How Long Does it Take to Become a Psychologist?

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When considering a career in psychology, many students wonder how long it will actually take them to become a practicing psychologist. The answer depends on the profession, as well as the specialty you want to work in.

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 will need to earn a doctorate degree, which can require up to seven additional years of psychologist schooling.

The length it takes to become a psychologist will vary based on the factors below:

Required Degrees and Experience

Regardless of your career field or specialty, most psychology positions that provide psychological services require a doctoral degree. However, there are multiple positions available for those who hold a master’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree in psychology will teach you the fundamentals of psychological principles and prepare you to practice them in the real world. Once you earn your bachelor’s, you’ll qualify for a position, such as caseworker, child development specialist, or veterans counselor.

It’s important to emphasize that at minimum, you’ll need a master’s degree for most entry-level clinical or professional psychology positions. However, most employers are looking for candidates who hold a doctorate.

A master’s degree in psychology, which typically takes two to three years to complete, will provide you with more in-depth knowledge in the world of psychology. You’ll also get to specialize in a particular area of psychology of most interest to you, such as clinical psychology, forensic psychology, school psychology, or developmental psychology, among others.

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 and will train and clinically treat clients.A doctorate will also prepare you to take a state licensing exam.

Find out how much different psychologists make. View psychologists salaries by career field.

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Find out how much different psychologists make. View psychologists salaries by career field.

Accelerated Psychology Programs

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, thereby 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. Some examples of universities that offer accelerated psychology programs include Drexel University, Central Michigan University, and Roberts Wesleyan College.

Supervised Residency Programs

In addition to extensive psychologist schooling, a few psychology specialties, 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. Licensing laws often vary by state and require you to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

11 Most Popular Psychology Careers and Their Education Requirements

  1. Clinical Psychologist: Doctorate Degree in Psychology (4-7 years of graduate school)
  2. Industrial-Organizational Psychologist: Master’s Degree (2-3 years of graduate school)
  3. Forensic Psychologist: Master’s Degree (2-3 years of graduate school); a doctoral degree is recommended.
  4. Social Worker: Bachelor’s Degree (4-5 years of undergraduate school)
  5. Licensed Counselor: Master’s Degree (2-3 years of graduate school)
  6. Health Psychologist: Doctorate Degree (4-5 years of graduate school)
  7. Sports Psychologist: Master’s Degree (2-3 years of graduate school)
  8. School Psychologist: Master’s degree (2-3 years of graduate school)
  9. Social Psychologist: Doctoral Degree (5-7 years of graduate school)
  10. Child Psychologist: Doctoral degree (5-7 years of graduate school)
  11. Criminal Psychologist: Master’s degree (2-3 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 and education.

Learn more about what it takes to become a psychologist and understand the education requirements. Read the Online Psychology Degrees Guide or search by degree level below.


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