Requirements to Become a Private Psychologist [2024 Guide]

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Breaking out into private practice can be a daunting adventure for psychologists, but it can be a great experience, for both the psychologist and the clients.

Postgraduate school students are increasingly pursuing the private practice route, with an estimated half of those working in the mental health field find themselves working in an independent setting.

how to become a Private Practice Psychologist

Working in a private practice can be a challenge, as client base may not be as vast as when working in a community setting, and also requires both proficient counseling skills as well as business know-how in order to succeed.

Psychologists work in either group or individual sessions with clients in order to address problems, such as stress, anxiety, substance abuse, and depression. As a psychologist, you will usually employ a variety of tactics and approaches to assist clients in modifying their behavior, including psychotherapy, behavior modification, and homework exercises.

How to Become a Private Practice Psychologist?

To become a private practice psychologist, you generally need to meet the following requirements:

  1. Complete your bachelor’s degree
  2. Obtain a master’s degree in psychology
  3. Obtain a doctoral degree in psychology (with specialization)
  4. Complete internships
  5. Complete supervised work experience
  6. Pass the EPPP and state exams
  7. Fulfill additional state-level requirements (if any)
  8. Complete background checks
  9. Apply for your licensure

Psychologist Education

One of the first steps in becoming a psychologist in the private realm starts with earning an undergraduate degree in psychology, social work, or other related field, which will provide you with a foundation to build upon.

While obtaining a 4-year undergraduate degree in an unrelated field will not prevent you from becoming a psychologist, it is useful to have some experience in the social sciences. Make sure to keep your GPA high while working on your undergraduate degree, as that will open up more opportunities for attending graduate school.

Additionally, forming positive relationships with your psychology professors will increase their likelihood of writing a positive letter of recommendation for graduate school entrance applications.

After completing undergraduate coursework, students must obtain a master’ degree in psychology. Some schools require students to take the Graduate Requisite Exam, which includes a special section on the psychology subject matter. It is important to check the requirements for individual graduate school programs to avoid any surprises.

Last educational step in becoming a psychologist is earning your doctoral degree in psychology from an APA accredited school.

Psychologist Licensing

Licensing requirements for private psychologists varies depending on the state in which you desire to practice. After completing your doctoral degree requirements, many states require you to complete supervised residency work, which is usually one to two years, in which you will gain valuable experience which can help your future endeavors.

Upon completing the residency requirements, you will need to pass the written and oral exams to obtain licensure to practice in your state.

Psychologist Skills and Qualities

In addition to the intellectual ability and interpersonal skills it takes to become a psychologist, if you want to pursue private practice, it would be important to have savvy business skills as well.

Active listening and critical thinking are also valuable skills for you to develop as a psychologist when working with clients.

Adept reading and writing skills are also necessary, as you will often find yourself reviewing current literature regarding the breakthroughs in the mental health field.

Self-care practices are essential when working in private practice, as you may not have the support system present as those who work in more traditional settings may enjoy.

Work Environment for a Private Psychologist

As a psychologist working in your own in a private setting, your work environment can vary, depending on your preference, for both location and client specialty.

Some psychologists prefer to work out of their home, allowing for a more intimate setting, while others enjoy the separation between work and home that an office building can provide. If you want to practice out of your home, it is important to make sure the environment is safe, welcoming, and childproof if working with children.

Another option includes working on a contract basis, which could allow you to work in a variety of settings, acting as a specialist or consultant. Such variety offers psychologists a chance to become a valuable player on a team, allowing a great opportunity to showcase specialized skills.

What is the Salary for a Psychologist?

The salaries for private practice psychologists vary depending on the number of clients, the state in which you practice, insurance regulations, and even specialty can influence the income levels.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of psychologists in 2023 was $106,420, or $51.16 per hour, with psychologists specializing in industrial-organizational and clinical psychologists among the top wages.

What is the Job Outlook for Psychologists?

As the increasing needs of qualified mental health workers continue to increase, the job outlook for private psychologists is expected to increase, adding an estimated 12,000 jobs by the year 2032 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is faster than average. Job prospects are best among psychologists who hold a doctoral degree in a specialized area of practice.

Do You Need a Ph.D. to Open a Private Practice?

Almost all psychologists working independently in private practice in the US need a licensure to officially work as a psychologist. Obtaining a PhD/PsyD degree is one of the main requirements to become licensed as a psychologist. So, the answer is yes, you will need a doctoral degree to open a private practice.

Can You Be a Clinical Psychologist With a Master’s?

Well, the technical answer is no, you cannot be a clinical psychologist with just a master’s degree. To call yourself and work as a clinical psychologist in the US, you will need to become a licensed psychologist. And to qualify for licensure, as mentioned above, apart from other requirements, you will need a doctoral degree (PhD/PsyD).

However, there are many other career options for those who have a master’s degree in clinical psychology, such as:

Becoming a licensed psychologist can be a challenging process, as it normally requires a significant amount of dedication, education and training. In the US, one must have a doctoral degree (PhD/PsyD) to be licensed as a psychologist. This generally involves completing a 4-year bachelor’s degree, a 2-year master’s degree, and finally a 4-to-7-year doctoral degree program in psychology. In total, after finishing high school, it can take anywhere from 10 to 12 years to become a psychologist.

Furthermore, in addition to completing a doctoral program in psychology, one must also complete supervised clinical experience and also pass a state licensure exam in order to become licensed as a psychologist.

However, despite these challenges, many people find the field of psychology to be extremely rewarding and fulfilling, both financially and personally. There are many people who are willing to put in the time and effort required to become a psychologist. If you are interested in becoming a psychologist, it is important to be aware of the effort that will be required, so that you can work hard and prepare yourself accordingly.