By LearnPsychology.org Staff
Alabama provides a wealth of educational and career opportunities for prospective psychologists. According to the BLS, the state enjoys one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, making it easier for new professionals to secure a position in Alabama than in neighboring Florida, Georgia, or Mississippi.
Alabama is also home to a variety of excellent public colleges and universities. With in-state tuition rates falling right around the national average, Alabama residents can attend one of many great schools at a relatively low cost.
Prospective psychologists who plan to live and work in Alabama particularly benefit from attending psychology programs at in-state schools. Each state maintains slightly different licensing rules and regulations. Programs in Alabama are more likely to cover content included on licensing exams and satisfy any other licensure prerequisites.
Alabama is home to a vibrant mixture of rural and urban colleges and universities. Some schools also offer web-based psychology courses and degrees, leading to a large variety of program options. Students in Alabama may pursue a degree on campus or online and choose from a spectrum of specializations and focus areas.
However, psychology students can expect a few common program features, regardless of where or how they study. For example, most undergraduate students spend around four years earning a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degree-holders are not qualified to become psychologists in Alabama and must earn a doctoral degree before pursuing licensure.
Individuals planning to complete a Ph.D. in psychology can expect to choose a specialization and complete a minimum number of clinical hours in their chosen field. Most psychology Ph.D. programs require 5-7 years of study, depending on the concentration and school. Candidates must also complete an internship during their doctoral studies.
While psychology programs vary by school, higher education curricula often include similar courses. Undergraduate classes typically focus on fundamental psychological concepts, while graduate-level courses present advanced theories and clinical practices. Elective course offerings, however, may differ greatly between programs and specializations or concentrations.
Alabama government requires licensed psychologists to hold a doctoral degree from a department or school of psychology. Eligible schools and departments must either be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or meet various organizational and curricular requirements. In total, candidates for Alabama licensure are required to complete a minimum of 60 semester hours, including 24 hours of core classes and 36 specialty and elective course hours.
In addition, Alabama requires all licensed psychologists to choose a speciality. Doctoral students can choose to specialize in a variety of areas, such as clinical psychology or behavioral neuroscience, as long as their specialized coursework is APA accredited.
Lastly, doctoral-level psychology students in Alabama must complete internship training. The internships must either be APA accredited or meet a strict set of standards. One-quarter of the candidate's time should be spent directly with clients, and the internship facility must include two licensed psychologists among its supervisory staff. Alabama also follows APA guidelines for total required internship hours. Typically, doctoral students arrange internships with the assistance of their college or university's psychology department.
Candidates must hold a state license before practicing as clinical psychologists in Alabama. Licensure demonstrates that professionals adhere to state-mandated experience and educational guidelines. While some psychology careers do not require a license, many Alabama psychology graduates -- particularly doctoral degree-holders -- enjoy wider career opportunities after obtaining licensure.
Graduates who wish to become practicing psychologists must obtain licensure before they can work with the public, and psychologists who intend to practice in Alabama must earn a license from the state. Licensed psychologists are allowed to diagnose patients, determine treatment strategies, and conduct treatment through psychotherapy.
Some psychology careers do not require a license. For example, psychology professors do not need to obtain licensure. Various state and federal positions are also available to unlicensed psychologists.
The Alabama Board of Examiners in Psychology is the government organization in charge of granting psychology licenses in the state. The Board requires all candidates for licensure to hold a doctoral degree from an APA accredited program and complete at least one APA accredited internship. They must also be at least 19 years old and demonstrate good moral character.
Most in-state doctoral programs meet APA standards and consist of at least 60 credits. Before enrolling in a doctoral program, candidates must complete a bachelor's degree. While the bachelor's degree does not need to be in psychology, some colleges and universities may prefer applicants who demonstrate an academic background or interest in the field.
The board does not outline any specific requirements for specialty psychology degrees. As long as a specialty program is APA accredited, graduates should be eligible to pursue licensure.
After completing a degree and declaring a specialization, prospective Alabama psychologists must take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). Offered through the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), the EPPP takes over four hours to complete and consists of 225 questions. Test takers must earn a score of 500 to pass. Candidates may apply to take the exam through the ASPPB.
Next, applicants must pass the Board's Professional Standards Examination (PSE), a 42-question multiple choice exam that combines APA standards with Alabama's laws and ethical standards. Test takers must answer 80% of the questions correctly.
Finally, candidates must complete an application form and have it notarized, pay a one-time $400 application processing fee, and submit their official undergraduate and internship transcripts. They must also provide a passport-quality photo and four references, three of whom must be licensed psychologists.
In order to practice, psychologists in Alabama must renew their licenses every year. The board sends renewal notices on August 15, and candidates must submit their $200 renewal fee by October 15. Along with the fee, psychologists must provide proof of completing 20 hours of continuing education.
Qualifying continuing education courses must be APA accredited. Applicants can find a list of web-based and in-person continuing education courses online. Psychologists must pay a $50 continuing education fee and demonstrate a continued commitment to ethical behavior and honorable character.
BLS data indicates that mean wages for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists in Alabama dropped between 2016 and 2017. This may be due to an influx of entry-level psychologists, highly paid psychologists retiring, or psychologists moving their practice to other states. However, projections show the number of added clinical, counseling, and school psychologists growing 12.8% from 2016-26. A drop in overall pay does not appear to be linked to decreased demand for psychologists.
While the nation as a whole saw all other specialty psychologists' wages drop, professionals in Alabama saw wages increase from 2016-17. Specialty psychologists in Alabama also enjoy higher earnings than their counterparts in Tennessee and Alabama.
According to Projections Central, clinical psychologists in Alabama should see slower-than-average job growth through the next decade. However, the profession is still projected to grow much faster than most other positions. The BLS reports only 140 psychologists in this category practice in the state, making accurate projections difficult. Regardless, clinical, counseling, and school psychologists in Alabama are projected to enjoy a positive employment outlook.
|Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists in Alabama||$70,910||$68,190|
|Psychologists, All Other in Alabama||$92,050||$93,220|
|Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists Nationally||$78,690||$81,330|
|Psychologists, All Other Nationally||$94,650||$93,440|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $85,340
Psychologists, All Other: $95,610
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $69,070
Psychologists, All Other: $90,050
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $67,570
Psychologists, All Other: $81,610
|Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists||Psychologists, All Other|
Source: Projections Central
While some doctoral programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in psychology, others accept students who show an interest in the field. However, completing a BA or BS in psychology demonstrates initiative and prepares candidates for relevant graduate-level coursework.
Psychology students can choose from a variety of specialties, although some come with higher pay rates or require additional licensure. A forensic psychologist or psychology professor may practice with only a general license, while an addictions psychologist or psychology counselor must obtain specialized credentials.
Alabama psychology licenses are not valid in other states. However, individuals licensed to practice psychology in Alabama meet APA standards and may be eligible to apply for licensure in another state.
While Alabama prefers programs to meet APA standards, individuals who complete unaccredited programs may still seek licensure. However, this process is cumbersome, and applicants must meet 12 additional requirements concerning curriculum and organizational quality.