Psychology Schools and Colleges in California (CA)

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California happens to be the state that hands out the largest number of bachelor's and master's degree in the field of psychology. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), over 4,000 master's degrees in psychology were awarded by schools in California during the 2011-2012 academic year, and the state had 12,570 undergraduates finish bachelor's degrees in psychology that same year.

One major factor that accounts for the large volume of degrees in psychology could be the sheer number of psychology schools in California:

  • 160 colleges and universities with psychology programs
  • 27 board-approved programs specializing in school psychology
  • 25 doctoral degree programs in clinical psychology accredited by the National Register of Health Service Psychologists

California is also a good place to practice psychology:

  • The state ranked first in the number of psychologists employed according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with 18,720 psychologists practicing professionally in 2015
  • California was also in the top five in the nation in terms of salaries for psychologists, with an average annual income of $86,310
  • The greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, which encompasses Long Beach and Glendale, had the second highest employment level for psychologists, at 5,310, with an average salary of $80,300
RegionCareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Median Wage
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan DivisionMental Health Counselors3,880$47,150
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan DivisionClinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists5,310$78,870
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan DivisionMarriage and Family Therapists2,890$45,240
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan DivisionPsychologists, All Other330$112,320
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CAMarriage and Family Therapists460$48,580
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CAClinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists1,170$96,680
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CAMental Health Counselors1,060$29,610
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CAPsychologists, All Other290$95,290
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan DivisionPsychologists, All Other140$108,690
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan DivisionMarriage and Family Therapists380$47,310
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan DivisionMental Health Counselors750$40,200
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan DivisionClinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists1,150$79,410
Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

California psychology licensing requirements

One of big benefits of earning a degree from any of the numerous psychology colleges and schools in California is that the curriculum will be geared toward the requirements for eventually licensure to practice professionally in the state. And, California has some of the stricter prerequisites for the licensing of psychologists in the country.

For example, while completing a doctorate in psychology is usually the minimum requirement for eligibility in most states, the California State Board of Psychology specifically stipulates that candidates must have taken coursework in human sexuality, child abuse assessment and reporting, substance abuse detection and treatment, spousal or partner abuse assessment, detection, and intervention, and aging and long-term care. This type of coursework is typically part of any graduate-level study in psychology, but psychology schools in California are more likely to put a primary emphasis on meeting the licensure requirements in state.

Here are the basic requirements for licensure as a professional psychologist in the state of California:

  • A doctoral degree in psychology, educational psychology, or education with a specialization in counseling or educational psychology
  • Two years, or 3,000 hours of supervised professional experience, half of which must be completed after post-doctoral work
  • Submit fingerprints and pass a criminal background check
  • Successfully complete and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), the California Psychology Supplemental Examination (CPSE), and the California Psychology Laws and Ethics Examination (CPLEE)

In 2015, 58.86% of the candidates who took the EPPP in California passed the exam; 67.85% passed the CPSE; and 74.89% passed the CPLEE.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs' State Board of Psychology oversees all licensing in the state for clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, school psychologists, and all other areas of specialization in professional psychology. Applications can be downloaded from the State Board's website, which also offers resources and guidance for those aiming to become licensed in California.

Once licensed in California, psychologists are required to renew their licenses every two years. In order to do so, psychologists in California much be able to demonstrate that they have completed 36 hours of continuing education since previous licensing, 75% of which may be done through approved online and independent learning options. Further information about licensing and relicensing for psychologists in California is available from the California State Board of Psychology.

Featured psychology schools in California

California boasts three of the top five psychology schools in the country, according to the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. And, the following five of the top 25 psychology programs reside in psychology colleges in California:

Stanford University

As one of the top psychology schools in the country, Stanford University puts a strong emphasis on research training in psychology, specifically in the areas of developmental, social, affective science, cognitive, and neurological psychology. In the cutting edge field of neurological psychology, Stanford is notable for its use of magnetic resonance imaging as a research technique. Along with its undergraduate major in psychology, Stanford offers Ph.D.s in the five areas mentioned above: cognitive, developmental, neuroscience, affective science, and social psychology.

