What Education Do I Need to Become a Psychologist?

The level of education required for psychologists will vary depending on the job and the state in which you choose to practice. For most psychologist positions, you'll need at least a master's degree; many other jobs require a license to practice, as well. Read on to learn more. Schools offering Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.


A master's degree is the minimum requirement for most psychologist positions, and jobs in some branches of psychology will require you to have a doctorate degree. Upon completion of a doctorate program in psychology, you will be awarded either a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree.

If you plan to go into practice, the Psy.D degree is ideal. The Ph.D is designed for those wanting to focus on academics or research. The Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees are similarly focused, with the M.S. being more academically rigorous. Obtaining these degrees could take as long as seven years.

Important Facts About Psychologists

Median Salary (2015) $69,561
Job Outlook 12% growth
Work Environment Clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, community and mental health centers, colleges and universities, government agencies, private practices
Similar Occupations Mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, social workers, sociologists, substance abuse and behavioral disorders counselors, school and career counselors, physicians and surgeons

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale.com

Master's Degrees

Requirements for psychology jobs vary by state. Each state has its own licensing requirements. If you earn a master's degree in psychology, you will be qualified for many different positions, including the following:

Industrial Psychologist

As an industrial psychologist you will work as a consultant for private companies to help maximize efficiency in the workplace. In programs specializing in industrial psychology, you'll take courses on job stress, hiring decisions, and performance analysis. Since many industrial psychologists work in human resources, courses in that subject can be useful as well.

School Psychologist

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reported in 2014 that some states will allow you to work as a school psychologist with a master's degree in psychology, but many states now require you to have an education specialist degree such as an Ed.S. in school psychology or a doctoral degree (www.bls.gov). You can obtain certification though the National Association of School Psychologists.

Counseling Psychologist

You must have a master's degree and complete at least 100 hours of experience working directly with patients to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC). You may also have to pass an exam given by the state licensing board. Some states require counseling psychologists in private practice to have doctorates.

Doctoral Degrees

If you have a doctorate degree in psychology you can work as any type of psychologist, including the positions described above. The jobs listed below are available only to those with doctorates:

Clinical Psychologist

As a clinical psychologist, you'll work closely with patients who have chronic and severe mental illnesses. You can specialize in a particular group of illnesses or type of patient such as children or the elderly. At times you may consult with physicians as well. This position requires a Psy.D degree.

Research Psychologist

Rather than working with patients, research psychologists work with data. If you want to perform psychological experiments and publish your findings or work in an academic setting as a professor, you'll want to earn a Ph.D and become a licensed psychologist. The Ph.D program's strong focus on research and teaching is ideal for this position.


Neuropsychologists specialize in how behaviors are regulated by the structures of the brain. You will perform thorough tests and conduct evaluations in a clinical setting. Qualification in this area can be achieved through a specialized doctoral program or a post-doctoral certificate.


The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) awards certification in 13 different fields of psychology. To qualify you must hold a doctorate degree, pass an exam, have several years of experience in your chosen specialty and state licensure. Once you are certified, you must complete continuing education coursework in order to maintain your certification.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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