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How Many Years of College Does It Take to Become a Psychologist?

When considering a career in psychology, many students wonder, how long does it take to become a psychologist? The answer depends on the career field you want to work in as well as your specialty. For example, becoming a school psychologist can take a little as two years of graduate-level education, and only requires a master’s degree. On the other hand, if you want to become a child psychologist you’ll need to earn a doctorate degree, which can require up to seven additional years of psychologist schooling. Regardless of your career field or specialty, most psychologists will need to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field such as sociology, social work or education. However a bachelor’s degree, in and of itself, is not typically sufficient to qualify for entry-level positions in psychology. Most students who major in psychology and then immediately enter the workforce upon graduation end up working in a non-psychology field. These days, the minimum requirement for most entry-level psychology positions is a master’s degree in psychology, and most employers are looking for candidates who hold a doctorate.

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A doctorate degree in psychology typically requires four to seven years of graduate-level education following the completion of a bachelor’s or master’s degree in psychology. While some doctorate programs require candidates to first obtain a master’s degree in psychology others will accept applicants with a bachelor’s degree. Before you enroll in a bachelor’s degree program, you may want to figure out if you’re going to earn a doctorate degree in psychology, and if so where. There are several psychology programs offered by accredited universities that will allow you to earn your bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology simultaneously, whereby preparing you for entry into a doctorate program. These accelerated programs can enable you to shorten the overall amount of time it takes to complete the education requirements to become a licensed practicing psychologist.

In addition to extensive psychologist schooling, a few psychology specialities, such as licensed clinical psychology, also require students to fulfill a one to two year supervised residency program before they can qualify for state licensing. To determine how long it will take you to become a psychologist, look into the specifics of the career you are interested in. As requirements vary by state, you’ll want to research your state’s licensing requirements before applying to any graduate program.

The following are the 12 most popular psychology careers and the minimum educational requirements in these fields.

  • Clinical Psychologist: Doctorate Degree in Psychology (4 to 7 years of graduate school)
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychologist: Master’s Degree (2 to 3 years of graduate school)
  • Forensic Psychologist: Master’s Degree (2 to 3 years of graduate school); a doctoral degree is recommended.
  • Social Worker: Bachelor’s Degree (4 to 5 years of undergraduate school)
  • Licensed Counselor: Master’s Degree (2 to 3 years of graduate school)
  • School Psychologist: Varies by state (2 to 3 years of graduate school)
  • Health Psychologist: Doctorate Degree (4 to 5 years of graduate school)
  • Sports Psychologist: Master’s Degree (2 to 3 years of graduate school)
  • School Psychologist: Master’s degree (2 to 3 years of graduate school)
  • Social Psychologist: Doctoral Degree (5 to 7 years of graduate school)
  • Child Psychologist: Doctoral degree (5 to 7 years of graduate school)
  • Criminal Psychologist: Master’s degree (2 to 3 years of graduate school); a doctoral degree is recommended.

Psychology, in general, is an industry where education, knowledge and expertise are highly valued. Job opportunities and pay are typically greater for those psychologists who have obtained advanced training.


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