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What are Psychology Certifications?

Psychology certifications demonstrate to patients, colleagues, and employers that you have successfully completed in-depth schooling, training, and hands-on experience necessary in your chosen specialty. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) certification process includes a detailed exam that thoroughly assesses your competency and service quality within the field.

In a psychology certification program, you could learn about various types of analysis, therapies, conflict resolution, different metrics and systems, disorders and diseases, management, social work, public health, and more. Some course examples are Research Methods, Ethics in Psychology, and Human Development. These programs will also teach you vital skills you will need like problem-solving, research, communication, and patience.

It's common for people to get confused regarding certification and licensure. One deals with the authorization to practice, while the other speaks to your skill level and abilities. Licensure is granted to you by the state and shows that you are legally allowed to practice psychology. Becoming a board-certified psychologist means you have attained additional credentials in your chosen specialty. Having a certification demonstrates your elevation to a higher level of care and competency in your specialized field. It can also earn you a higher salary.

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Who Needs Psychology Certifications?

Anyone wanting to specialize in a specific field should get a certification. This can be crucial to proving that you are qualified to provide the right kind and level of care required in your specialty. Attaining a certification validates your credentials and knowledge in that branch of psychology.

Here are some examples of roles that would necessitate a certification in the respective field:

  • Behavioral and Cognitive Psychologist

    In this field, you would measure cognition and behavior. Your potential employers are research centers (both public and private), hospitals, treatment facilities, higher education schools, mental health clinics, and corporations. They create treatments for patients based on what they learn about their condition, but they could also be an expert witness in court.

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  • Clinical Psychologist

    As a clinical psychologist, you would offer counseling or clinical services to patients experiencing behavioral, emotional, or mental health concerns. The goal is to treat complex problems and encourage resilience and the ability to change. Employment environments include private practice, prisons, hospitals, schools, and clinics.

  • Forensic Psychology

    This is a newer field of psychology that has garnered a lot of attention after the debut of shows like “Criminal Minds”, though these shows are not always indicative of how you will actually act if you enter this career. This psychology field focuses on human behavior and the legal system. As a forensic psychologist, you could work in law enforcement, universities, the medical examiners' office, laboratories, or as a consultant.

  • Geropsychology

    A geropsychologist works with senior citizens and their families to overcome adversities, improve well-being, and reach their fullest potential in later in life. You will often find this specialty in hospitals, nursing or retirement homes, clinics, and even the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs facilities.

Where to Find Psychology Certifications

Psychology certification programs are available online, in-person, and sometimes in a combination of the two options. Depending on your circumstances, you can find schools offering the program you desire through your current school counseling office or by conducting an online search for psychology certification programs. Below are some examples of the schools and programs available.

  • Columbia School of Professional Studies
    Columbia School of Professional Studies (SPS) offers a Psychology Certificate Program with online and in-person courses. Some examples of the classes you can expect to take are Psychobiology and Neuroscience, Perception and Cognition, Statistics for Behavioral Scientists, and Statistical Reasoning.
  • Avila University
    Avila University carries two graduate certificate programs in psychology. In the Child and Adolescent Psychology program, your schedule will include courses like Family Systems: Theory and Treatment, Abnormal Child & Adolescent Psychology, and Advanced Developmental Psychology. The general psychology program offers courses like Psychology of Personality, Biological Bases of Behavior, and Advanced Cognitive Processes.
  • University of Kansas
    If you seek a certificate in Health Psychology, the University of Kansas has the program for you. The courses provided cover topics related to research, health psychology theory, and clinical applications. The career opportunities for this specialty are vast. Some job options are in hospitals, corporations, private practice, primary care clinics, schools, government agencies, and specialty clinics like pain centers, oncology clinics, and rehab centers.

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What are the Specialty Boards & Places Where You Can Work

There are fifteen specialty boards within the American Board of Professional Psychology. They are as follows:

  • Behavioral and Cognitive
  • Clinical Child and Adolescent
  • Clinical Health
  • Clinical
  • Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Counseling
  • Couple and Family
  • Forensic
  • Geropsychology
  • Group
  • Organizational and Business
  • Police and Public Safety
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Rehabilitation
  • School

Each specialty board ensures those who receive certification have met all the criteria to become an expert in their field. With such training and education, your choice of career paths is broad. Below are some of the many places or industries you could work with a psychology certification.

