Why Attend Psychology Colleges and Programs in Alaska?

By Janice Monti

Despite its huge land mass and sparse population, Alaska boasts three accredited universities offering psychology programs at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Degree-seekers can attend traditional brick-and-mortar programs or explore an increasing number of online options. Students often pursue research and internship opportunities, preparing them to work with Alaska's culturally diverse groups in remote rural communities and urban centers.

Colleges for psychology in Alaska offer several specializations, quality instruction, and reasonable tuition rates. Alaska's average annual in-state college tuition of $9,221 falls almost $5,000 below the national average. Alaska ranks as the ninth most affordable state for a college degree.

Psychology graduates in Alaska can look forward to a positive employment outlook. Alaska ranks fifth in the nation for economic opportunity and has invested in its healthcare infrastructure, resulting in an expansion of mental health and counseling positions.

What to Expect in an Alaska Psychology College Program

As a first step, students planning on a psychology-related career need a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field. A bachelor's, which takes about four years to complete, can lead to employment in lower-level community or social services positions. This degree also serves as a prerequisite for graduate study.

As a first step, students planning on a psychology-related career need a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field.

A master's in psychology, which generally takes two more years to complete after earning a bachelor's, prepares graduates for counseling and therapy positions. Licensed psychologists in Alaska need a doctorate in clinical, counseling, or another state-approved specialization. A doctoral degree can take five or more years to complete, including dissertation and field experience requirements.

Because Alaska colleges for psychology conferred only 130 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in 2018, the need for qualified psychologists remains unmet. Students interested in entering high-demand fields like clinical counseling and school psychology should begin to incorporate coursework relevant to their specializations as soon as they choose their career path. Degree-seekers who want to work with underrepresented populations, such as tribal groups, or in a particular subject area like addiction counseling should seek internship opportunities that match their professional goals.

What Courses Are Part of an Online Psychology Degree Program in Alaska?

Every psychology program establishes its distinctive curriculum and degree requirements. However, students attending colleges for psychology in Alaska acquire a common base of theoretical, conceptual, and methodological knowledge and exposure to the discipline's main specializations. Degree-seekers often encounter the courses below in undergraduate and graduate psychology programs.

Introduction to General Psychology

This course serves as a prerequisite for most undergraduate psychology courses. Students learn about the history of psychology and its place within natural and social scientific paradigms. They also explore major theoretical perspectives and research methods for the study of cognition, perception, personality, developmental, behavioral, and neurobiological psychology.

Cognitive Psychology

Degree-seekers examine the components of cognitive development, including perception, attention, memory, language acquisition, knowledge representation, conceptualization, and reasoning. Students learn how humans apply mental process to perceive their environment; gather, process, and store information; solve problems; make decisions; and interact with others through nonverbal and verbal communication.

Psychological Assessment

Required in most master's programs, this course explains psychological assessment, appraisal, and testing of children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. Students explore standardized and non-standardized tests, norm-referenced and criterion-referenced assessment, statistical analysis, and test theory and construction. The course emphasizes the ethical and appropriate applications of assessments in culturally diverse settings.

Substance Use Disorders, Behavioral Addictions, and Co-Occurring Disorders

This master's-level course examines theories, models, and techniques for the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of substance use disorders, behavioral addictions, and co-occurring addictions. Students learn about at-risk populations, support systems, community resources, and methods for prevention and relapse responses. Coursework addresses legal and ethical issues related to therapy and counseling.

Multivariate Analysis

Designed for doctoral students preparing for dissertation research, this course demonstrates the applications of multivariate analysis for the evaluation and collection of statistical data to clarify and explain relationships among three or more variables. Degree-seekers learn to apply several approaches, including multiple regression analysis, discriminate analysis, multivariate analysis of variance, factor analysis, logistic regression, and cluster analysis.

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Education Requirements to Become a Psychologist in Alaska

A bachelor's in psychology or counseling leads to entry-level employment and provides a strong foundation for graduate work. Advanced psychology positions require at least a master's degree and state license.

Most graduate programs in psychology allow students to incorporate career-focused specializations in fields like mental health counseling, marriage and family studies, school psychology, substance use disorders, and other clinical areas. Licensed professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and clinical social workers need a master's degree to practice in Alaska. To work as a licensed clinical, counseling, or school psychologist in Alaska, professionals need a doctorate in psychology.

