How Long Does it Take to Become a Psychologist?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 1, 2021  •  9 min read  •  Mental Health
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Understanding how long it takes to become a psychologist will help you figure out if this is a career path you’re interested in taking. From the education requirements to specializing to getting your license, you should know the time commitment.

The answer to this question isn’t so straightforward. The amount of time it will take to become a psychologist depends on the area of specialty. However, you will likely be looking at eight to 12 years of education and training to become a psychologist.

When you’re considering a career in psychology, it’s a good idea to know the path you will need to take. So here’s a closer look at the different college degrees and educational requirements you’ll need to become a psychologist.

How long does it take to become a Psychologist?

Becoming a Psychologist: The Degree Requirements

The path to becoming a psychologist will start with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. However, you can also get your degrees in a related field, such as anthropology, social work, sociology, or education.

Once you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to consider the next step. Typically, you’ll move on to a master’s degree or doctorate. However, if you decide to become a clinical psychologist, you will need a bachelor’s and a doctoral degree.

Other specialty areas may not require the same degree requirements. For example, you can become a licensed family therapist or marriage counselor with a master’s degree instead of a doctorate.

Regardless of the field, you plan to go into, it’s necessary to move on to a graduate degree. A bachelor’s degree won’t get you very far when trying to become a psychologist.

Getting Your Master’s Degree in Psychology

Becoming a psychologist will require a graduate-level degree. However, with a master’s degree, you can go deeper into a specialty. Sometimes, you can use a terminal master’s degree in social work, school psychology, or counseling. This allows you to enter the workforce as soon as you finish your degree.

It’s more common to get a master’s degree and go into a Ph.D. or Psy.D. However, you can forego the master’s degree and go directly into this type of program after getting your bachelor’s degree with some career paths in psychology. It depends on your career goals and the graduate options you have in front of you.

Earning a Doctoral Degree in Psychology

Most careers in psychology require a doctoral degree. You will need to specialize in an area you want to enter into. With this type of program, you’ll spend more time working with experimental methods, training graduates as scientists, and handling research.

If you have plans on starting a private therapy practice, a doctorate is a good idea. This type of degree is centered on clinical work and professional practice. It helps to prepare graduates for a career in the mental health field.

The American Psychological Association recommends that you choose an accredited program. With accreditation, you’ll get a degree that meets the right standards of quality for the industry.

Along with your doctoral degree, you will need to finish one year of postdoctoral training before you can become completely licensed in your state.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Specialized Psychologist?

The average salary for a licensed psychologist is around $82K per year. Depending on the field you plan to enter into, the amount of time you’ll need will range from four to 12 years. First, let’s look at some of the career options and the education required for each.

Social Worker (Bachelor’s Degree, 4 to 5 years)

You can enter into social work after getting a bachelor’s degree. This can be a challenging and rewarding career. Many psychology undergraduates go into this line of work.

While many of the jobs in the social worker field will require a master’s degree, you can start with a bachelor’s degree. This is one of the few careers in psychology you can start without an advanced degree.

Social workers are found in hospitals, schools, nonprofit agencies, mental health clinics, and government offices. The average social worker with a bachelor’s degree will earn around $31k per year. With a master’s degree, you can earn an average of $44K per year.

Sports Psychologist (Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree, 6 to 8 years)

With the right education, you can enter the field of sports psychology. This may include working with professional athletes coming back from injuries or working on the mental side of their game. You may work in one of the two key areas, which are motivation and performance.

Sports psychologists will need a master’s degree. There are some entry-level positions you might be able to get with a bachelor’s degree, but these positions are very rare. Most sports psychology positions require a master’s or doctoral degree.

This field pays from $44K per year to $129K per year. As a result, top sports psychologists will earn six-figure salaries, while those working in university faculty positions can make between $60K and $80K per year.

Criminal Psychologist (Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, or ideally, a Doctoral Degree, 6 to 12 years)

Are you fascinated with criminals and law enforcement? If so, you can go into the field of criminal psychology. This field offers the opportunity to study the thoughts and behaviors of criminals.

You will spend most of your time studying why people commit crimes. It’s also a position that will allow you to assess criminals and create profiles. You will likely need a doctorate to become a criminal psychologist. Some positions are available with a master’s degree, however.

