Do You Need to Attend an APA Accredited Program to be a Clinical Psychologist?

by Brooke Julia

Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat behavioral, mental and emotional disturbances in their patients. Each psychologist assesses troubles and creates treatment plans based on their personal psychological focus; for example, a behaviorist will approach a problem differently from a humanistic psychologist. All psychologists must be licensed to practice in a clinical setting, and though the requirements for licensure differ state to state, many require students to have attended American Psychological Association accredited courses.

American Psychological Association

The APA was founded in 1892 with the intent of monitoring the standards of schools of psychology and practicing psychologists. The APA sets the bar for the profession and with each new advancement in understanding, and ensures that educational facilities and practitioners alike are observing and implementing them. Being recognized by the APA is a badge of professionalism and respect, which is why many licensing boards prefer that students attend schools accredited by the APA.

APA Standards of Accreditation

The APA has a broad list of criteria that institutions must meet to be accredited. They start with basic eligibility, which includes offering a doctorate program which lasts at least three years, two within the institution and another year in residence, and providing classrooms with enough students to support meaningful interaction and learning. The program should evince respect for people of all walks of life and show no discrimination for age, gender, religion, culture or sexual identity. Instructors should be fully educated and competent, and coursework should encompass the scope of scientific psychology. The APA analyzes each component of the institution, the instructors, the coursework, the legal and moral ethics training, to decide which courses deserve accreditation.

Accreditation Acceptance and Alternatives

Each state has its own set of parameters for psychology students to earn a license to practice, some more strict than others. While there is a preference for students attending APA-accredited courses, it isn't always a prerequisite. Some only need classes to have been regionally accredited or government chartered. If your classes weren't approved by the APA or other accrediting authority, the licensing board in your state will bring your course under scrutiny. The courses you took must be up to the same standards as those that are accredited. You may not receive a license if your course was not up to standards.

Other Steps to Licensure

Most state licensing boards only award licenses to psychologists who hold a doctorate degree. Experience is important, too. According to the APA, candidates should have spent 2,000 hours in an internship, on average, and another 2,000 hours working with clients after receiving their doctorate degrees. Some states require more hours while others require fewer. Candidates then need to take and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

Pay and Statistics

Training in psychology can result in a plethora of career types. Psychologists who work in clinical settings averaged $67,650 in 2012, according to O*Net Online. Clinical psychology should see a 22 percent increase in job openings between 2010 and 2020, which is greater than most occupations. About 34 percent of psychologists work for themselves and set their own schedules, though they may often work in the evenings and on weekends to accommodate their patients' schedules.

About the Author

Brooke Julia has been a writer since 2009. Her work has been featured in regional magazines, including "She" and "Hagerstown Magazine," as well as national magazines, including "Pregnancy & Newborn" and "Fit Pregnancy."

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