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Psychology Programs in Colorado

The state of Colorado has enormous potential for psychologists and psychology students who want to address this state’s mental health crisis. Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. And according to the Colorado Health Institute’s 2019 Colorado Health Access Survey, 15.3% of Coloradans claimed they were struggling with their mental health, up from 11.8% only two years earlier.

The silver lining to this news is that the state is taking measures to bolster mental health services, especially in critical areas. The Colorado Health Service Corps, administered by the Primary Care Office at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, awards up to $20,000 for psychologists and other mental health providers who agree to work in areas where there is a shortage.

Wherever you are on your journey to become a psychologist or other mental health professional, Colorado may be the perfect place to launch your career.

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Spotlight: Colorado Psychology Programs

Psychology schools in Colorado are plentiful, and you can find a wide range of options that cater to everyone, from students seeking master’s degrees for use in business to students pursuing doctorates for clinical practice. Anyone who plans to practice as a licensed psychologist in Colorado must earn a doctorate, either a Psy.D. or a Ph.D. in psychology, from a program accredited by the American Psychological Association or deemed equivalent by the Colorado state board. The psychology schools featured here are APA accredited.

University of Colorado (Boulder)

The Ph.D. program in clinical psychology at the University of Colorado Boulder is consistently ranked in the top twenty such programs nationwide by U.S. News and World Report. One of the unique features of this program is its commitment to interdisciplinary study through the school’s Institute for Behavioral Genetics, Institute of Behavioral Science, and Institute of Cognitive Science. Annual tuition varies from $11,826 for Colorado residents to $31,284 for out-of-state residents. As with most doctorate programs in psychology, tuition waivers and stipends are offered to admitted students who work as teaching and research assistants.

Colorado State University (Fort Collins)

Ph.D. students in Counseling Psychology at Colorado State University are trained to advance psychology as a science and use a variety of counseling and clinical techniques as psychologists. The program emphasizes human development as a constant process, and concern for the human condition. Students are expected to be responsive to the problems and characteristics of underserved groups and are offered coursework in as well as clinical training with underserved and diverse client populations. Tuition costs $4,958.50 a year for in-state residents and $12,155.80 for out-of-state students.

University of Northern Colorado (Greeley)

UNC is a public doctoral research university offering future school psychologists a Ph.D. program that’s the only APA-accredited school psychology program in the state of Colorado. It’s also approved by the National Association of School Psychologists. Colorado residents pay annual tuition of $23,040 while out-of-state residents pay $44,208. The school offers several interesting courses in diversity and cultural awareness, including Social Justice and Education Reform.

University of Colorado (Colorado Springs)

UCCS offers a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology with two specialties for students to choose between. The geropsychology track trains students in mental health diagnosis, assessment, and intervention for adults and older adults. At the same time, the trauma psychology specialty is designed to teach students to conduct research and work clinically with traumatized individuals. According to their website, students can expect “to be funded by research, teaching, or clinical assistantships and fellowships” and a cohort usually has two to four students, but there are exceptions.

University of Denver Ph.D. (Denver)

The University of Denver offers a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. This long-standing APA-accredited program emphasizes training in clinical child psychology and boasts faculty members who approach clinical child psychology from a clinical science model. Tuition costs $41,160 a year at this private school, but doctoral students are provided tuition waivers and stipends for four years in exchange for working twenty hours a week.

The Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver offers an APA-accredited Psy.D. program in Clinical Psychology, one of only two in the state of Colorado. Students in this program begin clinical practice in the first quarter of the program within the school’s community-based psychological center. The program also offers a number of specialties for Psy.D. students, including LatinX Psychology, Military Psychology, Oncology Psychology, and Infant and Childhood Mental Health.  Tuition is $68,448 a year for students at this private university but the school offers graduate assistantships and tuition waivers.

Morgridge College of Education

Earning a Counseling Psychology Ph.D. at the Morgridge College of Education means you will study in a cohort model and choose from many specialties, including adolescent counseling, addictions counseling, diversity and counseling, and couple and family counseling. Tuition at this private, APA-accredited university ranges from $34,224 to $51,336 per year, depending on the amount of credits. As always, students should apply for financial aid and graduate assistantships to offset the cost of tuition.

