California Psychologist Licensing Guide

The Board of Psychology in California ( licenses psychologists. To obtain licensure, candidates must earn a doctoral degree, successfully pass state and national exams, and undergo a year of supervised training. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about obtaining and maintaining your license in the Golden State.

Education 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.

Supervised Professional Experience (SPE) Requirement

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 your 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.

Required Examinations

The state code of California mandates that candidates must take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and the California Psychology Law & Ethics Examination (CPLEE).

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 CPLEE. This state-level exam is $129 to take and is offered at predetermined testing locations throughout the year.

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

Background Check

You must undergo a fingerprinting process. For this part of the process, you’ll need to find a fingerprinting site and bring the required documentation with you. The California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will use this to conduct a criminal history record check.

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.

California’s Psychologist License Application Process

  1. Apply for the EPPP (Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology):
    1. Application Fee: $50.
    2. Fill out the online application or mail in a hard copy application to the Board of Psychology.
    3. Submit official transcripts for your qualifying degree to the Board of Psychology.
    4. Complete and submit a Supervision Agreement and Verification of Experience form, documenting 1500 hours of SPE earned pre-/post-doctorally. (Supervision Agreement and Verification of Experience Forms)
    5. Once approved, schedule and take the EPPP exam. If you do not pass, you may retake the examination within a year​.
  2. Apply for the CPLEE (California Psychology Law and Ethics Examination):
    1. Application Fee: $235.20.
    2. Fill out the CPLEE request form and mail it to the Board of Psychology with the fee.
    3. Complete and submit another Supervision Agreement and Verification of Experience form, documenting a total of 3000 hours of SPE with at least 1500 hours earned post-doctorally.
    4. Once approved, schedule and take the CPLEE exam. If you do not pass, you may retake the exam upon payment of the $235.20 fee to the Board​.
    5. CPLEE Request Form
  3. Request for Initial Licensure:
    1. Online Application through BreEZe
    2. Application Fee: $500.
    3. After passing the CPLEE, you’ll receive a Request for Initial Licensure form.
    4. Mail the completed and signed form along with the fee to the Board of Psychology.
    5. Once approved, the Board will email you with your license number​

Continuing Education

Once licensed, psychologists must meet continuing education requirements to renew their license.

Effective January 1, 2023, the California Board of Psychology introduced a requirement for licensees to complete 36 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) biennially​​. Additionally, those whose licenses are expiring in 2023 have the option to renew their license using either traditional continuing education or CPD. The Laws and Ethics requirement can also be met using either of these methods​.

CPD refers to a broader set of activities aimed at enhancing a professional’s knowledge, skills, and competence in their field. It encompasses a variety of learning activities, not limited to traditional educational experiences, and is designed to ensure psychologists remain effective and competent in their practice​​.

CE, or Continuing Education, traditionally refers to structured educational experiences like courses, seminars, or workshops aimed at maintaining or enhancing professional competence. CE is a more conventional model of ongoing learning, usually delivered by approved providers.

The adoption of the CPD model reflects a shift towards a more holistic approach to professional development, encompassing a wider range of learning and professional activities compared to the traditional CE model. This change aligns with the evolving needs and expectations of the psychology profession in California.

License Renewal

California psychologists must renew their licenses every two years.

A total of 36 hours of continuing education (CE) are required for each renewal, with 27 hours (75%) allowed from approved online coursework. A course on California laws and ethics must be taken during each renewal period​.

Renew your license online via the DCA BreEZe Online Services. You can also submit a License Renewal Application by mail, though it’s advised to do this no more than 75 days prior to the license expiration date.

Ensure to renew your license on time to avoid it slipping into delinquent or canceled status. Practicing psychology with an inactive or delinquent license may result in charges of criminal action and subsequent discipline against the license​.

Biennial Renewal Fee:

  • Active Psychologist: $530.00.
  • Inactive Psychologist: $60.00.

Delinquency Fee:

  • Active Psychologist: $150.00.
  • Inactive Psychologist: $20.00​

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 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.

1625 North Market Blvd, Suite N-215, Sacramento, CA 95834 | Email for Application Status: [email protected] | Phone: (916) 574-7720

The California Psychological Association is the most popular professional organization in the state. They offer various training and certification programs, as well as annual update training sessions and networking events.

The Los Angeles Psychological Association (LACPA) is also notable. Founded in 1945, LACPA now represents over 5,570 licensed psychologists within Los Angeles County.