Qualified psychologists play a vital role in Tennessee's public health system, and the state works continuously to improve access to quality mental health care. Often these efforts benefit practitioners as well as patients. Tennessee was, for instance, one of the first states to formally allow licensed psychologists to practice telepsychology, which encompasses all psychological services delivered by phone or the internet. The move gives the state's under-served and rural populations more care options, and providers more job security and flexibility. Tennessee also allows candidates with master's degrees to enter the field, so long as they work under the direction of a licensed Health Service Provider. This tiered licensing approach allows psychologist to become more independent with training and experience.
According to research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American Psychological Association (APA) and the National Center for Education Statistics:
- Tennessee had 1,690 practicing clinical, counseling and school psychologists in May 2015, placing its psychologist-to-patient ratio 15 points below state needs.
- Licensed psychologists in Tennessee earned an average salary of $67,570 that same year.
- There were 35 psychology schools in Tennessee in 2016, including some with online learning options.
- Nine Tennessee psychology programs were accredited by the APA.
No matter where or how they work, however, all Tennessee psychologists are subject to the regulations governing their practice, beginning with licensure.
Tennessee psychology licensing requirements
Pathways to psychologist licensure vary by state. Tennessee uses a tiered licensing system that allows one to treat patients with an approved master's or doctoral degree, plus a minimum number of supervised clinical hours. A psychologist's scope of practice increases with education and experience. For example, associate psychologists — officially called Certified Psychology Assistants — can practice with master's degrees, under the supervision of fully licensed psychologists, who must hold doctorates. Licensed Health Service Providers (HSP) are required to have a doctorate and even more experience. An HSP license is mandatory for professionals treating functionally impaired and at-risk patients.
Candidates pursuing the Licensed Psychologist credential must:
- Earn a Ph.D. in psychology or an approved psychological specialty from a program accredited by the APA or designated by the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology/Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (NR/ASPPB).
- Complete one year of supervised experience, half of which must be completed post-doctorally. Candidates must meet all doctoral requirements and secure a provisional license before completing a post-doctoral practicum. HSPs must complete an additional year of supervised experience.
- Submit a complete licensing application, supporting documents and associated fees to the Tennessee Board of Examiners in Psychology (TBEP).
- Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology within one year of provisional licensing.
- Pass Tennessee's Jurisprudence Exam. The TBEP offers this open-book exam once a month in Nashville.
- Acquire three professional references — two from licensed psychologists and one from an internship supervisor or director.
- Successfully complete a face-to-face interview with TBEP members.
Psychologists must renew their licenses every two years to continue practicing in Tennessee. This process requires professionals to submit a renewal application, pay associated fees and accrue at least 40 hours of continuing education units within the preceding two-year cycle. Prospective psychologists can visit the TBEP online to learn more about initial and renewal licensing requirements for Certified Psychology Assistants, Licensed Psychologists, and Health Service Providers.
Featured psychology colleges in Tennessee
Vanderbilt University is home to one of the highest ranked psychology programs in the region. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report ranked the psychology school no. 16 in the nation and no. 35 in the world. Vanderbilt offers both graduate and undergraduate degrees in psychology, though its master's program is only available to students admitted to the school's Ph.D. program. Doctoral students have the option to specialize their training in one of several emphases: Clinical Science, Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience, Developmental Science, Neuroscience and Quantitative Methods.
- Departments: Department of Psychological Services, Department of Psychology and Human Development
- Location: Nashville
- Online options: Students report to campus for courses and to approved clinics for and internships and practica. Psychology students may be able to take some of their courses online, however.
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville's doctoral clinical psychology degree has held APA-accreditation for more than 60 years. The University also offers doctoral degrees in counseling psychology or experimental psychology. All programs present unique training and research opportunities. Students can, for instance, assess and treat real patients through the University of Tennessee Psychological Clinic. Ongoing research positions are available in several specialties, including biological, developmental, and social psychology.
- Department: Department of Psychology
- Location: Knoxville
- Online options: All psychology students must complete coursework, some practical training and research activities on campus, and/or its Psychological Clinic.
University of Memphis
The University of Memphis is one of the handful of psychology schools in Tennessee with programs that are nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report and accredited by the APA. It also offers a diverse field of training options and specialties. Its Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology program, for instance, allows students to pursue research in targeted areas, like child and family studies and Psychotherapy research. The school also offers general and specialized master's degrees and Ph.D.'s in Experimental Psychology, School Psychology, and Clinical Health Psychology.
- Department: Department of Psychology
- Location: Memphis
- Online options: Unfortunately, the University of Memphis does not currently offer online psychology programs.
1. "Licensure Information," Board of Examiners of Psychology, Department of Health, State of Tennessee, https://www.tn.gov/health/article/psych-licensure
2. Rules of the Board of Examiners in Psychology Division of Health Related Boards, Tennessee Board of Examiners of Psychology, State of Tennessee, http://share.tn.gov/sos/rules/1180/1180.htm
3. College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
4. "Search for Accredited Programs," 2016, American Psychological Association, http://apps.apa.org/accredsearch/?_ga=1.260631757.1983335796.1462059967
5. "Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: Occupational Employment and Wages," May, 2015, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193031.htm