  • Private Practice
  • Hospital
  • Clinic
  • Doctor’s Office
  • School
  • Private or Non-Profit Corporation
  • Pain Management Center
  • Smoking Cessation Center
  • Mental Health Treatment Facility
  • Court System
  • Pharmaceutical Company
  • Research Facility
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Center
  • Forensic Laboratory
  • Outpatient and Long-Term Care Facility
  • Veteran’s Hospital
  • Recovery Center
  • Geriatric Facility
  • Federal or State Agency
  • Law Enforcement Agency
  • Public Safety Agency
  • Acute Care Facility
  • Inpatient and Outpatient Physical Rehabilitation Center
  • Assisted Living Facility

Top Psychology Certifications

Psychology certifications get divided into areas of specialty. Some of the most helpful certifications with the ABPP approval are Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CCBT), Clinical Psychologist, Couple and Family Psychologist (or Marriage and Family Therapy - MFT), Counseling Psychologist, Forensic Psychologist, Geropsychology, Rehabilitation Psychology, School Psychology, Child Clinical, and Adolescent Psychology, and Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology.

Attaining such a certification showcases your expertise, rigorous training, and extensive education in your field of specialty. It elevates you above your peers who hold only licensure and sets you apart as the more skilled and competent industry professional. Obtaining a certification also helps advance your career and command a higher salary.

  • Certified in Hospital Psychology (CHP)

    A Certified Clinical Psychologist has thorough knowledge in a broad spectrum of areas extending beyond psychology. They are trained to work with all ages, races, and extreme conditions in mental health. They specialize in mental and behavioral health in a clinical setting.

    To qualify for this certification program, you must meet the following prerequisites:

    • Be a licensed psychologist
    • Have a doctorate degree
    • Submit proper documentation
    • Complete an online and oral exam
  • Board Certified Specialist in School Psychology

    The CPD is a high-level certification designed for senior and experienced project managers. The certification helps experienced project managers demonstrate their ability to work on complex projects and multiple projects at the same time. The certification training coursework equips graduates to manage complex projects or programs and students focus on advanced topics like risk management, quality management, and budgeting.

    The CPD requires a training course and passing the CPD exam. The educational prerequisites are a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or higher. You’ll also need to pass a Professional in Project Management certification or equivalent exam (the PMP, PRINCE2Practitioner, or CPM).

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  • Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP)

    As a Board-Certified Specialist in School Psychology, you would partner with parents, educators, and others to promote healthy and safe environments that support learning and solidify the bonds between school, community, and family for every student.

    Prerequisites for this certification program are:

    • Completion of an APA accredited program in the field of school psychology
    • Foundational courses in psychological science and research
    • Professional competencies in the designated field such as intervention, supervision, consultation, ethical practice, and assessment
    • At 1500 hours of doctoral internship in school psychology to include one-hour weekly face-to-face visits with a supervisory doctoral-level psychologist
    • Minimum of two years of postdoctoral experience with supervision
    • An active professional identification in school psychology that is in good standing
  • Nationally Certified School Psychologist

    Nationally Certified School Psychologist, or NCSP, is a credential recognizing school psychologists who have satisfied the rigorous national standard of ongoing professional development and graduate prep.

    To become nationally certified, you must be an existing school psychologist who meets the National Association of School Psychologists credentialing standards as follows:

    • Digital transcript confirmation of required coursework is School Psychology
    • Complete practica in field-based or lab setting
    • 1200 hours internship in the field of school psychology with half of the hours in a school setting
    • Pass the Praxis School Psychologist Exam #5402 with a score of 147 or higher
  • Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)

    Board-Certified Behavior Analysts frequently work with adults and children who have brain injuries, developmental disabilities, or issues with emotions, behavior, or social circumstances. A BCBA is a healthcare professional who studies the behavior of individuals to formulate a plan that will correct or alter negative behaviors.

    As this is a graduate-level certification, you need to meet the following prerequisites to qualify:

    • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in a related field
    • Complete the behavior-analytic coursework required
    • Complete the required supervised fieldwork
    • Successfully pass the four-hour, 160 question BCBA examination
  • Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist

    Hypnotherapy is a specialized field of psychology. Hypnosis causes unconscious changes in a patient and can be used to diagnose, treat, and cure specific ailments. The Clinical Hypnotherapist Certification was created to utilize hypnotherapy as an additional path to healing for patients when administered by a healthcare professional. It is an alternative to medications and is non-invasive, which appeals to many clients.

