How To Become A Licensed Psychologist in Washington

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Updated on July 12, 2023
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The psychology profession encompasses a wide range of specializations and opportunities for those interested in understanding human behavior and mental processes. Becoming a psychologist in Washington State involves a series of steps and requirements, including education, licensure, and continued professional development. This guide will provide an overview of the necessary steps to become a licensed psychologist in Washington State.

In Washington State, the licensure and regulation of psychologists are overseen by the Washington State Department of Health. To practice as a licensed psychologist in the state, candidates must fulfill specific educational, examination, and supervised experience requirements. 

5 Steps to Become a Psychologist in Washington

The following outline highlights the major steps towards becoming a psychologist in Washington State.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step towards becoming a psychologist is obtaining a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college. Students may choose to major in psychology or a related field, such as sociology or human development. It is essential to complete any necessary prerequisite courses for graduate studies in psychology, such as research methods, statistics, and foundational psychology courses.

While pursuing a bachelor’s degree, students should also seek out opportunities to gain relevant experience in the field of psychology. This may include internships, research assistant positions, or participation in psychology-related clubs and organizations. Gaining hands-on experience during undergraduate studies will not only help build a strong foundation for graduate school but also increase the chances of being accepted into a competitive graduate program.

Step 2: Earn a Graduate Degree in Psychology

Once a student has completed their undergraduate studies, the next step is to pursue a graduate degree in psychology. This may be either a master’s or a doctoral degree, depending on the desired career path and specialization. It is important to select an accredited graduate program, as this is a requirement for licensure in Washington State.

During Master’s studies in Psychology, students will take advanced courses in psychology and conduct research for their thesis or dissertation. In addition to coursework and research, graduate students will also need to complete a certain amount of supervised clinical experience, typically in the form of practicum or internship hours. This experience is crucial in preparing students for the professional practice of psychology and is required for licensure in Washington State.

Click here for the Master’s program in Clinical Psychology at Washington

Step3: Obtain a Doctorate Degree in Psychology

Having a Ph.D. in Psychology is a great addition to your credentials. Some universities in Washington offer doctoral programs in psychology.

Step 4: Complete Washington State Licensure Requirements

After completing their graduate education, aspiring psychologists must fulfill the licensure requirements set by the Washington State Department of Health. To begin the licensure process, candidates must submit an application form, which can be found on the Department of Health website. The application requires the candidate to provide personal information, educational background, and details about their supervised experience. Additionally, candidates must pay a non-refundable application fee and submit to a background check and fingerprinting.

To become licensed, candidates must pass two examinations: the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and Washington’s Jurisprudence exam (JP Exam).

The EPPP is a standardized examination developed by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). It assesses a candidate’s knowledge of psychology and their readiness to practice professionally. The EPPP consists of 225 multiple-choice questions, covering eight content domains:

  • Biological Bases of Behavior
  • Cognitive-Affective Bases of Behavior
  • Social and Multicultural Bases of Behavior
  • Growth and Lifespan Development
  • Assessment and Diagnosis
  • Treatment, Intervention, Prevention, and Supervision
  • Research Methods and Statistics
  • Ethical, Legal, and Professional Issues

Before taking the EPPP, candidates must first request approval from the Washington State Department of Health. Upon receiving approval, candidates can register for the exam, utilize available study materials and resources (such as the ASPPB’s exam preparation materials), and develop effective test-taking strategies to maximize their chances of success.

The second exam, the JP Exam, is a 25-item, multiple-choice test that assesses knowledge of regulations and laws related to the practice of psychology in Washington. The JP Exam is open-book and completed online. After passing the EPPP, the Department of Health will send candidates instructions for completing the JP Exam. To pass, candidates must achieve a score of at least 90%.

In addition to passing both exams, candidates must also complete a specific number of postdoctoral supervised experience hours. In Washington State, this requirement includes 3,300 hours of supervised experience, with at least 1,500 hours completed in a postdoctoral setting. This experience should be documented and overseen by a licensed psychologist who serves as the candidate’s supervisor. It is crucial to find a suitable supervisor and ensure that the postdoctoral experience meets the requirements set by the Washington State Department of Health.

Finally, candidates must submit a Verification of Supervised Experience form, which is signed by their supervisor and details the nature of their experience. This form should be sent directly to the Washington State Department of Health by the supervisor. Upon successful completion of all requirements, including passing the EPPP and the JP Exam, and meeting the supervised experience criteria, candidates will be issued a license to practice psychology in Washington State.

Step 5: Maintain Licensure and Pursue Continuing Education

Once licensed, psychologists in Washington State are required to maintain their licensure through continuing education and renewal processes. The following are key elements for maintaining licensure and pursuing continuing education in Washington State:

  1. Continuing Education Requirements: Licensed psychologists in Washington State must complete a total of 60 hours of continuing education (CE) every three years. Of these 60 hours, a minimum of 4 hours must focus on professional ethics and law. Additionally, during their first full reporting period, psychologists must also complete a 6-hour course on suicide assessment, treatment, and management. It is essential to select approved courses and workshops to ensure that the CE requirements are met.
  2. Record-Keeping: Psychologists are responsible for maintaining records of their completed CE activities for at least four years. The Washington State Department of Health may audit a licensee’s CE records to verify compliance with the requirements. Licensees must be prepared to provide documentation to support their reported CE activities if requested.
  3. License Renewal: Licensed psychologists in Washington State must renew their licenses every year. The renewal process typically involves submitting a renewal application, paying a renewal fee, and attesting to the completion of the required continuing education. Failure to renew the license on time may result in late fees, and a lapsed license could lead to additional penalties or require the licensee to undergo the reinstatement process.
  4. Staying Informed: It is crucial for licensed psychologists to stay informed about any changes in licensure requirements, updates to laws and regulations, and advancements in the field of psychology. Regularly reviewing the Washington State Department of Health’s website and participating in professional organizations can help psychologists stay up-to-date with current best practices and requirements.

By diligently meeting continuing education requirements, renewing the license on time, maintaining accurate records, and staying informed about changes in the field, psychologists in Washington State can ensure that they maintain their licensure and continue to provide high-quality services to their clients.

Step 6: Advance Your Career in Psychology

As a licensed psychologist, there are various opportunities to advance your career and specialize in a subfield of psychology. Some popular specializations include clinical, counseling, or school psychology, as well as neuropsychology, forensic psychology, or industrial-organizational psychology. Specializing in a particular area can lead to new career opportunities, increased income potential, and personal growth within the profession.

Professional organizations play a significant role in advancing your career in psychology. By joining organizations such as the Washington State Psychological Association (WSPA) and the American Psychological Association (APA), you gain access to numerous resources and networking opportunities for psychologists. Membership in these organizations can provide you with access to conferences, workshops, and continuing education courses, as well as opportunities for collaboration with other professionals in the field. These organizations also offer job boards and career development resources, helping you stay informed about new opportunities and trends in the psychology job market.

Networking and collaboration are essential in advancing your career as a psychologist. Attending conferences and workshops not only helps you stay informed about the latest research, trends, and best practices in psychology but also provides you with opportunities to meet and connect with other professionals. For example, you can participate in roundtable discussions or join special interest groups within your chosen specialization, which can lead to collaborative research projects or professional referrals. Additionally, volunteering for leadership roles within professional organizations can further enhance your visibility and credibility within the field.

In addition to in-person networking, participating in online forums and social media groups dedicated to psychology can help you connect with other professionals, share ideas, and learn from others’ experiences. Some examples of online networking include joining LinkedIn groups for psychologists or participating in psychology-related discussion forums on platforms like Reddit or ResearchGate. These online communities allow you to engage with professionals from around the world, discuss relevant topics, and even collaborate on research projects or publications.

By actively engaging in the psychology community, both in-person and online, you can build a strong professional network and further develop your skills and expertise in the field. This commitment to networking and collaboration will ultimately help you advance your career as a psychologist and contribute to the growth and development of the profession.

Helpful Resources for Becoming a Psychologist

There are numerous resources available to assist aspiring psychologists in their educational and professional journey. These resources can provide valuable guidance, support, and information throughout the various stages of becoming a psychologist. Some helpful resources include:

American Psychological Association (APA): The APA is the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. Their website offers a wealth of information on education and career development, as well as resources on research, publications, and networking opportunities.

Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB): The ASPPB is the organization responsible for the development of the EPPP. Their website provides information on the exam, study materials, and resources for licensure in various states and provinces.

Washington State Psychological Association (WSPA): As the primary professional organization for psychologists in Washington State, the WSPA offers resources and networking opportunities tailored specifically to psychologists practicing in the region. Membership in the WSPA can provide access to local conferences, workshops, and continuing education courses.

National Register of Health Service Psychologists: This organization maintains a credential bank for psychologists and offers resources for education and training, as well as information on state licensure requirements and available scholarships.

Psi Chi, The International Honor Society in Psychology: Psi Chi offers membership to high-performing undergraduate and graduate students in psychology. The society provides resources for research, networking, and career development, as well as opportunities for scholarships and grants.

Psychology Today: As a popular magazine and online resource, Psychology Today offers articles and blog posts on various topics related to psychology, mental health, and professional practice. This resource can help you stay informed about the latest research and trends in the field.

LinkedIn and other professional networking sites: By creating a professional profile on LinkedIn and joining psychology-related groups, you can connect with other professionals, learn about job opportunities, and participate in discussions on relevant topics.

Utilizing these resources can help you stay informed, connected, and prepared as you navigate the path to becoming a licensed psychologist. By engaging with these resources and actively participating in the professional community, you can successfully advance your career in psychology and contribute to the growth and development of the profession.

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