want to become. Many psychologist positions require a PhD or PsyD degree along with a post-doctoral fellowship. Others require only a master’s degree. The following table gives you an idea of how long some popular psychology pathways take but remember that these are general guidelines. Actual timelines depend on you, the degree program you choose, and individual state licensing requirements.
|College Education||Post-Degree Supervised Work Experience||ETA to Career Start|
|Clinical Psychologist||8-12 years||1-2 years||9-14 years|
|Counseling Psychologist||8-12 years||1-2 years||9-14 years|
|Forensic Psychologist||8-12 years||1 year||9-13 years|
|Industrial-Organizational Psychologist||6 years||0-1 years||6-7 years|
|School Psychologist||5-6 years||1 year||6-7 years|
What qualifications do you need to become a psychologist?
Required qualifications vary based on individual fields of psychology and state-specific licensing requirements. All major psychologist careers require a master’s or Education Specialist degree at minimum, but the majority also require a doctoral-level degree and a significant amount of supervised work experience. Keep this in mind when deciding which path works with your personal, professional, and academic goals. Some positions also mandate professional certification, while in others it’s highly recommended. States typically require students to pass an examination before receiving their license, the most common being the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).
How much money does a psychologist make?
Psychologist salaries depend on several factors, including degree level, psychology specialization, amount of experience, location, and employer. The chart below provides a general sense of what to expect.
|10th Percentile||Median National Annual Salary||90th Percentile|
|Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists1||$45,240||$78,200||$132,670|
Make Sure Becoming a Psychologist Is Really for You
Becoming a psychologist takes a great amount of dedication and a willingness to sacrifice free time for years as you pursue the required degrees. It also requires a substantial financial commitment. Before moving any further, consider whether the work of a psychologist aligns with your interests and skills. We’ve provided a few questions to help you figure out if this is the best path for you.
- Do you enjoy school and learning enough to complete all of the degrees required to work as a psychologist?
- Do you enjoy conducting research and learning about new studies and data findings that can inform your work?
- Does the thought of maintaining an active client roster and working with many different types of people appeal to you?
- Can you see yourself in this position for a long time?
- Does the average salary meet your requirements for a profession?
If you answered “yes” to most of the questions above, a career as a psychologist is likely a good choice for you.
Explore Psychology Specializations and Map Out Your Degree Path
Before starting college, taking time to research the available specializations within the psychology profession can help you determine the type of degree you’ll need and how long it will take to meet all requirements. The American Psychological Association officially recognizes 17 psychology specializations and three proficiencies. Here’s a closer look at some of the most popular specializations:
Clinical psychologists treat people with moderate to serious psychological disorders, but their role in helping these individuals can range from direct psychotherapy to scientific research and consulting. Clinical psychologists can also choose to further specialize by treating specific populations like children or veterans. Clinical psychologists often work in research labs, universities, hospitals, mental health clinics, or in private practice. Clinical psychologists require a PhD or PsyD degree to become licensed.
Individuals who want a broad range of professional pathways to help people with more serious mental health problems using a diagnostic approach.
Example Degree Path
Bachelor’s in Psychology Master’s in Clinical Psychology PsyD in Clinical Psychology
Counseling psychologists focus on using their training and skills to help individuals cope with everyday issues as they arise, whether they stem from work, family life, or another source. For example, they may focus on helping clients build techniques around stress management or how to adjust to a big move to a new city where they don’t know anyone. Like clinical psychologists, you’ll need to earn a PsyD or PhD doctoral degree to legally practice.
Professionals who like working with others in one-to-one and group settings.
Example Degree Path
Bachelor’s in Psychology Master’s in Counseling Psychology PsyD Counseling Psychology
Forensic psychologists sit at the intersection of psychology and law. They use their skills within the court system to help jurors and judges make informed decisions. Common responsibilities include providing psychological assessments and explaining psychological concepts. To become a forensic psychologist, a doctoral degree is typically required.
People who like solving problems and finding answers to complex questions.
Example Degree Path
Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Master’s in Forensic Psychology PhD in Forensic Psychology
School psychologists often work in K-12 settings to help students address issues around behaviors, emotions, family situations, learning, and mental health. They help students learn how to handle difficult situations and build coping skills that can help them succeed in their personal and academic lives. They also work with teachers to build inclusive and safe learning spaces. An Education Specialist (EdS) degree is the minimum education required to become a school psychologist.
Professionals who enjoy helping students navigate issues and reach their potential.
Example Degree Path
Bachelor’s in Educational Studies EdS in School Psychology
Industrial-organizational psychologists help companies of all types and sizes find ways of improving efficiency through the study of human behavior. By helping executives understand the motivations, expectations, and needs of their staff, they can work to improve professional environments. This, in turn, creates a more fulfilling work setting and can improve outcomes. Industrial-organizational psychologists typically need at least a master’s degree.
People who want to help companies maximize efficiency and effectiveness.
Example Degree Path
Bachelor’s in Human Resources Management Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology PhD in Organizational Psychology
Apply for Scholarships and Other Financial Aid
With the cost of college rising each year, and psychology education taking so long to complete, finding ways to cover tuition and fees is more important than ever. Take time to learn about various types of financial aid – including scholarships and student loan forgiveness programs By doing the research now, you may be able to avoid substantial student loan debt.
Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology or a Related Field
Bachelor’s degrees in psychology and related studies serve as the foundation for your future career as a psychologist. While many students who know they want to work in this field begin their academic journey with an undergraduate psychology degree, it’s not required at this stage. If you want to work as a forensic psychologist, for instance, a criminal justice bachelor’s degree may best suit your needs. Alternatively, those who want to work as a school psychologist may consider an undergraduate degree related to education or teaching.
Many bachelor’s degrees in psychology and related fields exist online, making them a great fit if you prioritize flexibility and accessibility. Aside from educational considerations, your undergraduate years also offer a great opportunity to job shadow practicing psychologists to figure out which psychology specialization appeals most.
Learn about earning your bachelor’s degree in psychology online and find accredited programs
Pick Your Specialization and Pursue Graduate-Level Studies
After earning a bachelor’s degree, it’s time to pick your specialization and make important decisions about which graduate degree(s) will help you reach your goals. A few options exist, some of which we highlight in the following section.
Master’s in Psychology
Master’s in psychology programs serve as a stepping stone on the path to becoming a psychologist, with many PhD and PsyD programs requiring learners to complete this level of training as a prerequisite. This is especially true if you want to work in clinical or counseling psychology roles. Master’s in psychology programs are offered both on-campus and online, typically require two years of full-time study, and begin introducing learners to some of the topics they will encounter at the doctoral level.
Learn about online master’s degrees in psychology and explore top schools
Education Specialist (EdS) in Psychology
If you want to work as a school psychologist, the educational specialist program is the most popular degree pathway. Some EdS programs require applicants to hold a master’s degree while others accept those with a bachelor’s degree. The amount of time taken to graduate depends on previous education, but you can usually finish requirements in one or two years of full-time study.
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
If you plan to work in a clinical setting providing direct treatment, the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) path is the best doctoral degree option for you. This degree emphasizes studies in practical skills required in counseling and clinical roles as opposed to the PhD, which focuses more on research. Plan to spend between four and six years working towards degree requirements, including at least one year of an internship.
Find out what it’s like to earn a PsyD online and see top-ranked programs
PhD in Psychology
The PhD in psychology uses the scientist-practitioner model which focuses heavily on building research and data skills. If you want to work as a professor or advance the field of psychology through research findings, this program will likely best serve your needs. Most PhD programs take between five and seven years to complete. Because these programs tend to be more competitive and selective, you may find it easier to get funding than if working towards a PsyD qualification.
Find the best online PhD programs of 2020 and see what you’ll study
Graduate Internships & Practica
Both internships and practica provide you with the opportunity to build practical, hands-on skills that serve you well once in practice. Nearly all clinical-focused doctoral psychology programs include these (as they’re common prerequisites for state licensure) and some master’s programs offer them as electives.
Requirements for internship tasks and hours vary based on the area of psychology and level of study but often require the intern or fellow to work under the eye of a licensed psychologist to complete assigned projects. According to the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internships Center, doctoral interns must complete a minimum of 1,500 hours.
Finding a school that maintains institutional accreditation and a program that holds programmatic accreditation is an important part of the decision-making process, as failing to do so can impact your ability to transfer credits, qualify for licensure, and find work. The American Psychological Association only accredits doctorate and post-doc programs, but several specialization-specific accreditors exist, such as the National Association of School Psychologists.
Get Licensed in Your State
Any person who wants to legally call themselves a psychologist must first receive and maintain licensure, but rules and requirements around getting a license vary across states and specializations.
