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Psychology Schools and Careers in Virginia

With its proximity to our nation’s capital, a range of federal organizations and national agencies to work for, and a strong employment rate, Virginia may be a great place to start your career in the mental health field.

Psychology is one of the top three majors among bachelor’s degree students in Virginia, and many of the state’s institutions offer well-regarded master’s in psychology and psychology doctoral programs.

How to Become a Psychologist in Virginia

There are a number of steps you must take to become a psychologist in Virginia. Depending on your area of focus, the kind of patients you want to work with, and your professional goals, there are several requirements and qualifications you’ll need to meet. Perhaps the most important is the educational training you’ll receive and specialization that most interests you.

  1. Complete education requirements: To pursue a career as a psychologist in Virginia, you’ll need to satisfy the state’s education requirements. You must earn a bachelor’s degree first—most often a bachelor’s degree in psychology—though you may earn your undergraduate degree in social work, sociology, or something similar. To become a psychologist you must earn a doctoral degree—either a Ph.D. or Psy.D. Some students may choose to pursue a master’s degree first before continuing on to a doctorate, but in some cases, a master’s degree alone will suffice. Social workers, therapists, marriage and family counselors, and mental health counselors all qualify to practice with a master’s degree.
  2. Choose a specialization: There are several specializations and concentrations within the field of psychology, and the type of patient you prefer to work with will dictate your education requirements and the topics you’ll study. Each degree level offers a range of specialties to choose from.
  3. Complete supervised experience: Candidates for psychology licensure must successfully complete an internship accredited through the APA, Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC), or the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards/National Register of Health Service Psychologists, or one that meets equivalent standards. Certain specialties will require other or additional supervised experience. For example, there is a residency requirement for school or clinical psychologists.
  4. Get licensed: Virginia requires you to fulfill a number of requirements to receive licensure to practice, including completing your education, taking the state’s licensing board exam, and submitting an application packet for approval.

Virginia Psychology Licensing and Exams

Once you’ve completed your degree, you can apply for your Virginia psychology license. While the state requirements vary based on your specialization, at a minimum, the following steps will be required to earn a Virginia psychology license.

  • Complete an Internship: Most psychology specialties require a graduate-level degree internship of at least 600 hours to qualify for licensure in Virginia. The state also mandates that hours and their accompanying programs are accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) and other specialty-specific accrediting bodies.
  • Complete Supervised Hours: Whatever specialty you choose, you’ll need to complete supervised hours with a qualified supervisor to become a licensed psychologist or counselor. The number and type of hours vary by specialty.
Supervised Hours Required by Specialty
  • Marriage and Family Counselors: 3,400 hours of supervised experience with at least 2,000 hours in clinical marriage and family services
  • Sex Offender Treatment Providers: 2,000 hours of post-degree clinical experience
  • Substance Abuse Counselors: 3,400 hours of supervised experience in substance abuse treatment and at least 2,000 hours of face-to-face contact with clients
  • Counselors: 3,400 hours of supervised experience with at least 200 hours of in-person supervision between supervisor and resident
  • School or Clinical Psychologists: 1,500 hours of residency with a minimum of two hours of individual supervision each week
  • Submit an Application: Once you’ve completed your other requirements, you can apply to take the board exam. To do so, gather transcripts, evidence of supervised hours, and internship verification and submit them to the Virginia Board of Professional Psychology along with a $175 application fee. Applicants also need to pass a written examination, and approval to sit for the boards expires after two years.
  • Pass the Virginia State Exam: The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) test is required for entry-level licensure of psychologists in Virginia. The test is administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) and has two components, although as of today, Virginia only requires test takers to take Part 1: Knowledge. Each test component carries a $687.50 registration fee.
  • License Renewal: Licensed psychologists in Virginia are now required to renew their license annually with an online form and $130 renewal fee submitted on or before June 30 each year.

Job Growth and Psychologist Salaries in Virginia

Career Virginia Median Annual Salary (2018) Virginia Average Mean Wage Per Hour % Expected Job Growth (2018-2028)
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors $60,680 $29.17 +18%
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists $73,930 $35.55 +18%
Psychologists – All Other $101,790 $48.94 +13%
Licensed Clinical Social Worker $73,450 $35.31 +12%
Marriage and Family Therapist $49,570 $23.83 +35%
Behavioral Disorder, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health Counselor $46,190 $22.21 +24%

Recognized Psychology Specialties in Virginia

There are many specialties within the field of psychology, and Virginia recognizes licensure in several. While many specialties require a doctorate degree, some fall under a broader classification of mental health jobs and thus don’t require a doctoral degree to meet state requirements.

  • Applied Psychologist: With requirements similar to that of clinical psychologists, applied psychologists put theory into action by implementing real-world solutions.
  • Certified Sex Offender Treatment Provider: These professionals need a master’s degree with licensure plus an additional certification to practice in Virginia and often work with convicted offenders to change abusive behavior through treatment.
  • Clinical Psychologists: Clinical psychologists work individually with patients in a variety of settings to assess and treat mental illnesses and need a doctorate degree to practice in Virginia.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker: Social workers are licensed at all levels of education in Virginia, although licensed social workers with a master’s degree and a completed ASWB exam are specially trained to help people with mental health issues.
  • Qualified Mental Health Professional/Counselor: To counsel families, couples, and individuals in areas such as family preservation and substance abuse in Virginia, psychologists need a master’s degree plus licensure.
  • School Psychologists: School psychologists work with students to support social, emotional, and academic health. School psychologists in Virginia need a doctorate degree and license to practice, but the state also offers a School Psychologist-Limited license for those with a Virginia Board of Education Pupil Personnel Services License and an endorsement in School Psychology.
  • Virginia Certified Substance Abuse Counselor: These counselors need at least a bachelor’s degree plus a license to counsel those recovering from substance abuse.

