Psychology Certification

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Understand the time commitment

See why becoming a psychologist takes nearly as long as becoming a doctor due to licensing requirements and supervised practice.

Introducing the Exam

Read about the Exam for Professional Practice in Psychology, administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

Prepare for the exam

Know about the eight content areas you'll be tested for in your licensing exam well ahead of the examination day.

Contact your state board

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:

  1. The biological bases of behavior: the brain and psychopharmacology.
  2. The cognitive bases of behavior: cognition, theories of learning, memory, emotion, and the external factors that influence thinking.
  3. The social and cultural bases of behavior: personal relationships, group dynamics, and personality theories.
  4. Growth and lifespan development: adolescence, how people grow up, anomalous development patterns, and the agents that cause people to develop in specific ways.
  5.  Assessment and diagnosis: psychometrics, how to measure intelligence, and what limitations these practices necessitate.
  6. Treatment, intervention, and prevention: problems that arise in diverse communities, best practices for intervention, theories, and supporting research.
  7. Research methods and statistics: how to evaluate psychological programs, calibrate statistical software and instruments, create models, and disseminate peer-reviewed information.
  8. 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.