Research State Licensing Regulations
Every state has different requirements, so it’s important to do your homework. For general information about psychologist licensure requirements in each state, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards is a great resource. It’s also a good idea to confirm licensure requirements by contacting your state’s board of psychology. School psychologists and industrial-organizational psychologists should check with the National Association of School Psychologists and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, respectively.
Complete Post-Doctoral Supervised Fieldwork
When looking for a post-doctoral supervised fieldwork position, it’s important to find one that meets all requirements. These should be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) and require at least one year of full-time experience. These experiences vary from grad school internships in that you get to provide actual psychological services to real patients under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.
Pass National Exams
As part of steps to licensure, the majority of states require you to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) examination. This exam covers the core tenets of psychology and determines your preparedness to practice independently. If you plan to become a school psychologist, you’ll instead likely need to take the Praxis School Psychologist Test to demonstrate your ability to work in this role.
Meet Other Requirements
Outside of the exams listed above, some states may also require licensure candidates to take a jurisprudence examination or oral examination. These exams test graduates on their understanding of the laws and rules around psychology specific to their states.
Consider Becoming Professionally Certified
The American Board of Professional Psychology currently offers 15 different psychology specializations. Other organizations, such as the National Association of School Psychologists, offer additional credentialing pathways. Becoming certified helps psychologists stand out from their competition while also demonstrating advanced knowledge and competencies. Many employers prefer job seekers with board certification as well. While you don’t necessarily need to seek board certification directly after receiving licensure, it’s something to put on your to-do list.
Find Standout Job Opportunities and Apply
Now that you hold licensure, it’s time to find a meaningful job. Before launching yourself into the endless sea of job postings and applications, take time to fully consider your path. A few questions to ask yourself include:
- What does my ideal working day look like?
- What does work-life balance mean to me?
- If I could design the perfect job, what would that look like? Should I consider working for an organization or going into private practice?
- Have I spoken with my networking contacts from previous internships and field experiences to get their advice?
- What types of positions are currently open in my area? Do I want to stay where I currently live or would I consider moving?
After identifying the type of job you want and finding suitable openings, it’s important to adequately prepare for the interview process. Tips for achieving success include:
- Reach out to your network and let them know if you used them as a reference so they can provide thoughtful answers.
- Tailor your resume to the needs of the employer and use buzzwords you find on their website.
- Learn as much as possible about the company before your interview.
- Answer interview questions in a way that speaks to both your experience and the ethos of the organization.
Maintain License & Certification Through Continuing Education
Requirements vary by state, but most mandate that psychologists renew their licenses every 2-5 years. To meet renewal requirements, psychologists must complete a certain number of continuing education credits. Contact your state board of psychology to learn about specifics in your area and review the American Psychological Association’s guidance on the topic.
- study a psychology degree accredited by The British Psychological Society (BPS)
- gain Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership.
As such, you don't need a psychology degree to start training. Instead, you need to have a background in one of the listed 'Core Professions', which include Mental Health Nursing, Occupational Therapy and Social Work, amongst others.What do psychologists do PDF? ›
They test intelligence and personality. Many psychologists work as health care providers. They assess behavioral and mental function and well-being, study how human beings relate to each other and also to machines, and work to improve these relationships.Is psychology hard to study? ›
Psychology is one of the more difficult degrees and many of your assignments will require you to cite your sources and will require you to back up a lot of the arguments that you have.Is it hard being a psychologist? ›
It is challenging and it's hard work, but it's a wonderful feeling to see people make improvements that make their lives happier and more manageable. If you've thought about becoming a psychologist, take a look at these 4 tips. They will give you a bit more insight to know if it's the right career for you!Does psychology have math? ›
Most psychology undergraduate programs have a math requirement — but don't let this deter you from pursuing an online psychology degree.How many years does it take to study psychology? ›
1. A first B-degree with psychology as a major subject (3 – 4 years) 2. A postgraduate honours degree in psychology (1-2 years) 3. A professional masters degree in clinical psychology or research psychology (2 years).How do I know if psychology is right for me? ›
- You have a curious nature. ...
- You're the friend everyone feels they can confide in. ...
- You're a good listener. ...
- You enjoy helping and working with people. ...
- You're open-minded and non-judgemental. ...
- You're a confident communicator.
