Becoming a Psychologist in Massachusetts
Licensure as a professional psychologist is the culmination of years of study. Your training does not officially begin until you enter a doctoral program. However, you can begin building your resume early – academic honors and accolades will increase your prospects.
If You Are a High School Student or Undergraduate
Concentrate on preparing for general university admission. You do not have to take psychology coursework at this stage. However, it’s a form of career exploration. If you are taking psychology courses, you are eligible to become a student affiliate of the American Psychological Association. Even if you’re not a member, you may learn a lot browsing the APA website.
Volunteer work will give you a sense of whether a human service career is for you. It can also mean references for college and for summer internships. You may find summer opportunities through organizations like South Middlesex Opportunity Council.
Begin university studies. You will need to take some psychology coursework to prepare for graduate school. It can be to your advantage to be an undergraduate psychology major.
Pursue research opportunities while maintaining a strong GPA. You may find opportunities through your own department. With a strong enough background, you can compete for summer programs around the nation. You may also have a thesis option.
If You Have a College Degree
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.
Research psychology doctoral programs and narrow your choices. Your program must be designated by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) as psychology and must meet coursework requirements of the Massachusetts Board. Psychology is a broad discipline. If you will be providing health services (for example, therapy) your program must meet minimum standards set by Massachusetts.
Allow yourself plenty of time for the application process. Most programs require the GRE. You will likely be submitting a curriculum vitae, essays, and references. Be prepared to go through an interview process. You may opt for a psychology master’s if you are not yet competitive for a doctoral program.
Enroll and begin doctoral studies. Your program will comprise at least three years. It may be significantly longer. PhD programs are typically a little longer than PsyD programs. However, they are also more likely to fund doctoral candidates for carrying out research and providing other services. Expect practicum experiences and a dissertation or significant self-directed project.
Complete your internship. The Massachusetts Board requires that the first year of supervised practice be completed as part of a formal training program – at least if you are interested in being certified to provide health services. (Requirements for supervised practice are not as strict for psychologists in some disciplines.)
Internship will likely be a required part of your doctoral program. Students may be expected to go through the APA matching process. There is no guarantee of of being placed in a prestigious APA-accredited internship, but you can increase your chances by submitting a strong application packet and listing sites that are a good match. APA accredited internships are accepted as meeting all requirements. The Massachusetts Board will consider other formal training programs. Students at some schools match through the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC). The essential is that the program meet standards found in Board rules.
Complete other licensing requirements, including postdoctoral supervised practice. This does not have to be complete as part of a formal training program. However, your supervision must meet Board requirements.
You will need to pass both national and state examinations. The national examination is the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.