Pennsylvania Psychology Licensure Requirements

Making the decision to better your future with a career in psychology is a big choice and it is just the first step in a bigger process. To become a practicing psychologist in Pennsylvania, you will need to complete a multi-step process dictated by the Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology. You must complete certain educational, experiential, and examination requirements. While the process can be complicated, this guide provides all the necessary step-by-step instructions. A few questions you may have during the process include:

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

Three Steps to Becoming a Psychologist in Pennsylvania

The process of becoming a licensed psychologist in the state of Pennsylvania can seem complicated and challenging. The main steps include getting the right educational background and getting experience that meet the state’s licensure requirements. To meet the education requirements, you will need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree followed by a doctoral degree from one of the psychology schools in Pennsylvania or from a school in another state that has equivalent requirements. Continue reading to learn more about this process.

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

If you want to become a psychologist in Pennsylvania, the first main step is to obtain a bachelor’s degree. In this first step, the bachelor’s degree could be a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS). Most bachelor’s degrees require 120 semester credit hours. While many prospective psychologists get their bachelor’s degree in psychology, you can get also choose to study a related field, such as sociology or criminal justice. It typically takes approximately four years of full-time study to earn your bachelor’s degree. Once your bachelor’s is completed you can obtain a master’s degree.

Many people decide to study at a master’s program directly after completing their bachelor’s degree, while others work for a time and then return to school. Obtaining admission to a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) program will usually require a solid GPA and admissions exams. Most schools require prospective students to complete the GRE or GMAT. Many people who want to practice psychology will obtain a master’s degree in clinical or counseling psychology. You can also pursue a master’s degree in a closely related field, such as school counseling. The typical master’s degree will require completion of 36-45 semester credit hours. If your bachelor’s degree was not in psychology or a closely related field, many master’s programs will require additional coursework at the beginning of your program.

Notably, many doctoral programs include the master’s degree as a part of the process. You may want to research doctoral programs and choose to skip the stand-alone master’s program and instead choose to go directly into a doctoral program. In this case, having a bachelor’s level background in psychology will become even more helpful, giving you the foundational knowledge you need for success.

2. Earn a PsyD or PhD in psychology.

The next step towards being a licensed psychologist in the state of Pennsylvania is to earn your doctorate degree. You can select a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree. To read about the differences between these two degree types, check out this article by the American Psychological Association (APA). In the state of Pennsylvania, your doctoral program needs to be accredited by the APA or the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), or designated with the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). Such programs typically require a minimum of four years of study, usually up to seven, but sometimes more, depending on the requirements of the specific program.

One requirement for graduation with the doctoral degree will also be supervised experience. This involves engaging in work with clients, while under the supervision of an already licensed individual. The amount of supervised experience required will usually be 1,500 hours or more, again depending on the requirements of your specific doctoral program. If the program requires a formal internship approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) 2,000 supervised hours will be required.

For a list of doctoral programs in Pennsylvania, see our Psychology Schools in Pennsylvania page.

3. Get licensed to practice psychology in Pennsylvania.

It may take you six to 10 years to complete all the educational requirements for psychologist licensure in the state of Pennsylvania. Once the educational requirements have been met, you can begin completing the final steps to obtain your license from the Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology.

Pennsylvania Psychologist Licensing Process

1. Submit your initial application to the Board.

Before you can practice in Pennsylvania and to gain licensure in the state, you will first need to submit a completed application form to sit for the examination. Along with filling out the application document, you will need to submit a non-refundable fee of $105.00. The state also requires the submission of official transcripts verifying your education and degree status. Documentation of your pre-doctoral supervised experiences (including a job description of those experiences) is also required with your application. A National Practitioner Data Bank Self-Query report must also be provided to the Board, along with a Letter of Good Standing (LOGS). All of these forms are located through the state Board’s portal and are accessible to individuals once they register for access.

Residents of Pennsylvania must also submit a criminal background check dated within the previous 90 days. This document can be obtained from the state police. Non-residents of Pennsylvania (or those preparing to move to the state) must submit a document from their local police jurisdiction (also dated within the last 90 days). The licensure application also requires a child abuse history clearance documentation form from the Department of Public Welfare (also dated within the 90 days prior to submission).

In some circumstances, the Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology may request additional materials. You will have to submit those materials in a timely fashion.

2. Gain 12 months of supervised professional experience (SPE) in your area of training.

As noted above, the Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology requires documentation of supervised experience before you are qualified for licensure. Some of this experience must have occurred at the pre-doctoral level, before you complete your doctorate degree. This is usually done as part of a formal internship that is regulated by the American Psychological Association (APA). The pre-doctoral internship typically requires 2,000 hours of work activity within a one year period (working at a setting for 40 hours a week). To meet the requirements of an APA-accredited internship, typically 500 of those hours must be in direct contact with clients.

Depending on your degree, you may instead have been required to complete another form of supervised experience. For example, school psychologists are not typically required to complete an APA-accredited internship and will have instead completed supervised experience in school settings, in accordance with their training program requirements. The Board prefers applicants to complete an accredited internship, but may also consider other applicants if their supervised experience can be verified and appears sufficiently rigorous.

