Prospective students may find psychology appealing for several reasons. Some people are drawn to study how humans think and behave, while others look to pursue fulfilling careers to make a real difference in people's lives. The path to becoming a psychologist, however, demands a significant amount of time for studying and preparation.
In Virginia, each psychologist needs a license to practice. The state's Board of Psychology dictates the licensing requirements for aspiring psychologists. Our guide includes everything you need to know about gaining licensure, including information on education requirements, career outlook, and professional organizations.
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How Do Online Psychology Degree Programs in Virginia Work?
Pursuing a degree in psychology at any level is challenging and demanding. Although enrolling in an online program does not make the material any easier, it does give students more control over their study experience. An online degree allows learners to study where and when they find it convenient, without ever having to travel to campus for lectures at scheduled times.
Online degrees, therefore, make for a great option for anybody working full time or juggling other responsibilities, such as caring for a family. As long as these web-based degrees hold accreditation, employers and graduate schools generally do not view them any differently from traditional degrees.
Keep in mind that some psychology degrees in Virginia offer hybrid programs, which require both online and on-campus courses.
What Courses Are Part of an Online Psychology Degree Program in Virginia?
Each college and university offers a unique psychology curriculum, so specific course offerings differ at every school. The list below represents some common classes students might encounter while pursuing online psychology degrees in Virginia.
All bachelor's psychology degrees typically begin with this course, which offers a foundation in topics like behavior, learning, memory, personality, and psychological disorders. Students may also examine the different schools of psychology, including cognitive psychology, psychoanalysis, behaviorism, structuralism, and functionalism.
This course covers the psychology of how humans think and make decisions. Learners can explore topics like attention, memory, reasoning, and perception. They learn how humans use each of these thought processes to make different determinations.
Neuroscience involves the study of the nervous system. Degree-seekers can examine neural frameworks, such as functional neural circuits and neurotransmitter systems. Instructors may analyze neuroscience through various branches, such as behavioral, cellular, computational, or developmental neuroscience. Course material may also cover neurological disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease.
This undergraduate course explores how human character traits can develop and change over time. Enrollees delve into the concept through different theoretical frameworks, such as psychodynamic, humanistic, and cognitive-behavioral theories. The course offers an overview of the history of personality psychological studies, in addition to the latest research.
Bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees all generally include a required research component, usually through thesis projects or dissertations. Before students can begin research projects, however, they need to pass one or two courses on research methods. Students learn about quantitative and qualitative research methods, along with descriptive and inferential statistics.
Becoming a Psychologist in Virginia
Each state sets its own requirements and regulations for becoming a psychologist. In Virginia, the state's Board of Psychology sets these requirements. The road to becoming a mental health professional in Virginia involves several degrees, a year-long residency or internship, and a comprehensive professional exam. Learn more about the specifics in the section below.
SpecializeEach psychologist should choose a specialization before they begin to practice. These specializations might include clinical, educational, or forensic psychology, based on the individual's career goals. Psychology students can opt for specializations as early as the bachelor's degree phase, which can help them get a head start on their research and internships.
Earn Your DegreesVirginia requires psychology licensure candidates to obtain bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. The doctoral degree must hold accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA). If it does not, then the candidate needs to prove to the state that the degree matches Virginia Board of Psychology standards.
Each doctoral student also needs to participate in at least nine graduate practicum experience credits in assessment and diagnosis, psychotherapy, consultation, and supervision. The entire education process can last about a decade. A bachelor's degree traditionally lasts four years, a master's degree may last 1-3 years, and a doctoral degree can take 4-7 years to complete.
Obtain LicensureAfter psychology licensure candidates finish their educational obligations, they still must fulfill several requirements before fully qualifying to become a psychologist. For one, candidates need to complete a minimum 1,500-hour residency or internship, which can last for about a year. Candidates should apply to the Board of Psychology to gain approval of their work.
Secondly, candidates need to pass the examination for professional practice of psychology (EPPP). The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Board administers this exam, which tests candidates on their comprehensive knowledge of the profession. To learn more about these requirements, visit Virginia's Board of Psychology website.