Virginia Psychology Spotlight Programs

These are just some of the more well-known psychology departments among Virginia’s many educational institutions:

George Mason University (Fairfax, VA)

GMU is uniquely situated outside of Washington, DC, and its bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in psychology focus on public policy and national defense. The school offers eight concentrations in its B.A. and B.S. programs, with unique areas of study in the M.A. or Ph.D. programs as well. Tuition ranges from $377.50 (in-state students) to $1,355 (out-of-state students).

Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA)

Liberty is a private Christian university offering psychology degrees at every level, in both on-campus and online formats. Online options run the gamut. You’ll find undergraduate programs that include A.A. degrees in general psychology and Christian Counseling on up to a B.S. in Psychology, as well as graduate options that include an M.A. in Applied Psychology,  Addiction Counseling, Pastoral CounselingClinical Mental Health Counseling, and more. And, of course, there’s the university’s esteemed PhD, which offers the option to focus your studies in one of four critical areas. For those who want the traditional campus experience, residential options include a Bachelor of Science with several specialty tracks, an M.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Applied I/O Psychology. For students interested in earning an applied doctorate, Liberty’s PsyD in Clinical Psychology program offers a path to both your master’s and doctorate in one comprehensive program.  Tuition starts at $23,800 for undergraduates and $545 per credit hour for graduate students.

University of Richmond (Richmond, VA)

The B.S. or B.A. degree in psychology at Richmond provides a foundational education in both the research and clinical components of psychology. Students complete both an internship and research component to graduate, and while the school doesn’t offer a graduate component, the students are prepared for advanced studies upon graduation. Annual tuition for the School of Arts & Sciences starts at $54,690.

University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA)

The psychology program at UVA emphasizes research and offers degrees for both undergraduates and graduate students working toward a Ph.D. The school offers an accelerated M.A. for undergraduates seeking streamlined admission to the graduate program, while Ph.D. students can focus their studies in seven different specialty areas. Tuition for undergraduates ranges from $14,188 a year for in-state students to $48,036 for out-of-state students, while graduate students pay from $18,346 to $30,926, respectively.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, VA)

The psychology department at Virginia Tech gives students flexibility at the undergraduate or Ph.D. level. Undergraduates can pair their major requirements with courses in overlapping departments to allow students the opportunity to double major. The cost per credit hour for resident undergraduates is $475.75, and $1,248.25 for non-residents. Those on the doctoral track (Ph.D. with an M.S. component) have four concentration tracks to choose from, with graduate tuition ranging from $761.25 per credit hour (in-state) to $1,534 (out of state).

Washington and Lee University (Lexington, VA)

W&L recently renamed their psychology department Cognitive and Behavioral Studies to emphasize the importance of both natural and behavioral sciences. Both the B.S. and B.A. degree programs focus on research methodologies with a stronger STEM component for those enrolled in the B.S. program. Tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 school year start at $53,730.

William & Mary (Williamsburg, VA)

The country’s second oldest university, William & Mary offers one of the largest undergraduate programs in psychology, with over 150 graduates completing a B.A. or B.S. each year. In contrast, their M.S. degree program is purposely kept quite small, admitting less than a dozen new students each year and focusing on close collaboration and mentorship between students and faculty. In-state students will pay between $34,794 and $36,554 a year in tuition, while in-state tuition for graduate students is $16,440.

Virginia Psychology Scholarships

If you’re interested in becoming a psychologist in Virginia, there are a range of scholarships available to psychology students across all states, at different degree levels, and with different specialties. Here are our picks for psychology scholarships that are specific to students in Virginia.

  • Deborah Braffman Schroeder Research Scholarship: This scholarship, offered to students at Virginia Commonwealth University, is awarded annually to a graduate student in clinical psychology. Preference is given to students pursuing research.
  • Friends of Psychology Endowed Scholarship for Rising Seniors: This scholarship is funded by Virginia Tech alumni and open to all juniors entering their senior year with a major in psychology. Recipients are chosen based on academic merit and future goals within the field of psychology.
  • RSA Scholarship Program at WVU: Western Virginia University receives grants through the federal RSA Scholarship Program and awards scholarships to students interested in pursuing a master’s degree in psychology. In exchange, recipients agree to work full time at eligible public rehabilitation agencies and centers for two years.
  • University of Mary Washington Psychology Scholarships: The department offers several scholarships for psychology undergraduates, and eligible students can apply using a single application form. Awards range from $2,000-$9,000 annually.

Virginia Internships and Fellowships

An internship and fellowship are required components of a doctoral program and many master’s programs in psychology. Here are a few ongoing programs offered to students in Virginia.

  • Doctoral Internship Program: The Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond internship is offered annually to students in doctoral programs in clinical, counseling, or combined psychology or psychological clinical sciences.
  • Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Forensic Psychology: Central State Hospital offers an annual fellowship that meets supervision requirements for licensure as a clinical psychologist. Fellows more deeply prepare for independent practice with severe mentally ill populations, with 70% of time spent conducting forensic and psychological evaluations, and 30% on other clinical and training activities. The $46,000 stipend includes health insurance and leave time.

You should also check sites like Indeed and LinkedIn for more psychology internship opportunities.

Virginia Psychology Resources

  • Virginia Academy of Clinical Psychologists: A resource geared toward clinical psychologists, the VACP provides networking and membership opportunities, resources, and a directory of licensed clinical psychologists in Virginia.
  • Virginia Board of Psychology: The Virginia Board of Psychology manages this official state website with licensure requirements and information for board-regulated psychology specialties.
  • Virginia Sex Offender Treatment Association: The VSOTA is a non-profit organization for certified sex offender treatment providers. The group offers training, research, education, and networking opportunities.