Learn How to Earn a Psychology Degree in Pennsylvania
Psychologists practicing in Pennsylvania can enjoy careers in both research and direct-service roles. Given the large number of well-funded colleges and universities throughout the state, Pennsylvania may be a good choice for those seeking to study in the field. If you want to work directly with clients, plenty of positions exist in that realm as well. Data from CareerOneStop shows that more than 7,100 licensed psychologists worked in Pennsylvania as of 2016. That number is expected to grow to nearly 8,000 by 2026.
How to Become a Psychologist in Pennsylvania
Becoming a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania is a long, intensive process designed to ensure all practitioners have the knowledge and training to adequately serve their clients. The most common steps to achieve this goal include:
- Pursue a bachelor’s degree: Pennsylvania has an abundance of bachelor’s programs in psychology, which is usually the first step in your journey to becoming a licensed psychologist. A bachelor’s degree in psychology usually requires four years of full-time study and gives you foundational knowledge and skills you’ll build upon in graduate school and beyond.
- Complete a master’s degree: Master’s degrees in psychology aren’t always required for doctoral programs, so research whether you need to complete this step. A master’s degree in psychology may be a great fit if you want to work as a marriage and family counselor, school counselor, or another type of mental health practitioner who does not need a doctorate.
- Earn a doctoral degree: If you want to use the title of licensed psychologist, you must undertake a Psy.D. or Ph.D. in psychology from an accredited program. Programs can be accredited by national or regional accrediting bodies. Although Pennsylvania does not require your doctoral program to be accredited by the American Psychological Assocation (APA), some employers may require it. Doctoral degrees take between five and seven years to complete and are available both online and in-person.
- Select a specialty: Pennsylvania recognizes psychological specialties in the areas of school, social, clinical, and developmental psychology, among others. The specialty you choose will dictate the area in which you work.
- Meet licensure requirements: Pennsylvania psychologist licensure requirements include evidence of an accredited doctoral degree, supervised hours, and passing scores on board examinations. You can learn specifics about each of these below.
Pennsylvania Psychology Licensing and Exams
To become a licensed psychologist, you must complete a doctoral training program, participate in an internship, and receive licensure from the State Board of Psychology (SBP). We break down the steps involved in this process below.
- Application: All candidates must fill out an SBP application, which must be approved within one year or candidates need to resubmit. Each time you submit an application you must include a $105 fee.
- Child Abuse Continuing Education and Clearance: All applicants must complete three hours of approved training from the U.S. Department of Human Services and receive clearance from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
- Criminal History Check: Applicants must provide an official records check from the state police or other approved agency that covers the previous decade and was issued within 90 days of your application submission.
- Education Verification: A Verification of Doctoral Program Accreditation/Designation Status and Pre-Doctoral Internship form must be received directly from the director of clinical training at your alma mater. They must also send official transcripts and a letter of good standing.
- National Examination: You must pass the corresponding national examination for the field of psychology you hope to practice (e.g., school, developmental, clinical).
- Pennsylvania Examination: You must pass the Pennsylvania-specific exam administered by the SPB.
- Supervised Experience: A Verification of Supervised Experience form must be submitted that demonstrates 2,000 hours of pre-doctoral supervised experience and 1,750 hours of post-doctoral supervised experience.
Job Growth and Salary for Psychology Jobs in Pennsylvania
Graduates of both master’s and doctorate psychology programs in Pennsylvania can work in a number of different roles, though all of those highlighted below may not be available in your area. As demonstrated by the table, careers in this industry are generally on an upward trajectory in terms of expected job growth. They also offer a wide spectrum of average salaries, which may help you to find a role that fits with your education, professional interests, and financial needs.
