To become an abnormal psychologist, it is necessary to pursue advanced education in the field of abnormal psychology to acquire credentials necessary for clinical practice. The most appropriate level of education depends on how a student wants to apply a psychology degree; for some careers, only a bachelor's degree is necessary, while for others, it is necessary to have a master's degree or doctor of psychology (Psy. D.) degree. It is important to be aware that a degree in abnormal psychology can qualify a practitioner to work with patients, but may not allow her to prescribe medications, depending on regional rules.
High school students with an interest in abnormal psychology can load up on math and science classes, which will be useful in training to become an abnormal psychologist. They may also want to consider taking care of some college prerequisites before they go to college, as this will allow them to take more electives. It may be possible to take advanced placement exams to skip entry level classes, or to take some classes through a local college or university.
At college, a student who plans to become an abnormal psychologist needs to complete the track for a psychology degree. If the college offers a degree in abnormal psychology specifically, this is the degree program the student should enter. In all cases, taking as many classes as possible in this field is helpful. For students who intend to go to graduate school, it is also a good idea to work on research projects and get opportunities for clinical observation.
A four-year graduate may be able to work as a research assistant, or could offer basic services in some settings. For clinical practice, however, the graduate needs a master's degree in public health, social work, psychology, or a related field. Such programs prefer students with strong transcripts that include extracurricular activities like research and volunteering in clinical settings. A graduate student who wants to become an abnormal psychologist should start thinking about research for a master's or Psy. D. thesis as early as possible.
Graduates of a master's program can pursue a doctoral degree in the field. This will qualify a practitioner for research and clinical work. She can also become an educator, working with students who want to pursue careers in abnormal psychology. To stay qualified, it is a good idea to join a professional organization and pursue continuing education opportunities. Once a person has become an abnormal psychologist, it is also advisable to be involved with research and development in this field. Psychologists with recent research publications tend to be more employable and may be able to demand higher salaries.