How Many Years Of Schooling Does It Take To Be A Psychologist?

When pursuing a career in psychology, you might wonder how many years of schooling it takes to be a psychologist and what type of degrees you’ll need to achieve. To become a licensed psychologist, you need to be aware of all the educational and training requirements. Explore the answer in our post today.

How Many Years Of Schooling Does It Take To Be A Psychologist?
How Many Years Of Schooling Does It Take To Be A Psychologist?

Educational Requirements

To become a Psychologist, you need to earn an undergraduate degree in psychology or in a related field like sociology, education, anthropology, or social work. Next, you will decide if you want to earn a doctorate-level degree because many programs don’t offer a terminal master’s degree in psychology. In this case, you recommend you should enroll in a graduate program after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Then you need to spend 4 to 7 years working on your doctorate.

If you want to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist, you need an undergraduate degree (4 to 7 years of college), plus a doctorate degree (4 to 7 years of graduate school). This specialty takes between 8 to 12 years in higher education.

Additionally, there are other career options in psychology that you don’t need to spend many years in colleges such as a licensed marriage or family therapist. With these specialties, you only need a master’s degree that requires 2 to 3 years of graduate study.

If you don’t want to pursue a doctorate at this time, you can take a look at different master’s degree programs in psychology or in related fields like counseling or social work.

3 Common Degrees For A Psychologist

1. Bachelor’s Degree (4 years)

There are lots of options to start your career such as earning an undergraduate degree in psychology or pursuing a degree in a related social science field. Your choice also depends upon the requirements of the individual graduate school you attend because some programs only accept students who have undergraduate degrees in other specialties unrelated to psychology or social science.

If you want to become a psychologist with a degree in a different field, you have to complete a number of prerequisites before entering a graduate program.

2. Master’s Degree (2-3 years)

Degrees For A Psychologist
Degrees For A Psychologist

Although a master’s degree isn’t always necessary, it can be a great way to take a deeper look at a specific field you are interested in. If you are considering work in counseling, social work, or school psychology, you must obtain a master’s degree and enter the workforce immediately after earning your degree.

Additionally, a master’s degree is considered a stepping stone toward a doctorate immediately after you earn a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, your career path primarily depends on your career goals as well as the graduation at the school you choose to enroll in.

3. Doctorate Degree (4-7 years)

The doctoral program depends on different factors such as the specialty area you are choosing as well as the degree you have already earned. To become a licensed psychologist, you will need to obtain a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or a Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) depending on your career goals.

  • If you are looking for a career in research, a Ph.D. might be the best choice because these programs provide all knowledge on specific topics such as research and experimental methods as well as train graduates to work as scientists.
  • If you are considering a private therapy practice position, the  Psy.D. program tends to focus on professional practice and clinical work. Therefore, it prepares graduates with a strong foundation to enter careers in mental health.

The American Psychological Association (APA) highly recommends that you should enroll in an accredited program because they meet certain standards of quality. You can discover all programs and institutions on the APA website. 

In addition to your doctorate, you must complete a postdoctoral training period (1 year) before getting a full license to practice in your state.

Degree Requirements

Degree Requirements
Degree Requirements

In addition to being a licensed psychologist, there are lots of career options in the psychology field. Each option will have licensing requirements varying by state and specialty. Please note that job opportunities and incomes also are greater with advanced training. Below are some careers in psychology and their degree requirements

  • Social worker: Bachelor’s degree.
  • Licensed counselor: Master’s degree.
  • Sports psychologist: Master’s degree.
  • Industrial-organizational psychologist: Master’s degree.
  • Clinical psychologist: Doctorate degree.
  • Health psychologist: Doctorate degree.
  • Social psychologist: Doctoral degree.

Final Words

Psychology offers different types of mental health career paths. Becoming a psychologist requires substantial time, and this is a rewarding yet challenging career. Before you decide to become a psychologist, please consider your goals and resources, or some of the potential alternatives. If you are interested in psychology, explore the necessary qualifications you need to be a Professional Health Psychologist.