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Psychology Certificate, Certification and Diploma Program Overviews

Read about short-term undergraduate and graduate programs in psychology. Find out what students learn during a certificate or diploma program in the field, and explore some career options.

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Essential Information

Psychology is the study of the human mind and its functions. Psychology certificates and diplomas require undergraduate or graduate program enrollment. At the graduate level, these programs are often offered in specialized areas of psychology, enabling professionals to expand their scope of practice. Clinical supervision may be included in these programs. Some programs allow students to apply their credits and supervision hours toward the psychologist licensure requirements.

Undergraduate Certificate in Psychology

Universities and colleges offer undergraduates the option of earning psychology certificates in addition to bachelor's degrees. This certificate program is intended for students who are interested in studying psychology, but not as their primary academic degree major. Some programs offer psychology concentrations, including contemplative, experimental and biopsychology. This program generally takes 1-2 years to complete, when taken in conjunction with a bachelor's degree program.

Educational Prerequisites

Bachelor's degree applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED. ACT or SAT scores will need to be submitted.

Program Coursework

Psychology credits involve lecture and research components. Elective credits are additional, and advisors help students choose their areas of interest. Common course topics include the following:

  • Abnormal psychology
  • Experimental psychology
  • Perception and sensation
  • Psychology statistics
  • Research methods
  • Social psychology

Popular Career Options

Psychology certificates alone are not enough to gain employment conducting therapy or mental health counseling; however, an undergraduate degree and the certificate may lead to supportive positions in social and human services. Job possibilities include the following:

  • Career Counselor
  • Case manager
  • Outreach coordinator

Graduate Certificate in Psychology

Graduate psychology certificates are for students currently enrolled in psychology programs at the master's and doctoral levels. A candidate will typically choose one psychology specialty, such as industrial, organizational, clinical or social, as the main emphasis for the certificate program. Certificate holders may have the competitive edge when it comes to gaining teaching and research positions, and some certificate programs may qualify students to sit for state licensure exams. Program length and credit requirements for graduate psychology certificate programs vary by school.

Educational Prerequisites

A bachelor's degree is required for graduate program entrance. GRE scores are mandatory.

Program Coursework

An internship or assistantship may be required of candidates in the certificate program, and some doctoral students are expected to write dissertations. Class topics may include the following:

  • Behavioral research
  • Clinical therapy
  • Human development
  • Group communication
  • Psychological assessment
  • Psychological experiments
  • Psychopharmacology

Popular Career Options

More opportunities exist for psychology graduate degree and certificate holders. The possibilities differ for doctoral degree versus master's degree holders, but both have the chance to help other individuals through counseling. Job titles may include the following:

  • Counselor
  • Clinician
  • Psychologist
  • Social worker

Post-Doctoral Certificate in Clinical Psychology

A 1-4 year post-doctoral program provides specialization opportunities to psychology professionals who wish to switch to clinical practice or want to expand their areas of expertise. Students receive clinical supervision and training to advance their skills. Credits may be applied toward board certification and licensure. Applicants must have doctoral degrees in psychology and provide reference letters and transcripts.

Program Coursework

Clinical labs, lectures and hands-on experience make up the curriculum. At the end of the program, candidates undergo evaluations or exams. General course topics may include the following:

  • Adult and child assessment
  • Clinical psychology practicum
  • Intervention techniques
  • Personality theories
  • Psychology morals and ethics
  • Psychotherapy

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Psychologist employment was expected to increase 22%, faster than average, between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS predicted doctoral degree holders would have the best prospects in finding employment. As of May 2012, the BLS reported the mean annual wage for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $72,220.

Professional Diploma in School Psychology

The primary diploma in psychology is in the area of school psychology. It is a one-year extension to a master's degree program in school psychology. Students learn how to intervene and solve conflicts, conduct research and assess children. Successful completion qualifies individuals to take the national certification exam. The diploma distinguishes students as advanced leaders in education and requires current enrollment in a school psychology master's degree program.

Educational Prerequisites

Master's degree applicants must have bachelor's degrees. GRE scores need to be submitted.

Program Coursework

A final project or internship is an important part of the diploma program. Lecture courses are a continuation of the master's degree curriculum. Common class topics include the following:

  • Children's counseling
  • Conflict resolution
  • Educational psychology
  • Group and individual counseling
  • Intellectual assessment
  • Psychological testing

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS projected that employment for school and career counselors would grow by 19%, about as fast as average, between 2010 and 2020. The average annual wage for this field was $56,170 as of May 2012, according to the BLS.

Certification in Psychology

Individuals must become licensed in order to practice psychology professionally. The requirements differ according to specialty and state, but psychology certification generally requires a degree and training in order to sit for the qualifying exam. For example, school counselors must pass the National School Psychology Examination given by the Educational Testing Service. Re-certification is required of most psychology professionals every few years.

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