Becoming a Licensed Psychologist
Psychology has become a popular career and represents a growing field with a wide variety of specialties. However, this is also a profession that has specific requirements in terms of licensing and accreditation. In this guide, we will present the answers to some common questions about how to become a licensed psychologist.
Is a Psychology License Needed to Work?
Yes, you need a license to practice psychology, at least if you want to work with patients. The licenses are granted by the state’s licensing board. However, you might not need a license to teach, work in an institution, do research, or work in a corporation. The requirements may vary by state. For example, some states require organizational psychologists to become licensed as well, but others don’t require that.
There are some cases in which you need a license. In order to practice and have the title of Psychologist, you need to have a license that is obtained by completing a PhD or a PsyD, a certain number of hours, and the required examinations (EPPP plus any additional provincial exams).
If you want to become a clinical or counseling psychologist, you need to have a doctorate in psychology, go through an internship, get one-two years of professional experience, and pass the EPPP.
Once you do obtain your license, you will need to maintain it by training and taking continued education courses. A school psychologist also needs a license if they work with students in the context of helping with their personal lives.
There are three types of licenses. There is Licensed Psychologist that allows you to have an independent and unsupervised practice (although you may need to train and continue studying to maintain it).
There is the Temporary or Provisionally Licensed Psychologist, which you may receive to complete your supervised experience. There is also Psychological Associate or Assistant, which is based on a master’s degree, may allow you to work under supervision and with a limited scope.
What are the Education Requirements for Psychology License?
An important aspect of the licensing process is to meet the requirements for a psychology license. State licensing boards usually require at least a doctoral degree in psychology. The degree needs to come from an institution that is accredited regionally or government-chartered.
Some states require that the doctoral degree comes from a program accredited by APA or else the degree the person holds is evaluated by the licensing board.
Generally speaking, you need to have a doctoral degree to be eligible for a license. However, some masters’ degree may be accepted. A bachelor’s degree is usually not enough for a license.
For international students, the education requirements may be evaluated on a case-to-case basis. This is because the educational programs in Psychology vary significantly around the world and may not be equivalent to U.S. Programs.
International psychologists may reach out to the state board to see what they can do in terms of examinations, education, and professional qualification. State boards can provide information on the situation.
Consider also that some states may require that your program of choice includes specific courses, for example, ethics or multicultural competence training. If you don’t take these courses, you may need to complement the training to achieve the license.
However, APA-accredited programs usually are those that fit all the requirements for you to achieve the license in that residence. If you are able to select an APA-accredited program, make sure that you fulfill the curriculum requirements and take all the prescribed subjects from the standard curriculum, to avoid any discrepancies with the official requirements.
Can Non-Accredited Program Graduates Earn a Psychology License?
There are different types of accreditation. There is regional accreditation that oversees different institutions, ensuring that the school is up to a certain standard. There is national accreditation that also regulates and determines the level of a school.
However, beyond national and regional accreditation, there are also those programs and schools that have accreditation by a reputable psychological organization. In most cases, the most reputable organization is the APA. Some states, in fact, require that the person seeking a license has a program from an APA accredited institution.
If you studied a program from a school that is not accredited regionally or nationally, it’s likely to be a problem if you seek a license. However, if you studied a program not accredited by APA, it may be a problem in some states and less of a problem in others.
Some states require you to have an APA-accredited program to qualify for a license, while others may examine the curriculum of the program you studied and other factors to determine whether you are eligible for a license. In some cases, the licensing board might be willing to look at your program’s curriculum even if it’s not accredited, but that may not be the case in all situations.
If you are looking for a program to study, choosing an APA-accredited program can save you a lot of trouble down the road. However, if you have qualifications from a non-APA-accredited program, you may still be able to obtain a license in some states. To find out what the state regulations are, you want to contact the state licensing board for information.
It’s also worth noting that some employers who might not require a license might look for candidates who come from APA-approved programs, meaning that a non-accredited program can also be an issue in some cases.
What is the Process to Become a Licensed Psychologist?
In order to obtain a license, you will need to pass an exam. This exam is called the EPPP. The EPPP is a 255-question multiple-choice test that was developed by the ASPPB (the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards). Out of the 255 questions, only 175 count towards the score and 50 are pretest items. Every item has 4 answer options.
This test covers core areas of psychology, such as assessment, diagnosis, behavior, and other things. In order to pass, you need to score at least 70% or 500 on the exam, although this may vary by state. The EPPP is a computer-based test. In some cases, an additional oral exam may be required, often focusing on law and ethics or just jurisprudence. Additional examination requirements vary by state.
The EPPP covers eight areas: biological bases of behavior; cognitive-affective bases of behavior; social and cultural bases of behavior; growth and lifespan development; assessment and diagnosis; treatment; intervention, prevention, and supervision; research and statistics; and ethical, legal, and professional issues.
