How to Become a Psychologist: How Long Does It Take?

Updated on November 18th, 2020

If you want to become a qualified professional who can truly help people with their psychological and mental issues, your sole interest and knowledge in psychology won’t be enough. You need to get the required education and licenses for legal practice. In this guide, we’ll tell you about all the steps to becoming a psychologist and the nuances you need to know. The road might take up to 15 years until you’ll be eligible to get a license. So make sure it’s what you really want.

How to Become a Psychologist How Long Does it Take

What do you need to do?

Let’s figure out what are the steps to be a psychologist. Obviously, you need to get a degree. But how to do that and what else can you do? We’re about to answer these questions in the following section.

Starting with a degree

Many people wonder, can you become a psychologist with an online degree? Yes, you can. There are numerous universities that offer digital learning. And the degrees people get online are just as legit as those you could get offline.

But of course, you always can get a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in a traditional university. Note that a degree is different from a certificate you’d receive at some psychology course. The latter would be useful for improving your knowledge after you’ve obtained a degree.

Get experience whenever you can

During your study, ask your professors if there are any opportunities for you to get experience. But most of the time, you’ll be offered to take part in some project without asking.

Choose your graduate program

To fully understand what it takes to become a psychologist, you need to figure out which direction you want to take. Depending on your interests, research and choose graduate programs before even entering studying for the Bachelor’s degree.

Decide on a degree

Some specialties won’t need you to have even a Master’s degree, and others would require a Doctorate degree. Think, what you want to do. Would you like to work as a psychologist, or maybe you’d want to teach students? Different goals need different degrees and specialties.

Get a Doctorate degree

At this point, you might wonder, how long to become a psychologist? Well, it once again depends on what you want. Bachelor’s degree will open mid-level practice for you meaning that you’ll help people figure out their everyday issues. If you want more, you need to become a Doctor.

Go through an internship

So, what qualifications do you need to be a psychologist? You need a degree meaning that you need knowledge. But also, you really need experience. On paper, things might seem to be different from what they are in reality. So the internship is a must.

Receive a legal license

When you have both the knowledge and those bits of experience onboard, you’ll think, “So how do I become a psychologist in the USA (or Europe for that matter?” The process is similar for most countries. Let’s go through it.

What do you need for a license?

The requirements differ depending on a country or even a state if we’re talking about the US. You’ll need a degree suitable for the kind of practice you want to pursue. And in most cases, you will have to take part in a year-long residency and get some postdoctoral experience. So there are more steps to become a psychologist.

A doctorate program

In most situations, you’ll need to have a doctorate program that boasts some 3000 hours of supervised experience and an internship that was at least one year long.

You might need pre-licensure courses

Sometimes, you’ll have to take certain courses to become eligible for the license.

Pass the exam successfully

Now when you’ve gathered everything you need and figured out how to become a licensed psychologist, you can go through the exam. Find out what would it look like and how many points you will have to get to pass — it differs depending on the location. Then you’ll need to pass a jurisprudence exam as well.

Request your license

Once you’ve passed exams, you can request your license.

Get the license

When it’s ready, you’ll be able to receive it. At this point, you can start the practice

You’ll need to renew the license and improve the knowledge

Now when we figured how to become a licensed psychologist, it’s important to say that the license is active just for 1-3 years. You will need to renew it all the time and take additional courses to finesse your knowledge and skills.

The difference between psychology and psychiatry

Many people confuse these professions. A psychologist, even a clinical one, is not a medical doctor, while a psychiatrist is. The latter can prescribe meds, and a psychologist, no matter how qualified they are, doesn’t have such a responsibility.

Why can’t you just complete some courses?

Well, you could. But how would you get a license then? In most countries, it’s illegal to run a psychology practice if you’re not licensed. And as we’ve discussed, you can’t get a license without a degree.

How to begin the career?

Now when everything is ready for you to start actually working, how do you do that? Most universities will provide their students with opportunities to start their careers. Also, the place where you had your internship might have some offers for you. And you can always become a psychologist online using one of the mental health apps.

The difference between fields of psychology

Psychology is divided into several sections, and you need to have deeper knowledge in the area you want to pursue. You’ll see at the stage of choosing your degree and specialization that there are different kinds of psychologists.

What’s a clinical psychologist?

It’s a specialist who has expertise in mental health. It’s a science-based profession that requires a lot of studying and experience.

What is a psychiatrist?

It’s a medical doctor who works with mental illnesses.

What is a school psychologist?

It’s a psychologist who works at school counseling students, teachers, and parents.

Who is a psychoanalyst?

It’s a specialist who follows the ideology of psychoanalysis.

What is a licensed social worker?

It’s a person who is licensed to offer support to people with mental issues.

What do marriage, family, and child counselors do?

They treat a wide range of clinical issues from depression to parent-child issues.

Where can a psychologist work?

Quite everywhere. Psychologists are needed in almost any establishment from a school to an office. You could join a psychological clinic or run your own practice. Also, you can work with clients through mental health apps.

How much does a psychologist make?

Your salary can start from $72.000 per year, and there is no upper limit. On average, psychologists with over 10 years of experience make from $155.000 per year.

You decide your path

Psychology offers a lot of different professional routes. So it’s up to you to choose what you want to do and how much to earn.

Sophia is a mental health and wellness expert with a background in psychology and over 8 years of experience in content writing. She focuses on learning and writing about the skills people need to heal, cultivate happiness, and restore joy in their lives.

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