Other Licenses and Certifications
Some aspiring professionals might want to work in psychology, mental health, or counseling, but they may not want to spend an entire decade (or more) in school. These students can opt for other career options that only require master's degrees, like licensed professional counselors (LPC). Read more about the requirements to become an LPC and related professions below.
Each candidate for this designation needs to complete a bachelor's degree and a master of social work with a clinical course of study accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. They also need to complete a 600-hour practicum during their master's degree and 3,000 hours of post-master's supervised work experience. Finally, each aspiring LCSW must pass an exam as dictated by the state's social work board.
Each LPC must possess a bachelor's degree and a 60-credit master's degree accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the Council on Rehabilitation Education. They must also complete a 3,400-hour supervised residency and pass the national clinical mental health counseling examination.
Salaries and Job Outlook for Psychologists in Virginia
Virginia's job outlook and salary figures outpace the national average. The average annual salary for psychologists comes in at about $97,200, which is $1,500 above the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The U.S. Department of Labor also projects the number of psychologists in Virginia to increase by 13.6% from 2016-26. This growth rate outpaces the national growth rate and for Virginia's surrounding states, as well. You can explore these figures in the first table below.
Salaries for psychologists in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria region are considerably higher than in other metropolitan areas in the state. The second table breaks down more information about the psychology industry in major metropolitan areas in Virginia.
Virginia at a Glance
Population Growth (2010-2018): 6.46%
Population Growth Rank: 19
Source: United States Census Bureau
|Mean Annual Salary||Projected Job Growth (2016-26)|
Source: BLS, Projections Central
|Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologist Salary||General Unemployment Rate||Education and Health Services 12-Month Employment Growth|
|Washington - Arlington - Alexandria||$104,420||3.2%||2.3%|
|Virginia Beach - Norfolk - Newport News||$83,060||3.1%||-1.8%|
Psychology Degrees and Careers in Virginia -- Frequently Asked Questions
Students preparing to enter the psychology field may have many questions regarding degree length, difficulty, and what relevant skills to possess. Read below to learn more about online psychology degrees and colleges in Virginia.
It can take about 10-11 years to become a psychologist in Virginia. This includes a bachelor's degree, which traditionally takes about four years, a 1-3 year master's degree, and a 4-7 year doctoral degree. On top of that, psychology licensure candidates need to complete about 1,500 hours of supervised work, which can take one year. However, this time frame depends on the person. Some students manage to find accelerated degree options and finish more quickly, while others only enroll part time and earn their license later.
Online psychology classes offer the same level of difficulty as traditional online psychology courses. Psychology degrees, especially at the master's and doctoral levels, present challenging concepts and require time-consuming research projects. Motivated students with excellent time management skills can succeed in the field.
Psychologists work to help patients with deeply ingrained mental, emotional, and behavioral conflicts. These professionals need to communicate effectively and empathetically, with problem-solving and analytical skills for developing treatment plans to help their patients with disorders and difficulties.
Most importantly, a good school holds proper accreditation. Psychology students who pursue degrees without accreditation do not qualify for licensure. Different schools attract students with different goals. Some online psychology degrees in Virginia offer certain specializations that others don't. Other programs may hold partnerships with certain institutes. Make sure to do your research before you apply.
While a BA or a BS may lead to different careers in the field, neither degree is necessarily better than the other. A BA includes more general education and liberal arts courses. Students who pursue a BA may graduate and join fields other than psychology, such as social work or law. On the other hand, a BS leans more heavily on hard science, with more courses in psychology and math. A student who pursues a BS typically knows their end goal leads to them becoming a licensed psychologist
Accreditation for Online Psychology Programs in Virginia
Accreditation is the process through which independent agencies evaluate colleges and universities against a set of standards. Schools typically receive this status in national or regional forms. Regional accreditation is more rigorous and carries more esteem, while vocational schools generally receive national accreditation. The Southern Association of Schools and Colleges regionally accredits colleges and universities in Virginia.
In addition to national and regional accreditation, many career preparation programs seek specialized accreditation from industry organizations. APA evaluates doctoral programs in clinical, counseling, and school psychology, as well as pre-doctoral internships and post-doctoral residency programs. Online master's in psychology programs in Virginia may also receive accreditation from organizations like the National Association of School Psychologists or CACREP.
Psychology Internships and Fellowships in Virginia
The Virginia Board of Psychology and accrediting agencies require programs to offer hands-on learning experiences. Internships allow students to work under the supervision of licensed psychologists, typically last for about one year, and may offer pay. Fellowships generally involve a work component or an honorary financial award to help defray costs for travel or research projects. Each applicant must show experience in volunteer work or complete an interview with a selection board.
Students can find internships at organizations all over the state, including government agencies, public health facilities, private clinics, and nonprofit organizations. Universities and research centers commonly provide funding for fellowships, as well. The list below outlines various organizations where students may find potential internship and fellowship opportunities.
Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services operates medical centers, psychiatric hospitals serving children and geriatric patients, and a center for behavioral rehabilitation. Virginia provides community-based mental health services through its 40 Community Services Boards (CSBs), which provide initial patient evaluation, referral, and out-patient continuing care.
Stone Mountain Health Services
Stone Mountain Health Services operates a network of 11 rural health clinics in southwest Virginia. The clinics provide mental health services through psychiatric nurse practitioners, licensed psychologists, and social workers.
Hampton VA Medical Center
Hampton VA Medical Center provides specialized mental health services to U.S. veterans, including treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional and relationship problems, self-harming behaviors, stress due to medical problems or pain, and vocational issues. The facility also operates outreach programs for homeless veterans.
Centra Mental Health Services
Lynchburg's Centra Mental Health Services provides in-patient behavioral and mental health care for adults, children, and geriatric patients. The agency serves clients with developmental disorders and autism through the specialized clinic and addiction recovery services of the Pathways Treatment Center.
Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center
Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, located in Richmond, operates four research studies related to mental health, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, post-deployment mental health, military service and alcohol preference, and relationship deployment experiences. The center works with researchers to identify best practices that help inform public policy decisions.
University of Virginia School of Medicine
The UVA School of Medicine operates research centers in public health sciences. Its Center for Addiction and Prevention Research studies populations vulnerable to substance abuse, such as military personnel and residents of rural Appalachia. The study also seeks effective interventions to fight the opioid epidemic. Its Mental Health Policy Research Program provides opportunities for collaboration between the psychiatric, health science, and law departments.
Professional Organizations for Psychologists and Mental Health Professionals
Professional associations offer many opportunities for psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals working in the field, including psychology students. Undergraduate and graduate students can usually join these organizations at a discounted rate, which allows them to attend networking meetups, conferences, and other events. Professional organizations also often publish journals and run career centers. Read more about these associations below.
- Virginia Academy of Clinical Psychologists Founded in 1975, VACP connects clinical psychologists across the state. Members can access professional networks through virtual listservs, peer consultation opportunities, and continuing education courses and events. Members of the public can also read about clinical psychologists and find a directory of professionals available in the state.
- American Psychological Association With more than 118,000 members around the world, APA operates as one of the largest national professional and research associations in the field. The group hosts conferences and webinars, along with publishing several journals, magazines, and books. Members can also access a career center with information about mentoring, finding a first job, and networking.
- Virginia Counseling Association VCA, a nonprofit organization for people working in the counseling industry in Virginia, offers professional development and advocacy services to its members. The association operates through several divisions with specific focus areas, like clinical or school counseling. The group's website also provides several resources, including information about licensure, certification, and accreditation.
- American Mental Health Counselors Association AMHCA runs several state and regional chapters, including one in northern Virginia. The northern Virginia chapter provides a career center with a job search database and hosts a monthly breakfast program where licensed professional counselors can network and earn continuing education credits.
- Virginia Association of School Psychologists Specifically for psychologists who work in educational settings, this association provides networking opportunities, hosts a bi-annual statewide conference, and runs regional workshops. Members can attend all of these events at a discounted rate. VASP also offers several resources for graduate students.
Scholarships for Online Psychology Degree Programs in Virginia
The Hayes E. Willis Memorial Scholarship Program, awarded by The Community Foundation, honors Dr. Willis as a teacher and physician. Applicants must be African American students graduating from public high schools in Portsmouth or Richmond. The award considers financial need, community service, and school participation. Students must be planning to pursue careers in science, medicine, or healthcare.
- Amount Offered: $1,000
- Scholarship Deadline: March 7
- Eligibility Requirements: Each applicant must submit a written essay, possess at least a B average, and an SAT score of 1100.
The Dickinson Award, named for a student who died an untimely death in 1976, supports research projects for senior undergraduate students in psychology at the University of Richmond. Students must apply during their junior year. Dickinson's friends and family established the award to honor his memory and recognize students with a passion for psychological research. The department presents two awards each year.
- Amount Offered: $1,000
- Scholarship Deadline: March
- Eligibility Requirements: Each candidate must submit a senior research proposal during their junior year.
Undergraduate students majoring in psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) may apply for this scholarship. The application requires a 500-word essay on how the scholarship will benefit the student's career goals.
- Amount Offered: Varies
- Scholarship Deadline: Feb. 29
- Eligibility Requirements: Students with minimum 3.0 GPAs may apply.
Dr. Elizabeth A. Fries, who passed away in 2005, spent much of her research career developing methods to reduce cancer-causing behavior and promoting good health practices. She taught at VCU and served as co-director of cancer control at the VCU Massey Cancer Center. Female doctoral students at VCU may apply for the award.
- Amount Offered: Varies
- Scholarship Deadline: Feb. 29
- Eligibility Requirements: Each candidate must submit a CV detailing research, teaching, and service activities, along with a 500-word personal statement explaining how funds will be used.
Melvin V. Lubman taught industrial psychology at VCU and worked to improve highway and transportation safety. Undergraduate students majoring in psychology may apply for this memorial scholarship. Applicants should exhibit high academic achievement and maintain full- or part-time employment while attending college. Recipients may renew the scholarship if they remain in good academic standing.
- Amount Offered: Varies
- Scholarship Deadline: Feb. 29
- Eligibility Requirements: Each applicant must submit a 500-word essay and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member outside the department of psychology. Students must be employed full- or part-time while enrolled in college.
Psychology majors entering VCU as freshmen may apply for this memorial award established by alumnae Dr. Margaret L. Duvall. Students may renew the scholarship for three additional years, provided they make satisfactory academic progress.
- Amount Offered: Varies
- Scholarship Deadline: Feb. 29
- Eligibility Requirements: Incoming first-year students majoring in psychology may apply
Third- and fourth-year undergraduate psychology students at UVA may apply for the Candice M. Ruff Memorial Scholarship. The award honors the late Ruff, who graduated from the school in 1996 with a double major in psychology and Spanish. Applicants must demonstrate community service, contribution to the university, and Christian leadership.
- Amount Offered: $10,000
- Scholarship Deadline: Spring
- Eligibility Requirements: Each candidate must possess at least a 3.0 GPA and major in psychology, Spanish, or religious studies. The application includes several discussion questions related to spiritual development, Christian leadership, and service to the community.
The Virginia School Counselor Association invites graduating high school seniors to apply for this annual scholarship.
- Amount Offered: $1,000
- Scholarship Deadline: March 29
- Eligibility Requirements: Each applicant must possess a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit a 500-word essay about counselors who have affected the student's academic or emotional development. The counselor must be certified and a member of the association for the essay to be considered.
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Mental Health Initiatives in Virginia
Like any state, many people with mental health problems call Virginia home. Virginia's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services offers several initiatives to help residents with their mental health or psychological struggles. For one, every city and county in the state houses CSBs, which provide treatment services issues like substance abuse, developmental disabilities, and other mental health concerns. CSBs also carry out the Coordinated Special Care program, which administers early intervention treatments.
Private and nonprofit organizations also advocate for increasing mental health initiatives in the state. The Virginia Health Care Foundation offers grants and funding for mental health projects. The foundation launched the "Beyond Blue" project to battle depression, and it also runs a webinar series about trauma and resilience. Voices for Virginia's Children, another nonprofit group, fights to increase mental health funding in the state's budget, as well.