Preparing for Psychologist Licensure
Licensure is the end goal of any Doctorate in Psychology program. It’s what you spend thousands of hours and the better part of a decade striving toward. Licensure isn’t just a formality – it’s necessary to work as a psychologist – and earning it isn’t as easy as simply meeting the graduation requirements of your doctorate program. If becoming a licensed psychologist is your end goal, it’s best to start preparing for it as soon as possible. From coursework to paperwork, there’s a lot to plan for and get organized. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Figure out if you need to be licensed. First and foremost, figure out if the career path you wish to take requires you to earn licensure. If you want to pursue a career at a university, state or federal government agency, research institution or corporation, you may not need to be a licensed psychologist in order to qualify. Licensure requirements vary by state, so be sure to check up on your state.
Most psychology jobs, however, do require licensure in order to qualify. If you don’t know where your career aspirations lie at this time, it’s better to over-plan than under-plan and assume that whatever career you choose, you will likely need licensure.
Know your state’s requirements. Licensure laws vary from state to state. Knowing which state you’d like to practice in post-graduation will make planning ahead much easier. If you’re unsure of one specific state, make a short list of states you’re considering, then pick the state with the strictest requirements and plan for those. The earlier you get started, the less work – and stress – you’ll face when it comes time to apply for licensure.
Gather information and keep records. When you apply for licensure, you will need to have proof of your coursework and clinical expertise. This requirement will be easier to meet if you start keeping records early. Take note of how many clients you see and the different types of problems you have treated them for. For each course you take in your doctoral program, make a photocopy or take a screenshot of the course description from the academic catalog. Most state boards will want proof of your coursework. It might even be a good idea to make notes on which academic textbooks – and their authors – you used in your coursework. Keep a list of all the faculty you work with, including their professional titles.
Bank your credentials. The American Psychological Association recommends “banking” your credentials – recording information about your doctorate degree program, internships and post-doctoral experiences through a third-party organization. Banking your credentials will not only help you keep your information organized, but it will also help you verify your education and training experiences later in your career. This can be helpful if you are moving states and need to expedite licensure mobility. It can also help a potential employer more quickly verify your qualifications, and it can help streamline certification processes with certain healthcare organizations. Credentials banks will also let you store things such as transcripts, syllabi, exam scores and other information that can help you as you work toward licensure. The APA recommends either the National Register of Health Service Psychologists or the ASPPB’s Credentials Bank.
Prepare for examinations. Most state licensing boards require all applicants to pass the national Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, a multiple-choice test consisting of 225 questions covering eight content areas of psychology. Most states require candidates to pass other tests as well, including oral exams, jurisprudence exams or ethics exams. For example, applicants for licensure in the state of California must pass the California Psychology Laws and Ethics Examination (CPLEE) in order to qualify for licensure. Look up your state’s requirements, and begin preparing as soon as possible.
Begin accruing supervised professional experience. Every state requires licensed psychologists to have a certain number of hours of supervised professional experience, with at least several thousand of those hours completed post-doctorally. Hours can vary drastically from state to state. In Florida, applicants need 4,000 hours of supervised experience; in Michigan, 6,000 hours are needed. By comparison, California’s requirements for licensure may not seem as strict; in California, applicants need 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, with 1,500 of those hours occurring post-doctorally.
Before you begin accruing professional clinical experience, it’s important to know all the rules and regulations, as the process can sometimes be complex. In California, you must register with the Board of Psychology; you will also need a supervision agreement form and plan to be signed by a primary supervisor before you begin accruing experience.
Earn your doctorate from an accredited program. Most state boards require licensure candidates to have earned a Doctorate in Psychology or another relevant degree from an accredited institution. If you’re already thinking about licensure requirements, chances are you’re already a doctorate student and won’t have to worry about this requirement. If you are earning your doctorate from a non-APA-accredited institution, your state’s licensing board will carefully review your program’s curriculum and make a final decision.
Plan for the cost. Licensure requires an upfront cost, from application fees to exam costs, with total fees ranging anywhere from $500 to $1,000. To a doctoral student with restricted finances, this can represent a significant cost. Knowing what the fees are beforehand and saving up for them can help prevent stress when fees come due.
Guidance from CSPP Faculty
If you are a doctorate student at Alliant International University’s California School of Professional Psychology and are looking for guidance in preparing for licensure, you are in luck! CSPP faculty members serve as mentors for their students and can help you figure out what courses, practica and other professional experiences will best help you on your way to becoming a licensed psychologist.