In the state of Pennsylvania, you must also complete supervised hours after receiving your doctorate degree, before you can become licensed. This is considered post-doctoral experience. The state requires at least one year and 1,750 supervised hours at this level. Approximately half of those hours should be in direct contact with clients, and at least two hours per week must be individual face-to-face supervision. To complete the application process, this supervised experience can be verified by your post-doctoral supervisor.

3. Pass the Pennsylvania psychology licensing exams.

The state of Pennsylvania requires prospective licensed psychologists to complete two exams, intended to ensure your knowledge and competency in the field. One is a national examination (the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology or EPPP), which all states require. By completing your initial application paperwork and having it approved, you can gain permission from the state Board to complete the exam. The exam is rigorous and it can be difficult, requiring knowledge about a wide range of psychology topics. It is recommended that before taking the exam, you study the many different topics and complete practice exams. Many people choose to spend six months or more preparing for this exam. The exam is completed on a computer at a testing center. In Pennsylvania, psychologist applicants must earn a score of 500 or better on the exam.

The second required exam is the Pennsylvania Psychology Law Examination (PPLE). This exam is unique to the state of Pennsylvania, although some other states require similar examinations about the laws in their state. This exam is completed on a computer at a testing center and is typically comprised of 30 multiple choice questions. One hour is allotted for completion, and candidates must earn at least a 75% to pass the exam. The state offers some study materials to assist applicants in learning about the relevant state laws.

4. Submit your final application documents to the Board.

After completing your exams, you will then be able to submit your final documents (including proof that you passed the required exams and documentation that you completed your post-doctoral supervised hours) to the Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology. Once the Board receives and reviews your documents, they may again request additional information or materials.

5. Receive your license to practice psychology in Pennsylvania.

If the Board determines that you have met all the requirements, then you will be granted your license as a psychologist in the state of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Licensure by Reciprocity

If you are planning to move to Pennsylvania from another state where you are already licensed, then you can obtain a Pennsylvania psychologist license by reciprocity. With permission, new residents who are already licensed can practice for a short period of time while they apply for Pennsylvania licensure. To obtain a license by reciprocity, you will need to fill out the candidate application form and turn in the required paperwork.

This paperwork generally includes providing proof that you are already licensed and the other documentation of your educational/training background. Being from out of state, you will also need to complete the Pennsylvania Psychology Law Exam to prove you understand the state’s laws. The application process for licensure by endorsement has a fee of $105.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Professional Education Information

In the state of Pennsylvania, you must renew your license every two years, or by November 30 of every odd-numbered year. Your first renewal date will be determined by when you first receive your license; it could be one to two years from that point. Missing the deadline for renewal will incur a late fee. The renewal application process also has fees totaling to $300.

To renew the license, psychologists are required to obtain continuing education units (CEUs). Three CEUs are required in each cycle, with one CEU being equal to 10 contact hours in an approved educational setting. At least three of the 30 contact hours must be about issues related to ethics. You can carry over up to 10 excess contact hours to the next renewal cycle. However, that guideline does not apply the same to CEUs related to ethics and training on ethical concerns. Those excess hours can count towards the total but not the specific requirement for three ethics related CEUs.

Pennsylvania Psychology Jobs and Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state of Pennsylvania has the fourth-highest number of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists employed in the United States.1 The high number of psychologists in the state may negatively impact the average salary because there is so much competition for the available jobs. The average salary for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is still strong at $79,280.2 Individuals who choose to teach psychology here tend to do slightly better financially, with an average pay of $81,750.1 Industrial-organizational and “all other” psychologists earn the most in the state, at above $90,000 per year.2 Projections Central predicts that the number of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists in Pennsylvania should grow by an average of 9.4% per year through 2026.3 The number of individuals who choose to teach psychology is projected to increase even more rapidly, by 13% each year over the same 10-year period.3

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists4,800$79,280
Industrial-Organizational PsychologistsN/A$91,140
Psychologists, All Other450$91,830
Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary2,270$81,750

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2 Statistics for your locale may vary within this state.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become a psychologist in Pennsylvania?

The process to become a licensed psychologist in the state of Pennsylvania may take more or less time depending on the specific choices you make to complete your education and training. Most bachelor’s degree programs will take four years of full-time study. A master’s degree program will typically take two years, but may take longer if you did not major in psychology during your undergraduate education. If you get your master’s degree during the course of your doctorate degree, it could shorten the total duration. A doctorate degree could take between four and seven years of study. Supervised experience and the standardized tests are also required, which take additional time. As a rule of thumb, you should expect to spend around a decade to become a psychologist in the state of Pennsylvania.

What degree do I need to be a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania?

To become a licensed psychologist with the Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology, you must earn a doctorate degree. That degree can be either a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) or a Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD).

How much money do psychologists make in Pennsylvania?

A psychology degree can allow a person to do many different specific types of work. In Pennsylvania, depending on the specific work you select to do, you could make between $79,280 and $91,830.1 Licensed psychologists who work in clinical settings do tend to have salaries at the lower end of this range.1 Psychology teachers and others who do work outside of clinical or educational settings may make higher salaries in Pennsylvania.1

Additional Resources

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, Pennsylvania: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_pa.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026): https://www.projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm