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How to Become a Psychologist

How to Become a Psychologist

To become a psychologist you will first need a bachelor's degree. This will teach you the fundamentals of psychology. After that, you have to earn a master's degree, which will qualify you to work in the field as a social worker, case manager, or employment specialist.

Then, in most cases, you need to earn a doctoral degree. Depending on the career path you choose, you will need either a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD). Many states also require post-doctoral training which takes about 1 year of work.

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

This is your first step to becoming a psychologist. Usually, your undergrad should be in psychology to better prepare you for the advanced classes you will need.

A bachelor's degree in psychology will give you all the prerequisites you will need to advance through your Ph.D or PsyD.

Here's what your course load might look like:

Grade Level Example Courses
Freshman
  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • College Algebra & Statistics
  • Introduction to Kinesiology
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
Sophomore
  • Personality Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Government
  • Psychological testing and measurement
  • Biopsychology
  • Statistics
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
Junior
  • Psychology of Learning
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Experimental Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Sensation and Perception
  • Ethical Issues in Psychology
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
Senior
  • Health in the US
  • Health Education & Planning
  • Healthcare Management
  • Health Policy
  • Capstone
  • Remaining Requirements & Electives

2. Earn a Master's Degree (2 Years)

A big question psychology students want to know is, "do I need a master's to get my doctorate?" The answer is no.

But if you want to get your master's degree, you can. It can help you decide what areas you want to focus on, or if you really want to further your psychology career. Many Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs do not require a master's degree, and you can begin these programs after completing your bachelor's degree.

There are many avenues for a master's degree you can go down, if you so choose:

  • M.A. or M.S. in Experimental Psychology
  • M.A. or M.S. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology
  • M.A. or M.S. in Forensic Psychology
  • M.A. or M.S. in Clinical Psychology
  • M.A. or M.S. in Social Psychology
  • M.A. or M.S. in Child Development

3. Earn a Doctoral Degree (4 - 6 Years)

You must earn a doctoral degree in psychology in order to be a psychologist. According to the American Psychological Association, there are accredited doctoral programs in the following areas:

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Counseling Psychology
  • School Psychology
  • Combined Professional-Scientific Psychology

Students working toward a psychology degree in traditional programs can expect to study both normal as well as abnormal functioning.

Their studies will be focused on the interaction of two critical relationships: the relationship between brain function and behavior, and the relationship between behavior and the environment.

4. Earn the Required License & Certification

After all the schooling and hard work, you still need to earn a license to practice. To get your license you must work under the supervision of a professional--takes 1 to 2 years.

Then you must pass the state board exams. Finally, you must present your case to the board of your state and get your license. After all of this, you can finally practice and call yourself a licensed psychologist.