How to Become a Psychologist in Washington State [2024 Guide]

To become a licensed psychologist in Washington State, one must complete a doctoral degree in psychology, obtain supervised professional experience, pass the required exams, and submit an application to the Washington State Department of Health. Following licensure, psychologists must continue their education to meet annual requirements and adhere to strict ethical standards.

Despite the rigorous process, obtaining a license in Washington State is a significant accomplishment that opens the door to a fulfilling career in psychology. The opportunity to make a positive impact on individuals, families, and communities can be a tremendous motivation for those seeking this path.

Becoming a Psychologist in Washington State

What are the Requirements to Become a Licensed Psychologist in Washington State?

Here is an outline for becoming a licensed psychologist in Washington State:

  • Obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology or related field
  • Obtain a master’s degree in psychology or related field
  • Complete your doctoral degree in psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D.)
  • Complete your supervised experience
  • Pass the Washington psychology licensure exams
  • Pass background checks
  • Finally, get your license!

Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology or Related Field

For individuals who are considering a career in psychology and aiming to become a licensed psychologist in Washington State, the first crucial step is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. This degree provides students with a core understanding of the fundamental principles of psychology, such as human behavior, cognitive processes, and social interaction.

Undergraduate psychology programs typically offer coursework in developmental psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, abnormal psychology, and neuroscience. Additionally, students may take courses in statistics, research methods, and experimental design, which provide them with the necessary skills to design and conduct research studies.

Hands-on experiences are an integral component of an undergraduate psychology program, as they allow students to participate in research projects, internships, or other practical training experiences. These experiences can be highly beneficial in preparing students for advanced studies and professional practice in psychology. Psychology conferences, workshops, and guest lectures are also great ways for students to interact with professionals in the field and learn about the latest research and developments.

Master’s Degree in Psychology or Related Field (Optional)

Masters programs usually take two years to complete and provide advanced training in psychological theory and research methods.

Once enrolled in a master’s degree program in psychology, students can explore various fields of psychology in greater depth, including developmental psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, and clinical psychology.

Some programs even offer specialized courses in areas such as forensic psychology, health psychology, or organizational psychology. Additionally, students may have the opportunity to conduct research projects, present their findings, and even publish research papers.

The ultimate goal of master’s degree programs in psychology is to equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology or a related field. In addition to providing advanced theoretical training, these programs also offer practical training opportunities, such as internships or practicum experiences, which offer hands-on experience in various areas of psychology.

Doctoral Degree in Psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D.)

To become a licensed psychologist in Washington State, one must complete a doctoral degree in psychology. There are two primary types of doctoral degrees available: a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.).

A Ph.D. program is research-focused, and it emphasizes advanced research methods, statistics, and theory. Students in a Ph.D. program are typically trained to pursue careers in academic or research settings, such as universities or research institutes.

In contrast, a Psy.D. program is more clinically focused, and it prepares students for careers in professional practice. The emphasis of a Psy.D. program is on applied clinical skills, such as psychotherapy, psychological assessment, and intervention. Students in a Psy.D. program will have opportunities to gain practical experience through supervised internships and clinical placements.

Complete Supervised Experience

Individuals seeking licensure as psychologists in Washington State are required to complete a minimum of 3,300 supervised hours of experience. Of these hours, 300 must be completed during the doctoral practicum and 1,500 hours must be completed during the doctoral internship.

The remaining hours (up to 1,500) can be completed either during an optional pre-internship or through postdoctoral supervised experience if all supervised hours are not completed during the doctoral program.

Supervision during the internship must be provided by a licensed psychologist who meets experience standards and must account for at least 75% of the total supervision. In addition, every 40 hours of experience should include two hours of face-to-face individual supervision focused on actual service delivery, as well as two hours of additional learning experiences. If internship hours exceed 1,500, they may also be credited as long as they meet the stated standards.

Pass the Washington Psychology Licensure Exams

After your application for licensure as a psychologist in Washington State is reviewed by the Department of Health, you will receive notification about your eligibility to take the required licensing exams.

The first exam you must pass is the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), a national exam that assesses psychology knowledge across various domains. The EPPP exam consists of 225 multiple-choice questions (MCQs), and you must achieve a score of at least 500 to pass.

Once you have passed the EPPP exam, you will be given instructions on how to complete the second exam, the Washington state psychology jurisprudence exam, which is available online. The related exam is a 25-item multiple-choice test that evaluates your knowledge of regulations and laws related to psychology practice in Washington. It is an open-book exam that must be completed online, and you must score at least 90% to pass.

Background Checks

The Washington State Department of Health utilizes the Washington State Patrol database for conducting background checks. Applicants from other states are usually obliged to undergo fingerprint-based background checks.

