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Licensed psychologists are professionals who study human behavior and implement principles in applied counseling settings. Individuals who offer their services to the public typically specialize in one or more areas of clinical psychology or counseling, each with specific psychologist licensing requirements. Most countries set strict guidelines for people seeking psychologist licensing, and usually require doctoral degrees, one to two years of supervised clinical experience, and success on certification exams. Licensing requirements are determined by special state governing boards in the United States, though professionals frequently seek additional national certification to improve their credentials.
An individual seeking psychologist licensing in any specialty is usually required to complete a doctoral program from an accredited university. Most students spend about four years in general psychology undergraduate programs, where they are introduced to the principles of psychological research and applications. In addition to psychology classes, students usually take several courses in statistics, sociology, and communications. Near the completion of a bachelor's program, a student can apply for admissions into psychology graduate schools. Most doctoral programs take five to seven years to complete, and feature classes focused on a certain psychological specialty as well as clinical internships to help students gain firsthand experience with clients.
After receiving a doctoral degree, an individual can usually acquire a position at a hospital, a mental health practice, or a school, where he or she must work under supervision for a certain number of hours. Requirements vary by location, but most states and countries require new psychologists to spend one to two years in supervised training positions. Professionals who show competence for the job and wish to begin practicing independently can take psychologist licensing exams administered by their state or country. Most exams cover the basics of counseling, ethics, and legal obligations.
Nearly every specialty involves its own psychologist licensing examination. Independent tests exist for marriage and family therapists, developmental psychologists, substance abuse counselors, and school psychologists must pass subject-specific tests to earn their licenses. Prospective school psychologists in the United States are often required to take an examination administered by the National Association of School Psychologists, as well as meet state qualifications for educational workers, in order to gain their credentials.
Many psychologists in the United States choose to pursue additional voluntary national certification in order to improve their credibility and chances of finding jobs. The American Board of Professional Psychology offers highly esteemed certification to individuals who have met all other licensing requirements and proven themselves to be exceptional workers in the field. In order to maintain their licenses stay up-to-date on important clinical developments, psychologists are typically expected to take refresher courses and recertification exams periodically throughout their careers.
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