How To Become A Counseling Psychologist

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Counseling Psychologists

Counseling Psychologists assess and evaluate individuals' problems through the use of case history, interview, and observation and provide individual or group counseling services to assist individuals in achieving more effective personal, social, educational, and vocational development and adjustment.

Becoming One
Very Hard
Doctoral degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

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Table of contents
  1. Summary
  2. Steps to become one
  3. Popular degree levels
  4. How long does it take


Degree Doctoral degree
Degree field Counseling Psychologists typically need a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree.
License or certification You need to obtain a state license to practice Psychology. The licensing requirements vary. However, all states require Psychologists to pass a licensing exam.
Duration to become one 8 to 12 years
Difficulty to become one Very Hard

Counseling Psychologists need a Master’s degree to earn a state license and a Doctoral degree for most positions. The two available Doctorate degrees include Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

After completing college and an internship, Counseling Psychologists must pass board exams to earn a state license to practice Psychology.

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Counseling Psychologists Requirements

Step 1: Study Science Courses in High School

Aspiring Counseling Psychologists should focus on the sciences in high school. Biology and Chemistry are useful courses. Students should also complete any relevant advanced courses offered at their high schools. Some schools may offer Psychology and Sociology.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Students may major in a variety of fields of study when earning a Bachelor’s degree. Common options include a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Psychology or Sociology.

No matter the major, students should complete specific prerequisite courses, including Psychology, Biology, Sociology, Human Development, and Statistics.

Step 3: Earn a Master’s Degree

A Master’s degree is an optional step, as you do not need to earn a Master’s degree before enrolling in a Doctorate program. Most Doctor of Psychology programs accept applicants after earning a Bachelor’s degree.

A Master’s degree is a suitable step for those that plan on practicing Counseling Psychology under the supervision of a licensed Psychologist. With a Master’s degree, you may qualify for entry-level Counselor positions and related jobs.

Students who plan on earning a Master’s degree should major in Psychology. You can earn a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS) degree. MA degrees tend to include more liberal arts while MS degrees focus more on research. Both options typically take about two years to complete.

Step 4: Earn a Doctor of Psychology Degree

Some states only require Counseling Psychologists to earn a Master’s degree before earning a license to practice. However, many employers require a Doctorate.

Counseling Psychologists typically need a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. These programs may take three to eight years, but the average timeframe for completion is closer to four years. Most PhD programs include several years of study and a one-year internship.

When students reach the graduate level of Psychology, they typically need to choose an area of specialization. To become a Counseling Psychologist, you need to specialize in Counseling Psychology.

Step 5: Complete an Internship

An internship is typically part of the PhD program and often lasts one year. Students practice the principles of Psychology while counseling real patients under the supervision of a licensed Psychologist.

The Doctorate program that you complete should help arrange the internship, which often starts after graduation. The internship offers real-world experience and involves periodic evaluations.

Those who are interested in pursuing careers in research or academia should consider compiling a research portfolio during their internship.

Step 6: Pass the State Licensing Exam

After finishing college, aspiring Counseling Psychologists need to obtain a state license to practice Psychology. The licensing requirements vary. However, all states require Psychologists to pass a licensing exam.

The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology is administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

Counseling Psychologists may also choose to become board certified. Board certification is available in 15 areas of specialization, including Counseling Psychology. To become board certified, you must pass an exam administered by the American Board of Professional Psychology.

Step 7: Start Looking for Work

When entering the workforce, Counseling Psychologists may want to start with the connections that they gained through internships and job placement programs during college.

While many Counseling Psychologists work at group practices or private practices, jobs are also available at hospitals, community health centers, universities, and clinics.

Those with specialty certifications may want to focus on employers related to their area of specialization. For example, after specializing in Rehabilitation Counseling, a Psychologist may seek work at rehab centers, including inpatient and outpatient detox centers. Mental health facilities and residential care facilities also frequently hire Counseling Psychologists.

Step 8: Meet Your Continuing Education Requirements

After earning a state license, Counseling Psychologists need to meet specific continuing education (CE) requirements to maintain their license.

As with obtaining a license, the requirements for maintaining a license vary from state to state. Some states require 20 hours of CE credits each year while others require 40 hours every two years.

Step 9: Obtain Certification in a Specialty

Obtaining a specialty certification is an optional step for Counseling Psychologists who primarily work with a certain population or specific psychological condition. A voluntary certification demonstrates the Psychologist’s knowledge in an area of specialization, such as Rehabilitation Counseling, Marriage and Family Counseling, or Substance Abuse Counseling.

What degree do most Counseling Psychologists have

Doctoral degree

We did a survey to ask other Counseling Psychologists what degree they had when they first became one. Here are the results.

Post-Doctoral Training

Master’s degree

Doctoral degree

How long does it take

8 to 12 years

Becoming a Counseling Psychologist requires an undergraduate degree and a Doctorate, which can take a total of 8 to 12 years to complete.

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