To take the EPPP, you first need to apply for licensure to your state licensing board. The licensing board will review your credential and be pre-approved for taking the EPPP. The board will enter your information into an online registration form that will give you access to the application materials. You will recieve two emails about your information being uploaded and for the process of registration. Once your information has been uploaded, you have 90 days to verify your information.
You will need to read the Candidate Acknowledgment Statement and complete it. Once this is done and all information is correct, you will be authorized to take the EPPP. You will need to complete an application form and when this process is done, you will recieve an email with information on scheduling.
You will need to create an account at the Pearson VUE website, where you can pay for the exam and schedule it, as well as pay for the appointments and practice exams. After you have paid the fee, you have 90 days to take the exam. You must take the exam within 90 days of paying the fees. You can take the exam at any center.
The fee for the exam is $600 USD. The fee for the test center appointment is $87.50. There is no charge for rescheduling for up to 31 days before appointment. If you cancel or reschedule less than 31 days but more than 24 hours before the appointment, there is an $87.50 fee. If you don’t show or reschedule or cancel 24 hours before appointment, you forfeit all the fees.
You have to arrive at the center 30 minutes before the appointment time with a valid government-issued photo ID and another form of identification with a signature or recent photo.
When the exam starts, you will need to read the Candidate Acknowledgment Statement and agree to it within a 5-minute timeframe. You will have 5 minutes to complete a tutorial. You will have 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete the EPPP. There will be 5 minutes at the end for a survey. If you require special accommodations, you may request them beforehand.
The exam has no breaks, but you can take breaks, although the exam time does not stop. The tutorial explains the functions of the exam, which can be taken with little or no computer knowledge thanks to the tutorial. You may flag questions and return to them later and move through the questions as you choose. You can also request earplugs or noise-canceling headphones in the test center.
Once you finish the test, you will receive an unofficial score, which will be reported to the board. Within ten days, the score will be reported to the board. The board will make the determination of whether the candidate’s score is sufficient to move on with the process.
Keep in mind that the exam is related to your professional practice and to your knowledge and skills. The pretest, ungraded items, are part of the test and are distributed randomly across it.
There are two preparation exams for the EPPP. There is the PEPPO that can be taken online for $55 and the PEPP that is taken in a Pearson Testing Center in the same conditions as the EPPP itself. The PEPP costs $115.
In addition to the EPPP, you may need to take other types of examination. Usually, the exams will involve jurisdictional laws and regulations. These exams may be written or oral or applied online. The jurisdictional exams often cover laws and regulations that apply to the place where you will be practicing.
Another possibility is that you will need to do an oral exam concerning psychological practice or specific topics like ethics or multicultural competence. The oral exam can be offered in a variety of ways. Some possibilities are: case vignette, diagnostics, conceptualizing a case, awareness of one’s limitations, ability to handle crisis, diversity, ethics, and laws.
How Many Clinical Hours Needed for a Psychology License?
In order to become a licensed psychologist, you will need to complete a certain number of supervised practice hours. Usually, the number of hours that you will need to complete after completing your doctoral degree range between 1500-3000 hours and take between 1 and 2 years to accrue.
However, clinical hours requirements may vary by state. For example, Michigan requires 6000 supervised hours, but California requires only 3000. Some states also require hours done after you achieve the doctorate.
However, around 12 states no longer require the postdoctoral year, but the other states usually require one year of internship and one year of postdoctoral work. If you are applying for a license with a masters level, you can be required to work supervised between 1 and 4 years. Some states allow you to count practicum hours from your doctoral work towards the total required hours.
Note that a licensing board may consider not only the number of hours themselves, but other factors also. Some things that may be considered are hours of supervision and the qualification of the supervisor, for example, whether or not they are licensed and how experienced they are. It’s best to seek an established placement or internship that has a good track record.
It’s best to know the local requirements for a license while you are taking the program. This way, you can work to reconcile what you are offered in the program and the requirements you need to meet.
How Much Are Psychology Licensing Fees?
The fees may vary depending on the state, but they usually are in the area of $3000, including fees for applying for licensure and exam fees. If you choose to take prep courses and practice exams, as well as other materials to prepare, the fees may be more significant. In general, you will need to spend at least a $1000 for exam fees and more depending on the state requirements. You may also consider the fees for the graduate program. Overall, getting a psychology license represents a significant investment.
Required Steps to Become a Licensed Psychologist?
The process of becoming a licensed psychologist requires a set series of steps. These steps, according to the ASPPB, are as follows:
- Learn the licensing requirements in the state or jurisdiction where you want to practice. Remember that while many aspects apply generally, some may vary by state.
- Evaluate whether you have the educational requirements to apply for a license in the jurisdiction of your interest. If you do not, seek a graduate program that is accredited by the APA.
- Sign for the ASPPB Credentials bank to bank credentials.
- Complete the coursework and required practice hours.
- Apply for and complete an internship.