Those with a criminal record may also have to undergo fingerprint-based background checks. Applicants are advised to wait for notification and a request for fingerprints before proceeding.

Get Your License

Upon passing the EPPP, psychology jurisprudence exam, and background checks you are on the verge of practicing independently! The Department of Health will notify you of the issuance of your license; you just have to wait for the notification.

What are the Psychology Licensure Renewal and Continuing Education Requirements in Washington State?

To maintain an active license as a psychologist, it’s important to meet certain requirements after obtaining the license. The first requirement is completing 60 hours of continuing education (CE) credits every three years. Among those 60 hours, at least four of them must be ethics-related topics.

Moreover, every six years, six hours of CE on topics associated with the assessment and treatment of suicide must be completed. Any excess CE credits obtained in a three-year period cannot be carried over to the next period.

Apart from the CE requirements, renewing license annually on your birthday is necessary. The renewal can be done via mail after receiving the renewal form or online.

What are the Requirements for Psychology Licensure by Endorsement in Washington State?

To obtain licensure as a psychologist in Washington State by endorsement, applicants must provide verification from all states where they have held or applied for a license. American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) diplomate status can serve as evidence that certain requirements have been met, and holders of this credential are exempt from completing the “education” section of the endorsement application.

While licensure can be granted to applicants who have met requirements in any jurisdiction, the process will vary. For psychologists licensed in states with substantially equivalent requirements, the process will be simplified, provided that they have held licenses for at least two years.

The list of states with equivalent requirements includes Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.

On the other hand, as of March 2023, California, Texas, and Wisconsin have been deemed “not equivalent,” and applicants from these states must document that they have met Washington’s internship requirements. If they have held a license for at least two years, they can still use the endorsement application packet.

Out-of-state licensees with substantially equivalent requirements may also be eligible for temporary permits that allow them to practice in Washington State for up to 90 days

How Long Does It Take to Become a Psychologist in Washington State?

Overall, the process of becoming a licensed psychologist in Washington State can take anywhere from 10 to 12 years or more, depending on the individual’s educational and professional background.

Do You Need a Doctorate to be a Psychologist in Washington State?

Yes, in order to become a licensed psychologist in Washington state, you need to obtain a doctoral degree in psychology or a closely related field from an accredited institution. After completing a master’s degree, individuals may pursue a doctoral degree program, which usually takes around 4-7 years to complete.

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Psychology in Washington State?

With a master’s degree in psychology in Washington State, individuals can explore a wide range of career paths, such as mental health counselor, marriage therapist, social worker, research assistant, behavior specialist, program coordinator, or human resources specialist.

Mental health counselors work with individuals, families, or groups to address mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. They may work in various settings such as private practice, hospitals, or community mental health centers.

Research assistants collaborate with psychologists and other researchers to conduct studies and analyze data. They may be employed by universities, research institutions, or private companies.

Behavior specialists assist individuals who have behavioral or developmental issues. They may work in schools, hospitals, or residential treatment facilities.

Program coordinators work in fields such as education, healthcare, or social services to coordinate programs and services. They may be employed by government agencies, non-profit organizations, or private companies.

Human resources specialists manage employee relations, hiring, and training in organizations. They may also work to ensure compliance with labor laws and regulations.

Can I Become a School Psychologist in Washington State With a Master’s Degree?

Yes, obtaining a Master’s degree in school psychology can pave the way for a career as a school psychologist in Washington State. In addition to the master’s degree, you will need to complete an internship in school psychology and pass a comprehensive examination on school psychology (Praxis) to obtain the Educational Staff Associate (ESA) certification.

Where Do Psychologists Work in Washington State?

In Washington State, psychologists have the opportunity to work in a diverse array of settings, ranging from private practice to government agencies and non-profit organizations. Private practice is a popular option for psychologists who seek independence and control over their schedules and workloads.

Specializing in areas such as clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or neuropsychology, private practice psychologists typically work with individuals or families to address mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.

Hospitals and mental health clinics are also among the employers of psychologists in Washington State. Psychologists in these settings work with patients who have a range of mental health concerns, either in specialized units such as addiction recovery, trauma, or eating disorders, or by providing general mental health services to a wide range of patients.

In addition to clinical settings, universities and schools employ psychologists to work in various capacities. School psychologists collaborate with students, parents, and teachers to address issues such as behavioral problems, learning disabilities, or family problems that may affect academic performance. Psychologists in universities conduct research, teach courses, and provide counseling services to students and staff.

Moreover, government agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Health and Human Services also hire psychologists. In these settings, psychologists work with military personnel, veterans, or individuals receiving government-funded healthcare services.

Non-profit organizations such as community mental health centers or crisis hotlines are also among the employers of psychologists in Washington State. Psychologists in these settings provide mental health services to populations in need, such as the homeless, low-income individuals, or survivors of trauma.

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