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California Psychology Licensure Requirements

In order to practice psychology in California, you will need to secure a license from the California Board of Psychology. The Board has educational and work hours requirements you must complete before submitting an application to become a psychologist. You must also provide your fingerprints and undergo a background check before becoming a psychologist. California requires applicants to pass two exams: the nationally required Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and the California Psychology Law and Ethics Examination (CPLEE). The application process can be confusing; our step-by-step guide to obtaining a California psychology license should make the process easier. Some of the most frequently asked questions include:

» How do I become a psychologist in California?
» I have earned a PhD or PsyD and I am ready to learn how to get a psychologist license in California.
» What are California’s supervised professional experience rules and regulations?
» What psychology exams are required in California?
» I am already a licensed psychologist in another state; how do I become licensed in California by reciprocity?
» How do I renew my psychology license in California?
» How much do psychologists in California make?

Three Steps to Becoming a Psychologist in California

California has specific degree requirements you must meet before you are approved to take the licensing exams. Applicants must also complete supervised professional experience before they can become a psychologist. Here’s an outline of the steps and requirements you need to complete to get your license in California.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in psychology.

Earning your bachelor’s degree in psychology or another field is the first step toward getting your license to practice psychology. Students typically take four years of full-time study to earn either a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA), but some students can complete their degrees in three years while others need five years or more. The number of credits required for a baccalaureate degree varies from institution to institution, but is usually around 120 credits. California has several public and private colleges that offer a four-year psychology degree.

You can pursue a master’s degree in psychology even if you did not major in psychology as an undergraduate. If you are taking classes full-time, you can usually complete a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA) degree in two years. Some graduate schools may require you to take additional classes before entering the master’s degree program if you did not major in psychology as an undergraduate. Some schools offer programs in which you can obtain a master’s degree as part of a doctoral program. Others offer stand-alone master’s in psychology programs.

2. Earn a PsyD or PhD in psychology.

Students who want to earn a doctorate in psychology have the choice of two different types of degrees. The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) has more of a clinical focus, while the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in psychology typically has more of a research focus. To read more about the differences between the two degrees, check out this page on the American Psychological Association (APA) website. Most doctoral programs usually take four to seven years to complete.

The State of California requires all licensed psychologists to have one of the following degrees according to the Board’s website: a doctorate degree that is earned in psychology, educational psychology, or an education degree that specializes in counseling psychology or educational psychology from a nationally-accredited school. Starting in 2020, the doctoral degree will need to be from a regionally-accredited school. The Board offers a list of approved schools on its website. If your degree is from a university outside of North America, you must give the Board an evaluation of your degree and its requirements along with any other documents the Board requests. The degree must come from a school that is accredited by the American Psychological Association.

3. Get licensed to practice psychology in California.

Getting your license to practice psychology in California can be a daunting task. Even after you spend nearly a decade getting an education, you still have to pass two exams and gain post-doctoral experience. The Board does have some exemptions to the registration rule. The first is if you are doing an accredited internship from the American Psychological Association or if the supervisor belongs to the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers or the California Psychology Internship Council. You will also be exempt if you work for an educational institution or you have a waiver from a state department. The steps you need to take for licensure are detailed in the next section.

California Psychologist Licensing Process

1. Obtain supervisory professional experience.

The California Board of Psychology requires applicants to have two years (3,000 hours of professional experience) that are supervised by a licensed psychologist, including a minimum of 1,500 hours taking place after you receive your doctorate. The Board requires you to register your supervised professional experience (SPE) unless you are working in a formal internship within a doctoral program, are employed by an educational institution, or are working in a post-doctoral training program.

Most candidates for licensure will need to register as psychological assistants unless the applicant already obtained 1,500 supervised experience hours during the doctoral degree and works for a non-profit receiving 25% or more of its funding from a government source. In this case, applicants will need to register for employment as a registered psychologist before beginning work.

2. Ensure you have taken all required pre-licensure courses.

Before you can become licensed in California, you must take pre-licensure classes covering the following subjects: human sexuality; alcohol/chemical dependency detection and treatment; child abuse assessment; spousal or partner abuse assessment; detection and treatment of alcohol and chemical substances; and aging and long-term care training. These courses may have been taken during your psychology education or may be taken during the application process.

3. Pass the exams required by the California Board of Psychology.

You must take two tests to receive your license to practice psychology in California. The first one is the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). First, you must apply with the Board to determine if you are eligible to take the test. You can apply online or by mail. Both application methods require a $40 application fee. Along with your application, you must include your transcripts and proof of your supervised experience in a sealed envelope with your supervisor’s signature across the seal.

The Board will email you to let you know that you are eligible to take the exam or to request more information. If you are approved, you will be contacted by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards to sign up for the exam. You will be given unofficial scores after you complete the test and will receive official results by mail. If you don’t pass the test, you can retake it during the next year.

Once you pass the EPPP, you are ready to take the California Psychology Law and Ethics Examination. You must submit the CPLEE Request Form to request to take this test. Along with your application, you will need to submit the Supervision Agreement and Verification of Experience form documenting your 3,000 hours of CPE. The CPLEE covers the ethics, laws, and regulations pertaining to psychologists in the state of California. You will have two and a half hours to complete 100 multiple-choice questions. If you fail this test, you have to wait until another test date is available before you can take it again.

