How To Become A Licensed Psychologist in Virginia

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Updated on July 12, 2023
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The psychology profession in Virginia offers diverse opportunities to provide mental health care, engage in research, and educate future generations. As a psychologist in the state, you will work to improve the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Virginia has a thriving community of psychologists who contribute significantly to the field, with several professional organizations and resources available to support your career growth.

Psychology plays a crucial role in society by helping individuals better understand their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Through evidence-based practices, psychologists assist in the prevention, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of various mental health issues. As a psychologist, you will have a direct impact on improving the quality of life for those facing mental health challenges, ultimately contributing to a healthier and more resilient society.

Becoming a Licensed Psychologist in Virginia

Educational Requirements

Step 1: High school preparation

Preparing for a career in psychology begins in high school. To lay a strong foundation, focus on courses in biology, mathematics, social sciences, and English. Additionally, consider participating in extracurricular activities or volunteer opportunities related to psychology or mental health to gain exposure to the field.

Step 2: Choosing the right undergraduate program

Finding the ideal undergraduate program is crucial for aspiring psychologists. Begin by researching accredited colleges and universities that provide high-quality psychology programs or related fields. When evaluating potential programs, consider the following tips:

  1. Course Offerings: Look for programs with a diverse range of psychology courses that cover essential topics, such as developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, and social psychology. This variety will help you build a strong foundation in psychological theories and concepts.
  2. Research Opportunities: Engage in research as an undergraduate to gain valuable experience and prepare for graduate studies. Seek programs that offer research opportunities, such as faculty-led projects or research assistant positions, to develop your research skills and gain hands-on experience.
  3. Faculty Expertise: Investigate the faculty members in the psychology department, focusing on their areas of expertise, research interests, and professional accomplishments. Choose a program with faculty who specialize in areas that align with your interests and career goals.
  4. Program Reputation: Research the reputation of the psychology program and the overall institution. Consider factors such as graduation rates, job placement rates, and the success of program alumni. Reach out to current students or alumni to gain insight into their experiences and the program’s strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Extracurricular Opportunities: Look for programs that offer psychology-related extracurricular activities, such as clubs, organizations, or volunteer opportunities. These experiences can help you build a network, enhance your resume, and provide practical experience in the field.
  6. Financial Aid and Scholarships: Consider the cost of tuition and any available financial aid or scholarship opportunities. Research and apply for scholarships specifically for psychology students to help offset the cost of your education.

Step 3: Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology or a related field

A Bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field, such as sociology or human services, is the first step towards becoming a psychologist. This four-year program will provide you with foundational knowledge in psychological theories, research methods, and various psychological concepts. Gaining practical experience through internships, research projects, or volunteering is highly recommended.

Step 4: Pursuing a graduate degree in Psychology

Master’s degree options: Once you have completed your Bachelor’s degree, you may decide to pursue a Master’s degree in psychology. This two-year program offers advanced knowledge and hands-on experience in your chosen specialization, such as clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or industrial-organizational psychology. A Master’s degree can lead to opportunities in supervised practice, research positions, or teaching roles. Some universities in Virginia that offer Master’s programs in psychology include:

  • George Mason University
  • James Madison University
  • Old Dominion University

Click here for Masters in Clinical Psychology programs in the state of Virginia.

Doctoral Degree Options: To become a licensed psychologist in Virginia, you are required to complete a doctoral degree in psychology. There are two main types of doctoral degrees: a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). The Ph.D. program emphasizes research and academia, while the Psy.D. program focuses on clinical practice. Both programs typically take 4-6 years to complete and include a pre-doctoral internship. Some universities in Virginia that offer doctoral programs in psychology are:

  • University of Virginia
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Regent University

Step 5: Selecting a specialization and focus area

During your graduate education, you will have the opportunity to choose a specialization and focus area within psychology. This choice will shape your career trajectory and determine the type of clients, settings, and research you will engage with. Examples of specializations include:

Clinical Psychology: Assess, diagnose, and treat individuals with mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. They use evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), to help clients develop healthier thought patterns and coping skills. Clinical psychologists often work in private practices, hospitals, community mental health centers, and other healthcare settings.

Counseling Psychology: Focus on helping clients with everyday life issues, such as relationship problems, stress management, and career development. They provide a supportive environment for clients to explore their feelings, identify goals, and develop strategies to address their concerns. Counseling psychologists typically work in private practices, schools, colleges, or community organizations.

Forensic Psychology: apply psychological principles to the criminal justice system. They evaluate individuals involved in legal cases, provide expert testimony, and conduct research on various aspects of criminal behavior. Forensic psychologists often work with law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities, courts, and legal teams.

School Psychology: Work in educational settings to support the social, emotional, and academic development of students. They provide assessment and intervention services for students with learning or behavioral difficulties, collaborate with teachers and administrators to develop intervention plans, and offer counseling services. School psychologists may work in public or private schools, colleges, or district-level administration.

Industrial-organizational Psychology: Apply psychological principles to workplace settings, focusing on improving employee productivity, job satisfaction, and overall organizational effectiveness. They conduct research on topics such as personnel selection, training and development, and organizational culture. Industrial-organizational psychologists often work in private businesses, government agencies, or as consultants.

Neuropsychology: Study the relationship between the brain and behavior. They assess cognitive functions, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving, to diagnose and treat neurological disorders, brain injuries, and developmental disabilities. Neuropsychologists often collaborate with neurologists, psychiatrists, and other healthcare professionals and may work in hospitals, research institutions, or private practices.

Licensing and Certification Process

Step 6: Understanding the licensure requirements in Virginia

To become a licensed psychologist in Virginia, you must meet specific educational, experiential, and examination requirements set forth by the Virginia Board of Psychology. Familiarize yourself with these requirements early in your education to ensure you are on the right path to licensure.

Step 7: Completing supervised experience

Before earning your doctoral degree, you will complete a pre-doctoral internship, typically lasting one year. This supervised experience provides valuable hands-on training in your chosen specialization. Be sure to select an internship accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or a program that meets the Virginia Board of Psychology’s requirements.

After obtaining your doctoral degree, you must complete a post-doctoral supervised experience. In Virginia, you are required to complete a minimum of 1,500 hours of supervised experience over a one to two-year period. Your supervisor must be a licensed psychologist, and your experience should align with your chosen specialization.

Step 8: Preparing for the EPPP

The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) is a national standardized exam required for licensure in Virginia and most other states. The exam assesses your knowledge and competency in psychology, covering topics such as assessment and diagnosis, treatment planning, research methods, and ethics. Begin preparing for the EPPP early, utilizing study materials, practice exams, and review courses to ensure success.

Step 9: Applying for Licensure 

After finishing your education, completing the required supervised experience, and successfully passing the EPPP, you are ready to apply for licensure through the Virginia Board of Psychology. To submit your application, you will need to provide the following documents and fees:

  1. Completed Application: Fill out the application form provided by the Virginia Board of Psychology, ensuring all sections are accurate and complete.
  2. Official Transcripts: Submit official transcripts from your doctoral program, demonstrating that you have met the educational requirements for licensure.
  3. Supervised Experience Documentation: Provide documentation of your pre-doctoral internship and post-doctoral supervised experience, including details about the duration, setting, and supervisor.
  4. EPPP Score: Submit your Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) score, verifying that you have passed the required examination.
  5. Letters of Recommendation: Obtain letters of recommendation from professional references, such as supervisors, professors, or colleagues who can attest to your competence and professionalism in the field of psychology.
  6. Application Fee: Pay the non-refundable application fee specified by the Virginia Board of Psychology, which may be subject to change. As of September 2023, here are the updated fees:
Registration of Supervision
Initial Registration of Supervision$50.00
Addition to or change in registration of supervision$25.00
Application Processing:
a. Licensed Clinical Psychologist$200.00
b. Licensed Applied Psychologists$200.00
c. School Psychologists$200.00
d. School Psychologist -Limited$85.00
e. Sex Offender Treatment Provider$90.00

Once you have submitted the required documents and fees, the Virginia Board of Psychology will review your application and notify you regarding your licensure status.

Step 10: Fulfilling Continuing Education Requirements

In Virginia, licensed psychologists must complete 40 hours of continuing education (CE) every two years to maintain their license. CE courses can be obtained through various professional organizations, such as the Virginia Academy of Clinical Psychologists (VACP) or the American Psychological Association (APA). Stay current with new developments in the field by participating in workshops, conferences, and online courses.

Ethics and Legal Responsibilities

As a psychologist, you must adhere to the ethical principles and guidelines established by the APA and the Virginia Board of Psychology. These principles ensure that you provide the highest standard of care and maintain professional integrity. Familiarize yourself with these guidelines and integrate them into your daily practice.

Protecting client confidentiality and privacy is crucial in the field of psychology. Understand and adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations and any state-specific privacy laws to ensure that you are protecting your clients’ sensitive information. Implement best practices for data security and confidentiality in both physical and digital formats.

As a licensed psychologist, you are required to report certain situations, such as child abuse, elder abuse, or potential harm to self or others. Familiarize yourself with the mandatory reporting requirements in Virginia and follow them accordingly. Additionally, inform clients of any limits to confidentiality and the circumstances under which you may be required to disclose information.

The Rewarding Path

Becoming a psychologist in Virginia is a rewarding and fulfilling journey that enables you to make a meaningful impact on individuals and communities. By following the outlined educational requirements, obtaining licensure, and maintaining ethical practices, you can build a successful career in psychology. As you continue to grow professionally, stay engaged with the latest research, network with fellow professionals, and participate in ongoing education to provide the best possible care to your clients.