How to Become a Psychologist in 4 Simple Steps

What is a Psychologist

Psychologists, generally speaking, work with people to help them deal with mental health issues they are struggling to cope with. If you have an interest in helping others in this capacity and are wondering how to become a psychologist yourself I will cover everything you need to know.

Psychologists work with patients one-on-one to help find and resolve the mental issues that they are struggling to deal with. You will specialize in a particular area such as educational psychology, or clinical psychology. Once qualified, psychologists typically work from their own practice, with other psychologists in a joint practice, or inside large organizations that need this type of support.

The average salary of a psychologist is about .

What Does a Psychologist Do?

While the core of a psychologist’s work involves working one-to-one with clients, there are a wide number of issues they will help patients deal with. From depression, anger issues, anxiety, to childhood issues, every patient that sees a psychologist will be different.

Psychologists help their patients by talking through their issues with them. Offering advice, solutions, and ways to deal with their problems. They can use a number of tests and assessments to help diagnose their problems. They formulate a plan of action to work through with the patient.

Some methods of therapy they use are behavioral, cognitive, interpersonal, and humanistic. The most common approach they use is talk therapy, which is the term for the general therapy offered by talking one-to-one with patients.

A lot of psychologists work in their own private practices, or with a group of psychologists. They are also located within schools, colleges, universities, prisons, hospitals, medical centres, and other organizations where the support from a psychologist is needed.

Key Duties of a Psychologist Include:

  • Carrying out mental health assessments on patients
  • Planning and performing therapy with patients
  • Writing reports and maintaining records of treatments
  • Evaluating the outcome of therapy
  • Discussing treatments with other professionals
  • Keeping up-to-date with professional developments and new research

Desirable Skills of a Psychologist

As with all careers, there are personality traits and skills outside of the necessary qualifications that help a person perform the role better. Here are some of the skills that will help you working as a psychologist:

Listening Skills

This might be the most important aspect of being a psychologist. You will have to listen to patients talking for hours and hours to discover what their problems are and how to help them. It can take a lot of sessions for a patient to open up and fully disclose what you need to know, being a good listener is key.


Psychologists need to have a great deal of patience. Some patients can take years to open up, and in some instances they may never be able to be fully helped. It always hard to tell what will be discovered through working with a patient, and there is always a need for patience to get the results needed.

Being Open-Minded

Being open-minded gives a psychologist a greater chance of gaining the desired results. Not just with patients and what they may reveal, but also regarding new research and methods of treatment that may not seem like they will work. There is always only one way to find out, to try things with an open mind and evaluate the results.

Being Professional and Ethical

Working in the medical profession requires abiding my a code of ethics and acting professionally at all times. Being a psychologist comes with a lot of responsibility and access to personal, and private information of patients. This information needs to be handled professionally, and patients need to be able to trust them.

Interpersonal Skills

With a role that focuses on one-on-one work, interpersonal skills are an absolute must. This is an area that can be worked on, but also a skill that comes naturally to some people. A psychologist also works with other healthcare professionals, and team members as well as patients.

Psychology Specialties

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) there are only four psychology specialties, these being; counseling, clinical, school and industrial/ organizational. But there are a lot of other fields of specialization considered to be “subfields” like cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, community psychology, forensics psychology, health psychology, environmental psychology, social psychology, neuropsychology, psychology of women and family psychology.

Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychologists offer their help to patients with personal, education and career problems. They mainly use research in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment which includes interviews, structured tests and observation. Their workspaces are community centers, hospitals, academic settings, healthcare institutions and private clinics.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychologists work with people suffering from mental and emotional disorders from “normal” psychological crises to more serious ones like personality disorders, depression and schizophrenia. They works at both academic institutions and healthcare services. They usually specialize either with specific populations (elderly, women and children) or specific problems (depression, substance abuse, phobias).

School Psychology

School psychologists work alongside educators and parents, helping them create programs and consult about students with special needs, disruptive behavior and family problems. They mostly work at schools but also at academic settings, conducting research and training other school psychologists.

Industrial/ Organizational Psychology

They study human behavior within workspaces, as well as consumer behavior. Some fields of interest for them are: job satisfaction, workers’ productivity, organizational change, personnel development and training, and analyzing consumer behavior. They work in businesses, organizations, industries, government and academic field.

becoming a psychologist

Becoming a Psychologist

Step 1: High School Preparation

What High School Courses are Needed to Become a Psychologist

Becoming a psychologist is a difficult task, it requires many years of study and at least a graduate’s degree like a PhD. So you have to start your preparation from high school.

In order to get accepted at a decent psychology college or university, you will need good grades in general. But especially in math and science courses like biology, physics and chemistry.

Because as a psychologist the biggest part of your job will be communicating with people, it is also a good idea to take also classes that will help you excel at grammar, such as spelling and writing classes.

If your school offers psychology courses or AP Psych, make sure to take these classes and get excellent grades too.

When you are in high school you might think that you have decided on what career you want follow in life, but at that age your interests can shift as quickly as your mood.

A good way to make sure that you are a hundred per cent sure about your choice before investing too much time and money at it is to get a bit of working experience.

Because no one is going to hire you as a psychologist at this age and without prior studies or experience. A good way to do this is to work as a volunteer. Try going to a local hospital or organization and ask to volunteer.

Doing so you will not only have the chance to shadow a psychologist and see what the work is like, you can ask them anything you want. This will also set you ahead of your competition when applying to a college, as volunteering is considered a big advantage by colleges.

Step 2: Get a Psychologist Undergraduate Degree

Associate’s Degree in Psychology 2 years

This is an option for those that didn’t manage to get accepted at a bachelor’s degree program. An associate’s degree in psychology alone will not give you the knowledge needed to become a psychologist, neither will get you accepted at a post graduate degree. So getting an associate’s degree will only help you to get accepted at bachelor’s degree program. They are 2 year programs with 60-70 credit hours.

A typical Curriculum of an Associate’s Degree program will look like:

General Education Requirements (35 Credits)

• Achieving Academic Excellence
• Principles of Public Speaking
• English Composition I
• Introduction to Computers
• Human Relations
• English Composition II
• College Mathematics
• College Algebra
• Social Impact of Technology

Core Courses (20 Credits)

• Introduction to Psychology I
• Introduction to Psychology II
• Social Psychology
• Human Growth and Development I
• Human Growth and Development II
• Abnormal Psychology
• Psychology of Personality
• Positive Psychology
• Health Psychology
• Psychology of Learning and Teaching
• Drugs and Human Behaviors
• Child Psychology
• Addictions

Elective Courses (5 Credits)

• Psychology in Modern Life
• Psychology of African-Americans in a Multicultural Society
• Psychology of Latinos/Chicanos in the U.S.
• Psychology of Women
• Psychology of Adolescence
• Psychology of Personality: Personal, Social, Cultural Differences
• Transpersonal Psychology
• Survey of Philosophical Thought
• Logic and Critical Thinking
• World Religions
• Introduction to Social Work
• Introduction to Sociology
• Introduction to Social Problems
• Introduction to Marriage and Family

The cost of a psychologist’s associate degree program is relatively low, ranging between $5,500 and $30,000.

Bachelor’s degree in Psychology 4 years

The official requirements for those who have not attended any post-secondary institutes is a high school degree or GED. But because the competition is fierce it is a good idea to have great grades at high school and some volunteering experience. Those with post-secondary education (Associate’s degree) will get accepted easier and will be able to transfer some credits. These are 4 years programs with at least 120 credits and their length in 4 years.

A typical Curriculum of a Bachelor’s degree at psychology will look like:

General Education Requirements (50 Credits)

• General Biology I
• General Biology I Lab
• Tier I Writing
• Tier II Writing
• General Biology II
• General Biology II Lab
• University Mathematics
• University Algebra
• General Chemistry I
• General Chemistry I Lab
• Calculus or Statistics
• General Chemistry II
• General Chemistry II Lab
• Social Science
• Natural Science
• English Composition I
• English Composition II

Core Courses (55 Credits)

• Introduction to Psychology I
• Introduction to Psychology II
• Statistics and Research Methods
• Biological Basis of Behavior
• Research Methods in Psychology
• Behavioral Neuroscience
• Data Analysis in Psychological Research
• Research Design and Measurement in Psychological Research
• Cognitive Psychology
• Brain and Behavior
• Social Psychology
• Personality
• Developmental Psychology: Infancy through Childhood
• Industrial and Organizational Psychology
• Community Psychology
• Abnormal Psychology
• Expertise and Skill
• Sensation and Perception
• History of Modern Psychology
• Psychobiology of Behavioral Development
• Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
• Hormones and Behavior
• Laboratory in Behavioral Neuroscience
• Child and Family Psychopathology
• Attitudes and Social Cognition
• Interpersonal Behavior and Groups
• Organizational Research Techniques
• Personality Theories
• Issues in Psychology

Elective Courses (15 Credits)

• Animal Behavior
• Ecology
• Ecological Aspects of Animal Behavior
• Genetics
• Introductory Human Genetics
• Fundamental Genetics
• Evolution
• Neuroscience
• Neurobiology
• Neuroendocrine Aspects of Behavior
• Physiology
• Introductory Physiology
• Human Physiology I
• Behavioral Genetics
• Principles of Learning and Behavior
• Health Psychology
• Hormones and Behavior
• Drugs, Brain, and Behavior
• Developmental Psychobiology
• Neuropsychology
• Aging, Brain and Behavior
• Neural Basis of Learning
• Psychology of Perception

The cost of a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology program ranges between $27,000 and $80,000.

