Question: How Many Years of College Does It Take to Become a Psychologist?
How many years do you need to go to school to become a psychologist? Learn about different degree options and requirements for various careers in psychology.
The amount of time it takes to complete your college education depends largely on your specialty area and career interest. At minimum, you will want to earn your undergraduate degree in psychology or in a related field such as sociology, education, anthropology, or social work. Then, you will want to decide if you want to earn a doctorate-level degree. The reason you should make this decision at this point is because many psychology programs do not offer a terminal master's degree in psychology. In such cases, you will enroll in a graduate program after earning your bachelor's degree and then spend 4 to 7 years working on your doctorate degree.
In order to become a licensed clinical psychologist, you need an undergraduate degree (4 to 5 years of college) plus a doctorate degree in psychology (4 to 7 years of graduate school). For this specialty area, most people will spend between 8 to 12 years in a higher education setting.
Of course, there are other career options in psychology that do not require as many years of college. For example, you could become a licensed marriage and family therapist with master's degree, which would require 2 to 3 years of graduate study.
If you decide not to pursue a doctorate degree at this point, you should start looking at different master's degree programs in psychology or in related fields such as counseling or social work.
Psychology Careers and Minimum Degree Options
Please note that these requirements represent the minimum educational requirements in these fields. Job opportunities and pay are generally greater with advanced training.
- Clinical Psychologist: Doctorate Degree in Psychology (4 to 7 years of graduate school)
- Industrial-Organizational Psychologist: Master's Degree (2 to 3 years of graduate school)
- Forensic Psychologist: Master's Degree (2 to 3 years of graduate school); a doctoral degree is recommended.
- Social Worker: Bachelor's Degree (4 to 5 years of undergraduate school)
- Licensed Counselor: Master's Degree (2 to 3 years of graduate school)
- School Psychologist: Varies by state (2 to 3 years of graduate school)
- Health Psychologist: Doctorate Degree (4 to 5 years of graduate school)
- Sports Psychologist: Master's Degree (2 to 3 years of graduate school)
- School Psychologist: Master's degree (2 to 3 years of graduate school)
- Social Psychologist: Doctoral Degree (5 to 7 years of graduate school)
- Child Psychologist: Doctoral degree (5 to 7 years of graduate school)
- Criminal Psychologist: Master's degree (2 to 3 years of graduate school); a doctoral degree is recommended.