Becoming a Psychologist in Arizona
Training as a clinical or counseling psychologist takes place at the doctoral level. However, you will have the best chance of success if you begin the journey far sooner. Here are some tips — whether you are a high school student or a college graduate.
If You Are a High School Student or Undergraduate
Concentrate on earning high grades during high school. There are no courses you have to take at this stage except general college prep. You can opt to take an introductory psychology course, however. You may even join the American Psychological Association as a student member. You can also look into service opportunities: for example, volunteer at a special needs summer program like Camp Civitan in Phoenix.
Select a university and an undergraduate program. You may wish to consider the strength of the psychology program even at this stage. You may, for example, consider whether there are clinical experiences, special programs, or collaborations with other departments (for example, neuroscience).
There are far more undergraduate psychology majors than there are spots in graduate programs, so GPA and references are both important. You may want to check out the APA resources for undergraduate students (http://apa.org/about/students.aspx). Consider joining a psychology honors club or student association.
Seek out research opportunities as an undergraduate. Faculty often welcome undergraduates as assistants. Exceptional students can also compete for summer fellowships. Making the most of these opportunities will not only increase your chances of getting into a doctoral program but make it more likely that your education will be funded through research stipends.
Prepare to take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).Some programs require the psychology subtest as well as the general examination that tests concepts like vocabulary, reasoning skills, and analytic writing.
If You Have a Degree
Find out about the typical profile of students at schools that interest you. If you hold a baccalaureate in a field other than psychology, spend some time preparing yourself. Look ahead to see what prerequisites will be required. Some students choose to spend a year working in a lab at the post-baccalaureate level. Allow yourself plenty of time to write your professional statement and gather references. Emphasize the skills you do have, for instance, expertise working with diverse populations.
If you are concerned about being accepted to a doctoral program in Psychology after completing your bachelor’s degree due to lower or insufficient academic achievement, you may want to apply to master’s programs first.
Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers several online bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in psychology including both clinical and non-clinical specializations. Capella University also offers three online CACREP-accredited programs: MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, MS in School Counseling, and PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision, as well as a COAMFTE-accredited program, MS in Marriage and Family Therapy.
Research and compare doctoral programs that are offered by regionally accredited institutions. If your program is APA-accredited, you can be confident that it will meet licensing standards of the Arizona Board. (Make sure to familiarize yourself with these beforehand.)
Excel in classwork, dissertation and practicum experiences. Practicum work will help you build skills and gather references that you will need as early as internship year.
Go through the matching process to find a doctoral internship. Internships may be accredited by the American Psychological Association or members of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers. If your internship is not accredited by either of these organizations, it will need to meet rigorous Board standards. Internship often requires temporary relocation.
After you complete your internship, seek out a position working under supervision. You will not be eligible for licensure as a psychologist until you have completed at least 3,000 total hours of supervised practice. The number of postdoctoral hours necessary will vary. Arizona accepts pre-internship hours but cautions that some states do have a fixed requirement for supervised practice completed at the postdoctoral level.
Meanwhile, apply to the Arizona Board of Examiners to take the licensing examination, the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.