Job Growth and Psychologist Salary in Pennsylvania
|Career || Median Salary* ||Average Salary Per Hour ||Expected Job Growth, 2016-26 |
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors ||$61,260 ||$28.59 ||8% |
|Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists ||$83,610 ||$40.20 ||14% |
|Psychologists – All Other ||$87,940 ||$47.32 ||14% |
|Licensed Clinical Social Workers ||$64,260 ||$31.69 ||11% |
|Marriage and Family Therapists ||$58,400 ||$28.08 ||22% |
|Behavioral Disorder, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health Counselors ||$45,740 ||$21.99 ||22% |
*Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Recognized Psychology Specializations in Pennsylvania
Because psychology can be studied, researched, and applied in many different ways, the American Psychological Association developed a list of recognized specialties in the field. Individual states also identify recognized specializations, giving learners the information they need to better understand what licenses and roles exist for them. Pennsylvania’s State Board of Psychology (SBP) recognizes several specializations, some of which we highlight below. Note that these are not all of the available specializations, so check with the SBP for an exhaustive list.
- School Psychology: Working in both K-12 and college settings, school psychologists help students handle academic and personal issues in healthy and productive ways. Following this specialization track gives you skills in evidence-based practice, staff/administrator education on adolescent and young adult psychological development, and tools for successfully working with parents as an impartial mediator. It qualifies you to work as a school psychologist after receiving licensure (BLS, 2017).
- Developmental Psychology: Developmental psychology is a subdiscipline of the field concerned with understanding how and why individuals change across the lifespan. Whether you hope to study/help infants, children, adolescents, adults, or the elderly, you can focus your studies on specific populations. Specializations typically include a concentration of courses, research placements, and hands-on experiences devoted to helping developmental psychologists in training understand behavioral and developmental milestones (BLS, 2018).
- Social Psychology: Blending studies in both psychology and sociology, the social psychology specialization seeks to understand how interactions with fellow humans shape and shift our behaviors. Students consider how different individuals and social groups may influence our attitudes, beliefs, motivations, and even personality. Working as a social psychologist allows you to conduct research on human behavior or work in applied settings to help organizations better understand questions around hiring, training, motivating, and supporting employees (BLS, 2018).
- Clinical Psychology: Frequently seen as the broadest of all specializations, clinical psychology focuses on direct, applied work with individuals. Clinical psychologists work with clients across the lifespan to address a wide variety of concerns around behavioral issues, learning disorders, mental health problems, and/or emotional difficulties. They may provide acute care to those in emergency settings or work with individuals across a longer time frame to help them identify, address, and treat specific issues. Jobs for clinical psychologists are set to grow much faster than average in the coming years, making it a specialization worth considering (BLS, 2018).
Pennsylvania Psychology Spotlight Programs
Numerous public and private institutions in Pennsylvania offer psychology programs at all levels. Whether you’re looking for a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, the schools discussed in this section can meet your needs. However, there are many other institutions in Pennsylvania that may offer the right degree program for you. When selecting a program, pay close attention to how the academic offerings, available specializations, and cost of attendance fit your needs.
- Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA)
Penn State offers degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. The school provides both a B.A. and a B.S. in psychology online and on campus. You can earn a Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S) in the psychology of leadership either online or on campus. Doctoral students can choose from clinical psychology (with an emphasis in adult or child studies), cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, and social psychology. Penn State’s offerings are unique in that several interdisciplinary doctorates exist. You can choose from a specialization in cognitive and affective neurosciences or a dual degree in psychology and women’s studies. Undergraduates who are Pennsylvania residents paid $726 per credit during the 2019-2020 academic year while non-residents paid $1,437 per credit. The department endeavors to provide full tuition coverage and a monthly stipend to all graduate students.
- Temple University (Philadelphia, PA)
Operating as a public research institution, Temple University offers several psychology degrees at the Philadelphia campus. Undergrads can pursue a B.A. in psychology with the unique option of adding a one-year M.S. in psychological research if they so choose. If you’re looking for a doctoral program, the school offers a Ph.D. in psychology with concentrations in cognition and neuroscience, clinical psychology, developmental psychology, and social psychology. Both undergraduate and graduate students can participate in hands-on research projects alongside faculty and peers. Undergraduate tuition for 2019-2020 is charged at $670 and $1,208 per credit for resident and non-resident students, respectively. Grad students pay $942 or $1,297 per credit, depending on residency.
- University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)
The highly revered Department of Psychology at Pitt offers a bachelor’s in psychology and several doctoral specializations. Undergrads can participate in directed research, field placements, directed reading, and teaching assistant opportunities. Grad students can select from Ph.D. specializations in biological and health, clinical, cognitive, developmental, or social psychology. Cross-training programs also exist in clinical-developmental psychology, clinical health psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. Undergraduates paid $776 or $1,360 per credit during the 2019-2020 academic year, depending on residency status. Doctoral candidates in good standing receive up to six years of funding, including a stipend, health insurance, public transportation passes, and tuition reimbursement.
- Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)
Drexel University, a private research institution in Philadelphia, provides psychology degrees at all levels. Baccalaureate options include both a B.S. in psychology and an accelerated five-year B.S./M.S. dual degree. The graduate school provides an M.S. in psychology, a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, a Ph.D. in applied cognitive and brain sciences, and a unique JD/Ph.D. in law and psychology. Online learners can select from a B.S. in psychology or an M.S. in applied behavior analysis. Undergraduates pay $1,173 per credit regardless of residence; graduate learners pay $1,303 per credit.
- University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
UPenn offers a campus-based undergraduate major alongside a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Students seeking unique dual majors can also choose from a J.D./Ph.D. in psychology, a joint Ph.D. in marketing and psychology, or an M.D./Ph.D. in psychology. The doctorate programs are accredited by the American Psychological Association and offer extensive research opportunities. Undergraduates pay $51,156 per academic year for tuition; doctoral students receive five years of full tuition remission and an annual stipend of $27,000.
- Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)
The Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at CMU offers an undergraduate psychology degree focused on sub-domains in cognitive, developmental, and social/personality/health psychology. The school also offers a Ph.D. in psychology and a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience. The department maintains research projects in six areas alongside several psychology-focused centers and facilities, and prides itself on its interdisciplinary approach. Undergraduates paid $55,816 in tuition during the 2019-2020 academic year. Ph.D. candidates receive tuition remission and a stipend for five years as long as they remain in good standing.
- Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA)
Bucknell is a private liberal arts college offering both a B.A. in psychology and an M.S. in psychology at the Lewisburg campus. Undergraduates can also choose from minors in cognitive and perceptual sciences or neuropsychology. Students of both academic levels get to participate in faculty-guided research and learn about cutting-edge topics in the field. Those seeking a bachelor’s degree paid $57,882 in tuition during 2019-2020, while graduate students paid $25,461 during the same timeframe.
Pennsylvania Psychology Scholarships
It’s no surprise that higher education is expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to get a degree. Scholarships offer a great opportunity to reduce the financial burden and can be found via state and local governments, colleges and universities, private foundations, and professional associations. We highlight just a few Pennsylvania-specific psychology scholarships in this section.
- Allegheny-Kiski Health Foundation Scholarship: This private foundation provides approximately $20,000 annually through a variety of scholarships aimed at Pennsylvania residents. Eligibility requirements and deadlines vary by scholarship, so review each carefully to find the ones for which you qualify.
- Clifford M. Kliger Memorial Award: Graduating seniors studying psychology at Temple University can apply to this need-based award if they plan to pursue an advanced degree in the field.
- Verna Butterer Educational Trust: Students living and/or studying in Bucks County, PA can apply to this renewable award offering up to $10,000 each year of a bachelor’s program. Applicants must demonstrate financial need to receive consideration.
- The Pittsburg Promise Scholarship: Students who attend four years at a public high school in Pittsburgh, maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher, and hold an attendance record of 90% are eligible to receive a $20,000 scholarship upon acceptance to an accredited college or university.
- Philadelphia City Scholarship Program: The City of Philadelphia offers $1,000 renewable scholarships to eligible high school seniors seeking a four-year degree. While no specific requirements exist, applicants are considered based on grades, extracurriculars, leadership potential, writing skills, and financial need.
- Student Education Award: The Pennsylvania Psychological Association awards this nonrenewable $2,000 scholarship to graduate psychology students who demonstrate need, academic excellence, and community service. Applications include a two-page statement of need.
- Undergraduate Student Research Scholarship: The University of Pittsburgh provides this scholarship to current undergraduate psychology students who want to travel for research and cover other costs associated with a professional project or conference presentation.
Pennsylvania Internships and Fellowships
As part of licensure requirements for psychologists in training, you must participate in an internship and/or fellowship to gain professional hours under the supervision of an already-licensed psychologist. Plenty of rewarding opportunities exist throughout Pennsylvania, as evidenced below.
- Development and Learning Science, University of Pittsburgh: Located within the School of Education, this yearlong postdoctoral fellowship helps participants build interdisciplinary skills around youth development and learning, sociocultural and psychosocial factors, and socioemotional wellbeing. Applicants should already possess a doctorate and be able to demonstrate published work in areas of psychology, education, child/adolescent development, developmental psychology, and/or learning science.
- Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania: The Clinical Psychology Internship Program at UPenn is a full-time, one-year program with the option to extend through a second year. Interns work in supervised settings in the behavioral health clinic within the Department of Psychology, providing both short- and long-term services. They rotate through several specialties, including acute psychiatric inpatient, community mental health, and palliative care cancer support. First-year participants receive an annual stipend of $30,388; those who possess a Ph.D. at the start of the second year earn $37,044.
- The School District of Philadelphia: Students looking to build required licensure hours in school psychology should check out this internship that meets the Pennsylvania Department of Education standards. Interns build skills in group and individual counseling, psychological testing, behavior assessments and consultations, curriculum development and assessment, and classroom management while completing the required 1,200 hours.
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: UMPC’s Sports Concussion Program offers a neuropsychology fellowship for post-doctoral candidates seeking a two-year internship. As the largest concussion program in the country, UPMC provides students access to leading neuropsychologists, emerging research, and exciting opportunities to help patients. The internship is accredited by the APA and begins in August/September of each year. Once accepted, fellows earn $21.29 per hour.
In addition to searching the websites of local universities and governments, also be sure to check sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Internships.com to find more opportunities.
Pennsylvania Psychology Resources
Professional organizations and governmental agencies exist at the national, state, and local levels to help support, educate, and inform current and future psychologists.
- Pennsylvania Psychological Association: This professional membership organization helps both students and licensed psychologists take advantage of statewide resources. As a member of PPA, you gain access to an annual internship fair, webinars and podcasts, continuing education programming, advocacy resources, home studies, and an online store. PPA also helps members better understand initial licensure requirements and renewal mandates. If looking for a job, you can review the PPA career center.
- Philadelphia Psychology Network: For more than 70 years, PPN has served psychologists in Philadelphia and beyond. The group fulfills its mission to offer comprehensive services by offering low-fee psychotherapy services, APA-approved continuing education, workshops, networking events, a psychologist database, membership benefits and discounts, a licensed psychologist database, regularly updated blogs, and active social media accounts.
- Association of School Psychologists of Pennsylvania: With a mission of promoting best practices in school psychology, the ASPP represents more than 1,700 school psychologists throughout the state. Members can take advantage of certification programs, continuing education training, affinity service discounts, the ASPP annual fall conference, the Temple University Annual School Psychology Conference, child abuse prevention resources, student awards, research grants, conference funding, and student services.
- State Board of Psychology: Operating as part of the Pennsylvania Department of State, the board regulates psychologist practice and licensure throughout the state. It is also responsible for assessing the fitness and preparedness of each candidate seeking licensure and holds the authority to deny, revoke, suspend, and issue licenses. Doctoral candidates looking for information on exact requirements should bookmark this page, as they will likely visit it often.