Become an Psychological Assistant: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a psychological assistant. Learn about the job duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a psychological assistant. View article »

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Become a Psychological Assistant

Psychological assistants assist psychologists by preparing intakes, performing mental health assessments, and assisting with research. Psychological assistants cannot call themselves psychologists or practice independently, including offering any kind of therapeutic services. They may be hired by licensed psychologists, mental health centers, government agencies, or some kinds of psychological and medical corporations.

Although psychological assistants may not practice by themselves, their work environments are very similar to those of licensed psychologists. Such assistants often are employed by private practices, but may also find employment with clinics, hospitals, or mental health in-patient facilities. Most assistants work full-time, and those that are employed by hospitals and other 24-hour care centers may be scheduled during the evenings, nights, or weekends. The profession of psychological assistant is highly regulated at the state level.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Master's degree or equivalent
Degree Field Psychology, education, counseling psychology
Certification State certification/registration required
Experience Practicum may be required prior to state registration; continued supervision is required to maintain registration
Key Skills Communication skills; attention to detail; ability to maintain confidentiality
Salary $42,480 (2015 median for social science research assistants)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), Tennessee State Board of Examiners in Psychology

Psychological assistants generally have a master's degree in psychology, education, or counseling psychology, with state certification or registration. They are expected to have skills in communication, strong attention to detail, and the ability to maintain confidentiality.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median salary in 2015 for social science research assistants, which includes psychological assistants, was $42,480.

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Steps to Become a Psychological Assistant

What steps should I take to become a psychological assistant? First, earn a bachelor's degree. Students studying at the undergraduate level may want to major in psychology in order to get ample exposure to foundational concepts in the field. Students may complete a degree in the liberal arts or sciences instead, as long as they take certain courses in psychology. Graduate programs in psychology may require applicants to have completed coursework in psychological assessment, statistics, research methodology, and abnormal psychology.

As part of your preparation, you will want to complete a psychology-related internship. Completing a supervised internship can help a student determine his or her exact interests in psychology. Work experience will also help graduate school applicants demonstrate a commitment to the psychology field, especially if the field in which the bachelor's degree is awarded isn't psychology.

Next, you will want to earn a master's degree. A master's degree is a common requirement for certification or registration of a psychological assistant. States may accept a master's degree in psychology or a master's degree in education with a concentration in psychology or counseling psychology. States may also accept doctoral students who have completed the master's level curriculum requirements. Students who have not completed any of these options may still qualify if they have completed adequate post-graduate coursework, as determined by the state licensing board. Whatever route a student chooses, he or she should be sure that the chosen program includes all courses required by the state licensing board. Required classes may include psychological assessment, professional ethics, abnormal psychology, and cognitive testing.

Students may also have to complete a practicum organized by the degree-granting institution. States may require between 300 and 500 hours of experience, with a certain percentage of hours completed under direct supervision by a licensed psychologist.

Finally, you are ready to apply for registration or certification. States typically require that a prospective psychological assistant provide transcripts from all higher education institutions and documentation of the approved practicum to qualify for certification.

Psychological assistants have master's degrees with state licenses or certifications. They have solid commitments to confidentiality and strong communication skills, and they earn a median annual salary of $42,480.

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