How to Become a Psychologist in Rhode Island

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What is Psychology?


Are you considering enrollment in a psychology degree program in Rhode Island? Many college students choose to pursue this major, but it is most appropriate for those who plan to seek employment related to community and social service or mental health. Curriculums vary from institution to institution, but most programs of this type explore the various aspects of human behavior, with students studying cognitive, emotional, and social processes. It’s also likely for a strong focus to be placed on developing the skills needed to accurately observe, interpret, and record the ways people relate to one another and their environments. Additionally, graduates are often proficient with various research methods.

There are three types of psychologist professions: applied psychologists, research psychologists, and mental health psychologists. While similar in theory, these careers are distinct and practitioners of each typically require different skills in order to be successful. Mental health psychologists work with people experiencing mental disorders or psychological distress, while research psychologists conduct studies and experiments using humans and/or animals to advance knowledge in the field. Applied psychologists fall somewhere between the first two, utilizing psychological principles and research to solve real-world problems.

Daily responsibilities will depend on the selected profession, but many professionals in this field take on a wide variety of tasks. Examples include establishing possible treatment plans and studying behavior and brain function. Some other common activities may be observing individuals during surveys, identifying emotional patterns in patients, writing articles and research papers, and sharing important findings with other experts in the field. Many experienced professionals also dedicate time supervising and mentoring interns, clinicians, and other counseling specialists.

Some psychologists work with patients, but this profession does tend to be more research intensive. Those seeking opportunities to help others live healthier and happier lives may be better suited to careers in and related to counseling. Other professions of potential interest include social worker, human resource specialist, and therapist. All of these professionals strive to assist people with a variety of social, emotional, and mental health problems. Their specific responsibilities will vary based on facility specifications and patient demographics.


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Online Psychology Education in Rhode Island


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for psychologists is expected to increase by 8% nationwide from 2020 to 2030, accounting for approximately 13,400 job openings each year. While this is about as fast as the average for all occupations, other community and social service occupations are projected to make better gains. Employment for these professions is expected to increase by 12% within the same time period. Notably, some career fields are likely to fair better than others. Those interested in becoming substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, for example, can expect to see a significant rise, with an employment increase of 23% by 2030. This will account for roughly 41,000 job openings each year.

There are several reasons for this positive growth outlook. A significant factor is that the demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social service agencies is continually increasing throughout the nation. Additionally, there is a strong need for qualified professionals who can work with and care for aging populations. Older generations often benefit from meeting with experts in this field as they deal with many mental and physical changes associated with aging.

Educational services, healthcare, and social assistance is the second largest industry in Rhode Island, accounting for $8 billion in revenue each year. As of May 2021, there were 410 clinical and counseling psychologists and 170 school psychologists employed in the state. These professionals made annual mean wages between $84,230 and $107,060, which is well above the state’s annual mean wage of $62,120. Additionally, there were 9,410 community and social service professionals working in Rhode Island with an annual mean wage of $56,650.

While Rhode Island is the smallest state in the nation, it’s still home to several colleges and universities that offer degrees in psychology and other related subjects. Some prospective students may be tempted to enroll in online programs available in other states, but those planning to pursue employment in Rhode Island should think twice. Distance learning allows for more flexible scheduling, but academic institutions within the state provide the most geographically relevant education. These schools understand the region’s employment landscape, often tailoring instruction to ensure students gain the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the area. In the case of those who wish to work in counseling, that means that the schools in Rhode Island know what is needed for you to gain full licensure in the state. It’s also common for colleges and universities to establish mutually beneficial relationships with nearby companies and organizations. This can make it easier for current students to secure internships, as well as can help alumni secure professional employment after graduation.

Earning a degree in psychology can lead to a wide variety of engaging careers in Rhode Island. While many graduates pursue employment as psychologists, others seek jobs in related fields, such as counseling. Both fields require professionals to use their knowledge to identify and address problems. Depending on the position obtained, this may mean treating mental illnesses and/or conducting psychological studies. A significant number of psychologists also conduct research, which can be used to impact mental healthcare best practices and policies.

Prospective students in Rhode Island have top online colleges and universities to choose from. As psychology is a fairly popular major, most of the state’s academic institutions offer it or related topics as possible degree options. Those interested in the field can study at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Some schools may also have undergraduate and graduate professional certificates available.

It's important for students to consider their ultimate career goals when selecting the type of psychology degree to pursue. While social work professions may only require associate degrees, those interested in becoming psychologists will likely need doctorates.

Online Associate Degree in Psychology (AS or AA)

Associate degrees in psychology generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that can be completed by full-time students in approximately two years. Requirements vary, but most programs are comprised of both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Students should expect instruction that is relatively broad, providing a basic introduction to the field. Common course options often include child psychology, social psychology, abnormal psychology, and psychology of aging. Some institutions may also cover topics in counseling.

Graduates must realize that this type of degree is not sufficient to become licensed psychologists in Rhode Island. In most cases, those with associate degrees in psychology may be qualified for entry-level jobs as psychiatric technicians and aids or social and human services assistants.

Alternatively, graduates can pursue further education. Associate degrees in psychology generally serve as good foundations for future learning. This is often a great option, as the credits earned at this level are often transferrable towards bachelor’s degrees. Most colleges and universities accept up to 60 or 90 transfer credit hours from accredited institutions, making it possible for incoming students with associate degrees to be admitted as juniors instead of freshmen. Ideally, they will then need only two additional years of education to earn bachelor’s degrees.

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Online Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (BS or BA)

Bachelor’s degrees in psychology typically consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. Similar to associate programs, these require both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Curriculums vary, but students can expect to take social psychology, biological psychology, sensation and perception, criminal psychology and behavior, and instruction to addiction theories. In additional to basic instruction and coursework, those enrolled will also participate in labs. Many colleges and universities also offer opportunities to select concentrations in related sub-fields.

Some of the most common specialties are:

  • Addiction Counseling
  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive and Perceptual Psychology
  • Counseling Psychology
  • Engineering Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Research/Experimental Psychology

This type of degree often prepares students for successful careers in social service or graduates could find employment in business and management. A bachelor’s in psychology is not, however, sufficient to attain licensure as a psychologist in Rhode Island. Those interested in this profession and other top jobs in the field will need to continue their educations further.

Those with bachelor’s degrees in psychology can apply for admittance into master’s degree programs. Prospective graduate students should be prepared to meet minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test score expectations.

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

Online master’s degrees in psychology generally consist of between 30 and 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. Program specifics vary, but students are no longer required to take general liberal arts education classes. Instead, those enrolled will focus solely on their subject area, often receiving instruction in the most important topics in psychology. Common courses include social psychology, development psychology, evolutionary psychology, research methods, the cognitive process, and personality theory. Students can expect to participate in a combination of traditional classroom learning, research studies, and practicums. Notably, some programs delve deeper into research, theory, or clinical work than others.

Additionally, many colleges and universities offer psychology students opportunities to specialize in relevant sub-fields.

Some of the most common concentrations at this level include:

  • Educational Psychology
  • Research
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychology
  • School Psychology

Graduates can pursue a wide variety of employment opportunities in both psychology and counseling. Notably, however, a master’s in psychology is still not sufficient to obtain licensure as a psychologist in Rhode Island. This career choice will require further education.

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Online PhD Degree in Psychology (PhD)

Online doctoral degrees in psychology generally consist of between 60 to 90 credit hours that take full-time students five to seven years to complete. There are two common doctoral degrees available: doctor of psychology (PsyD) and the doctor of philosophy in psychology (PhD). The doctorate in psychology is the most optimal option for those interested in clinical work, while the doctorate in philosophy is more appropriate for professionals interested in research.

In both cases, those enrolled in doctoral programs generally spend the first few years taking relevant classes in behavioral assessments, professional ethics, research methods, cognitive development, and neuroscience. Once the majority of instructional requirements are met, students are given time to conduct independent study and research. They must then write relevant dissertations to defend before a board prior to graduation.

