How to become a Psychologist

Being a psychologist plays a critical role in society, supporting those who are going through a difficult period and helping them live life to its full potential. 

However, studying to become a psychologist and earning all the certifications takes over 10 years to do so, requiring commitment and dedication to the field. 

Within psychology, there are a variety of roles. From clinical to forensic and child to rehabilitation psychologist, you will be able to specialize in your area of interest throughout your educational journey. 

Becoming a psychologist – completing your university studies

Your journey to becoming a psychologist may begin as early as your time in high school. In order to be accepted on the right college course, it is recommended you study math, statistics, biology, and social studies.

If your high school offers it, take classes in psychology too, as it will allow you to show dedication to the field in your university application.

At an undergraduate level, it is highly recommended that you study psychology. However, it is not necessarily a pre-requisite to do so to move onto postgraduate education. 

If you do choose to major in psychology, you might want to consider minoring in a subject that is relevant to a particular psychology career pathway. For example, if you are interested in criminal psychology, it might be advantageous to major in psychology and minor in criminology. 

Throughout your bachelor’s degree, you should continue to take classes in statistics and biology as they will give you a solid foundation to succeed in your postgraduate studies. 

Before you can complete your psychology doctorate, you are most likely required to do a master’s in psychology. A psychology master’s, which takes 2 years to complete, encourages you to specialize in a particular field of the subject. 

While some states allow you to take psychology examinations in order to practice with only a master’s degree, the opportunities available to you will be very limited without completing a doctorate. 

Education beyond your master’s 

After completing your master’s degree, your choice of program for further study depends on what you want to specialize in. 

The most conventional route to take is to do a Psychology Ph.D. or complete a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) program.

Lasting 5 to 7 years, a Ph.D. in Psychology allows you to investigate a particular topic that you are interested in. In addition to taking postgraduate classes, you will also be responsible for carrying out your own research and present your findings in a dissertation, helping to advance the field.

This route is highly recommended if you are passionate about the theoretical developments in psychology and are keen to work in academia.

If you want a more hands-on experience during your studies and want to pursue a career in clinical psychology and counseling, then a Psychology Doctorate (PsyD) might be the program for you. 

The course, which may take between 4 to 6 years to finish, focuses on giving you the practical skills necessary to work as a psychologist, in addition to carrying out your own research – albeit your dissertation will most likely be much shorter than if you enroll on a Ph.D. program. 

On the other hand, if are most interested in working as a psychologist in a school, it is advisable to enroll in an Education Specialist (EdS) in Psychology course. These programs may take as little as 1 to 2 years to complete. 

Depending on the school you choose to study and the classes that you have taken at an undergraduate level, you may not be required to possess a master’s degree to be accepted onto an EdS course. 

READ MORE: Why get into psychological science?

Obtaining your psychology license

Having completed your postgraduate studies, you are ready to start working towards obtaining a psychology license that will allow you to practice.

However, you have to complete 1,500 to 3000 hours of work experience beforehand, which may require up to 2 years to achieve. This will be in the form of internships, assistantships, or supervised psychology practical experience.

The specific length of your work experience will depend on which state you want to obtain your license.  

Once you have reached the required hours of experience, you are ready to take the examinations that will grant you the right to practice. 

The type of license examination you need to pass will vary by where you wish to work, but most states will need you to successfully take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)

Once you have obtained the EPPP examination, you may also be required to pass tests that are related specifically to the regulations and laws present in the state you intend to practice in. 

Your EPPP license will have to be renewed every 1 to 3 years, which involves taking continuing education credits worth 40 to 60 hours. 

Certain roles will require you to possess specific certifications. For example, those of you who are interested in working in schools will have to pass the Praxis School Psychologist Test.

The journey to becoming a psychologist is long, but it is a highly rewarding role that allows you to help those of us in society who are struggling mentally and need help to get their life back on track.

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