4. Request your license from the Board.

Once you have passed both tests and completed the course requirements you can request your license. You will be given a Request for Initial Licensure Form after you take the CPLEE and will send the form along with a $400 check to the Board of Psychology. You are required to be fingerprinted through the state’s Live Scan service.

5. Receive your California psychology license.

If your application is approved, the Board will email your psychology license number to you within four to six weeks.

Psychological Assistant

Before you can start your SPE in California, you will need to register as a psychological assistant in California. The fee for applying is $40 and with this license, you can find a licensed psychologist in California to supervise you while you obtain the experience required to get your full license. Along with your application, you will need to submit official transcripts, fingerprints, and a supervision agreement.

Registered Psychologist

If you already obtained 1,500 hours of SPE during your doctoral degree program and you are completing your SPE by working with a non-profit community agency receiving at least 25% of funding from governmental sources, you will need to apply as a registered psychologist to complete your SPE. This license is non-renewable and is only valid for 30 months and there is no fee to apply. Official transcripts, fingerprints, and verification of experience will be required with your application.

California Licensure by Reciprocity

If you are a licensed psychologist who wants to become licensed in California, you must apply to take the California Psychology Law and Ethics Examination. To apply, you will need to pay a $40 fee, complete the application, the CPLEE Request Form, request to transfer your EPPP exam score, submit official transcripts, and proof of SPE. If you have been licensed for more than five years in another state, you will include your official certification of licensure with your application. You will be contacted by the Board if you are approved to take the exam.

Once you have passed the CPLEE, you will get fingerprinted and receive a Request for Initial Licensure form by the examination vendor, which you will mail and submit, along with the $400 fee, to the Board. You must also ensure that you have taken the required courses in human sexuality; alcohol/chemical dependency detection and treatment; child abuse assessment; spousal or partner abuse assessment; detection and intervention strategies; and aging and long-term care before being licensed. After two to four weeks of receiving your application, the Board will email your license information to you.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Professional Education Information

Psychology licenses must be renewed every two years in California. The course requirement is 36 hours, with nine of those hours taken live. Webinars count as live presentations. You must be up-to-date on laws and ethics, though there is no hour requirement. Starting in 2020, psychologists must show they have taken a one-time six-hour suicide risk assessment and intervention course, have experience working with suicide intervention programs during the qualifying degree program or as part of the applied experience, or have taken a similar, approved course. CE requirements are prorated if a license expires in less than the 24-month period.

CE courses must be provided by entities approved by the American Psychological Association, the California Psychological Association, the Association of Black Psychologists, or the California Medical Association/Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. The cost for renewing a license is $430 every two years.

California Psychology Jobs and Salary Information

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics data from May 2017 reports that California employs the highest number of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists (18,250 Californians employed).1 Their average wage is $94,910 a year, the fourth-highest in the nation.2 About 1,760 people are employed as psychologists as “all other” psychologists, the highest number in any state, and they earn an average of $109,600 a year, which is the second-highest salary of any state.3 The state has 4,340 postsecondary psychology teachers, the most of any state, and they earn an average of $105,740 a year, making California the second-highest-paying state for this career.4 According to Projections Central, prospective psychologists in California should continue to see positive growth in job openings over the 10-year period between 2016 and 2026.5 Clinical, counseling, and school psychologist job openings are expected to grow by 12.5%; psychologist, “all other” job openings are projected to grow by 13%; and postsecondary psychology teacher job openings are projected to grow the fastest, at 16.7% over the same period.5

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists18,250$94,910
Industrial-Organizational PsychologistsN/AN/A
Psychologists, All Other1,760$109,600
Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary4,340$105,740

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become a licensed psychologist in California?

To become a licensed psychologist in California, you need to have a doctorate degree, which can take up to 10 years to obtain. You will also have to acquire 3,000 hours of supervised experience, 1,500 which can be pre-doctoral. Becoming a licensed psychologist in the state can take a long time, but if you are willing to devote around a decade to meet the requirements, the payoff could be worth it, especially if you plan to practice in a state like California.

What are the tests I need to take to get a psychology license in California and are there additional requirements besides the tests?

The California Board of Psychology requires you to take two exams to become licensed. These tests are the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which is required in every state, and the California Psychology Law and Ethics Examination (CPLEE), which is specific to California. Before getting your license, you will have to show proof of coursework in human sexuality; alcohol/chemical dependency detection and treatment; child abuse assessment; spousal or partner abuse assessment, detection and intervention strategies; and aging and long-term care. Starting in 2020, you will have to show you have completed a course in suicide prevention and intervention.

How much do psychologists in California make?

The average annual wage for clinical, counseling and school psychologists in California is $94,910.2 Postsecondary psychology teachers in the state earn an average of $105,740 a year.2 California psychologists in the “all other” category earn an average of $109,600 per year.2

Additional Resources

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017, 19-3031 Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193031.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, California https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ca.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017, 19-3039 Psychologists, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193039.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017, 25-1066 Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes251066.htm
5. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2016) http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm