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See why becoming a psychologist takes nearly as long as becoming a doctor due to licensing requirements and supervised practice.
Read about the Exam for Professional Practice in Psychology, administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
Know about the eight content areas you'll be tested for in your licensing exam well ahead of the examination day.
See what additional state requirements you'll have to meet to gain licensure in your area after passing the exam.
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Understand the Time Commitment
Becoming a psychologist is an often-misunderstood process. Many people today have the notion that if you go to college for four years and a get a bachelor’s degree that you can practice as a psychologist. This is not correct. In order to become a psychologist you have to earn a doctoral degree, which can take five to seven years to complete after you receive a bachelor’s degree. You have to pass a national licensing examination. You have to serve a supervised residency beneath a certified psychologist who has been working in the field for a long time. And, depending on the state where you want to practice professionally, you may have to undergo additional licensing requirements.
The decision to become a psychologist is a time commitment comparable to, but slightly less time intensive than, becoming a doctor. The definition of a “psychologist” also changes slightly from state to state, so it is extremely important that you know where you want to live and work after you graduate with your doctorate. As with law students and engineers, if you are licensed in California and then move to New York, you may have to retake any exams or certification you had to pass to practice in your state of origin.
Since the American Psychological Association (APA) accredits doctoral psychology programs in clinical, counseling, and school psychology, you should plan on attending a school that has this backing. If you do, you will have more flexibility to move between states and should not have to go through any additional education if you move states and still want to practice. Furthermore, in addition to your 1-2 year supervised residency, you will have to pass a national psychology examination to become a recognized, credentialed professional.
Introducing the Exam
The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) was established in 1961 and represents a collection of state and “territorial agencies” that are responsible for the standards of psychology licensure and certification in both America and Canada. Since 1965 this association has administered the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which is an exam that everyone has to take if they want to practice in the field. According to a study released by the ASPPB in 2010 (the most recently available data), 58% of people surveyed indicated that cognitive and behavioral psychology was their core focus of licensure, and 1/3 of all respondents participated in some type of post-doctoral specialization classes before practicing as psychologists.
Prepare for the Exam
The examination tests 8 major content areas:
- The biological bases of behavior: the brain and psychopharmacology.
- The cognitive bases of behavior: cognition, theories of learning, memory, emotion, and the external factors that influence thinking.
- The social and cultural bases of behavior: personal relationships, group dynamics, and personality theories.
- Growth and lifespan development: adolescence, how people grow up, anomalous development patterns, and the agents that cause people to develop in specific ways.
- Assessment and diagnosis: psychometrics, how to measure intelligence, and what limitations these practices necessitate.
- Treatment, intervention, and prevention: problems that arise in diverse communities, best practices for intervention, theories, and supporting research.
- Research methods and statistics: how to evaluate psychological programs, calibrate statistical software and instruments, create models, and disseminate peer-reviewed information.
- Ethical, legal, and professional issues: what is the code of ethics, how is it applied, and what psychologists are legally restricted from doing.
Contact Your State Board
Once you pass the EPPP exam, you will have to pass some type of credentialing examination that is specific to your state. Below, we have compiled every state agency that is responsible for handling licensing in America. On these websites you can acquire more detailed information regarding what that state requires for licensure, how long it takes, and what prerequisites you need before you can sit for a certification exam.
- Alabama Board of Examiners in Psychology
- Alaska Board of Psychologist and Psychological Associate Examiners
- Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners
- Arkansas State Board of Psychology
- California Board of Psychology
- Colorado Board of Psychologist Examiners
- Connecticut Board of Examiners of Psychologists
- Delaware Board of Examiners of Psychologists
- Florida Psychology Licensing
- Georgia Board of Psychology
- Hawaii Psychology Licensing
- Idaho Board of Psychologist Examiners
- Indiana State Psychology Board
- Iowa Board of Psychology
- Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board
- Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology
- Louisiana state Board of Examiners of Psychologists
- Maine Board of Examiners of Psychologists
- Maryland Board of Examiners of Psychologists
- Massachusetts Board of Registration of Psychologists
- Michigan Board of Psychology
- Minnesota Board of Psychology
- Mississippi Board of Psychology
- Missouri Committee of Psychologists
- Montana Board of Psychologists
- Nevada Board of Psychological Examiners
- New Hampshire Board of Mental Health Practice
- New Jersey Board of Psychological Examiners
- New Mexico Board of Psychologist Examiners
- New York State Psychologist Licensing Requirements
- North Carolina Psychology Board
- North Dakota State Board of Psychologist Examiners
- Ohio State Board of Psychology
- Oklahoma Board of Examiners of Psychologists
- Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners
- Pennsylvania state Board of Psychology
- South Carolina Board of Examiners in Psychology
- Tennessee Board of Examiners of Psychology
- Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists
- Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing
- Vermont Board of Psychological Examiners
- Virginia Board of Psychology
- Washington State Department of Health
- West Virginia Board of Examiners of Psychologists
- Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
- Wyoming State Board of Psychology
- Psychology Licensing in Washington, D.C.