Can I Establish my own Practice with Only a Master’s in Psychology?

Patient TherapistNearly every student studying psychology thinks about one day opening their own practice, but you might find that whether you can practice with a master’s in psychology depends on the credentials and certification that you have. Many jobs available in the private practice field require a doctoral degree, which involves more research and clinical work. If you meet the requirements to obtain a certificate or license in your state, you may have the chance to open and run your own practice.

What are the Types of Master’s Program Available?

All psychology programs are not the same. You won’t find many general graduate psychology programs, but you will find programs that let you focus on a specific area of psychology. Forensic psychology programs look at criminal activity and the causes of that activity, while social psychology focuses more on the motivations behind why certain groups of people behave in various ways. You’ll also find graduate programs in organizational, industrial, experimental and other forms of psychology. Think about your end goals and career goals before enrolling in any program.

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Residency and Clinical Work

Undergraduates spend much of their time working in the classroom and reading from textbooks, but the work at the graduate level is much more involved. Most programs today feature some form of clinical work. A social psychologist might work at a community health center with individuals diagnosed with mental diseases, while a forensic psychologist might complete clinical work at a local prison. Some programs also have a residency or internship requirement that you must meet during your third year. Students spend this year working in the field and recording their experiences rather than taking traditional courses in a classroom.

Can You Open a Practice?

Many students want to know if they can practice with a master’s in psychology. The truth is that it really depends on where you live and the experience that you have. Many states let psychotherapists work with just a graduate degree and some clinical experience. If you want to work with patients in a private setting and suggest treatment methods for your patients, you generally need a license or certificate.

Certification for Psychologists

The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) is the major organization responsible for granting certificates and credentials to psychologists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those interested in psychoanalysis and other specialized forms of psychology can apply for a certificate and open a practice. The ABPP evaluates the level of experience and the type of degree that an applicant has. The BLS also found that most states won’t let those with only a graduate degree work in the fields of counseling or clinical psychology. Before you open a practice in one of those fields, you need to finish your doctoral degree and go through an internship or residency at the graduate level.

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As much as you might want to open your own practice after graduating with your advanced degree, you generally need a doctoral degree to work in the counseling or clinical fields. Those who want to practice with a master’s in psychology will find that they may be areas of the private sector where they can practice, as long as they have a license or a certificate.