You completed internship, found a post-doc or job, graduated, and passed the dreaded EPPP.
Congratulations! You can now do what you have spent the past four to seven years preparing for: apply for a license as an independent psychologist. While, yes, this is another step in a long process and it will take away some time and cost you some of that hard earned money, applying for licensure is easy if you are prepared and know what to expect.
First things first: Are you applying for your initial license or are you already licensed in one jurisdiction and want to become licensed in another?
Most of you will be applying for your initial license, which is known as “Licensure by Examination”, meaning you have to take the EPPP.
Now that you know that, let's review some of the requirements the jurisdiction to which you are applying may have. Most states post their applications, requirements, laws, and regulations on their website – just do a Google search for “board of psychology in (your state)”. It is important to know each state’s requirements, as they can vary.
The 10 Things you Need to Know:
1. Did your graduate program meet requirements for licensure in the state?
If your program is accredited by a governing body like the APA, it likely meets the requirements.
If your program is not accredited, you will be required to demonstrate how the coursework you completed gives you the knowledge of psychology required of a clinical psychologist.
2. What is the passing score for the EPPP?
This is information that you probably found as part of your preparation for the EPPP.
While I have not looked at every state's requirements individually, my spot checking indicated that the passing score of 500 tends to be the same across states.
3. How many total supervised hours are required?
And how can the hours requirement be met? More specifically, is a post-doc required?
I applied for my initial license in Virginia. In Virginia, you must have 3,000 hours of supervised practice before applying for licensure. A post-doc is no longer required and part of the hours requirement can be met through pre-doctoral supervision (not including internship). This is true for a growing number of states, as they assume that you received a certain amount of training and supervision while completing your practica and internship.
I chose to complete a post-doc for two reasons. First, I knew that I would not remain solely in Virginia throughout my professional career, and that other states still require post-docs. Second, I did not have the correct ratio of supervision to client contact/service-related activity hours from my practica required by the board.
As part of my application for Virginia, I had to submit a form specifying the breakdown of practica hours with regard to minimums set by the board. My post-doc was not formal – I stayed at my internship site, a private practice, and continued to meet with my supervisor as I had during internship. Virginia requires 1,500 hours of supervised practice either through practica or through post-doc. I chose to do 2,000 hours to make sure I covered my bases (the equivalent of working full-time for a year).
4. What other information is required?
Other documents that may be required by the board include:
- A terminal transcript showing you received your degree
- Verification of your internship
- Verification of pre-doctoral supervised hours (if allowed)
- Verification of post-doc hours
- Letters of reference
Some of this information you gather and submit, (such as verification of supervised hours) some of it must be sent directly to the board, (such as verification of internship) and some the board supplies to you (such as reference forms to be completed by supervisors and colleagues).
If a checklist is not included by the board with the application, make one yourself to ensure you aren't forgetting any important documents.
5. Are there forms that need to be witnessed?
Some of the forms for my applications had to be notarized, namely those where I had to make an attestation.
DO NOT sign these forms until you are in front of the notary because she or he has to witness you signing it. Most banks provide notary services, but some businesses like UPS and title companies offer them as well.
6. What other exams are required?
I know what you're thinking – “Another test? I'm out of grad school! I passed the EPPP!”
In Virginia I did not need to take any exams aside from the EPPP. However, when I applied for licensure in South Carolina, even though I was already licensed in Virginia, I still had to complete an oral exam. In Georgia (where I considered licensure, but did not apply) an oral exam and jurisprudence exam are required.
The oral exam in South Carolina consisted of an interview with a board member in which we discussed the various laws governing the practice of psychology. My internship and post-doc supervisor told me that the oral exam in Texas consisted of a case review in which applicants conceptualized a case, formulated a treatment plan, and discussed ethical and legal concerns applicable to the vignette.
Ask what can be expected during the oral exam and make sure you prepare for it.
7. Understand the fees.
Yes, you must pay to obtain a license. There is an application fee that must be included in your packet of materials and it is not a small amount.
When I applied in South Carolina, the application fee was $500. In Virginia, in addition to the application fee, I had to pay a fee of $50 to list a supervisor for my post-doc. If my supervisor changed, I would have had to pay another fee to list additional supervisors.
8. Know the timeline.
In Virginia, application materials were only reviewed during board meetings, which occurred twice a month. I researched the meeting dates and submitted my materials accordingly to minimize the wait time.
South Carolina follows a two-part application process. First, you must submit a preliminary application demonstrating that your graduate program meets state requirements as well as a terminal transcript. Second, a formal application must be submitted which includes professional references, proof of supervision, and EPPP scores.
Luckily, the application process in South Carolina is an ongoing process; because some of my materials were submitted on my behalf by the National Register of Health Service Psychologists (transcript, verification of internship and post-doc), as soon as they had all required information, I was asked to schedule my oral exam with a board member. Once all requirements for licensure were met, I was notified by postal mail.
It is also important to note how long you must wait before retaking an exam required by the board if you do not pass. In South Carolina, you must wait six months before retaking the oral exam.
9. Stay on top of your application!
While my application process in both states was smooth and without missteps, I heard many horror stories from my colleagues who went through the process before me.
They spoke of lost materials and having to pay two application fees! Know what is required, ask questions if you have them, and respond to requests from the board promptly.
10. Know your responsibilities after obtaining your license.
You are required to renew your license and should know how often to do it.
In Virginia, I must renew every June. In South Carolina, I renew every two years. At each renewal, you will be required to attest that you completed a certain number of continuing education hours.
Some states require a certain number of face-to-face hours (attending the session in person) while others may place a limit on how many hours can be accrued through various activities.
The number of hours required varies from state to state as well. Most will have some kind of continuing education requirement in ethics. Make sure to renew by the deadline or you may accrue a late fee or be at risk for having your license suspended.
With that, I wish you good luck in this truly final step of becoming an independently licensed psychologist!