At the graduate level, the master's degree in industrial-organizational psychology is probably the easiest to attain. As doctorates go, the Doctor of Psychology (Psy. D.) degree may be easier than the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.What subjects are needed to become a psychologist? ›
There are no specific subjects needed, but Life Science or Biology will come as an advantage because, psychology has a lot of focus on the human brain and sensory systems. If you have an NQF level 4 certificate with an Admissions Point Score (APS) of over 21+ points, you are likely to qualify for a psychology degree.
All therapists are legally required to maintain confidentiality for their clients. Confidentiality means that a therapist cannot confirm or deny even treating the client if someone asks. Furthermore, they cannot discuss any revealing contact information, such as a client's name or demographics, outside of the session.What are 3 things psychologist do? ›
- Conduct scientific studies of behavior and brain function.
- Observe, interview, and survey individuals.
- Identify psychological, emotional, behavioral, or organizational issues and diagnose disorders.
- Research and identify behavioral or emotional patterns.
To sum up, psychology is centered on four major goals: to describe, explain, predict, and change or control behaviors. These goals are the foundation of most theories and studies in an attempt to understand the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes that people face in their daily lives.What are the 4 main types of psychology? ›
There are different types of psychology, such as cognitive, forensic, social, and developmental psychology.Is becoming psychologist easy? ›
Acquiring a bachelor's degree in psychology is difficult; it requires young 18‒20-year-old college kids to demonstrate dedication, maturity and initiative. When those students get to grad school, they will have the luxury of smaller classes and almost infinite professor availability.What is the easiest course? ›
- Business Administration. Average GPA: 3.2.
- Psychology. Average GPA: 3.3. ...
- Education. Average GPA: 3.6. ...
- Social Work. Average GPA: 3.4. ...
- Public Relations & Advertising. Average GPA: 3.0. ...
- Criminal Justice. Average GPA: 3.1. ...
- Journalism. Average GPA: 3.2. ...
- Economics. Average GPA: 3.0. ...
Studying psychology at any level will allow you to develop valuable skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and research skills. These skills are also transferable to other careers. Gain an understanding of psychological theory and research methods.What are your weaknesses as a psychologist? ›
- Dealing With Insurance and Billing Issues Can Be a Hassle. ...
- Setting up Your Own Practice Can Be Challenging. ...
- Dealing With Clients on a Daily Basis Can Be Emotionally Draining.
Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose and treat individuals experiencing psychological distress and mental illness. They also perform psychotherapy and develop treatment plans. Clinical psychologists often work in hospitals, mental health clinics, and private practice.Is it fun being a psychologist? ›
If you enjoy working with people and helping them achieve their full potential, then becoming a psychologist can be extremely rewarding. While you will often face challenges, seeing your clients make real progress and work towards their goals can give you a feeling of accomplishment.
The ability to write well is one of the most important skills you can gain as a psychology major. Most psychology courses require a significant amount of writing, including essays, case studies, research reports, and other papers.Do I need science for psychology? ›
While you don't need to have all three sciences at Higher or A-level for a psychology degree, it is preferred that you have studied at least one out of chemistry, biology, physics, or maths.What course has no math? ›
Jobs in writing, publishing, public relations, advertising, and communications also require virtually no math at all. If you love history, literature, civics, foreign languages, or art, you may find your sweet spot teaching a favorite subject in private or public schools.How many hours should a psychology student study? ›
1. Study Regularly. The Two Hour Rule: The general rule is that for every hour of time you spend in class, you should spend two hours of your own time studying the material. Plan Your Study Time: The amount of time you need may vary, but you should set aside time each week for reviewing study materials.What can 4 years of psychology get you? ›
- Social Worker. Social work can be a common landing spot for graduates with a bachelor's degree in psychology. ...
- Market Researcher. ...
- Advertising Agent. ...
- Child Care Worker. ...
- Teacher. ...
- Career Counselor. ...
- Writer. ...
In most situations, it might take as little as eight years or as much as twelve years to become a certified psychologist. If you are thinking about a career in psychology, you should be aware of all of the educational and training requirements for becoming a licensed psychologist.What abilities should a psychologist have? ›
- Communication. Communication is important in any field but in psychology, it is paramount and is the hallmark of what a psychologist does. ...
- Patience. ...
- Ethics. ...
- Problem-Solving. ...
- Research. ...
- Commitment to Learning. ...
- Organization. ...
- Emotional Stability.
