How to Become a Psychologist in California

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What is Psychology?


Future students who plan to earn a psychology degree in California should have no trouble finding the degree program they want. One of the best ways to go about this is to consider different universities and colleges based on what they offer. By doing so, they can find the program that matches their career plans. However, just as important, is making sure that you understand the education and experience required for whatever career you are hoping to enter so that you can ensure that you will be employable in the field.

California has the largest economy of any U.S. state; it is also the fifth largest worldwide. While the psychology and mental health field in general are not the largest industries in the state, students, professionals, and people who may seek mental health services will certainly be interested in finding the therapist, counselor, or psychologist they need in a state so large and with such variable demographics.

Educational services, healthcare, and social assistance rank fifth in California’s top ten industries. Annually, they contribute $218.3 billion to the state’s coffers. If students were to look at a map that shows them which states rank the highest in employment opportunities for a psychologist, California would be #1. The average annual salary for psychologists in the state is $97,000.

Some of the statistics show that the state has 660 total jobs for psychologists, which isn’t a particularly high number considering the number of people in the state overall. However, students can also find positions as crisis intervention counselors, addiction counselors, psychology aides, social workers, youth counselors, education or guidance counselors, family and child therapists, and much more.

Not only is California the state with the highest number of psychologists, it is #1 in granting psychology degrees, with options available from some of the best psychology colleges in California. The state holds more than 450 colleges and universities, which offer a plethora of opportunities for future psychologists looking for an excellent education.

Students seeking the right college or university for their career goals may find schools in the major metropolitan areas. These areas are San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.


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Psychology Education in California


A psychology professional may not work directly with clients, offering clinical services. Instead, while they may have an academic background in psychology, they may choose to work in other fields. After all, there are many students who earn a bachelor’s in psychology but do not move on to a master’s degree, which is required for those who wish to act as counselors.

Those who find themselves in this situation, with a bachelor’s in psychology, may end up working as research assistants, case managers, residential counselors, behavior interventionists, or group car workers.

For psychology students, their degree, experience, and licensure is much more likely to allow them to find a position working as a psychologist and offering counseling services to clients. These professionals will use varied methods to help alleviate their clients stress, behavioral issues, or negative feelings. They may meet with clients one-on-one or build groups of patients that offer support to one another. The responsibilities of the counseling professional all depend on how they choose to apply their education to their practice.

Online Associate Degree in Psychology (AS)

Students earning their Associate of Science (AS) learn how values, needs, and beliefs influence human behavior. They learn about human development ranging from the prenatal period through late adulthood.

Graduates of an associate degree in psychology will be ready to work in an entry-level position but will find it difficult to enter many higher-level psychology-focused professions. They may work as a counselor’s aide, family support aide, mental health caseworker, with people with developmental disabilities, or with the elderly. As they gain professional experience, their career will likely depend on them earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

While those with an associate degree won’t yet be able to work directly with clients, offering mental health counseling, they earn a foundation that allows them to continue their education.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (BS)

Undergraduate students study human behavior and the human mind, using an interdisciplinary approach. By approaching the material this way, students should begin to understand how the biological affects the mind. They also learn about the mental processes via the developmental changes that take place throughout the span of a person’s life. This includes developmental psychology and cognitive development. Students will also find out about how people learn, cognition, and sociocultural influences. A school counselor may hold a bachelor’s degree.

In their psychology courses, students prepare themselves for careers across the spectrum. Whatever their career aspirations are, they will be ready to work in business and marketing, personnel management, counseling (though they still cannot offer counseling in a private practice with this degree), and healthcare. They also prepare themselves to proceed to a graduate degree program in psychology if this is their plan.

Online Master's Degree in Psychology (MS or MC)

Graduate students who earn their degrees in psychology widely expand their career opportunities. Once they receive their psychology degrees and earn the appropriate licensing, they may decide to work in either the public or private sector.

Their career choices may include social services or behavioral health services, public relations, employee training, behavioral health, education, rehabilitation services, and much more. Those who have a master’s will also finally be ready to gain experience, gain licensure, and start their own private practice, offering counseling to whomever they choose.

This kind of degree may be approached as a dual degree, such as a Master of Science in Organizational Psychology and an MBA. Graduates from these types of programs possess more business knowledge along with a deeper knowledge of people who work in organizations.

PhD Degree in Psychology (PhD)

Students who plan to earn either their PhD in Psychology or the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) should know the ultimate outcomes of each degree.

A PhD in Psychology is much more research-intensive than a bachelor’s or a master’s degree, which is good for those who want to work in academia or private practice. Only those with a PhD can be psychiatrists, who offer aid in the form of prescribing medication to overcome mental disorders that need more than therapy.

Career choices with this degree include forensic pathology, teaching, patient care, scientific research, and clinical practice.

The PsyD or Doctor of Psychology, is intended for students who are interested only in continuing to practice psychology in one of many clinical settings. The focus isn’t on research. The main career path continues to be clinical psychology, working with clients or patients.

