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All states license psychologists. At the least, they license those psychologists who sit down directly with clients and administer tests or carry out therapy. Some also license psychologists who act as consultants or work in other indirect roles.
There are common components: In almost all cases, licensing is dependent on having a doctoral degree. In all cases, at least one examination is required. Supervised practice is required of psychologists who work in a direct health service role; in many states, it is required of anyone who wears the title ‘Licensed Psychologist’.
Despite the similarities, there can be significant differences in requirements and in how the process is carried out. Some states are more particular than others with regard to education and supervised practice requirements.
In many cases, individuals come under Board jurisdiction soon after they graduate – even though full licensure may be a year or two down the road.
Having the right doctoral degree can be important for licensing purposes. Some states require particular program-level accreditation, and many at least make the process easier for those who have it. Sometimes candidates are denied licensure because their program did not meet a residency requirement or other standard. Candidates whose doctoral programs and/or internships are not accredited by the American Psychological Association may need to submit materials like course catalogs and program brochures even if their programs are essentially equivalent. It is a good idea to visit the state licensing agency and study licensing requirements before enrolling.
All states require supervised practice, at least for psychologists who provide mental health services. A majority specify that a certain number of hours take place after the doctoral degree is conferred.
Many states require graduates to register their supervision before they begin postgraduate supervised practice; a license application may be required at this stage. In some jurisdictions, residents or trainees are subject to regular evaluations.
All states utilize the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). Most set the standard for passing at the same level: a scaled score of 500. State permission is required; typically this means beginning a license application file. In some states, a person may apply as soon as the doctoral degree is conferred. In others, the exam is not taken until supervised practice requirements have been met. States also have different policies about how long a person has to wait before retaking a failed examination.
Many states also have a jurisprudence and/ or oral examination. The jurisprudence examination covers state-specific laws and rules. It often covers the ethics code of the American Psychological Association (APA) and may include other generally accepted standards of practice.
Oral examinations vary widely from one state to the next. In jurisdictions that do not have a separate jurisprudence examination, the purpose may be to quiz the candidate on matters of law and ethics. Some states present detailed vignettes and expect candidates to respond to many nuances. In other instances, candidates are asked to submit their own work samples for scrutiny. One purpose can be to establish a psychologist’s scope of practice. Psychologists are ethically bound to practice independently only in those areas where they have adequate skills and knowledge.
Jurisdictions also take into account a professional’s character, reputation, and personal attributes. Some states require fingerprint-based criminal background checks. Some mandate that candidates submit professional and character references.
Some states ask for license verification not just of psychology licenses but of other mental health licenses – or even of all professional licenses the individual has held. The purpose is to ensure there has not been a history of discipline.
Psychology candidates who are considering relocation may want to study the license requirements of multiple states and plan accordingly (http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2004/01/get-licensed.aspx).
A person who is licensed in at least one state and who practices the profession will find that minor differences in licensing requirements become less of an issue with time. However, many jurisdictions will deny licensure to candidates who were licensed under regulations that they deem "not substantially equivalent".
Psychologists whose specialty lies too far outside the healthcare realm will not be eligible for licensure in all states; however, this does not mean they will not be eligible for employment.