  • Department: Stanford University Department of Psychology
  • Location: Stanford, California
  • Online options: Stanford University does offer free online courses and MOOCs, but these are not part of the Department of Psychology's degree programs, which are campus based.

University of California - Berkeley

UC Berkeley's Department of Psychology is also one of the best in the country, with active research in the areas of behavioral and systems neuroscience, clinical science, cognition, cognitive neuroscience, development, social, and personality. In addition to undergraduate degrees in psychology, the school has a prominent doctoral program, with six discrete training unites in specialized areas of psychology: behavioral systems and neuroscience, clinical science, cognition, cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and social-personality.

  • Department: UC Berkeley Department of Psychology
  • Location: Berkeley, California
  • Online options: UC Berkeley does offer online courses in psychology, but its degree programs are campus based.

University of California - Los Angeles

The third ranked school nationally by U.S. News & World Report is UCLA's psychology department. It is home to twelve research centers, which are one of its many assets, including a children's digital media center, a minority mental health program, and anxiety disorder research center. In addition to undergraduate majors in psychology, UCLA offers doctoral degrees in behavioral neuroscience, learning and behavior, and clinical, cognitive, developmental, health, quantitative, and social psychology.

  • Department: UCLA Life Sciences, Psychology
  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Online options: UCLA does offer online courses in psychology, but its degree programs are primarily campus based.

University of California - San Diego

While UC San Diego's psychology department is ranked at #14 by U.S. News & World Report, it's the top ranked school for behavioral neuroscience and third from the top in cognitive psychology. In addition to those two areas of specialization, the Department of Psychology at UC San Diego has three other central areas of research and study: sensation and perception; developmental psychology; and social psychology. The school offers Ph.D.s in experimental psychology, as well doctoral program in clinical psychology that's administered through San Diego State University.

  • Department: UC San Diego Department of Psychology
  • Location: San Diego, California
  • Online options: UC San Diego only offers online courses through its extension school; degree programs in psychology are campus based.

University of California - Davis

The fourth of the California State system schools with a psychology department ranked in the top 25 by U.S. News & World Report, UC Davis offers its graduate students five distinct areas of specialization in psychology: biological psychology; developmental psychology; perception, cognition and cognitive neuroscience; quantitative psychology; and social personality psychology. The UC Davis psychology department also has a number of affiliations that students can take advantage of, including partnerships with the California Regional Primate Research Center, the UC Davis Humanities Institute, and the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain.

  • Department: UC Davis Department of Psychology
  • Location: Davis, California
  • Online options: UC Davis offers online learning options through its extension school; degree programs in psychology are campus based.

1. School sites: University of California - Davis, https://www.ucdavis.edu/; Stanford University, https://www.stanford.edu/; University of California - Berkeley, http://www.berkeley.edu/; University of California - San Deigo, https://ucsd.edu/; UCLA, http://www.ucla.edu/
2. U.S. News & World Report, Education Rankings, Psychology Schools, visited on March 25, 2016; http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-humanities-schools/psychology-rankings
3. National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, "Master's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by field of study and state or jurisdiction: 2011-12," visited March 25, 2016; https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_319.40.asp
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2015 edition, 'Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists," visited March 25, 2016; http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193031.htm
5. California Department of Consumer Affairs, Board of Psychology, "Frequently Asked Questions," visited March 25, 2016; http://www.psychology.ca.gov/licensees/faq.shtml
6. California Department of Consumer Affairs, Board of Psychology, "An Overview of Licensure as a Psychologist," visited March 25, 2016; http://www.psychology.ca.gov/applicants/license.shtml
7. California Department of Consumer Affairs, Board of Psychology, "Examination Statistics," visited March 26, 2016; http://www.psychology.ca.gov/applicants/exams/statistics.shtml
8. American Psychological Association, "What You Need to Know to Get Licensed," visited March 25, 2016; http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2004/01/get-licensed.aspx
9. National Register of Health Service Psychologists, All Approved Doctoral Programs Listed by Jurisdiction, visited March 26, 2016; http://www.nationalregister.org/resources-links/doctoral-programs/approved-doctoral-programs-by-jurisdiction/