Step 3: Get a Psychologist Graduate Degree

Master’s Degree in Psychology program 1 to 2 years

These are 1 or 2 year graduate programs with 36 to 70 credit hours. In order to get accepted at master’s in psychology degree program you need to have successfully completed a four year bachelor’s degree at psychology or something relevant.

If you have completed a non-psychology bachelor degree program most universities require you to have complete certain classes like Introductory Psychology, statistics, or Social Science. You will also need a Statement of purpose and two to three letters of recommendation.

Usually during these programs you will have to choose a specialization. The most common specializations you will be able to choose from are: general psychology, counseling psychology, school psychology, applied behavior analysis, addictions, Forensic Psychology and industrial / organizational psychology.

A typical curriculum of a Master’s in psychology degree programs will look like:

General Education Courses

• Research Methods in Psychology I
• Research Methods in Psychology II
• Social Psychology
• Cognitive Processes
• Measurement and Assessment
• Theories of Personality
• Ethical Practice in Psychology
• Capstone in Psychology
• Master’s Research and Thesis I
• Master’s Research and Thesis II
• Foundations for Graduate Study in Psychology 2

Elective Courses (depending on specialization)

• Psychopathology from a Clinical Perspective
• Psychotherapy Interventions I
• Social Psychology
• Research Theory, Design, and Methods
• Lifespan Development
• Biopsychology
• Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis
• Tests and Measurement
• Leadership and Leader Development
• Psychology of Organizational Behavior
• Psychology of Organizational Behavior
• Consulting for Organizational Change
• Social Psychology
• Research Theory, Design, and Methods
• Culture and Psychology
• Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis
• Business Concepts for the Organizational Development Professional
• Forensic Psychology
• Assessment for Forensic Psychology
• Intersection of Law and Psychology
• Psychology in the Courtroom

The cost of a Master’s Degree in Psychology program is relatively low, ranging between $12,000 and $28,000.

Ph.D. Doctor of Philosophy 5 to 7 years

Ph.D. in Philosophy is one of the first doctorate programs offered for psychologists.

As a matter of fact, until 1960 when Psy.D. was created it was the only doctorate degree available for psychologists. It is really difficult to get accepted at a program like this, and it is often compared to the difficulty of getting accepted in to a medical school.

In order to get accepted you will need at least a 4 year bachelorette degree with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3.0 for the last 120 credits, 3 letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. The top universities will probably ask for a master’s degree in a relevant field.

They are 60 to 90 credit programs, and can be completed between 5 to 7 years.

A typical curriculum of a Ph.D. in Philosophy will look like:

First Year

Choose 5 courses from
• Introduction to Philosophy
• Philosophical Classics
• Contemporary Moral Problems
• Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy
• Philosophical Issues in the Law
• Practical Reasoning
• Introduction to Logic
• Perspectives on Science, Reason, and Reality
• New Majors Seminar

• Serve as a grader for at least 15 hours per week at an introductory philosophy class

• Participate in 1st Year Seminar

Second Year

Choose 5 courses from
• Topics in Philosophy
• Philosophy for Children
• Philosophy of Feminism
• Issues of Global Justice
• Topics in Ethics
• Introduction to Medical Ethics
• Introduction to Philosophy of Religion
• Philosophy of Biology
• The Self and the World
• Philosophy and Medicine
• Social Justice
• Ancient Philosophy
• Modern Philosophy

• Work as a teaching assistant for a philosophy introductory course

Third Year

Choose 3 Courses from
• Intermediate Topics in Philosophy
• Philosophy of Crime and Punishment
• Ancient Philosophy
• Modern Philosophy
• History of Ancient Political Philosophy
• History of Modern Political Philosophy
• Philosophy of Marxism
• Plato Republic
• Philosophy of Human Rights
• History of Ancient Ethics
• History of Modern Ethics
• History of Recent Ethics
• Moral Issues of Life and Death
• Personal Values and Human Good
• Philosophy in Literature
• Introduction to Epistemology
• Introduction to Metaphysics
• Introductory Topics in Philosophy of Science
• Topics in Philosophy of Science
• Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind
• Introduction to Philosophy of Math

• Teaching assistant for second year students

• Complete the Third Year Seminar

• Begin Teaching Program Apprenticeship

Fourth Year and Beyond

• Assemble the committee, suggest your dissertation proposal and begin writing it.

• Serve as a TA (Teaching Assistant) for at least 30 students each semester.
• Complete Teaching Program Apprenticeship.

• Finish writing and defend your dissertation and take your Ph.D.
• Start working with Placement Committee

Psy.D. Doctor of Psychology 5 to 7 Years

This is the newest doctorate program for psychologists, and was started in 1960. It is also really difficult to get accepted at this program with the requirements being the same as the doctor of philosophy program.