Take a Career Test
Taking a career test is probably the easiest way to figure out the perfect job for you. There are a lot of career assessments that are readily available online and are intended to guide you in choosing a career path. It is important you understand which type of career test you are taking.
Reasons to study psychology. There are many reasons to study psychology, from career prospects to personal interest. Psychology is a fascinating area of study. It will help you understand human behaviour and mental processes and allow you to better understand how we think act and feel.Why do psychologists quit? ›
Why therapists don't stay therapists when they wanted to stay therapists. Obstacles and lack of opportunities. The lack of quality of supervision or inadequate training for other elements of the job. The lack of research on therapist workforce issues.
- Social/professional isolation.
- Job dissatisfaction.
- Suicide Chemical abuse or dependence.
- Relationship conflicts (e.g., divorce)
- Other addictions.
- Unprofessional behaviors.
- Ethical violations.
Can your therapist initiate a hug? A therapist can hug a client if they think it may be productive to the treatment. A therapist initiating a hug in therapy depends on your therapist's ethics, values, and assessment of whether an individual client feels it will help them.How does a psychologist dress? ›
Business casual is the professional norm at most clinical settings but the dress code may vary from one facility to the next, according to the clinical psychology department at UC San Diego. For example, some employers limit the amount of piercing jewelry.What does a psychologist do all day? ›
Clinical psychologists usually perform a broad range of tasks on a daily basis, such as interviewing patients, conducting assessments, giving diagnostic tests, performing psychotherapy, and administering programs. Within the area of clinical psychology, there also are a number of subspecialty areas.Who is the father of psychology? ›
Two men, working in the 19th century, are generally credited as being the founders of psychology as a science and academic discipline that was distinct from philosophy. Their names were Wilhelm Wundt and William James.How many types of psychologist are there? ›
Eight types of psychology to consider a career in include: abnormal, biopsychology, social, cognitive, developmental, personality, forensic and industrial-organizational.What is a Grade 2 psychologist? ›
The Grade 2 Psychologist is expected to work independently and demonstrate a specialist level of knowledge and depth of experience. The Grade 2 is expected to initiate and participate in teaching, training, research and quality activities, to supervise students and supervise and mentor junior caregivers.What are the 7 methods of psychology? ›
- Introspection Method:
- Observation Method:
- Experimental Method:
- Clinical Method/Case History Method:
- Survey Method:
- Genetic Method:
- Testing Method:
Many psychologists believe there are two main types of psychology: experimental psychology and applied psychology. Experimental psychology focuses primarily on research, whereas, applied psychology takes this research and applies it to practical problems for people (as individuals, groups, or organizations).How many years does it take to become a psychologist? ›
That's something to be wary of, yes, but as you train and as you do more clinical work, you build up an ability to be able to manage some of the heavy stuff that's coming at you. So you can kind of maintain your own wellbeing. To become a clinical psychologist you study for about six years.
To become a clinical psychologist, you will need an undergraduate degree (four to five years of college) plus a doctorate degree (four to seven years of graduate school). For this specialty area, most people will spend between eight to 12 years in higher education.How many years does it take to become a psychologist therapist? ›
Most therapists need a bachelor's degree (which takes four years to earn on average), and then a master's degree (which takes about two to three years on average to earn) or a doctoral degree (which takes about five to seven years on average to earn).How can I become a psychologist after 12th? ›
Psychology courses after 12th- BA (Hons) Psychology
Students from all streams can undertake BA (Hons) Psychology. Graduating students can choose either to further pursue psychology after 12th arts to specialize in a branch of psychology, or start working immediately after in a number of sectors.
A psychology major is a good choice for students who want to work with people and are interested in understanding human behavior and mental processes. Helpful skills for psychology majors include open-mindedness, critical thinking, problem solving and effective communication abilities.Is psychologist a good career? ›
Mental awareness has increased so as has the careers in psychology. Projected to grow at the rate of 14% year-on-year, psychology is a field that will always see tremendous growth because it helps to understand what causes problems in people in the first place, not just in solving them.What are careers in psychology? ›
- Therapy and counseling.
- Training and development.
- Private healthcare education.
- Mental health support.
- Career counseling.
- Human resources.
- Social work.
A degree in psychology opens up many opportunities to have a positive effect on someone's life. For example, as a practitioner in the field, you may help people overcome the effects of trauma, deal with a mental illness, face a mental health crisis or achieve personal goals.