As a criminal psychologist, you can earn around $95K per year. The salary range goes from $41K to $127K, depending on your location and your experience.

Licensed Counselor (Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree, 6 to 8 years)

There are several types of counseling positions you can enter into. As a licensed counselor, you’ll need to get a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. The type of degree you get will help to determine the type of counseling you will do.

It’s also necessary to get a license in your state. You can gain a license in many areas, including:

You will need to work for two years while supervised to gain the necessary experience to become licensed.

Depending on the type of counseling you enter into, you can earn an average salary ranging from $35K to $56K.

School Psychologist (Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree, 6 to 8 years, varies by state)

Working with students and groups of students struggling with learning disabilities, behavioral issues, and academic difficulties is the job of a school psychologist. There are many reasons to go into this field. You’ll need at least a master’s degree and you’ll likely work in an elementary or secondary school. In addition, some school psychologists work in hospitals, universities, private clinics, and state agencies.

As a school psychologist, you can earn an average annual salary of around $77K.

Child Psychologist (Bachelor’s Degree and Doctoral Degree, 9 to 12 years)

If you prefer to work with children, becoming a child psychologist is a great option. This type of psychology puts you in a position to work with children struggling with many different things. You can work in several fields including cognitive development, social growth, language development, personality, gender roles, and more.

You will likely need a master’s degree to enter into this field. However, you’ll likely want a doctorate to help open up more doors.

As a child psychologist, you can earn an average salary of $44K to $130K. So the average salary is around $77K per year.

Clinical Psychologist (Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, or ideally, a Doctorate, 6 to 12 years)

As a clinical psychologist, you’ll be able to work in private practice, academic settings, or hospitals. This type of position allows you to take a theoretical approach. You can specialize in different psychological disorders to help those struggling with specific issues. You will need at least a master’s degree, but ideally, a doctoral degree.

As a clinical psychologist, you can earn an average annual salary of nearly $80K. The most experienced professionals in this field can earn a six-figure salary.

Forensic Psychologist (Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, or ideally, a Doctoral Degree, 6 to 12 years)

You can apply psychology to criminal investigations as a forensic psychologist. This is a great position for those looking to work with law enforcement and help with criminal investigations. For example, you may be responsible for evaluating people for the courts, witnesses, or even providing testimony. To become a forensic psychologist, you will need a master’s degree, but a doctoral degree is ideal for earning more opportunities.

This is a faster-growing field. If you want to become a psychologist in a growing field, becoming a forensic psychologist is a great option. The salary ranges from $39K to $102K, with the average salary around $69K per year.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist (Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree, 6 to 8 years)

As an industrial-organizational psychologist, you’ll study workplace behavior. This type of psychologist will often work in employee training, organizational development, human resources, or marketing and sales.

You will likely apply research to help with workplace efficiency, hire new employees, or product testing. You will need a bachelor’s degree to get started. Without any other type of degree, you can work in human resources. If you want more job opportunities, a master’s degree will be necessary.

As an industrial-organizational psychologist, you can gain a starting salary of around $84K with a master’s degree. If you gain a doctorate, you can earn $118K per year, on average.

Health Psychologist (Bachelor’s Degree and Doctoral Degree, 9 to 12 years)

Working in health psychology means you will focus on how social, psychological, and biological factors influence illness and health. You will likely work in a private corporation, university, hospital, or health care clinic.

Most licensed health psychologists will earn a doctorate before entering the field. You will also need to complete a one-year internship to go into counseling or clinical psychology.

As a health psychologist, you can earn an average entry-level salary of around $40K. However, with more experience, you can earn around $85K per year.

Social Psychologist (Bachelor’s Degree and Doctoral Degree, 9 to 12 years)

Studying how social influence and interaction impact groups and individuals is the job of a social psychologist. You will likely conduct research on human behavior. It’s also common to work in a university or for a government agency.

As a social psychologist, you may also help businesses with training or hiring employees.

The salary of a social psychologist averages about $85K per year for those with a high degree. Most students entering this field will earn a doctoral degree. However, some job opportunities are available for those with master’s degrees.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.