How to Become a Psychologist in California

California employs more psychologists than any other state in the country and projects employment growth within the profession of nearly 9% from 2020 to 2030.  Psychologist salaries are amongst the highest in the country as well, so California is a great place to begin your career in psychology.

Psychology is a very important field of study and people’s health can depend on professional psychologists. California understands that and takes the qualification process very seriously. You can’t become a psychologist in California unless you hold a license and to ensure that those holding the license are qualified for the position, the state has put in place a strict set of requirements.

Education Requirements for Psychologist Licensing in California

The California Business and Professions Code says that individuals will meet the requirements for licensure if they possess an earned doctorate degree (PhD) in psychology, educational psychology, education with a specialization in counseling psychology or education with a specialization in educational psychology.  All credits must be earned from an accredited institution with a CA psychology degree program approved by the American Psychological Association.

An exception to this requirement is made for individuals performing duties as a school psychologist. To become a school psychologist in California, individuals must hold a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited college or university and satisfy the State of California basic skills requirement. In addition, all candidates must complete a minimum of 60 semester hours of postbaccalaureate degree study in a California commission approved program with a focus on school psychology.

Below is the complete educational path for the Psychologists:
Psychologist Educational Track
School Programs Average Education Length Choosing Online or Campus
1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree View Programs 4 Years Online or Campus
2. Earn A Master's Degree View Programs 2 Additional Years Online or Campus
3. Earn a PHD or PsyD View Programs 2-4 Additional Years Online or Campus

Doctorate programs often take between three and seven years to complete and will include supervised residencies or internships.

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Supervised Professional Experience Requirements for a Psychologist

Applicants for licensure in California also need to complete two years (3000 hours) of what the state calls “supervised professional experience”. The state defines supervised professional experience as “an organized program that consists of a planned, structured and administered sequence of professionally supervised comprehensive clinical training experiences".  Accumulated experience must include mentoring, didactic exposure, role-modeling, and consultative guidance (clerical duties such as the filing of records or transcribing of patient interviews is not considered valid experience).  Up to 1,500 hours may be completed by candidates before they earn their doctorate degree but only if a candidate has extensive credits from graduate coursework.  A minimum of one year of supervised professional experience must completed postdoctorally and each year of post-doctorate experience must be earned within a thirty consecutive month period.

Note:  There are many ways to earn supervised experience hours, but some of the more common methods include:  APA approved internships, and work as a psychological assistant. 

Examinations for the Psychologist License in California

The state has two tests that applicants are required by law to pass before they can earn licensure. The first test is the National Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, a 225-question, multiple-choice exam available at a number of testing sites throughout the country. Only applicants who have completed their doctorate degree and at least 1500 hours of professional experience are eligible to take the test and in order to pass you need to achieve a scaled score of 500. The second test is the California Psychology Supplemental Examination, a 115-question multiple choice test that includes questions based on 6-10 scenarios and a handful of non-scored questions. Only applicants who have completed all of their professional experience hours and passed the EPPP are eligible to take the test. Applicants sitting for the exam have exactly three hours to complete all questions.

Note:  You may find additional information about how to earn a psychology license in California, by visiting the California Board of Psychology- overview of licensure as a psychologist. 

Psychology Career Outlook In California

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical and counseling psychologists in California earned a median wage of $120,520 as of May 2022.  The BLS defines the median wage as the wage at which “half of the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less”.  For psychologists, the lowest 10 percent earned a wage lower than $63,330 and the top 10 percent earned wages that exceeded $172,750.  The career outlook for a psychologist in California is encouraging, with growth projected to be in the range of 9% between 2020 and 2030.

Find information regarding tuition, financial aid, enrollment dates and curriculum by requesting information from the programs below

Additional Psychology Resources for California:

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*NET (a website sponsored by the US Department of Labor) job market trends and salary figures for clinical and counseling psychologists are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed July 2023.