Frequently Asked Questions About Psychology in the US for Those from Abroad

How can I learn more about graduate programs in psychology in the US?

APA publishes a book titled Graduate Study in Psychology, which can usually be found in university libraries and ordered from APA. Graduate programs are listed by states and include detailed descriptions about programs including application information, financial aid, tuition, and housing. The APA Education Directorate and APAGS -- the American Psychological Association Graduate also provide information for students. You can also visit Psychology Information Online for information on graduate psychology programs.

I have heard that attending an accredited program is important for professional activities in psychology. What does this mean?

What is an accredited school or institution?

In the United States, there are regional associations that accredit universities – universities become accredited by meeting a standard of quality defined by a set of specific criteria. It is typically easier to obtain a license to practice psychology in the US if your doctoral program is from a regionally accredited school.

What is an accredited program in psychology? Does APA accredit any programs outside of the United States and Canada?

APA accredits doctoral programs in professional psychology (clinical psychology, counseling psychology, school psychology) requiring licensure for independent practice in the United States and Canada. Accreditation is overseen by the APA Committee on Accreditation (CoA) (see below). Predoctoral internship, postdoctoral internship (residency), and specialty postdoctoral internship programs in professional psychology also may be accredited. APA does not accredit programs outside the US and Canada. APA does not accredit undergraduate programs.

What is the APA Committee on Accreditation?

The Committee on Accreditation (COA) of the APA is what is referred to as a program accreditor. Rather than review the credentials of an individual, the Committee reviews the education and training provided by programs. This review includes the qualifications of the faculty and other resources, the appropriateness of the curriculum, and the level of competencies achieved by program graduates as a group. The list of currently accredited programs can be found on the APA website. The CoA accredits programs in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

Who reviews an individual's credentials for practice?

The review of an individual's competence in terms of the practice of psychology is provided by the various state licensing boards. The National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology has information about the credential review process. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards has information regarding licensure requirements in different states and Canadian provinces.

I have my training from outside the US. Will my degree be equivalent to one earned in the US?

There are many issues related to academic equivalency of different degree programs across nations, even English-speaking countries such as the US and UK. Although these issues are being addressed by educators, including psychologists, in a number of international forums, they remain unresolved. A university registrar may be able to offer you guidance on how equivalence of international academic credentials is verified.

Should you plan to pursue a career in psychology that includes practicing in the US, you must be aware that there are statutory and regulatory requirements for licensure in the different state and (Canadian) provincial jurisdictions, and you should try to determine in advance how your education and training outside the US will meet those requirements.

What are the qualifications to practice as a psychologist in the U.S.?

In the United States, regulations about the practice of psychology are determined by each state. There is no federal regulation. You must be licensed to practice psychology according to the laws and regulations in effect in each state where you provide services. These laws are regulated by state boards of psychology. Requirements for licensure are not standardized across states, but generally, candidates are assessed on their education, supervised training, and examination performance.

The doctoral degree is generally considered the entry-level degree for the independent, licensed practice of psychology as a profession in the United States. In addition to the doctoral degree, licensure for professional practice usually requires two years of supervised training: one year during the doctoral program (an internship in most cases) and an additional year after receipt of the doctoral degree (post-doctoral residency).

You can find out information about US state and Canadian province requirements by contacting the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

Can I practice psychology in the US if I earned my degree or professional credential in another country?

In the United States, the legal basis for licensure lies in the right of the state, province, or territory to enact legislation to protect its citizens — in other words, to identify qualified practitioners. The education and training of psychologists around the world varies greatly both in terms of the nomenclature of the university qualification (e.g. Diploma, License, Masters, Candidate, and so on), and also in terms of length and content of university curricula contributing to professional qualification. At present, there is no international recognition of equivalence of degrees or in professional psychology qualifications.

It is important to research and contact the board of psychology in the state you are interested in practicing for information on education, supervised experience, and examinations. In some states, attendance at an APA-accredited program is required. Most states in the U.S. have a section of the law that applies to individuals who receive their education and training outside the U.S. State boards can also provide advice on transcript and credential evaluation.

How can I contact a state Board of Psychology?

The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), is an alliance of state, provincial, and territorial agencies responsible for licensure and certification of psychologists in the United States and Canada. Their website includes contact information for state boards, information for students and licensure candidates, and a Handbook on Licensing and Credentialing. The ASPPB works actively to facilitate professional mobility for psychologists in the United States and abroad.

I disagree with the state psychology board’s assessment of my qualifications. Can APA help?

Unfortunately, no. APA had no mechanisms for intervening in decisions made by licensing boards.

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