Are there any National Certifications for Psychologists?

Working as a psychologist is a rewarding career for many, but before working with clients you need to know more about state and national certifications for psychologists. At the state level, certification shows that you have a license and the skills needed to work with your clients; many psychologists also seek certification at the national level. The American Board of Professional Psychology is the organization responsible for offering national certification. Before applying for your certification, you need to make sure that you meet the minimum requirements.


There are three educational levels for psychology students: the bachelor level, master level and doctoral level. While some programs qualify you for certain positions with only a bachelor’s or master’s degrees, careers in clinical settings often require a doctoral degree. As part of a doctoral program, you will spend at least one year working on an internship at the clinical level. A clinical internship provides thousands of hours working with clients allowing you to evaluate which specialty area is a good fit for you. A licensed psychologist will oversee your progress and help you with any challenges you face during your internship.

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State Licensure

State licensure differs greatly from national certification. Every state uses a different system to provide licenses and certificates to psychology professionals. Many states offer a licensing examination that includes questions on the ethics of working with patients and clients, the laws of working as a psychologist and basic psychological methods and concepts. Most state certification also requires a background check. A background check requires that you provide the police department your fingerprints that prove your identity, after which they will compile any criminal records for the state to review. This helps to prove your character to the certification board.

Specialty Certification

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American Board of Professional Psychology offers national certifications for psychologists. Though the ABPP does not offer general psychology certificates, it does offer certification in one of 13 fields. Those fields include family and marriage counseling, clinical psychology and rehabilitation psychology. When you apply for certification, you fill out an application and send it to the ABPP. This application must include proof that you attended college and that you completed an internship in your chosen field. You may need to submit paperwork signed by your supervisor or a copy of your transcripts. The ABPP will then let you take the certification test and mail you a certificate when you pass.

Why Opt for Certification?

A state-issued license is mandatory for practicing in certain psychology fields, but most states do not require that you have a certificate. Obtaining your certificate shows that you have a higher level of experience than other professionals in your field. Certification through ABPP also provides benefits through exclusive events and networking opportunities sponsored by the ABPP locally and nationally. You may also find that positions in medical clinics and facilities require certification first.

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Clinical psychologists work with patients and clients on issues ranging from family relationships to mental illness and rehabilitation. They typically need a state license or certification in order to practice in a state.  However, there are also national certifications for psychologists that let you show your expertise in one of 13 subject areas.