Why Attend Psychology Colleges and Programs in Pennsylvania?

By LearnPsychology.org Staff

Students pursuing psychology degrees in Pennsylvania can choose from many academic programs. The Keystone State was home to 326 colleges and universities in 2016, making it the state with the third-most higher education institutions in the country. The same data also shows that college graduates from Pennsylvania end up with fewer loan defaults than the rest of the U.S. The borrower default rate for Pennsylvania reached about 9.2% in 2016, compared to a national default rate of 10.1%.

Pennsylvania graduates enter an economy with many employment opportunities. U.S. News & World Report ranks Pennsylvania as the 13th best state for opportunity, calculating factors like affordability, economic opportunity, and equality. Plus, Pennsylvania offers many opportunities for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists.

What to Expect in a Pennsylvania Psychology College Program

Pennsylvania universities conferred just over 4,000 psychology degrees in 2018, according to data from the American Psychological Association (APA), making Pennsylvania third in the nation for awarding the most psychology degrees. Thanks to the popularity of psychology degrees in the state, students probably won't struggle to find internships or supervised work experiences in Pennsylvania.

In general, students can expect to spend around a decade enrolled in higher education before becoming psychologists. Actual time depends largely on how each college and university organizes its psychology program. Traditionally, bachelor's degrees last four years, master's degrees take 1-3 years, and doctoral degrees require 4-7 years. Learners who study full time and enroll in accelerated programs can finish more quickly. Part-time students might need to dedicate more than a decade to their education.

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

Each school offers a unique curriculum to its enrollees. However, students can find similar courses within the various programs, especially since Pennsylvania schools need to cover certain topics to earn accreditation. Below, read about some sample undergraduate and graduate courses you might find at colleges for psychology in Pennsylvania.

Introduction to Psychology

As with any major, psychology programs typically include a foundational course that introduces students to the field. The course presents short overviews of many topics within psychology that enrollees learn about more in advanced classes later. These topics might include neuroscience, learning and memory, social psychology, and psychopathology.

Cognitive Psychology

This field focuses on the mind and its mental processes. Students learn about concepts like memory, learning, language, perception, and problem-solving. They also study theories from famous cognitive psychologists like Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner.

Research Methods

Psychology students complete research projects at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and Ph.D. students spend years working on their dissertations. Therefore, psychology programs require learners to prepare by taking research methods and statistics courses. These courses cover qualitative and quantitative research, descriptive statistics, and analyzing data.

Community Psychology

This branch of psychology explores how social groups like schools, families, religious groups, and workplaces affect people's lives on a psychological level. Students also learn about how community psychologists can implement their finding on topics like family violence and foster care to create social policy change.

Social Cognition

This course investigates how people relate to and interact with one another. Course material focuses on how cognitive mechanisms like memory and perception affect social behavior. Students may also cover topics like prejudice, face perception, attribution theory, social comparison semantic processing, false memories, and social neuroscience. Students might find this course at undergraduate or graduate levels.

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Education Requirements to Become a Psychologist in Pennsylvania

Aspiring psychologists need to stay in school for several years to qualify for licensure. The Pennsylvania Board requires each psychologist candidate to earn a doctoral degree, which means students could spend a decade enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs.

First, each student must complete a bachelor's degree, which traditionally takes four years. Pennsylvania does not require psychologist candidates to hold their undergraduate degrees in psychology, but doing so can be helpful when applying to graduate schools. Some master's programs accept applicants who did not major in psychology, but these candidates usually need at least a few undergraduate courses in psychology to strengthen their applications.

The Pennsylvania Board requires each psychologist candidate to earn a doctoral degree, which means students could spend a decade enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs.

After earning their bachelor's degrees, students enroll in graduate programs. This typically consists of a master's and then a doctoral program, although some students apply directly to doctoral programs. Master's degrees may last anywhere from 1-3 years, while doctoral degrees can take 4-7 years to complete. Pennsylvania's board requires psychologist candidates to hold degrees accredited by APA, the Canadian Psychological Association, or the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB).

Pennsylvania state law does not dictate any required internship or clinical hours while students pursue their degrees, but many Pennsylvania colleges for psychology require them anyway. In addition, students at all degree levels typically engage in research.

Pennsylvania Licensing for Psychologists

As with every other state, practicing psychologists need licenses to legally work in Pennsylvania. These licenses also solidify a psychologist's credibility. The following sections provide more information about licensure requirements beyond education.

Why Get Licensed in Pennsylvania?

Psychologists in Pennsylvania need licensure to meet with patients, diagnose mental illnesses and behavioral disorders, and implement therapy treatment plans. Individuals who perform these tasks without licensure may find themselves in legal trouble.

Make sure you pursue the correct license for your career. The state offers other types of licensure for professionals who work in mental health but not as psychologists. Social workers, marriage and family therapists, and professional counselors need to earn separate licenses.

Licensing Criteria for Pennsylvania

After earning a doctoral degree, psychologist candidates must participate in at least one year of supervised experience before qualifying for licensure. This supervised experience requires at least 1,750 hours completed over 12 months, although candidates can work part time and complete their hours later as well.

Half of these hours should consist of performing tasks like diagnosis, assessment, therapy, and interventions. Candidates can earn the other half by teaching or performing research. They can work in different settings, like clinics or hospitals, as long as the work prepares them for their chosen specialties.

A psychologist in this postdoctoral stage can complete 15-45 hours of supervised work per week. Supervisors must work as licensed psychologists and meet with candidates for at least two hours a week. Supervisors also write evaluations, outlining applicants' strengths and weaknesses. Candidates include these evaluations in their applications for licensure.

How to Get Licensed in Pennsylvania

As a final step before earning licensure, Pennsylvania psychologist candidates must pass two examinations: the exam for professional practice in psychology (EPPP) and the Pennsylvania psychology law examination.

The ASPPB administers the EPPP, which psychologists across the country must take for licensure. This exam evaluates candidates' knowledge of the biological, social, and cognitive factors that influence behavior; human lifespan development; assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients; professional ethics; and research methods and statistics. Test-takers need a score of 70% to pass. Candidates apply to take the EPPP exam with Pennsylvania's state licensing board.

The state exam covers Pennsylvania's laws regarding psychology licensure. Candidates should know about licensure requirements, renewals, and violations that can lead to licensure suspension. The exam consists of multiple choice questions, and test-takers need at least a 75% to pass. Candidates can schedule the state test throughout the year with any Lasergrade testing center.

License Renewal in Pennsylvania

Licenses expire on odd-numbered years on November 30. As a reminder, Pennsylvania's board mails renewal notices to psychologists 2-3 months before licenses expire. The renewal costs $300.

Psychologists must complete 30 continuing education hours to renew their licenses. At least three of those continuing education hours should cover ethics, two hours must focus on child abuse recognition and reporting, and one hour must relate to suicide prevention. Psychologists can find continuing education opportunities from accredited colleges and universities, APA, APA-approved professional organizations, and the American Medical Association.

Pennsylvania Psychologist Salaries and Employment Trends

Pennsylvania boasts some of the best employment numbers for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists. With about 4,440 psychologists working in the state in 2018, it had the fifth-highest employment for psychologists in the United States. Over 3,000 of these psychologists work in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The U.S. Department of Labor projects psychologists in these fields will see a 9.3% increase in jobs from 2016 to 2026.

Wages for psychologists in Pennsylvania, however, lag behind national figures. While clinical counseling, and school psychologists made a mean annual wage of $85,340 nationwide in 2018, those same professionals took home a mean annual wage of $83,160 in Pennsylvania. Psychologists in other specialties earned over $95,000 nationwide, while in Pennsylvania they made about $88,000.

Psychologists in Pennsylvania still make more than professionals in some neighboring states. Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earned below $80,000 in Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, and West Virginia. Explore the data below for more information about how Pennsylvania psychologist salaries and employment trends stack up to national numbers and neighboring states.

Historical Mean Wage for Psychologists
  2016 2017
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists in Pennsylvania $72,640 $79,280
Psychologists, All Other in Pennsylvania $86,630 $91,830
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 Pennsylvania and Nearby States (2018)

  • Nationally

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

    Psychologists, All Other: $95,610

  • Pennsylvania

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $83,160

    Psychologists, All Other: $87,940

  • Maryland

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $79,820

    Psychologists, All Other: $112,330

  • Delaware

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $78,850

    Psychologists, All Other: N/A

  • New Jersey

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $98,470

    Psychologists, All Other: N/A

  • New York

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $94,140

    Psychologists, All Other: $99,640

  • Ohio

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $75,710

    Psychologists, All Other: $92,900

  • West Virginia

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $59,200

    Psychologists, All Other: $82,970

  • Virginia

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $80,380

    Psychologists, All Other: $97,200

Source: BLS

Projected Job Growth for Psychologists (2016-2026)
  Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists Psychologists, All Other
Nationally 14.2% 10.3%
Pennsylvania 9.3% 7.5%
Maryland 15.2% 5.1%
Delaware 11.8% N/A
New Jersey 7.6% 9.5%
New York 15.6% 18.2%
Ohio 13.4% 8.7%
West Virginia 13.0% 13.3%
Virginia 18.2% 13.6%

Source: Projections Central

Psychology Programs and Licensing in Pennsylvania Frequently Asked Questions

Is Psychology a Good Major?

If you want to become a licensed psychologist, then yes -- majoring in psychology can only work to your advantage. Many undergraduate students choose to major in psychology simply because learning about the human mind interests them. Psychology graduates often work in non-psychology fields, like law enforcement and community service.

Should I Get a BA or BS in Psychology?

Neither degree is inherently better than the other, so the ideal degree depends on your career goals. A BS in psychology tends to focus more on math and the hard sciences, generally requiring more psychology courses overall. Individuals who know they ultimately want to work as licensed psychologists may choose this option. A BA in psychology, on the other hand, allows students to explore more general education courses. This option may appeal more to learners who are undecided about their career paths.

What Is a Good Specialty for Psychology?

Psychology programs often allow students to choose a specialization, even at the undergraduate level. A specialization prepares aspiring psychologists for a specific career. A concentration in educational psychology, for instance, can prepare someone who wants to work as a school counselor.

Are Pennsylvania Psychology Licenses Valid in Other States?

The answer to this question varies by state. Many states allow psychologists to practice if they already hold licensure from another state. Although state boards do not typically require out-of-state licensed psychologists to repeat examinations or supervised experience, they will typically need to turn in a new application outlining their qualifications.

Can I Get Licensed If My Degree Is From an Unaccredited Program?

Simply put, no. Pennsylvania requires candidates to earn their doctoral degrees from programs accredited by APA or another professional psychology associations. Graduate schools only accept applicants who earned accredited bachelor's degrees. Always keep accreditation among your top criteria when applying to colleges for psychology in Pennsylvania.

Psychology Resources for Pennsylvania

  • Pennsylvania Psychological Association PPA is the state branch of APA. It connects Pennsylvania psychologists working in hospitals, independent clinics, schools, and government agencies, offering professional development opportunities, webinars, and educational podcasts.
  • Association of School Psychologists of Pennsylvania School psychologists who join this organization receive many membership benefits, including discounted fees to fall workshops and spring conferences. Student members can also apply for funding for their tuition and research grants.
  • Philadelphia Psychology Network About three-fourths of Pennsylvania's psychologists live in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, and this organization serves those professionals. Members can list their practices in a local directory, join peer consultation groups, access job postings, and access continuing education opportunities.
  • Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology As a part of the state's board for professional licensure, this government organization enforces Pennsylvania's regulations regarding psychology licenses. Working professionals and aspiring professionals can visit the website for any information about licensing and renewal requirements.
  • Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania This nonprofit organization provides mental health aid to Pennsylvanians. Psychologists who join the group can find resources and news updates about the industry. They can also participate in community-based mental health initiatives.