Students exploring the best psychology schools in Alaska can consider a graduate degree a worthwhile investment.

Students exploring the best psychology schools in Alaska can consider a graduate degree a worthwhile investment. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development projects high employment growth in healthcare occupations through 2026, with projections of higher than average rates for counselors, therapists, and social workers. Jobs for clinical, counseling, and career psychology specialists in Alaska are projected to increase 15% through 2026.

All master's and doctoral programs and many undergraduate programs require supervised professional experiences in clinical settings. While required for graduate students planning to acquire licensure, practicum hours and internships provide undergraduate students with valuable hands-on experience as they decide on their future careers.

Alaska Licensing for Psychologists

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require licensure to establish the legal requirements for psychology practice that entails direct contact with clients. While specific regulations vary across the country, psychologists seeking licensure need a doctorate and supervised professional experience hours. They must also pass national and state exams and criminal background checks mandated by the state licensing authority.

Why Get Licensed in Alaska?

Psychologists in Alaska who treat clients in direct clinical practice must acquire licensing from the Alaska Board of Psychologist and Psychological Associate Examiners. The license allows psychologists to deliver services to patients with mental and emotional disorders, conduct research, and receive payment for their services. The state requires doctorate-level clinical, counseling, and school psychologists to hold licenses. Although chemical dependency and behavioral health counselors do not need this state-issued license to provide services, they must receive certification through the Alaska Commission for Behavioral Health.

Licensing Criteria for Alaska

The Alaska Board of Psychologist and Psychological Associate Examiners administers the laws and procedures for licensure. All licensure candidates need a doctorate from a regionally accredited university. Licensure for clinical and counseling specializations requires candidates to apply for a temporary license, submit a supervision plan to the board, and complete at least 1,500 hours of postdoctoral supervised professional experience. School psychologists must undergo a separate licensing process through the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.

Applications must include five letters of references, including one from the chair or other members of the candidate's doctoral program. The board requires official transcripts from the candidates' undergraduate and graduate programs.

All candidates for the psychology license must pass two examinations and pay all examination, application, and licensing fees for a total of $1,750. This amount includes the $775 permanent license fee that candidates submit only after they have met all licensing requirements and receive full board approval.

How to Get Licensed in Alaska

Licensure candidates in Alaska must pass the National Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and an exam on Alaska state law and ethics.

The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) administers the EPPP four times a year in a computerized format. Candidates may also take the exam in person at Prometric Test Centers across the U.S. and Canada. The ASPPB provides candidates with opportunities to take online practice exams or in-person practice exams at a testing center to prepare for the EPPP. Alaska follows the ASPPB recommendation of a passing score cutoff of 500.

After passing the EPPP exam, candidates receive approval from the Alaska licensing board to sit for the State Law and Ethics Examination, a written test administered separately from the EPPP. The board offers this exam four times a year in Anchorage and Juneau. Candidates may request more information and study packets from the state board.

License Renewal in Alaska

Psychologists in Alaska must renew their license every two years through the state licensing board. To obtain renewal, candidates submit a Psychologist License Renewal Application and complete at least 20 hours of continuing education hours each year, including three hours in professional ethics.

The board accepts continuing education units from accredited academic institutions or professional organizations approved by the American Psychological Association or other organizations that represent mental health and behavioral health professions. Candidates must submit a sworn statement from the continuing education providers verifying the dates and subject matter.

Alaska also requires biennial renewal for licensed counselors and marriage and family therapists although continuing education requirements differ for these professionals.

Alaska Psychologist Salaries and Employment Trends

As the need for quality mental healthcare in Alaska increases, the state continues to expand its mental healthcare, behavioral health, and public health workforce. This table indicates a healthy employment outlook for Alaska's psychology graduates, especially those with advanced degrees and specialized licenses and certifications.

The state's Department of Labor and Workforce Development projects steady growth in the employment of licensed psychologists, mental health and addiction counselors, marriage and family therapists, and other specialists. The demand for licensed psychologists with specializations in clinical, counseling, and school psychology may increase by 9% between 2016 and 2018. The projected growth in the employment of substance abuse and behavioral health disorder counselors in Alaska may rise by 12% and mental health counselors by 14%.

While salaries vary by employer and years of experience, licensed psychology professionals in Alaska earn significantly higher salaries than the national average. Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earn $10,000 more a year than the national average for this group. Psychologists in Alaska earn higher salaries than those employed in neighboring states. The annual average salary for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists in Alaska ranks significantly higher than for Alaska's closest neighboring state, Washington.

Historical Mean Wage for Psychologists
  2016 2017
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists in Alaska $85,540 $96,350
Psychologists, All Other in Alaska $95,270 $97,650
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists Nationally $78,690 $81,330
Psychologists, All Other Nationally $94,650 $93,440

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Mean Wage For Psychologists In Alaska and Nearby States (2018)

  • Nationally

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $85,340

    Psychologists, All Other: $95,610

  • Alaska

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $91,450

    Psychologists, All Other: N/A

  • Washington

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $73,840

    Psychologists, All Other: $102,760

  • Hawaii

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $94,550

    Psychologists, All Other: $94,260

Source: BLS

Projected Job Growth for Psychologists (2016-2026)
  Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists Psychologists, All Other
Nationally 14.2% 10.3%
Alaska 15.4% N/A
Washington 21.5% 10.0%
Hawaii 12.7% N/A

Source: Projections Central

Psychology Programs and Licensing in Alaska Frequently Asked Questions

Should I get a BA or a BS in Psychology?

The answer depends on your interests and career goals. A BA focuses on humanities and social science, allowing you to enter graduate studies in psychology or other fields, such as law, social work, and education. A BS emphasizes math, science, and laboratory courses, providing a strong academic foundation for psychology majors who want to pursue research-focused graduate work.

Do I Need a Bachelor's in Psychology to Get a Master's in Psychology?

Students often enter master's programs in psychology after having earned a degree in liberal arts or any of the social sciences. Depending on the school, a master's program may offer provisional admission to non-psychology bachelor's degree-holders, requiring them to fulfill certain science or math requirements or take specified courses in core psychology areas.

What Is a Good Specialty for Psychology?

Degree-seekers should choose specializations that match their personal interests and career goals. Clinical psychology, addiction counseling, and school psychology rank among the most popular specializations. Students can choose specializations that focus on the needs of specific groups like children or service members, or they may choose to enter emerging fields like human factor psychology or forensic psychology.

What is the Difference Between a Psy.D. and a Ph.D. in Psychology?

A Ph.D, or doctor of philosophy, trains students to conduct scientific research, providing substantial training in statistics and methods and requiring a dissertation. The Psy.D., or doctor of psychology, places greater emphasis on providing clinical services. A Ph.D. may take longer to complete, approximately 5-7 years, while learners can complete a Psy.D. in 4-6 years, including the required clinical internship.

What Field of Psychology Makes the Most Money?

While salary ranges vary depending on employer and geographical location, certain in-demand specializations offer psychology graduates attractive salaries. Child psychiatry, which requires the completion of a medical degree and residency, offers the highest salaries. Specializations in the emerging fields of engineering psychology, forensic psychology, and industrial/organizational psychology may offer annual salaries above $100,000.

Psychology Resources for Alaska

  • Alaska Addiction Professional Association AAPA promotes collaboration among Alaska's addiction specialists and advocates to strengthen standards for licensure and certification. The association provides online webinars, conferences, and professional development opportunities.
  • Alaska Counseling Association AKCA provides professional development for counselors, monitors legislation affecting access to counseling services in the state, and supports the ethical development and competency of Alaskan graduate students in the field.
  • Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Division of Behavioral Health This state government office provides services to address mental health issues and substance use disorders across the state. The department coordinates access to prevention and screening, intervention, and acute psychiatric care.
  • Alaska Psychological Association AK-PA advances the psychology profession in the state, offering members free ethical consultations, access to a listserv for professional networking, and professional development opportunities.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness-Alaska This statewide umbrella organization coordinates the services of four local affiliates in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and North Slope. NAMI-Alaska provides education, support, advocacy, and public awareness on a range of mental health issues.