    You must meet at least one of the following criteria to apply for certification:

    • An RN currently licensed to practice
    • A licensed social worker
    • A licensed healthcare professional
    • A healthcare provider with a minimum of a bachelor's degree
    • A licensed counselor or psychologist
    • A bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field and working in healthcare
    • Crisis counselor
    • Pastoral counselor
    • Licensed minister or any legal clerical representative
  • Board Certified Specialist in Clinical Health Psychology

    This is a certification for existing psychologists that focuses on the scientific perspective of emotions, behaviors, cognitive, social, and biological interrelationships and their effect on health. A Board-Certified Specialist in Clinical Health Psychology (BCSCHP) uses that information to formulate treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation. They also find ways to improve existing healthcare practices.

    To become a BCSCHP, you must meet the educational standards, training, practicum, and licensing before passing an oral examination.

  • Graduate Certificate in Autism and Behavioral Science

    Skilled professionals with a Certificate in Autism and Behavioral Science are in high demand. Such individuals can collaboratively support patients with pervasive developmental disorders, their families, and care providers with their expertise. A certified psychologist in this field can implement and evaluate behavioral intervention plans that will effectively improve life for the individuals they treat.

    A bachelor’s degree in a related field is necessary for admission into these certificate programs.

  • Certification in Couple and Family Psychology

    A Certification in Couple and Family Psychology assists professionals in counseling and mental health with a broader understanding of research, theories, and practices relating to couple and family counseling. It also provides an understanding of assessing and treating pathology and psychological health issues in individuals, couples, and families.

    The prerequisites for this specialty certification are:

    • A doctorate degree in a related field
    • Completion of a qualifying internship
    • Completion of specific education and training
  • Certification in Forensic Psychology

    With a Certification in Forensic Psychology, you can assist in criminal cases by using evidence and behavior to find the motive. Testifying in court is likely in this specialty, particularly when a suspect pleads insanity as their defense. In this psychology specialty, you will participate in research, investigations, consultations, assessments, and occasionally the implementation of treatment programs.

    The requirements for this program are:

    • A doctorate in psychology that includes an internship
    • Completion of supervised postdoctoral practice in the specialty
  • Certification in Geropsychology

    A Certification in Geropsychology focuses on the senior citizens in our communities. As we go through our lives, changes occur behaviorally, cognitively, and developmentally. The older you get, the more unique the challenges become. A Certified Geropsychologist helps older adults navigate past these difficulties to provide the patient with their maximum potential in life.

    Certification prerequisites in this rewarding field are:

    • Completion of required education
    • Completion of a one-year full-time supervised internship or equivalent
    • Two years minimum working as a licensed Geropsychologist
  • Certification in Organizational Psychology

    A Certified Organizational Psychologist studies human behavior in business settings to determine solutions for issues that hurt company finances or are undesirably impacting the employees. A certification in this field will enable you to solve problems for businesses and their employees, leading to better business outcomes and happier employees.

    Prerequisites for the Certification in Organizational Psychology are:

    • Completion of an internship or supervised work in the specialty
    • Completion of doctorate degree
    • A minimum of 2 years of postdoctoral licensed experience working in the specialty

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between psychology certifications and counseling certifications?

Counselors and psychologists are excellent at listening, communicating, and employing strong interpersonal skills when working with individuals or groups. But there is a big difference between a psychology and a counseling certification.

With a certification in counseling, you will require various types of licensure, depending on where you live and your specialty. Most complete a master’s degree and supervised experience in the field to meet certification requirements.

Having a certification in psychology shows you have achieved the highest levels of education and shows that you’ve focused on a specific field.

What certification will help me earn the most with a psychology degree?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a Certified Industrial-Organizational Psychologist working with scientific research and development has an average annual salary of $149,780. I/O Psychologists working in other fields earned an average of $102,530 per year.

This specialty focuses on workplace problems and attempts to improve employee satisfaction and productivity while improving the company’s finances. Selecting the right candidate for a job and conducting market research studies are some of the duties you may perform.

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