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 (the Board). 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.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Licensed Psychologist
- Licensure by Reciprocity
- License Renewal and Continuing Education
- Related Licenses
- Jobs and Salary Information
- Additional Resources
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Becoming a Psychologist in Pennsylvania
1. Earn a bachelor’s degree and (optionally) 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. Most bachelor’s degrees require 120 semester credit hours and take four years to complete. While many psychologists have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, you can also choose to study a related field, such as sociology or criminal justice. Keep in mind that if your bachelor’s degree is not in psychology, you may be required to take prerequisite coursework before entering a graduate program.
Many people decide to study at a master’s program directly after completing their bachelor’s degree. Master’s degrees in psychology typically take around two years to complete and require 30 to 40 credit hours. Many people who want to practice psychology will obtain a master’s degree in clinical or counseling psychology. Notably, many doctoral programs include a 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 doctoral degree 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) in Psychologyor a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). To read about the differences between these two degree types, see our home page. In the state of Pennsylvania, your doctoral program needs to be accredited by the American Psychological Association (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 APA, 2,000 supervised hours will be required. Note that the Board accepts up to one year of predoctoral internship experience towards the required supervised experience required for licensure.
For a list of doctoral programs in Pennsylvania, see our Psychology Schools in Pennsylvania page.
3. Submit your initial application to the Board.
Before you can practice in Pennsylvania and gain licensure in the state, you will first need to submit a completed application form through the Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS) to sit for the examination. Along with 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 Databank Report from the National Practitioner Data Bank must also be provided to the Board, along with a Letter of Good Standing (LOGS). All of these forms are located through PALS and are accessible to individuals once they register for access.
Applicants must also submit to a criminal background check (which can be obtained from the state police) dated within the previous 180 days. The licensure application also requires a child abuse history clearance documentation form from the PA Department of Human Services (also dated within the 90 days prior to submission).
4. Gain two years of supervised experience in your area of training.
The Board requires documentation of two years of supervised experience, one of which must be postdoctoral, before you are qualified for licensure. As mentioned, up to one year (1,750 hours) of this experience may have occurred at the pre-doctoral level, before you complete your doctorate degree. In the state of Pennsylvania, you must also complete supervised hours after receiving your doctorate degree, before you can become licensed. The state requires at least one year (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 postdoctoral supervisor.
5. Pass the Pennsylvania psychology licensing exams.
The state of Pennsylvania requires prospective licensed psychologists to complete two exams, intended to ensure their knowledge and competency in the field. One is a national examination (the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (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 75% to pass the exam. The state offers some study materials to assist applicants in learning about the relevant state laws.
6. Receive your license to practice psychology in Pennsylvania.
Once the Board receives proof that you have passed the required exams and has determined 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 complete the online application and submit the necessary paperwork.
This paperwork generally includes providing proof that you are already licensed and 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.
License Renewal and Continuing Education
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.
In Pennsylvania, school psychologists are regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). School psychologist certificates fall under the broader category of Educational Specialist. To be eligible for a Level I Instructional and Educational Specialist I Certificate (temporary) as a school psychologist, you will need to complete an approved educator preparation program in school psychology with a 3.0 GPA, be recommended by the school you attended, pass the Praxis School Psychologist exam, complete an approved internship of at least 1,000 hours, and pass a criminal history background check. Level I certificates are good for a period of six years. Once you meet additional requirements such as continuing education and years of experience, you can convert your certificate to a Level II (permanent) one.
Pennsylvania Psychologist Jobs and Salary Information
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for psychologists in the state, excluding teachers, was $85,903 as of May 2021.1 Postsecondary psychologists earned an average annual salary of $88,340.1 Projections Central predicts that the number of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists in Pennsylvania should grow by an average of 7.9% per year through 2030.2 The number of postsecondary psychology teachers is projected to increase even more rapidly, by 7.3% each year over the same 10-year period.2 Psychologist positions in the “all other” category are expected to grow 1.8% through 2030.2
|Average Annual Salary1
|Clinical and Counseling Psychologists
|Psychologists, All Other
|Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary
- Pennsylvania Psychological Association (PPA): Offers professional membership and resources to psychologists, including ways to earn continuing education credits.
- Association of School Psychologists of Pennsylvania (ASPP): Promotes best practices for school psychologists working in the state as well as resources, grant opportunities, and conferences for members.
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 standardized tests are also required, which take additional time. As a rule of thumb, you should expect to spend around a decade preparing 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, the average annual salary for psychologists (excluding educators) was $85,903 per year as of May 2021.1 Postsecondary teachers of psychology in the state earned an average of $88,340 per year.1
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2021 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Pennsylvania: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_pa.htm
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm