Why Attend Psychology Colleges and Programs in Iowa?


By Heather Mullinix

In 2019, Iowa's degree-seekers paid an average of $9,364 per year for in-state tuition and fees, slightly below the national median of $10,440. The state promotes the value of a college education, with 41% of Iowans holding a postsecondary degree. U.S. News & World Report ranked the state eighth in higher education, thanks to high college graduation rates. Iowa ranked third in four-year college graduation rates and 12th in two-year college graduation. Learners graduate with an average of $29,859 in student debt.

Overall, Iowa ranked 14th in the annual Best States rankings by U.S. News & World Report, but ranked first for affordability. The average household income of $58,570 comes in just slightly below the national average of $60,336, and the state reports a 10.7% poverty rate, compared to the national average of 13.4%. The state's affordability combined with its low unemployment rate of 2.6% makes Iowa colleges for psychology a top choice for future psychologists.

What to Expect in an Iowa Psychology College Program

The American Psychological Association (APA) reported Iowa colleges conferred 1,326 psychology degrees in 2018 across multiple specializations, including cognitive, developmental, and social psychology. Several research centers in Iowa focus on mental health, such as the Rural Telehealth Research Center, Iowa Neuroscience Institute, the Mood Disorders Center, and the Center for Workplace Mental Health. These research programs often work collaboratively with the best colleges in Iowa for psychology, ensuring students enjoy access to the latest research and learning opportunities.

These research programs often work collaboratively with the best colleges in Iowa for psychology, ensuring students enjoy access to the latest research and learning opportunities.

Graduate students can gain valuable experience in research and clinical practice through internships and residencies in the state. Established fellowship and internship programs with the Veterans Administration, mental health hospitals, and government agencies allow students to complete field learning requirements while also gaining expertise in a specialty focus.

The Iowa Department of Public Health has also launched its Healthy Iowans health improvement plan, which includes an emphasis on mental and behavioral health services. Not only does this initiative strive to increase the number of healthcare providers, but it also includes a variety of strategies to address issues of mental health, mental illness, and suicide prevention.

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

Colleges for psychology in Iowa offer different courses depending on the interests and specialties of the faculty and any ongoing research. However, most programs give students a foundation in the theories and principles of psychological study, practice, and research. The list below highlights common courses for undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students.

Psychological Ethics

This undergraduate course introduces students to their ethical and legal obligations to their clients. Topics include ethical research, conflicts of interest, confidentiality, cultural competency, and informed consent. Faculty use a variety of reading materials with particular focus on the APA's professional and ethical standards. Classes also address the ethical questions involving the use of new technology, such as social media, videoconferencing, and texting.

Research Methods in Psychology

Psychologists rely on research-backed methods to effectively treat their patients. This undergraduate course ensures students understand scientific methods necessary to design and evaluate research studies. Core concepts include qualitative and quantitative assessments. Degree-seekers need a background in statistics before enrolling in the course. Assignments may consist of the completion of a group or independent research project.

Psychological Disorders

This graduate-level course requires students to apply theories of mental or behavioral disorders as defined by the current diagnostic manual. Learners must use patient observations, psychological assessments, and patient history to classify disorders. The course requires students to build upon their knowledge of biological, behavioral, and psychodynamic approaches to psychopathology.

Clinical Assessment Methods

Clinical psychologists must use a variety of techniques to objectively determine if patients have a psychological disorder. In addition to lectures, this graduate-level course often includes a hands-on practicum. Degree-seekers learn how to interview patients and administer various psychological tests before preparing a clinical report with a diagnosis and treatment recommendation.

Consultation and Supervision

While clinical and counseling psychologists primarily work directly with patients, their career path may involve administrative work as a consultant or supervisor for other psychologists. This graduate-level course prepares students for these various roles with the study of organizational culture, interpersonal dynamics, and institutional change. Assignments often include case studies and practicums.

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Education Requirements to Become a Psychologist in Iowa

Becoming a licensed psychologist in Iowa requires completing an APA-accredited doctoral program. The process can take 12-16 years to complete, with rigorous academic and hands-on training standards.

Most students begin with an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related discipline. Most undergraduate programs require four years to complete. The curriculum offers a broad introduction to the psychology field and the scientific methods used to test theories and develop treatment plans and protocols.

Becoming a licensed psychologist in Iowa requires completing an APA-accredited doctoral program.

Next, degree-seekers begin their graduate work. Many schools offer master's programs requiring 2-3 years. Students must take the GRE and need an undergraduate 3.0 GPA or higher. Some psychology programs accept students without an undergraduate degree in psychology.

Learners must choose a doctoral program in psychology with a choice of a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) or doctor of psychology (Psy.D.), requiring 5-7 years. The curriculum must include coursework in professional standards and ethics, scientific approaches to human development and dysfunctional behavior, diagnostic standards for practitioners, and development of treatment plans. The doctoral curriculum must include a one-year internship providing behavioral health services. Students also complete independent research and write a dissertation as a capstone experience.

Iowa Licensing for Psychologists

Psychology licensing ensures practitioners possess the knowledge and experience to treat their patients ethically and professionally. Iowa requires psychologists to complete this process before treating patients independently. The process includes an application that details a prospective psychologist's academic history and discloses any criminal history. Iowa also requires individuals to demonstrate their skills by working under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Aspiring psychologists must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).

Why Get Licensed in Iowa?

The Iowa Board of Psychology governs the licensing of psychologists practicing within the state. Failure to keep and maintain proper licensing can prevent professionals from serving patients or finding employment in Iowa. Psychology services include administering or interpreting behavioral or cognitive assessments, diagnosing patients, and providing treatment or intervention services. School psychologists may seek licensure from the board of psychology or certification from the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners.

Licensing Criteria for Iowa

Before beginning independent practice, psychologists must apply for permission to offer patients mental health diagnosis or treatment services. The Iowa Board of Psychology requires applicants to complete an APA-accredited doctoral program. The best psychology schools in Iowa meet the educational requirements, including a one-year internship. The curriculum must include professional standards and ethics.

After completing a Ph.D. or Psy.D., applicants must complete 1,500 hours of psychological work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. This experience should include direct patient care, with psychologists meeting regularly with their supervisor to discuss cases. During this time, the prospective licensee practices in the name of the supervising psychologist. Some employers require these postdoctoral psychologists to apply for a provisional license. This license costs $120 in fees and remains valid for no more than four years. The process includes application to the state and submitting a plan for supervision.

How to Get Licensed in Iowa

Once an applicant completes their 1,500 hours of supervised practice, they may apply to the state to sit for the EPPP. Applicants must pay the $688 testing fee. Admission to the testing center requires two forms of identification. Pearson VUE administers the exam, and candidates may take the test at any center nationwide, regardless of where they seek licensure. The 225-question multiple-choice exam allows up to four hours and 15 minutes to complete. Iowa uses the EPPP criteria to determine passing scores, which recommends a scaled score of 500 for independent practice. Scores go directly to the Iowa Board of Psychology.

After two years of practice, psychologists may apply for a health service provider designation. This license requires experience providing clinical services in a healthcare setting. Applicants must pay the $60 fee and verify their professional experience.

Individuals seeking licensure as a school psychologist may seek a specialist certification from the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners. The professional service license requires a master's degree in school psychology.

License Renewal in Iowa

Iowa psychology licenses expire June 30 of every even-numbered year. Psychologists must complete 40 hours of continuing education (CE) during the preceding two-year period to renew their license. CE may include attending workshops or conferences related to the practice of psychology, completing additional graduate-level coursework, or conducting scholarly research. Iowa also recognizes some home-study programs and grants credit for practitioners who develop a new professional education course.

CE requirements include six hours on Iowa laws, regulations, and risk management and two hours on identification and reporting of child or adult abuse. New licensees must complete one hour of abuse reporting training within six months of licensure.


Iowa Psychologist Salaries and Employment Trends

Graduates of Iowa colleges for psychology enjoy substantial employment opportunities in mental health services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports rising salaries for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists in the state, up more than $11,000 from 2017-18. Iowa psychologists also earn more than many of the surrounding states and remain close to the national salary average of $85,340.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports rising salaries for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists in the state, up more than $11,000 from 2017-18.

Where professionals choose to live and work impacts their earning potential. For example, psychologists in the Des Moines metropolitan area earn a median income of $97,140, while Iowa City psychologists earn $92,570. The southeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area, however, offers psychologists a median wage of $68,900. Pay often reflects a region's cost of living. Iowa boasts affordable housing costs and a cost of living at 8.3% below the national average.

Iowa anticipates brisk growth in psychology employment, mainly as it looks to implement several sweeping mental health reform initiatives and increase access to mental health services. The BLS projects 16.2% growth in jobs for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists in Iowa and 4.2% growth of psychologists in other specializations. National projections call for 14.2% growth in clinical psychology and related employment and 10.3% growth in all other specialties. Iowa leads growth projections among its neighboring states, except for Missouri, which also anticipates faster-than-average job growth.

Historical Mean Wage for Psychologists
  2016 2017
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists in Iowa $75,070 $73,780
Psychologists, All Other in Iowa $91,850 N/A
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 Iowa and Nearby States (2018)

  • Nationally

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

    Psychologists, All Other: $95,610

  • Iowa

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $85,260

    Psychologists, All Other: N/A

  • Missouri

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $76,480

    Psychologists, All Other: $86,730

  • Nebraska

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $66,510

    Psychologists, All Other: N/A

  • South Dakota

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $73,900

    Psychologists, All Other: $84,200

  • Minnesota

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $85,860

    Psychologists, All Other: $93,310

  • Wisconsin

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $83,420

    Psychologists, All Other: $80,620

  • Illinois

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $75,180

    Psychologists, All Other: $87,410

Source: BLS

Projected Job Growth for Psychologists (2016-2026)
  Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists Psychologists, All Other
Nationally 14.2% 10.3%
Iowa 16.2% 4.2%
Missouri 16.2% 4.2%
Nebraska 11.3% 11.1%
South Dakota 11.4% N/A
Minnesota 11.9% 7.1%
Wisconsin 9.7% 5.6%
Illinois 5.9% N/A

Source: Projections Central

Psychology Programs and Licensing in Iowa Frequently Asked Questions

Is Psychology a Good Major?

The study of psychology helps students understand why people behave in a certain way. The theories and principles help individuals seeking careers as licensed psychologists and anyone entering a profession that works with people. An undergraduate degree in psychology can serve as a starting point for careers in law or criminology, business and marketing, or education. Individuals who want to work in mental health may also study psychology before seeking a graduate degree and state licensing in counseling or clinical social work.

Do I Have to Major in Psychology to Become a Psychologist?

Becoming a licensed psychologist requires graduating from an accredited psychology program. The Board of Psychology verifies your education. The curriculum must include coursework in areas of human development, professional ethics, psychological assessment and diagnosis, research methods, and treatment and intervention. No matter your specialization area, you must also demonstrate an understanding of biological, cognitive, and social psychology.

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

Colleges for psychology in Iowa require applicants for master's programs to have an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution. While a degree in psychology may provide a foundation in core concepts and essential skills, programs accept students from diverse educational backgrounds. Some learners may need to complete a few prerequisite courses, such as child development or abnormal psychology, before entering a psychology master's program.

Are Iowa Psychology Licenses Valid in Other States?

An Iowa psychology license only permits professionals to practice in Iowa. If you move, you must seek licensure from the Board of Psychology for your new state. Many states offer licensing by endorsement. Under these licenses, the state verifies your Iowa license and your educational and practice history. Requirements vary, so check with your new jurisdiction for details.

What Happens If I Don't Renew My License?

Failure to renew your psychology license could result in losing the ability to practice in Iowa. Renewal requires payment of a $170 fee and the completion of 40 continuing education hours every two years. Psychologists not renewing their license by the expiration date risk incurring late charges or allowing their license to lapse. Psychologists practicing with an inactive license face disciplinary action or criminal prosecution.

Psychology Resources for Iowa


  • Iowa Psychological Association Formed in 1949, IPA promotes the psychology profession through networking, training, and advocacy. IPA hosts numerous conferences and workshops throughout the year. The spring and fall conferences feature emerging research, national and local experts, and advanced training.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness of Iowa Iowa's NAMI chapter supports mental health efforts across the state. The group offers education and training for family members, children, peers, and mental health providerslip>
  • Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa While BIAIA serves patients and caregivers, it also ensures professionals have access to necessary resources for appropriate treatment. The alliance hosts an annual conference with training on best practices and trends in provider services. The group's website also includes a library of webinars related to brain injury treatment.
  • Iowa Behavioral Health Association IBHA serves more than 30 behavioral health organizations in Iowa. Members can participate in working groups related to behavioral health education, prevention, and treatment. The association advocates on issues of public policy and legislative matters.
  • Iowa School Psychologists Association ISPA serves school psychologists with legislative advocacy, professional networking, and educational resources. Members can access proprietary content online, including statewide job postings. Members share their recommendations on books, podcasts, and apps.