- Complete the doctoral degree.
- Complete the post-doctoral supervised experience.
- Apply for licensure.
- Take the EPPP and other required examinations.
To become familiar with licensing laws and requirements, you need to look at the requirements for your state or place of residence, usually available from the state licensing board. You can look for detailed information at asppb.net, which offers information on all the requirements. Consider that many licensing laws are common, but may require specific types of coursework, number of hours, and post-doctoral supervised practice.
The ASPPB Credentials Bank is a system that allows you to store information about your university transcripts, supervised experience, work experience, examination results, references, and training. The data is verified and can help you if you are seeking a license later on. The system is free for students and low cost for beginning psychologists. You should seek to deposit all credits in a recognized and established credit bank.
The graduate program you select should be an APA-accredited program. This is to ensure that it is accepted as an educational requirement for the license.
The internship and postdoctoral supervised practice will help you gather the necessary clinical hours as requested by your state licensing board. You should make sure to choose a recognized internship or post-doctoral placement that has an established history, experienced and recognized supervisors, and other factors that will help recognize the experience you gain there as valid.
To apply for licensure, you need to see the requirements of your state licensing board and submit the required proof to register for the opportunity to take the exam. After you reach to your state’s licensing board, you will be required to apply through the Psychology Licensure Universal System or PLUS, which is an online system that allows you to apply for licensure.
PLUS makes the process through re-licensure easier and it contains verified information about your education and credentials. You first contact the licensing board, after which you are directed to ASPPB, which sends you instructions on completing the online application. Your data is verified with the primary sources and stored in the PLUS system. The PLUS system is related to the ASPBB Credentials Bank, which makes verification easier.
After you have sent your information, you will be able to take the EPPP. The results of the EPPP are sent directly to the board, which determines whether the score you got qualifies you for a license. Finally, you may need to complete additional exams on the laws and ethical practices of your jurisdiction. Other exams, such as oral exams on various topics, may be required too.
If there are some requirements that are especially strict or stringent, it’s a good idea to try to meet them as well as you can, to save trouble down the road. Consider also that you might consider moving or changing practice from one jurisdiction to another, so it would be good to have the background that would allow you more mobility.
What Specialties Do Not Require a Psychology License?
To work in a college program teaching, mentoring, tutoring, being a teacher’s assistant, or doing academic assessment, you do not need a license for the most part. If you are a school psychologist and see people for their emotional issues or personal lives, you do need a license.
In government agencies, you might be able to work without a license. Some agencies that accept unlicensed psychologists are mental health programs or youthful offender facilities, although they do not accept unlicensed psychologists for counseling positions.
Non-profits and emergency services, like suicide hot lines or shelters might accept unlicensed practitioners and offer additional training. Private corporations and organizations also have opportunities for unlicensed psychologists who may work improving morale, in hiring, interviewing, or other aspects. Unlicensed psychologists can usually also do research, although this may vary.
As a rule of thumb, counseling and therapeutic positions usually require licensing, while there is more flexibility for other positions. If you want an independent and unsupervised practice, you will need to have a license, but it might be easier to find unlicensed work in institutions, with supervision.
Whether or not you need a license for a specific type of position varies by state, so it is important to check local requirements. A way to examine this is to look for the state licensing board and their requirements. You can contact the board directly to ask about a position that interests you. Note that licensing requirements may also vary by position, for example, whether you want to work in counseling, as a school psychologist, or as an organizational psychologist.
Can You Become Licensed with a Master’s Degree?
Currently, you can become licensed psychologist with a master’s degree in 25 states in the U.S. In nine states, you can become licensed for independent practice without supervision. In Alaska, you can practice as a Psychological Associate, in Arkansas as a Psychological Examiner, in Kansas as Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist, in Kentucky as a Licensed Psychological Practitioner, in Oklahoma as a Licensed Behavioral Practitioner, in Oregon as a Psychological Associate, in Tennessee as a Licensed Senior Psychological Examiner, in Vermont and West Virginia as Psychologist. In Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin you can also become licensed to be a School psychologist with a master’s degree and practice without supervision.
In other states, you can practice psychology under the supervision of a doctoral level licensed psychologist, which is often called a Psychological Associate, for which you need the master’s degree. The educational requirements involve taking a program that meets specific criteria, usually involving regional accreditation and specific coursework. Master’s degrees do not have APA accreditation, so you should seek what your state requires from your master’s degree. You will also need to take the exam, in most cases.
State-by-State Board of Licensing Web Sites
Resources for Licensed Psychologists
- American Psychological Association – For more information about careers in all fields of psychology.
- Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards – For more information about state licensing requirements.
- American Board of Professional Psychology – For more information about psychology specialty certifications.
- List of Psychology Organizations – Find a comprehensive list of psychology organizations.
- Graduate and Postgraduate Education
- New Research From Psychological Science
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- O*Net Online