Why Attend Psychology Colleges and Programs in Washington?


By Ndidi Susan Emeagwali

About 3,770 clinical, counseling, and school psychologists work in Washington, with about 350 annual openings projected between 2016-26. This reflects a 21% forecasted job growth that creates many opportunities for graduates from the best colleges in Washington for psychology.

Washington's education system ranks fourth in the nation, as does the state's healthcare system, according to a U.S. World & News Report. Washington's economy ranks even higher in third place.

Degree-seekers enrolled at Washington's four-year public colleges in 2019-20 paid less in-state tuition than the $10,440 national average, according to the College Board. Nonresidents paid more out-of-state tuition than the $26,820 national average. Comparatively, residents in neighboring Oregon pay higher in-state tuition, while those in California pay less than Washington. The state's 9% student loan default rate ranks among the lowest in the nation, which lends some insight into the value the state's learners place on their education.

What to Expect in a Washington Psychology College Program

Some colleges for psychology in Washington rank among the best in the nation, according to a U.S. News & World Report ranking of more than 200 psychology schools. The University of Washington placed 26th, along with Washington State University and Seattle Pacific University also making the list. Those interested in pursuing careers as psychologists begin their training with a bachelor's degree, which takes four years of full-time enrollment to complete.

Graduate students can typically complete a master's in two years. A doctorate takes 4-7 years to complete, depending on if learners pursue a Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D. Students at Washington colleges for psychology pursue specializations at the master's and doctoral levels. Virtual learners in bachelor's and master's programs often complete internships and other practicum experiences at mental health organizations in their local communities.

Notably, Washington colleges conferred 1066 psychology degrees in 2018 (all degree levels combined), ranking 23rd in the nation.

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

Students attending the best colleges in Washington for psychology can expect to take courses in general, social, and abnormal psychology. At the graduate level, degree-seekers delve deeper into these areas, specialize in subdisciplines like positive psychology, and fine-tune skills in research methodology. We have compiled a list of common courses below.

General Psychology

Faculty members introduce learners to a history of the field, major theories, and the psychologists who developed them. Degree-seekers learn about subdisciplines, such as developmental, cognitive, and industrial-organizational psychology, which establishes a foundation for further study and specialization.

Abnormal Psychology

Undergraduates learn about abnormal psychology, its various manifestations, and the field's prominent theories. They examine disorders outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), along with how psychologists assess and treat them.

Social Psychology

Undergraduates study human behavior and experience in social contexts. They learn how people's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors influence cognitive, affective, and behavioral processes in others. Degree-seekers examine how social interactions affect the development of stereotypes, conformity, group dynamics, and social cognition and influence.

Positive Psychology

In contrast to the field's main focus on psychopathology, positive psychology offers graduate students the opportunity to study how to make people's lives happier and more fulfilled. Learners examine the empirical evidence to support positive psychology's impact on physical and mental well-being, workplace happiness, healthy relationships, and other areas of human experience. They research how ordinary people can develop character strengths and behaviors that positively influence their lives.

Research Methods in Psychology

Graduate students hone advanced research methodology skills for success in master's and doctoral programs. They learn experimental and observational techniques, data collection and analysis, computer usage, and how to write research reports.

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Education Requirements to Become a Psychologist in Washington

Candidates for licensure as psychologists in Washington must possess a doctorate in psychology from a regionally accredited institution. The curriculum must consist of a minimum of 40 semester credits (or 60 quarter credits) and at least three academic years of full-time graduate study.

The candidate must demonstrate that the curriculum includes at least three semester credits of study in several areas, including biological bases of behavior, cognitive-affective bases of behavior, social bases of behavior, cultural and individual differences and diversity, and psychopathology and dysfunctional behaviors. The doctoral program must include a residency requirement of at least one continuous year of full-time residency at the institution or 750 hours of face-to-face student-faculty contact. These meetings must include faculty-student and student-student interactions.

The program must include a total of 3,300 hours of supervised work divided into internship and practicum experience. Each degree-seeker culminates the degree with an original dissertation. Doctoral programs approved by the American Psychological Association or the Canadian Psychological Association meet the minimum education requirements for licensure.

Washington Licensing for Psychologists

Any individual who plans to practice psychology in Washington must obtain a license to deliver services to the public. This ensures that these mental health professionals meet high standards established by the state Examining Board of Psychology.

Why Get Licensed in Washington?

A psychology license in Washington allows the licensee to work independently or as part of a healthcare team to provide various services, including:

  • Observe, interview, and assess clients
  • Diagnose behavioral and mental health issues
  • Provide treatment and therapy to clients suffering addiction problems
  • Provide one-on-one and group therapy sessions to address mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression

Licensing Criteria for Washington

The state Examining Board of Psychology, as part of the Washington State Department of Health, oversees the psychologists licensure in Washington. Candidates must receive substantial hands-on experience as part of their doctoral education to qualify for licensure. The doctoral program must include an internship of at least 1,500 hours of supervised experience that learners complete in 24 months. During the internship, aspiring psychologists spend at least 25% of their training providing assessment and intervention services to clients.

The trainee must receive two hours of face-to-face individual supervision for every 40 hours of internship experience, along with at least two hours of learning activities, such as group supervision, co-therapy with a staff member, and case conferences. Students at the best colleges in Washington for psychology must receive supervision from the mental health professionals responsible for the assigned casework.

The 1,800-hour supervised practicum provides another layer of applied experience in the doctoral program. Participants complete the practicum over at least two semesters or three quarters. They engage in at least 300 hours of experience, 100 hours of which must involve direct supervision. During the practicum, students receive instruction in theoretical concepts and discuss various topics with supervisors. Those topics include theoretical concepts, state laws and rules, standards for providers of psychological services, and administrative or business issues, such as management of a professional practice.

Learners may complete up to 1,500 hours of post-doctoral experience to satisfy the total supervised experience requirement.

How to Get Licensed in Washington

Once degree-seekers complete the educational requirements and 3,300 hours of supervised experience, they qualify to sit for the examination for professional practice in psychology (EPPP). The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards developed the 225-question multiple-choice exam, which Pearson Vue administers for a $600 fee. The exam covers eight areas, including biological bases of behavior, growth and lifespan development, cognitive-affective bases of behavior, and social and cultural bases of behavior. Candidates must earn a score of 500 or higher to pass the EPPP.

Once learners pass the EPPP, they must sit for the Washington state jurisprudence examination as the last hurdle in the licensure process. The open-book computer test comprises 25 multiple-choice questions that applicants must complete in up to three hours. The jurisprudence exam covers state statutes and rules as they relate to the practice of psychology in Washington. To pass the exam, test-takers must receive a score of 90%.

License Renewal in Washington

In Washington, psychologists must renew their licenses each year. The applicant submits a renewal card and the appropriate fee at the time of the renewal. Psychologists must complete 60 continuing education hours every three years to qualify for renewal, four of which must focus on ethics. Every six years, six continuing education credits keep psychologists up to date on suicide intervention.

Washington Psychologist Salaries and Employment Trends

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 14% increase in jobs for psychologists through 2028, more than triple the 5% average growth rate for all occupations. In Washington, about 3,770 clinical, counseling, and school psychologists practice, making this by far the state's largest group of specialized psychologists. Projections Central anticipates a 21.5% increase in jobs for these psychologists.

Washington's job growth for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is greater than that of neighboring states, such as Oregon, 15.5%; Idaho, 14.3%; and Montana, 12.5%. The BLS notes that these mental health professionals make an annual mean wage of $73,840 in Washington, less than the $103,870 they make in Oregon. Washington's psychologists also earn less than those practicing in Idaho and Montana. Nationally, these specialized psychologists make an annual mean wage of $85,340.

The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area boasts the highest employment numbers for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists in the state, while areas likeSpokane-Spokane Valley offer far fewer job prospects.

Historical Mean Wage for Psychologists
  2016 2017
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists in Washington $69,430 $72,480
Psychologists, All Other in Washington $90,120 $101,180
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 Washington and Nearby States (2018)

  • Nationally

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

    Psychologists, All Other: $95,610

  • Washington

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

    Psychologists, All Other: $102,760

  • Alaska

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

    Psychologists, All Other: N/A

  • Oregon

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $103,870

    Psychologists, All Other: N/A

  • Idaho

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $64,270

    Psychologists, All Other: $87,410

  • Montana

    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: $63,720

    Psychologists, All Other: $69,870

  • 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%
Washington 21.5% 10.0%
Alaska 15.4% N/A
Oregon 15.5% -5.0%
Idaho 14.3% 20.0%
Montana 12.5% 16.7%
Hawaii 12.7% N/A

Source: Projections Central

Psychology Programs and Licensing in Washington Frequently Asked Questions

Is Psychology a Good Major?

The U.S. needs mental health professionals with graduate degrees to help clients address issues in addiction, depression, and other disorders. Even psychology majors without doctorates, such as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, enjoy great job prospects.

Should I Get a BA or BS in Psychology?

A BS provides degree-seekers with more in-depth research and lab experiences than a BA. Students choosing a BS can use the opportunity to begin accruing coveted hands-on experience of great value as they apply to graduate schools. Either degree fulfills the bachelor's-level requirement on the path to licensure.

What Is a Good Speciality for Psychology?

In Washington, there are more annual job openings projected for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists than other specializations in psychology. Learners should explore APA's 54 divisions to decide which one aligns with their interests and career goals.

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

Learners looking to work with clients in a therapeutic environment choose the Psy.D. for its emphasis on clinical practice. Those interested in research/faculty positions choose the Ph.D.

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

Washington requires that applicants receive doctorates from regionally accredited institutions with APA or Canadian Psychological Association approval. Those with degrees from other programs must demonstrate that they meet all the state's educational requirements.

Psychology Resources for Washington


  • Washington State Psychological Association Founded in 1947, WSPA serves as the representative voice of psychology in the state. The organization's 400 members enjoy the benefits of legislative advocacy, continuing education, networking opportunities, and professional services for those in clinical practice.
  • American Psychological Association APA is the nation's leading scientific organization representing psychology. The association's 118,000 members include researchers, clinicians, and students. Members receive access to publications, professional liability insurance, psycCareers, and networking opportunities.
  • Washington State Association of School Psychologists WSASP unites school psychologists across the state. Practicing school psychologists, graduate students, and retired school psychologists enjoy benefits like professional development opportunities, member forums, an association blog, and the WSASP quarterly newsletter.
  • Washington Counseling Association WCA consists of several divisions that represent professional counselors and advance the profession. Members receive access to a quarterly newsletter, educational programs, information about developments in the field, and networking opportunities with peers.
  • University of Washington Psychology Internship Program Housed in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, the program offers psychology students internships at medical and psychiatric settings. The available opportunities include training in assessment, behavioral medicine, research opportunities, and supervised experiences in therapeutic interventions.