Certificate in Psychology
According to estimates, between 1.2 million and 1.6 million undergraduates take introductory psychology classes each year. However, within those students there is a wide range in level and specificity of interest.
A certificate in psychology is a route that many students take in order to tailor their education in psychology. Read on to learn about the three types of certificates, why you would get one, and what you can do with them.
What Is a Certificate in Psychology?
A certificate in psychology is an academic credential that can be earned either in conjunction with or after completing a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree program. There are three types of certificates: undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral. Each has a different focus and purpose.
The following table presents a summary comparison of the three types of certificates.
|Description||Usually pursued alongside or after completing a bachelor’s degree; some pursue the degree as working professionals.||Usually pursued by students enrolled in master’s or doctorate programs.||Usually pursued by students who have completed a doctorate program.|
|Length of time to complete||1–2 years||1–3 years||1–4 years|
|Who it’s good for||Students interested in psychology but want to learn more before deciding how far to pursue the field
Students majoring in a different field but feel that knowledge of psychology will help them with their chosen career
Working professionals who want to enhance their career and marketability
|Students who want to expand their knowledge and/or focus on a particular specialty in psychology||Doctoral students who want to become licensed as clinical psychologists|
Undergraduate Certificate in Psychology
Undergraduate certificates in psychology programs give students the chance to learn about the field of psychology without having to major in it. Some programs also provide concentrations for those who want to learn more about a particular area of psychology.
How to Get an Undergraduate Certificate
If you are interested in getting your certificate alongside your bachelor’s degree, you will usually apply for the certificate program after you have completed the first or second year of your bachelor’s program. You will need to have maintained a specified grade point average and show that you can take on additional coursework.
Those who wish to get a certificate after obtaining a bachelor’s degree will need to provide transcripts and have graduated with a specified grade point average. They might also need to provide letters of recommendation or personal statements.
Undergrad certificate programs tend to focus on introductory courses in psychology. However, some schools do offer concentrations in areas such as child psychology or behavioral psychology.
Typical introductory courses might include:
- Abnormal psychology
- Experimental psychology
- Research methods
- Human development
- Personality types
What You Can Do With It
An undergraduate certificate in psychology does not specifically lead to a career. However, having the certificate has a number of career advantages.
There are numerous other fields that can benefit from knowledge in psychology. For example, an understanding of psychology can help teachers, business managers, those in marketing or advertising, and those who work with customers. In addition, candidates with a bachelor’s degree and a certificate in psychology are often more marketable in the work field.
Graduate Certificate in Psychology
Students currently enrolled in a master’s or doctorate program may wish to expand their knowledge about a particular area of psychology. Or, they might want to change specializations but don’t want to have to start over again. A graduate certificate in psychology is ideal for these students.
How to Get a Graduate Certificate
You can apply for a graduate certificate program during a master’s or doctorate program or after you obtain your master’s degree. You will need to show official transcripts (bachelor’s degree or master’s degree) with a specified GPA, letters of recommendation, and possibly a personal statement.
Typically a student will choose one specialty area for their certificate program. Examples of specialty areas offered include:
- Cognitive psychology
- Experimental psychology
- Family and marriage counseling
- Forensic psychology
- Industrial-organizational psychology
- Social psychology
- School Counseling
- Substance abuse counseling
Certificate programs at the graduate level usually include an internship. Doctoral students may have to write a dissertation.
What You Can Do With It
Having a graduate certificate can open the door to a variety of careers, based on the specialty you choose. Only those who obtain a doctorate can work as psychologists, but those with a master’s can become counselors in a variety of areas. Examples of careers and concentrations include:
- Substance abuse/addiction counselor: You will work to help those with addictions overcome their addiction and lead productive lives.
- Marriage and family therapist: You will counsel individuals, couples, and families in order to facilitate communication, help them understand interpersonal dynamics, and provide strategies for overcoming dysfunctional relationships.
- School counselor: You will assess and counsel students who are having difficulty in school due to learning disabilities, physical disabilities, and emotional issues.
Psychology (requires doctorate):
- Industrial-organizational psychologist: You will help companies improve efficiency by assessing work relationships, production, and other business dynamics. You will formulate plans of action and provide training.
- Forensic psychologist: You will integrate psychology and criminal justice in order to assess and treat criminals. You will also aid law enforcement officials by creating profiles and providing testimony.
- Clinical psychologist: You will work face to face with clients to help them deal with behavioral and emotional issues.
- Sports psychologist: You will use your knowledge of psychology to help amateur and professional athletes address any behavioral, emotional, or mental health issues affecting their ability to perform.
Having a graduate degree at the master’s level can also be beneficial if you intend to pursue a doctorate.
Post-Doctoral Certificate in Psychology
Post-doctoral certificate programs generally focus on clinical practice. They are geared toward post-doctoral individuals who focused more on academia or research in their doctoral program but wish to work in clinical practice.
How to Get a Doctoral Certificate
Once you obtain your doctorate you can enroll in a post-doctoral certificate program. You will be required to provide official transcripts, personal statements, and letters of recommendation. You may be asked to provide a resume if you have been in the work field.
You will take courses that will prepare you for work as a clinical psychologist. Topics might include:
- Intervention techniques
- Personality theories
- Psychology morals and ethics
In addition to coursework, you will be required to participate in clinical practicum to gain supervised experience.
What You Can Do With It
Having a post-doctoral certificate can help individuals obtain licensure and practice as clinical psychologists.
Online Psychology Certificate Programs
Most undergraduate certificate programs are offered online. You can take advantage of flexibility and work at your own pace. You can also select a program based on your needs rather than having to choose based on location.
Although graduate certificates are offered online, they are hybrid programs that require hands-on experiences. Check with the online programs you are interested in to find out the specifics of what is required for the hands-on component.
Post-doctoral psychology certificates programs online are few and far between and will also require an internship. The APA does not accredit online programs at the graduate level; this means you may not be able to sit for licensure. Check the specifics of these online programs very carefully.
Contact the schools below to learn more about psychologist certification.
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Puerto Rico
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia