Undergraduate psychology certificates can be pursued by: students majoring in a field other than psychology but who would like to learn about the topic, students considering majoring in psychology who would like to explore the field first and working professionals for whom knowledge of psychology would enhance their careers. For the first group, students must be rolled in a bachelor's program; other requirements to enter a certificate program typically include a high-school diploma or GED as well as SAT or ACT scores.
Graduate psychology certificates are for students currently enrolled in psychology programs at the master's and doctoral levels. 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. Professional diploma and graduate certificates both require a bachelor's degree and submission of GRE scores. Post-doctoral certificates require a doctorate.
Undergraduate Certificate in Psychology
Universities and colleges offer undergraduates the option of earning psychology certificates, often in addition to bachelor's degrees. 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.
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
Graduate Certificate in Psychology
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.
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 and experiments
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.
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
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.
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
Popular Career Options
Psychology certificates alone are not enough to gain employment conducting therapy or mental health counseling; however, an undergraduate degree and certificate may lead to supportive positions in social and human services. 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:
- Career Counselor
- Case manager
- Outreach coordinator
- Social worker
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.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Psychologist employment was expected to increase 19%, which is much faster than average, between 2014 and 2024, 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 most states require psychologists to hold a doctorate rather than a master's. As of May 2015, the BLS reported the median annual wage for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $70,580.
The BLS projected that employment for school and career counselors would grow by 8%, about as fast as average, between 2014 and 2024. The median annual wage for this field was $53,660 as of May 2015.
In summary, psychology certificates are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels; additionally, diplomas are available at the graduate level. Those who go on to become psychologists must be licensed and can expect ample employment opportunities.