How Long Does It Take to Become a Psychologist?

Monday, May 8, 2023

For those who are considering becoming professional psychologists, it is important that they consider the amount of time that will be spent in the process of schooling and licensure. 

Psychology is one of the most popular professions in the world. According to the American Psychological Association, many high school students are taking the Advanced Placement Psychology test. The numbers have increased from 3,916 in 1992 to 303,000 in 2017. Those students who take the course but not the exam are not included, so the numbers would be bigger. Also, we have to take into account the popularity of psychology in colleges. “Between 1.2 million and 1.6 million undergraduates take introductory psychology classes each year, according to estimates” (American Psychologist, Vol. 71, No. 2, 2016). All of these numbers contribute to psychology being one of the most important degrees together with some other fields such as science and engineering. 

Responsibilities of a Psychologist 

The main role of psychologists is to diagnose and treat mental health problems. They study cognitive and social processes by observing and interpreting how they relate to other people and their environment. In their everyday lives, they have many roles: 

  • study the mind and behavior of individuals; 
  • observe and interview patients; 
  • identify different issues and diagnose mental health problems;
  • conduct research from many perspectives and techniques; 
  • identify behavioral patterns and predict the patient's behavior;
  • write articles and research papers to share findings and educate others; 
  • supervise other professionals and interns. 

Is Becoming a Psychologist a Long Process? 

The process of becoming a psychologist might take between eight to ten years, but it all depends on every person’s journey and pace. Some steps are a must, but some others can be avoided and still be a successful professional. 

It all begins in high school. It is a must that you have graduated from high school and that you take the Advancement Placement Psychology Test. This exam consists of two sections: a multiple-choice, and a free-response section. It takes around 3 hours to complete and it will test your understanding of certain psychological concepts. 

Once you have completed high school and taken the AP Psychology test, you should get an undergraduate degree. This step is compulsory since it is quite irresponsible to deal with patients without the education required. You can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Psychology or in related fields such as Sociology, Education, Anthropology, or Social Work. This process takes approximately four years to complete. 

After you have completed your undergraduate degree, you might pursue a postgraduate degree. This degree takes between two to seven years, depending on the postgraduate you choose. 

The following step to becoming a licensed psychologist is to complete an internship or postdoctoral program. Here, you will have the opportunity to work alongside experienced and licensed professionals who will help you to gain hands-on training in a field of interest. This process can take anywhere from one to two years. 

Lastly, you will have to get a license as a professional psychologist. The licensing requirements may vary depending on the state you live in. You can find information about the different requirements at the  Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) and then, pass the  Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. 

Becoming a professional psychologist is a long and difficult process, so you should consider all of these steps before enrolling in university. 

If you want to learn more about mental health, you can read the following articles: 

Earning a Master’s Degree in Psychology: MA or MS?

Study Psychology: The Science of the Mind

Psychiatric Technician License: Key Characteristics

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