July 30, 2017

Psychology Career Licensing and Certification

Individuals who are interested in pursuing a psychology career may be faced with meeting requirements for licensing and certification. Not all fields will require licensure or certification, but many will.

Licensing of psychologists creates a means for evaluating individuals in the field. It helps to ensure that patients receive the best possible care by setting a standard for education and experience necessary to obtain a license. Licensure requirements differ from one state to another, so it is important to understand the specific requirements for the state in which one is seeking licensure. For example, New York requires two years of work experience totaling thirty-five hundred hours. While one of these years can be done concurrently with a doctoral program, the other year must be completed after graduation. Additionally, the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) is required. Other states may require more or less work experience to qualify for licensure. Florida, for example, requires four thousand hours of experience. Some states require additional exams or oral examinations.

The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) certifies individuals in thirteen areas of the field of psychology including:

  • Psychoanalysis
  • Rehabilitation
  • Forensic
  • Group
  • School
  • Clinical health
  • Couple and family

In order to obtain certification, once must first have been awarded state licensure. Additionally, postdoctoral training in one of the specialty areas is required. Finally, certification requires a passing score on the board examination.

Licensure and certification are steps that may be necessary for one to take. This may be especially true for individuals completing doctoral degrees in psychology.

What It Is

Licensing and certification is the process whereby a psychologist trained at the doctoral level is awarded recognition for meeting specific requirements and career milestones. For those in psychology careers, licensure and certification may be necessary to obtain and keep a job. For employers and patients, this process helps ensure that all credentialed psychologists are equally qualified to perform their jobs.

Licensure is a process that is dictated at the state level. Typically, licenses are awarded only to psychologists who have completed their doctorates in psychology, documented a specific number of work experience hours, and obtained a passing score on the licensing examination. Each state dictates a specific order of items that must be completed prior to applying for licensure.

Certification in some specialty areas of psychology is an option for the practicing psychologist. Certification of psychologists is performed by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) and is based on an application of information provided by the practicing psychologist and a passing score on a board certification exam. All specialty boards require an oral examination for certification. Clinical neuropsychology and forensic psychology additionally require passing a written examination to receive certification. For the most part, certification is a voluntary process that psychologists complete in order to gain recognition in their field and further their employment opportunities. The exception to this rule is for school psychologists, who must be licensed and certified.

For patients and employers, the act of finding a qualified psychology professional can be difficult. With so many school programs, it can be difficult to evaluate one’s skills based merely on education and prior experience. The process of licensure helps ensure that psychologists are equally prepared and qualified to treat patients. Certification is an additional step that can be taken by psychologists to gain further recognition of excellence in their specialties.

Prepare for Certification Tests

Individuals who want to apply for jobs in a psychology career will likely need to take at least one standardized test to meet their goals. If one was somehow able to avoid such testing prior to entering college, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) would very likely be required to enter a master’s or PhD-level psychology program. Furthermore, doctoral-level psychologists will be required to achieve state licensure before treating patients. Preparing for these tests can create stress for individuals, but by taking advantage of practice tests, following study tips, and preventing test anxiety, individuals can help ensure they score as high as possible on these exams.

For many people, practice tests are the most valuable tool to prepare for standardized tests. These exams can give one the experience of taking the exam by introducing test items on relevant topics. If one is able to acquire a full practice test, time management skills can also be improved. Additionally, practice tests are an excellent way to determine if there are knowledge gaps that need to be addressed prior to testing.

Study tips for standardized tests are available via online resources and through test preparation companies. Some are simplistic and direct test takers to merely cross out known incorrect answers on a multiple choice test to ensure that an incorrect answer is not accidentally chosen. Others may teach specific test strategies that can help one improve test scores.

Preventing test anxiety is difficult for many people. Some concern regarding testing is normal, but anxiety that manifests itself such that one’s score is affected needs to be dealt with. For many, the best way to combat test anxiety is through a thorough review of the relevant material.

Individuals preparing for standardized tests will likely utilize practice tests, study tips, and strategies to handle test anxiety. Because schools and licensing boards rely on an evaluation of these scores, it is important to do one’s best.