California Psychologist Licensing Guide

If you’re interested in practicing psychology in California, you’ll need to earn your license before building up your client base.

Confused about what’s required to earn your license to practice psychology? Here’s a breakdown of everything mandatory for the state of California.

What are California’s Educational Requirements? 

The first step of earning your psychology license in the state of California is getting your doctoral degree in psychology. For most programs, you’ll first need to obtain an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field such as neuroscience or social work.

Once you’ve received this, it’s time to get a master’s in psychology. With these degrees in-hand, you can apply to the APA-accredited college of your choice to get a PhD or PsyD and complete the educational part of your license.

If you want to take a break between your master’s education and your doctorate, you can become a licensed psychology assistant with a master’s degree. You can keep this designation for up to six years.

While you’re pursuing your education, keep in mind that California has its own coursework requirements. These may not be included in your regular education. The additional class requirements are broken up by subject matter and contact hours. One contact hour = one hour of class.

For California, you’ll need to take:

  • Human Sexuality, 10 contact hours
  • Substance Abuse, 15 contact hours
  • Spousal Abuse, 15 contact hours
  • Child Abuse, 7 contact hours
  • Aging and Long-term Care, 10 contact hours

If these topics aren’t included within your regular education, you have the option to take them as online classes.

What are California’s Requirements for Supervised Internship Hours? 

Another component of your license requirements is obtaining a certain number of supervised internship hours. For the state of California, candidates need to have 3,000 hours. While they’re still getting their doctorate, they can earn 1,500 hours, but the other 1,500 will need to be worked after they’ve completed their graduate education.

The future psychologist can start getting their post-doctoral hours before their graduation ceremony if they have evidence that they’ve successfully completed their coursework.

A major part of getting your 3,000 supervised internship hours is making sure you’re working at a location that’s accredited by the American Psychological Association. California also allows you to earn your hours through organizations that are a part of the California Psychology Internship Council or the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers.

If you’re working at a nonexempt location and don’t have a waiver from the Department of Mental Health, you must have a state credential while you’re earning your 3,000 hours.

Have you already accrued hours from another state or U.S. territory? If you’re supervising psychologist is licensed, these work hours can count toward your grand total. And if you were completing internship hours in another country, these may roll into your California hours if you can prove they were of equitable quality as in-state work.

Which Standardized Psychology Tests are Mandatory in California? 

The state code of California mandates that candidates must take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and the California Supplemental Psychology Examination (CSPE).

The EPPP is the national psychology standardized exam and license candidates are allowed to take the test after they’ve gotten their doctorate and worked 1,500 hours of their supervised internship experience. This test costs $600 and is offered through the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB).

If you took the EPPP outside of California, you’ll need to request to forward your results to the California Psychology Board.

When you’ve completed your 3,000 supervised hours, you’ll get authorization from the California Board to the CSPE. This state-level exam is $129 to take and is offered at predetermined testing locations throughout the year.

If you failed the CSPE, you’ll need to wait at least six months before another attempt. You have up to a year to pass the CSPE from your California Board authorization, so make sure you don’t wait too long before you’re next attempt.

How Do I Apply For My License in California? 

Once you’ve gotten your degree, completed your supervised internship hours, and passed the EPPP and the CSPE, it’s finally time to apply for your California psychology license.

The application is available here for $40. You can submit all of your required materials (including transcripts from your graduate schools) online or have the option of mailing in your forms.

Before sending in your application, you’ll need to get a background check, which includes getting fingerprinted. For this part of the process, you’ll need to find a fingerprinting site and bring the required documentation with you.

If you do have a criminal conviction, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get your license. The charges that will automatically exclude you are: anything requiring you to register as a sex offender, sexual charges against a minor, and battery against a patient under your care.

Will My Out-of-State Psychology License Carry Over to California? 

If you received your psychology license outside of California, but still within the U.S. or Canada, you may practice up to 30 days per year in California without getting a separate California license.

Licensed psychologists who want to earn their California psychology credentials may practice for 180 days while getting their California license. To earn this distinction, they need to go through the background check, complete the education requirements, and take the CSPE.

If they’ve had their psychology license for five or more years, they don’t have to take the CSPE. Instead, they are required to pass the California Psychology Laws and Ethics Examination (CPLEE).

What are California’s Board and Professional Organizations?

The group that oversees practicing psychologists in the state of California is the California Board of Psychology. If you have questions about the licensing process, here is the page with all of their contact information.