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How to Become a Psychologist

Becoming a psychologist requires a lot of hard work and dedication. This career is rewarding, but also demanding. To get started, consider volunteering at a mental health clinic or hospital. This will give you firsthand experience and help determine if psychology is the right field for you. Next, focus on your education. Many undergraduate programs allow learners to specialize their degree.

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree in psychology is a great option for students who want to understand themselves and the people around them. A degree in this field provides insight into the many factors that affect human behavior, making it valuable for careers related to education, persuasion and conflict resolution.

A degree in this field can be earned through a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) program. The BA curriculum tends to be more holistic and takes a broader approach to the study of psychology, while the BS curriculum focuses on the technical aspects of the major.

Both types of programs typically require students to complete core courses, including learning and cognition, biological bases of behavior, social behavior and theories of personality. In addition, students are required to learn about ethical standards and how to conduct research with humans and animals. Students will also be required to demonstrate their ability to communicate effectively, and identify and express cultural differences and diversity at local, national and global levels.

Earning a master’s degree in psychology requires two to three years of graduate-level study. During this time, students will develop their research and analytic skills and build upon the knowledge that they gained through their undergraduate degree. Master’s degrees in this area are available through both traditional universities and online colleges.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in psychology opens up a wide range of careers. You can choose from a broad spectrum of specializations that include clinical mental health, industrial-organizational, and counseling psychology. The choice of a particular program depends on your career goals and interests. The difference between psychiatrist vs psychologists is that a psychiatrist has trained as a medical doctor and can prescribe medication.

Many master’s programs in psychology take two to three years to complete. They typically include a yearlong research project, which gives you hands-on experience conducting scientific studies, designing your own study, recruiting participants and collecting data. Many master’s programs also offer a practicum, which allows you to apply your skills in real-world settings.

Most master’s programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Most universities will also require standardized test scores, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Some programs will waive the GRE requirement if you have certain qualifications, including previous work experience or a master’s degree in psychology.

Having a background in psychology can be beneficial for jobs that involve leadership. These careers typically require collaboration and communication skills, a strong moral compass and high level of self-awareness. A background in psychology can also be useful for positions in the public sector, such as a public health researcher or epidemiologist. A master’s degree in psychology can also be a good step toward a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D in psychology, which takes four to six years to complete.


Psychologists are trained professionals who understand the inner workings of human behavior. They often work in conjunction with psychiatrists, providing counseling and behavioral modification techniques to complement medication treatment for mental illnesses. They can be found in hospitals, clinics, private practices and corporations, as well as in schools and universities.

The first step in becoming a psychologist is to earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college. While it’s not always necessary to major in psychology, it can help you establish a solid foundation in the field. You should also consider a degree in a related subject, such as sociology, education or anthropology. This will give you a strong background in the sciences, which can be beneficial for doctoral studies.

After obtaining your undergraduate degree, you should enter a graduate program that offers a doctoral degree in psychology or a closely related field. You can choose to complete a PhD or PsyD, which are both recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA). Some programs offer specific concentrations that cater to your career goals.

During your doctoral program, you’ll participate in supervised research and complete a dissertation. Once you’ve finished your degree, you can apply for a license to practice psychology. Licensed psychologists must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology and meet other licensing requirements. Those who are out-of-state may apply for a limited permit, which allows them to practice in New York until they fulfill the remaining license requirements.


The brain controls everything we do and feel, so understanding how the mind works is crucial for future psychologists. Psychologist duties often include conducting research, observation and interviewing people in different situations to identify problems or issues they may have. Psychologists then come up with solutions or determine if a person may have a mental illness or condition.

Most prospective psychologists earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related subject before applying to an APA-accredited doctoral program, which can take five or more years to complete. During this time, they choose a specialty such as child development or forensic psychology and complete research projects that support their career goals.

After completing the doctoral program, most states require supervised clinical experience for licensure. Some also require an oral exam, which varies by state. In New York, for example, the exam usually includes questions about the state’s laws and regulations.

However, if you are already licensed as a psychologist in another jurisdiction, you may be able to apply for licensure by endorsement. This route is not available in every state, but it may help reduce your licensing time by waiving the requirement for supervised experience. You will still need to pass the EPPP and a jurisprudence exam, though. In addition, most jurisdictions require fingerprint-based criminal background checks for psychologists.

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