How do I Become a Licensed Psychologist?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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A licensed psychologist is a mental health professional who has completed extensive educational, training, and licensing requirements. He or she might provide counseling and behavioral therapy to individuals with mental illnesses, addictions, marriage problems, depression, or an array of other life stresses. To become a licensed psychologist, a person must usually receive a PhD or PsyD from an accredited school, practice under supervision for one to two years, and pass a licensing examination specific to his or her state or country.

An individual who wants to become a licensed psychologist typically majors in clinical psychology or a related social science in a four-year undergraduate school. He or she usually receives a general psychology education, covering several sub-disciplines of the field. An undergraduate might take basic courses in cognitive, behavioral, family, abnormal, and developmental psychology. In addition, he or she is often required to take advanced statistics courses to learn about different research techniques and their applications.


Near the end of a student's undergraduate program, he or she can apply to accredited graduate programs, decide in which specialty to become a licensed psychologist, and take the graduate record examination. Once accepted to a school, the student usually meets with counselors and professors to outline a specific degree program. A typical doctoral program in psychology school takes about six years to complete, during which time a student takes very detailed courses in his or her specialty. He or she gains extensive knowledge of the nature of mental health care, how to diagnose disorders, and different counseling and therapy strategies.

An individual who wants to become a licensed psychologist in a clinical specialty generally spends the last year of his or her doctoral program interning at a mental health facility, where he or she gains practical experience dealing directly with clients. In order to graduate, a student is usually required to complete a doctoral dissertation on a topic related to his or her specialty. Upon the successful completion of all coursework, training requirements, and a dissertation, the individual is awarded a PhD or PsyD.

Many states and countries require new professionals to work under the supervision of experienced psychologists for up to two years. After gaining enough experience, an individual can become a licensed psychologist by taking a written examination administered by the governing board of his or her state or country. Licensing requirements vary between locations and specialties, though most exams test a new psychologist's understanding of ethics and the principles of clinical therapy. A psychologist who passes his or her licensing exam is able to work independently and enjoy a rewarding career.



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