Those who earn an online doctoral degree from colleges and universities accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or equivalent will qualify to apply for licensure through the Rhode Island Board of Psychology. In addition to becoming licensed psychologists, graduates can often pursue employment in research and higher education.

Become a Psychologist in Rhode Island


The first step to becoming a psychology professional in Rhode Island is identifying your ultimate career goals. As previously mentioned, there are employment opportunities available for graduates at every level. Some jobs have greater requirements than others, however, making it essential to know your preferred profession as early as possible. This will help ensure you obtain the education, training, and work experience necessary to qualify.

The licensure process for psychologists is overseen by the Rhode Island Board of Psychology and the State of Rhode Island Department of Health. Those seeking to become licensed must have received a doctorate degree in psychology or a related field from a regionally accredited academic institution or program of study accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Applicants must also complete at least two years of supervised experience, which must be confirmed. Additionally, candidates are required to pass the Examination of Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) examination administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB).

Once licensed, every psychologist in the state is responsible for renewing their credentials bi-yearly. The application for license renewal must include a signed statement attesting to the completion of at least 24 credits of continuing education relevant to psychology and approved by the board.

Careers for Psychology Graduates


Earning a degree in psychology opens many doors. Graduates at every level will qualify for a wide variety of related careers in Rhode Island. While responsibilities and salaries will vary, some of the most common professions available in the state include the following.

  • Clinical Social Worker
    Clinical social workers are responsible for offering therapy-based services to those in need of mental and/or emotional support. These professionals often work in hospitals, mental health clinics, residential nursing facilities, home healthcare companies, or substance abuse treatment centers. They often conduct psychosocial evaluations before coordinating specific care interactions. Depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary to negotiate with third party groups in order to secure the assistance required. According to PayScale, clinical social workers make an average base salary of $57,600 per year.
  • Grief Counselor
    Grief counselors are responsible for helping people work through emotions that are common after losing loved ones. They provide support and encouragement while utilizing various techniques and strategies to guide patients through the various stages of grief. These professionals often focus on ensuring those in their care develop healthy coping mechanisms. According to PayScale, grief counselors make an average base salary of $46,850 per year.
  • Mental Health Counselor
    Mental health counselors are responsible for diagnosing and treating people who suffer from mental health problems and illnesses. They help their patients work through and/or resolve these conditions, often with the use of both one-on-one and group counseling. It’s fairly common for these professionals to specialize in a particular area of care, such as eating disorders, addiction, and young adult development. According to PayScale, mental health counselors make an average base salary of $44,250 per year.
  • Psychiatrist
    Psychiatrists are responsible for determining whether or not people have mental disorders, often by evaluating their symptoms, behaviors, and past medical histories. These professionals then use various techniques and/or medications to treat their patients. It’s also common for psychiatrists to perform consultations for other health care professionals before providing relevant insight. According to PayScale, psychiatrists make an average base salary of $215,600 per year.
  • Residential Counselor
    Residential counselors are responsible for providing counseling services for live-in patient facilities. They often meet with residents, create treatment plans, and work to resolve conflicts among patients. These professionals often specialize in treating people from specific demographics, such as those disabilities or addictions, as well as troubled youth and the elderly. According to PayScale, residential counselors make an average base hourly rate of $14.46, or approximately $39,700 per year.
  • School / Guidance Counselor
    School and guidance counselors are responsible for providing high school students with the information and support they need to achieve personal, academic, social, and development goals. They are often available to offer assistance, but may be called on for conflict resolution. These professionals also commonly conduct parent consultations, interventions, and service referrals, as well as help students prepare for college. According to PayScale, school counselors make an average base salary of $51,350 per year.
  • Organizational Psychologist:
    Substance abuse and addiction counselors are responsible for providing counseling and support to people diagnosed with alcohol and/or drug addictions. They meet with patients to create treatment plans before implementing various therapeutic treatments during group and one-on-one counseling sessions. These professionals must also evaluate patient progress and maintain accurate documentation of care. According to PayScale, substance abuse and addiction counselors make an average base salary of $39,950 per year.
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