A master's or doctoral degree, and a license, are required for most
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
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
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
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition
Find related resources below:
Psychologist Job Outlook