How to Become a Psychologist in Colorado

Some psychology-related positions may require only a bachelor’s or master’s degree, but to become a licensed psychologist in Colorado, you will need to earn a doctorate degree in psychology. Colorado also has specific requirements for licensure, including a passing score on the state exam.

Education Requirements

  • Complete a bachelor’s degree: Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology typically takes four years. Both Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) programs offer foundational groundwork in psychology that paves the way for students to pursue further study.
  • Obtain a master’s degree: Some doctoral programs in psychology may require master’s degrees as an entrance requirement, so check with your chosen program to see whether this step is necessary for you. Some doctorate programs offer a master’s degree as a “non-terminal” degree along the way, making earning a separate master’s degree unnecessary for Ph.D. and Psy.D. applicants. For students interested in becoming a school counselor or a marriage and family counselor, a master’s degree in psychology may be all that is required.
  • Earn a doctoral degree: All licensed psychologists in Colorado must complete either a Psy.D. or a Ph.D. in psychology from an APA-accredited program, or from a program the Colorado state board has approved as equivalent in quality and rigor. These doctoral degrees take between five and seven years to complete, and prepare students for careers in clinical, academic, and research settings.
  • Decide upon a specialty: There are several APA-recognized specialties that you can choose from as a psychologist in Colorado. In addition to the specialties highlighted in the spotlight schools above and the specialties section below, psychologists can also consider specializations such as forensic psychology, sleep psychology, and police and public safety psychology.

Colorado Psychology Licensing and Exams

The State Board of Psychologist Examiners in Colorado is responsible for issuing and renewing psychology licenses in the state. The board maintains a psychologist application checklist with helpful information for candidates as they must meet multiple requirements for either a psychologist license or a provisional psychologist license. It is also possible to apply for a Psychologist Candidate Temporary Permit. Candidates applying for a psychologist license must complete the following steps:

  1. Application fee: Pay a $70 application fee.
  2. State Board exam: Pass the Colorado Mental Health Profession’s Jurisprudence Examination.
  3. Work eligibility: Complete an Affidavit of Eligibility confirming your eligibility to work in the United States and provide your Social Security Number.
  4. Background check and disclosure: Complete a criminal background check and a Healthcare Professions Profiling Program, an online profile designed to inform clients in Colorado about the disciplinary actions, suspensions, and malpractice settlements of their providers.
  5. Official transcripts: Your doctorate in psychology must be from an APA-accredited institution. If it’s not, you can request a review from the Center for Credential and Education (CCE) to determine whether your education was of comparable quality.
  6. Post-doc supervised hours: You must provide evidence of 1,500 hours of post-doctoral experience over a minimum of one year and 75 hours of supervision over a period of one year; 50 of which must be face-to-face.
  7. Pass the EPPP examination: You must pass the Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP).
  8. Continuing professional development: You must renew your license every two years by completing a minimum of 40 professional development hours. Your professional development must be relevant to your job as a psychologist.

Mental Health Specializations in Colorado That Do Not Require a Doctorate

There are many psychology specializations and careers in Colorado that do not require a doctorate degree and are regulated by their own licensing boards. These mental health professions carry their own rules and regulations, which are summarized by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Addiction Counselors
These counselors, also referred to as substance abuse counselors, provide both individual and group therapy to clients who suffer from alcohol and/or drug addiction to help people to gain control over their cravings and dependencies and live happier, healthier lives. Colorado recognizes four types of addiction counselors, each with their own requirements: Addiction Counselor I, Addiction Counselor II, Addiction Counselor III, and Licensed Addiction Counselor.

Visit Colorado.gov for an application to become an addiction counselor.

Marriage and Family Therapists
MFTs work directly with clients to address mental health challenges that may be negatively impacting their relationships. These therapists frequently help treat emotional disorders including anxiety and depression, childhood behavior, eating disorders, and divorce adjustment. In addition to licensing MFTs, Colorado also offers professional licenses in this field.

Visit Colorado.gov for an application to become a marriage and family therapist.