Become a Psychologist in California


Shortly before students graduate with their master’s degree in psychology, they should go online to the California State Board of Behavioral Sciences, where they can begin the process of signing up for their exam and earn their licenses, which allow them to begin working with clients.

Depending on the area of psychology where they will be practicing, applicants should be able to find the requirements for their license, register for their licensure exam, find out when exams are given, then how to apply for their actual license.

Licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT), for instance, may be able to go through this process and, once they take and pass their exam, be able to obtain their license to practice. The process is similar for licensed professional clinical counselors, licensed educational psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers, all of whom must obtain licensure.

For each professional specialty, California requires them to renew their licenses periodically. This includes earning educational contact hours.

The Addiction Counselor Certification Board of California (ACCBC) accepts registrations for students, interns, and individuals who have not completed their Alcohol and Drug Studies/Addiction Studies education from an approved program. These groups are able to receive certification from the ACCBC via its Education Equivalency process. Prospective students should be sure to check with the schools they are considering before they attend to make sure that they can meet all requirements for licensure.

Graduate students who want to become a psychologist in California can choose from a wide variety of fields:

  • Clinical Psychology:
    This field of psychology involves itself in psychotherapy, the basis of behavior and the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Settings may include hospitals, private practices, government agencies or outpatient centers.
  • Forensic Psychology:
    In this field, the focus is the legal and criminal justice system. The professionals in this psychology field work with legal professionals to understand the psychology behind crimes.
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychology:
    This psychological field focuses on workplaces and employees. improving the efficiency and productivity of workplaces across the U.S.
  • School Psychology:
    This field focuses on assisting educators and other professionals who encourage the cognitive processes, the social, intellectual, and emotional development of children. The field also focuses on creating environments beneficial to learning and good mental health. Professionals in this field may work in hospitals, academic settings, federal or state government agencies, mental health clinics, child guidance centers, behavioral research laboratories or prisons.

Careers for Psychology Graduates


  • Psychiatric Technician:

    A psychiatric technician offers therapeutic care, monitoring the conditions of their clients. They may work in a psychiatric ward with people who have a developmental disability or who are mentally ill.

    This professional assists patients with their daily activities, as well. They may give prescribed medications and other treatments. They may also help with the admission and discharge of patients.

  • Social Work Assistant:
    A social work assistant should have either an associate or a bachelor’s degree in human services, social science, social work, or a related field. If a candidate has related work experience, they may be hired with only a high school diploma. They may recommend community services for patients, help them understand treatment plans, interview and assess clients, and reach out to those who do not show up for appointments.
  • Social Worker:
    A social worker works directly with clients looking for services, helping them to cope with the challenges that are affecting them in their daily lives. Some social workers who have earned advanced degrees may be referred to as clinical social workers. They have the skills to diagnose and treat individuals suffering from emotional, behavioral, or mental disorders.
  • Community Service Manager:
    While some positions may require community service managers to hold a bachelor’s degree in social work, public administration, business administration, public health or a related field, other positions require a master’s degree. Community service managers help to coordinate and oversee social service programs and community organizations. They supervise workers who provide social services to those who need them.
  • Administrative Service Manager:
    A professional in this position is responsible for the administrative services provided by an organization. They may supervise administrative staff and be responsible for coordinating the distribution of mail and record keeping. They may also oversee facilities, plan the departmental budget, and ensure the allocation of supplies.
  • Human Resources Specialist:

    These specialists help their employers find job candidates who are the most qualified for the needs of the organization. They may also help to recruit new applicants and review their resumes by performing background checks and conducting interviews.

    However, they often do more than recruitment and hiring. They may be responsible for helping to orient new employees as they explain company/organization policies and procedures and they may make plans to uphold a certain culture and maintain good morale throughout the company.

  • Guidance Counselor/Career Advisor:
    A school guidance counselor works with students to help them develop the social and academic skills they need to succeed, both personally and professionally. Counselors who work in elementary and secondary schools work with students to get over obstacles that may hold them back in their learning.
  • Victim Advocate:
    A victim advocate has been trained to give support to victims of crime. They give their clients victims’ rights information, offer them emotional support, help their clients to find resources they need, and help them to fill out forms related to crime. These professionals may also attend legal proceedings with victims and their families. They may also work with other organizations (social service agencies) to help their clients find information they need.

Some other careers that you can enter with a degree in psychology include:

  • Teacher
  • Child Counselor/Psychologist
  • School Education Psychologist - School Counselor - Guidance Counselor
  • Substance Abuse/Addictions Counselor
  • Family and Marriage Therapist
  • Psychology Researcher
  • Psychology Professor - Postsecondary
  • Career Counselor
  • Genetic Counselor
  • Counselor (Private Practice)
  • Community Health Worker
  • Residential Counselor
  • Clinical Therapist
  • College Counselor
  • Family Therapist
  • Group Counselor
  • Psychologist
  • Marriage and Family Counselor
  • Mental Health Counselor

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