It is a 60 to 120 credit hours program that can be completed between 5 to 7 years.

A typical curriculum of a Psy.D. Doctor of Psychology program will look like:

First Year

• Introduction to Group Therapy
• Psychotherapy Theory & Interventions: Humanistic-Existential
• Social Bases of Behavior
• Critical Thinking
• Professional Development: Mindfulness in Self-Care of the Clinician I
• Creative Expression in Clinical Practice I
• Practicum Workshop I
• Psychopathology & Diagnosis
• Psychotherapy Theory & Interventions: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
• Human Development Part A
• Scholarly Writing in the Social Sciences
• Professional Development: Mindfulness in Self-Care of the Clinician II
• Creative Expression in Clinical Practice II
• Practicum Workshop II
• Law & Ethics
• Psychotherapy Theory & Interventions: Family Systems
• Human Development Part B
• Clinical Psychology Theory & Research: Spiritual Applications
• Professional Development: Mindfulness in Self-Care of the Clinician III
• Creative Expression in Clinical Practice III
• Practicum Workshop III

Second Year

• Diversity Issues in Clinical Practice
• Qualitative Research Methods
• Clinical Practicum Seminar
• Psychometric Theory, Applications & Reports I
• Advanced Practicum Workshop I
• Child Abuse and Assessment Workshop
• Biological Bases of Behavior Part A
• Quantitative Research Methods and Design
• Clinical Practicum Seminar
• Psychometric Theory, Applications & Reports II
• Spousal/Partner Abuse and Assessment Workshop
• Advanced Practicum Workshop II
• Biological Bases of Behavior Part B
• Advanced Research Methods
• Clinical Practicum Seminar
• Psychometric Theory, Applications, & Reports
• Chemical Dependence and Dual Diagnosis
• Elder Abuse and Assessment Workshop
• Dissertation Workshop 1
• Research Seminar Part A: Dissertation Hypotheses, Methods, & Design

Third Year

• Advanced Clinical Practicum
• Research Seminar Part B: Dissertation Proposal
• Supervision, Consultation & Leadership in Clinical Psychology
• Internship Workshop I
• Advanced Clinical Practicum
• Religious & Spiritual Diversity in Clinical Practice
• Cognitive & Affective Bases of Behavior Part A
• Human Sexuality
• Internship Workshop II
• Advanced Clinical Practicum
• History & Systems of Psychology
• Cognitive & Affective Bases of Behavior Part B
• Internship Workshop III

Fourth Year and Beyond

• Dissertation
• Internship Workshop 4
• Internship

Ph.D. Doctor in Philosophy VS Psy.D Doctor in Psychology

If you are wondering which program you should join you should first understand what your goals are.

There is no program better than another, it is more so understanding which will help you better achieve your goals.

The Ph.D. Doctor in Philosophy program is better for those that want to pursue an academic career. While the Psy.D. Doctor in psychology program is better suited for those that want to pursue a career in clinical psychology.

Step 4: Get Psychologist Licensing


While the requirements vary from state to state there are some common ones amongst them.


In order to be able to apply for licensing at your states board, you will need an accredited post-graduate degree from American Psychological Association (APA).


You will need a certain number of supervised practice hours in order to get licensed.


All states use the EPPP Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology exam for licensing. You will need a score of at least 500 in order to pass this exam and be able to get your license.

Local State Examinations

Except for the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology exam, many states also require an oral examination where you will be tested at state- specific rules and laws.

Cost: $250 – $300

How Long Does it take to Become a Psychologist and How Much it Costs?

Option1: Master’s Degree

DegreeTime Cost
Associates Degree2 years$5,500 – $30, 000
Bachelor’s 4 years$27, 000 – $80, 000
Master’s1year-2 years$12.000- $28, 000
Licensing1 month$250- $300
Total7 years -9 years$44, 750 – $138, 300

DegreeTime Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$27, 000 – $80, 000
Master’s1 year – 2 years$12.000- $28, 000
Certification1 month $250- $300
Total5 years – 6 years$39, 250 – $108, 300

Option 2: Ph. D. or Psy. D.

DegreeTime Cost
Associates Degree2 years$5,500 – $30, 000
Bachelor’s 4 years$27, 000 – $80, 000
Ph.D or Psy. D.5 years – 7 years
Licensing1 month$250- $300
Total11 years -13 years$33, 250 – $110, 300

DegreeTime Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$27, 000 – $80, 000
Ph. D. or Psy. D.5 year – 7 years
Licensing1 month $250- $300
Total5 years – 6 years$27, 250 – $80, 300

Psychologist Training Video

Noel Griffith, Ph.D.
Noel Griffith is a Doctor of Philosophy with a strong interest in educational research. He has been an editor-in-chief of since 2014. Noel is an avid reader (non-fiction), enjoys good food, live theatre, and helping others make wiser career decisions.

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