Social Workers
Social workers provide direct services to clients of all ages, and also connect them to outside resources to better their lives. This may be challenging due to poverty or other issues. Colorado distinguishes the requirements for licensure among provisional social workers, licensed social workers, and licensed clinical social workers.

Visit Colorado.gov for an application to become a social worker.

Professional Counselors
Licensed professional counselors provide mental health services directly to clients suffering from behavioral, mental, and emotional disorders and problems. Colorado recognizes and licenses provisional Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Professional Counselor candidates, and Licensed Professional Counselors.

Visit Colorado.gov for an application to become a professional counselor.

Job Growth and Psychologist Salary in Colorado

The need for psychologists in Colorado is pronounced, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the profession will grow by a staggering 34% from 2016 to 2026 in Colorado. This is significantly higher than the already robust job growth rate of 14 percent projected nationally for the same period (BLS 2020).
Mental Health Careers and Job Growth in Colorado

Career 2019 Mean SalaryExpected Job Growth
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists$92,840+34%
Psychologists—All Other$97,790+16%
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors$54,560+23%
Social Workers, All Other$55,690+23%
Marriage and Family Therapist$70,800+33%
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorders Counselor$51,790no available data

Salary information from Bureau of Labor Statistics. Expected job growth information for 2016 – 26 from O*Net.

Colorado Psychology Scholarships

The biggest question you will likely face once you’ve been accepted to a psychology program is financial:  How will you pay for your education? There are lots of scholarships for psychology students out there, so you should spend some time searching. Scholarships are especially attractive to students as they don’t need to be repaid.

Many individual schools also offer their own scholarships, including these Colorado universities:

Psychology students in Colorado are also eligible to apply for awards offered by professional, private, and government agencies. For instance, the Colorado General Assembly awards from $1,000 to $5,000 as part of the “Critical Career” Graduate Grant. To qualify a student must be a Colorado resident, complete the FAFSA, show need, and be pursuing a degree in a critical career field such as Psychology.

Colorado Psychology Internships

Graduate students pursuing doctoral degrees in psychology in Colorado are required to complete year-long internships as a requirement for their graduation as well as state licensure. Some schools offer psychology internships:

  • University of Denver: The University of Denver Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP) Internship Consortium is an APA-accredited internship program comprised of seven sites in the Denver metropolitan area. A state psychiatric hospital, residential treatment center for children and adolescents, and police psychology agency are among the placement sites where interns are trained in culturally responsive care.
  • University of Colorado Boulder: The Health Service Psychology Internship is a 2,000 hour, year-long, APA-accredited internship program. It is designed to provide training to doctoral students to work in university counseling centers, primary care clinics, hospitals, and academic settings.
  • Colorado State University: The year-long Doctoral Internship in Health Services Psychology provides students with hands-on training in the university’s integrated mental health and medical service center, which serves a geographically and racially diverse population of over 33,000 students.

Students should also consult with local universities and government agencies for additional internship opportunities, and check sites such as LinkedIn, Chegg Internships, and Indeed, and Internships.com for additional postings.

Colorado Psychology Resources

Whether you are a practicing psychologist or other professional in the field, a new undergraduate or graduate student, or somewhere in between, you should consult with the professional associations and resources that are relevant to your education and career in Colorado.

  • Colorado Psychological Association: The CPA was founded in 1946 and has hundreds of active members throughout the state. The organization offers networking opportunities and job postings to its members and works with the state government to improve laws that impact psychologists.
  • Colorado Society of School Psychologists: The CSSP seeks to help school psychologists address the academic, social, and emotional needs of young people in Colorado. The organization provides professional development and networking opportunities for its members and publishes news and legislative updates of interests to school psychologists in the state.
  • The State Board of Psychologist Examiners: The state board is responsible for issuing and renewing psychology licenses in the state of Colorado. This organization is also where psychologists can access information about continuing professional development requirements and resources.
  • Rocky Mountain Psychological Association: This regional association serves Colorado in addition to Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Intending to advance psychology as a science, RMPA holds an annual conference each April and invites submissions for oral presentations, workshops, and poster presentations.
  • Colorado Journal of Psychiatry and Psychology: Published out of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the peer-reviewed journal maintains a Colorado-centric focus and publishes academic articles of interest to mental health practitioners.