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How to Become a Psychologist

Psychologists study the human mind through research and examination. Psychologists work in educational and health facilities, for the government or for private corporations. They use their research for a wide range of applications, from counseling patients suffering from mental disorders, grief or trauma to predicting group behavior so companies can do better business. Whichever type of psychologist you'd like to be, you'll need a lot of education and training.

Here's how to become a psychologist:

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree in psychology. Most graduate programs in psychology require an undergraduate degree in psychology. A bachelor's degree in psychology is enough to assist psychologists and other related professionals, but is not enough to work as an actual psychologist.
  2. Decide what kind of career you want to pursue. Use your time as an undergrad to explore different options. Would you like to work with children in schools? Do you want your own private practice? Or would you prefer to do research?
  3. Earn a master's degree in psychology or a specialist degree, such as an educational specialist degree (EdS) in school psychology. Most states will allow you to do some jobs with a master's degree. Some states will allow you to work as a child psychologist in schools with an educational specialist degree. [BLS]
  4. Earn a doctor of philosophy (PhD) or doctor of psychology (PsyD). With these degrees, you can do any type of work including opening a private practice. Doctoral degrees usually take five years to complete, and conclude with a research dissertation or possibly practical work and examinations.
  5. Obtain state licensing. Each state has its own licensing requirements. Typically, states require a doctoral degree from an American Psychological Association (APA) accredited school, 3000 hours of supervised experience, 1500 of which must be postdoctoral, and some sort of examination. Some states may have additional requirements. Most states have generic licenses, but some have designations for different specialties. [ASPPB]