Psychologists who choose to go through the education process of psychopharmacology must pass the Psychopharmacology Examination for Psychologists (PEP) in order to prescribe medications. Even after this process, only a select few in a psychology career will have prescribing privileges based on state laws.
In order to apply to take the PEP exam, one must have:
- Completed a doctoral degree in psychology’
- Provided mental health services as a practicing psychologist
- A current license to practice psychology
- Completed a postdoctoral program in psychopharmacology at an accredited institution
- Completed at least three hundred contact areas in neuroscience, pharmacology and psychopharmacology, physiology and pathophysiology, physical and laboratory assessment, and clinical pharmacotherapeutics as part of one’s postdoctoral education
The PEP exam is a three-hour test with one hundred fifty multiple choice questions designed to assess the test taker’s ability to make judgments about the therapeutic practice of psychology. The PEP has a Recommended Passing Score dictated by the American Psychological Association Organization, College of Professional Psychologists. This score reflects the percentage of questions answered correctly on the exam. The Recommended Passing Score represents that the test taker has answered the bare minimum of questions correctly to ensure safe medication prescribing practices.
The PEP exam covers ten content areas:
- Integrating clinical psychopharmacology with the practice of psychology: 15 percent of the exam
- Neuroscience: 8 percent of the exam
- Nervous system pathology: 9 percent of the exam
- Physiology and pathophysiology: 9 percent of the exam
- Biopsychosocial and pharmacologic assessment and monitoring: 10 percent of the exam
- Differential diagnosis: 13 percent of the exam
- Pharmacology: 12 percent of the exam
- Clinical psychopharmacology: 13 percent of the exam
- Research: 4 percent of the exam
- Professional, legal, ethical, and interprofessional issues: 7 percent of the exam
The PEP exam is offered at Prometric testing centers. The exam application costs $395 for American Psychological Association members and $425 for nonmembers. The examination itself is $200.
The PEP exam is not something all psychologists will take and is not a requirement unless one desires to have prescribing privileges.