4 Steps to Becoming a Psychologist
There are four common steps to become a psychologist: earning a bachelor’s degree, obtaining an advanced psychology degree (i.e., a master’s, doctorate or both) from an accredited program, completing at least a one-year internship or postdoctoral program to gain experience working with patients, and obtaining a license, which includes passing a test on foundational knowledge. All together, the path to becoming a licensed psychologist can take up to eight years.
1. The first step to becoming a psychologist is to earn a bachelor’s degree.
It can be in any subject, but it may be worth considering a major that lends itself to a career in psychology, such as social work, psychology or sociology.
2. Earn a master’s and/or doctorate in psychology.
Depending on where you intend to practice and the specific concentration you are interested in (e.g., child psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy), you may be able to pursue a psychology license after earning a master’s degree, either a Master of Arts or a Master of Science. If you must pursue a doctoral degree, you will choose between a PsyD, a practical degree for would-be counselors; a PhD, which is more research-oriented; an EdD, or Doctor of Education; and an EdS, or education specialist. Check your state requirements and consider your career goals to determine which degree is right for you.
3. Complete an internship or postdoctoral program.
After you complete a psychology master’s or doctoral program, you must complete an internship or postdoctoral program. This required psychology internship gives you an opportunity to work alongside licensed psychologists to gain hands-on training in your field of interest. Most states require 1,500 to 2,000 hours of training and at least one to two years of supervised professional experience, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
4. Obtain a psychology license.
The licensing requirements for psychologists vary per state. Contact your state board to understand your state’s requirements. Various state board information can be found at the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) website. Once you’ve met the necessary education and professional requirements, you’ll need to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, which is administered by the ASPPB.