From Martha’s Vineyard to the metropolis of Boston, the state of Massachusetts has many amazing places that draw professionals of all kinds. Of these jobs, in particularly high demand are roles within the fields of psychology, therapy, counseling, and social work. And with nearly 150 colleges and universities across the state, Massachusetts is also a great place to pursue an education in these fields.
If you’re interested in serving your community as a psychologist, therapist, or social worker, Massachusetts has several paths you can take. Read on to learn more about these rewarding careers and what you need to do to earn your license.
Psychology Licensure in Massachusetts
Each state has its own licensure requirements that you’ll need to complete before becoming a practicing psychologist. In Massachusetts, you’ll be following the guidelines set forth by the Board of Registration of Psychologists (BRP).
The first step towards working as a psychologist is earning your doctoral degree, which is required if you want to become legally licensed. As a student, you’ll most likely choose between a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree, though there are a few less common degree types to consider as well. Along with working directly with clients, a PhD trains you to focus on conducting new research or teaching in the field. A PsyD, on the other hand, was developed to emphasize practical, client-facing work specifically, often with a focus on a particular issue or patient population.
The quality of your education is an important step to gain your license.
The BRP requires that your program is “accredited by the Commission on Accreditation (COA) of the American Psychological Association, or designated as a doctoral program in psychology by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards or the National Register of Health Service Psychologists.” On top of that, the school itself must be regionally accredited.
Psychology licensing requirements
Once you hold your degree, there are several next steps to complete before you can apply for your license.
In Massachusetts, you must complete 3,200 hours of practical supervised experience, with at least 10 working months of these hours completed during an internship while you’re still in school. You can finish the remaining hours post-internship or as an advanced practicum.
2Application and background check
After you complete your practice hours, you’ll be eligible to apply for licensure. The application should include your college transcripts, reference forms, background check, and a $150 application fee.
If your application is approved by the BRP, you’ll then need to take and pass the national Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), along with the Massachusetts jurisprudence exam. These must be done within 3 years of the initial receipt of approval. If you don’t pass the exams on your first attempt, you must wait 3 months before taking them again. The EPPP requires a passing score of 500 out of 800 and the jurisprudence requires at least a 70%.
After you pass these exams, your scores will be sent to the BRP and you’ll be mailed your official license.
4Renewal and continuing education credits
Once you hold your license, you’ll need to renew it every 2 years with 20 hours of continuing education (CE) credits. While CEs are required for renewal, you don’t need to submit proof of these credits. Just keep in mind that license audits are common and you’ll need to keep copies of your CE certificates for your records.
Massachusetts doesn’t officially participate in license reciprocity. However, if you’ve already taken and passed the EPPP with a score of at least 500, you won’t need to take the test again. To apply for licensure, you’ll still need to submit the BRP application and pass the jurisprudence exam. If you’ve been a licensed psychologist for at least 5 years in a different state, and are listed in the National Register of Health Service Psychologists, you’ll be eligible to submit a modified application.
Therapy & Counseling Licensure in Massachusetts
All therapy and counseling licensure is overseen by the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions. There are three specific areas of licensing and each, while similar, has slightly different requirements.
A similar requirement between license types is the education that’s needed. At a minimum, applicants must have a master’s degree in order to qualify for their license. Your degree must be earned at an institute that’s recognized by the state regional accrediting body.
As a part of your degree program, you’ll need to complete an internship and accrue additional supervised practice time over the course of 2 years after graduation. The exact hours of practice will vary depending on the license you seek.
Marriage and family therapist (LMFT)
licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs). You must have a master’s or doctoral degree in MFT or a related field. The program you choose to participate in will need to include a minimum of 60 semester hours. No matter what the degree, all LMFTs must complete courses in:
- Marital and family studies
- Marital and family therapy
- Human development
- Professional studies
The 2-year supervised practice for LMFTs must equate to 3,360 clinical hours. You can earn these hours by committing either full- or part-time, giving you the flexibility to fit these hours into your schedule.
Mental health counselor (LMHC)
Licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs) help address a wide range of issues such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and much more. Earning a master’s degree in mental health counseling will be an important step in becoming an LMHC, although the degree can be in a related field. Completion of 60 semester credit hours is also required to become licensed. You must take classes that address the following 10 topics:
- Counseling theory
- Human growth and development
- Social and cultural foundations
- Clinical skills
- Group work
- Special treatment issues
- Research and evaluation
- Professional orientation
During your 2-year post-master’s supervised practice, you’ll need to complete 3,360 hours. Again, these hours can be completed full- or part-time, but can’t take more than 8 years to earn.
Rehabilitation counselor (LRC)
Working with people with disabilities is the primary role of a licensed rehab counselor (LRC). Professionals in these positions help disabled people deal with personal and societal stressors while guiding them towards living independently. To gain your license, you must first hold a master’s degree in rehab counseling or a related field that equals at least of 48 semester hours. Your degree must include coursework in the following areas:
- Job placement and development
- Transferable skill development
- Vocational assessment and evaluation
- Vocational and affective counseling
- Rehabilitation plan development
- Medical aspects of disabilities
After graduation, you must complete the standard 2-year training period by gaining 200 hours of supervised experience. If your degree qualifies, you may be eligible to apply half of your internship hours towards the post-degree requirement, helping you to earn your license faster.
Therapy and counseling license renewal
No matter what type of counseling license you hold, you’ll need to maintain it by renewing it every 2 years. Continuing education credits are required for renewal. You’ll need to earn 30 CEs in order to be eligible.
If you’re an out-of-state LMFT, you can be granted reciprocity if your license is deemed eligible by the board. Eligibility is defined as a license with requirements that are equivalent to or exceed the Massachusetts standard.
As an LMHC, you’re able to apply for reciprocal recognition if you’ve been practicing for at least 3 years. From there, you’ll need to submit substantial proof that your license meets the requirements set forth by the board and that you’ve passed the board exam within the previous 5 years.
Social Work Licensure in Massachusetts
The Board of Registration of Social Work (BRSW) regulates the practice and lays out the requirements you must meet to become a licensed social worker.
There are 4 levels of licensure offered by the BRSW:
- Licensed Social Worker Associate (LSWA)
- Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
- Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Independent Certified Social Worker (LICSW)
LSWA, LSW, LCSW, and LICSW: what’s the difference?
LSWAs are considered entry-level social workers. As an LSWA, you work under the supervision of an LSW, LCSW, or LICSW. You’ll also be unable to work in clinical settings, which means you can’t provide direct treatment to patients.
LSWs are also unable to work in clinical settings. However, they can work in managerial roles. Commonly, LSWs work as case managers or administrative supervisors.
If you’re interested in working at the clinical level, you’ll want to consider becoming an LCSW. While you won’t be able to open your own practice with this license, you will be able to work with patients by providing services under the supervision of an LICSW.
At the top of the licensure hierarchy is the LICSW. Becoming an LICSW gives you the opportunity to open your own private clinical practice.
Education and experience requirements
The career possibilities aren’t the only difference between the licenses. The education you must earn to become licensed also differs, and some even offer alternative pathways.
Any degree or educational credit that you earn towards your license must be earned at an accredited university that is approved by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
Social work licensing requirements
With your education as the corner stone of your journey to licensure, the next step will be taking and passing the state-approved exam. Exams are given by the Association of Social Worker Boards (ASWB).
Before taking the mandated exam, you’ll need to pre-apply. Pre-applying essentially verifies that you meet the Massachusetts requirements and are in the final stages of licensure approval. The exam you take will vary depending on the license you seek and each has slightly different levels of advancement.
- LSWA: National Bachelor Social Work Exam
- LSW: National Bachelor Social Work Exam
- LCSW: National Master Social Work Exam
- LICSW: National Clinical Social Work Exam
The bachelor-level exam is defined as an entry-level exam for those with little to no practical experience. If you intend to take the master-level exam, you should have roughly 2 years of experience. However, at the clinical-level, the highest level of examination offered, 2 years of post-degree experience is the absolute minimum you must have.
Social work license renewal
You can renew your license every 2 years by completing continuing education units. Although you don’t need to submit proof of CEUs to gain renewal, you may be audited and will later need to provide proof for your records.
You can earn social work license reciprocity in Massachusetts. The first step to earning reciprocity is holding a current out-of-state license. You’ll also need to have completed the appropriate ASWB exam, and verify that you earned a passing score.
From there, you’ll need to complete a reciprocity application that includes your official transcripts, 3 professional reference forms, and a notarized letter from the state board of your current license.