What Are the Different Types of Psychologist Qualifications?

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  • Written By: A. Reed
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 07 May 2020
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Becoming a psychologist is a long, arduous road and it can take many years to complete. Getting psychologist qualifications starts with earning a bachelor's degree in psychology, including completion of courses like abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, and statistics. It may not be necessary to do, but a master's degree can provide opportunities to gain essential research experience before pursuing a doctorate degree. There are two types of doctorate degrees that can be earned, including the Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) and the Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD), and, while often thought of as the finishing requirement, is actually the prelude to postdoctoral residency. To gain a postdoctoral position, one must start making inquiries years in advance.

Even though doctorate programs in psychology do regularly admit students after finishing their bachelor's degree, oftentimes those pursuing psychologist qualifications will decide to complete a master's degree on the way to a doctorate. There are many reasons to do this, primarily because doctorate programs in psychology are so competitive and it helps to have alternatives while trying to get there. Obtaining the master's degree will allow additional time for taking part in research, which is very important in the selection process for doctorate programs in psychology.

Psychologists can earn a doctorate (PhD or PsyD) in a subfield of psychology such as clinical, forensic, or neuropsychology, which permits them to assume the title of "doctor," not to be confused with the doctor of medicine. There are some differences between the PhD and the PsyD programs. While the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is more clinically focused, the Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD) centers primarily on research. As both require a dissertation, the PsyD is the professional degree and the PhD is the teaching qualification that also allows for clinical practice. A typical course of study for PsyD programs include psychotherapy, psychopathology, and assessment, while the coursework requirements for the PhD might encompass clinical neuropsychology, psychoanalytic theories, and research methods.

Obtaining the PhD or PsyD in psychology is not the end to gathering psychologist qualifications. Licensing is required to practice as a clinical psychologist, someone who is qualified to assess, diagnose, and treat mental illness using psychotherapy. They typically cannot prescribe medications, but, in some regions, they are allowed to do so after completion of additional training. Before licensing can happen, however, a residency must be fulfilled serving in the capacity of a psychologist under supervision for a specified number of hours. Finding a postdoctoral position can be difficult, and beginning the search two years ahead is recommended in order to ensure completion of psychologist qualifications.


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