Virginia Psychology, Social Work & Counseling Licensure Requirements
Known to many as “the birthplace of a nation,” Virginia has a lot to offer to those who are interested in pursuing a degree in psychology. From the breathtaking Blue Ridge mountains to the wealth of opportunity for those holding a psychology degree in the state’s biggest city, Richmond, there are plenty of reasons why people decide to stay in Virginia and seek licensure after completing their education.
By taking a moment to learn about the requirements for licensure in psychology, social work or counseling in the state of Virginia, you may be able to improve your chances of obtaining a license and kickstarting a career. Read on for a step-by-step explanation of how to make the right choices for these fields.
Psychology Licensure in Virginia
For those who are interested in becoming a psychologist, obtaining a license to practice is a requirement in all 50 states. While requirements for licensure are similar across states, there can be differences in both how the process is carried out and which specific requirements need to be fulfilled.
To become a practicing psychologist in the state of Virginia, it’s required that you complete a doctoral degree at a regionally accredited institution. Ideally, clinical and counseling psychology programs should be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), although other programs which meet standards set by the Virginia Board of Medicine may qualify as fulfilling the necessary requirements. Students must complete 3 semester hours each in core psychological competencies—psychological measurement, research methodology, etc.—and clinical content areas such as human development and intellectual assessment.
Candidates who enroll in doctoral programs not accredited by the APA may be required to submit additional materials when applying for a Virginia psychology license, such as course catalogs or program brochures.
Psychology licensing requirements
Once the education requirements for becoming a psychologist have been met, it’s time to focus on the next steps needed in order to obtain licensure. First, you’ll need to complete an internship that has been accredited by the APA, Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC), or National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). As the wrong internship may not count toward licensure, it’s incredibly important to confirm accreditation before moving forward with any program.
Next, you’ll be required to complete a 1,500-hour supervised residency. In most cases, residency will take place at the post-doctoral level, requiring board approval—a pre-doctoral practicum may also be an option under special circumstances. To qualify, at least 1 hour for each 8 hours of client contact must be supervised, whether in group or individual settings.
Psychologists who are licensed in the state of Virginia are required to complete at least 14 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) courses approved by the board each year in order to be eligible for renewal.
As of 2018, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) has not added Virginia to its Agreement of Reciprocity, which currently encompasses Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Texas, as well as Canadian provinces Manitoba and Ontario. Those who are licensed as psychologists in Virginia, then, are not allowed to extend their licensure or practice in other states with just this license.
Psychologist salary and career advancement
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for psychologists in 2017 was $77,030 per year. Employment for psychologists is also expected to grow an impressive 14% through 2026, surpassing the average rate of growth across all occupations. After gaining experience working in the field, many psychologists choose to advance their careers by opening private practices and participating in opportunities for furthering their education.
While certain jobs in the field of psychology can be obtained with just a master’s degree, a doctorate is essential for those interested in going into private practice.
Therapy and Counseling Licensure in Virginia
Therapists and counselors assist clients of all ages in overcoming life challenges and identifying strategies for coping with difficult situations. In order to practice as a mental health counselor or family therapist in the state of Virginia, candidates must focus on becoming a licensed professional counselor (LPC). Becoming an LPC in Virginia involves not only meeting education and exam requirements, but also completing a post-master’s residency program.
While many practicing counselors and family therapists choose to further their education past the master’s level, a master’s degree in an accredited program is typically the highest required level for obtaining licensure in Virginia. Graduate studies should focus on areas such as educational and psychological foundations, problem-solving methodology, research methodology, and other, similar courses.
Certain additional courses may be required for those interested in becoming a licensed professional counselor in Virginia and entering into niche positions, such as school counselors, marriage therapists, and substance abuse counselors.
Therapy and counseling licensing requirements
To become licensed as a professional counselor in the state of Virginia, one must first obtain a degree at the master’s level. Following degree completion, Virginia LPC requirements state that a 3,400-hour supervised clinical residency must be done. Finally, candidates seeking licensure must take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination.
As with psychology licensure, Virginia does not offer license reciprocity for therapists or counselors interested in practicing across state lines.
Therapist and counselor salaries and career advancement
Professional counselors and therapists have a number of career options available depending upon their interests and skill sets. One person might choose to pursue a career in marriage and family therapy, for example, while others may prefer to provide clinical care as substance abuse or mental health counselors. Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors make the highest average salaries, according to the BLS, at an average salary of $66,310 in Virginia.
One of the benefits of becoming a therapist or counselor in Virginia is the ability to move across disciplines throughout a career. Many school counselors, for example, have transitioned into family therapy over time, and vice versa.
Social Work Licensure in Virginia
Another avenue for those interested in starting a career in the field of psychology to consider is social work. There are a few different ways to get a social work license in Virginia , and depending upon your long-term career goals, one may be a better fit than another. By understanding more about the types of career paths open to social workers in Virginia, you can better determine which degree program is right for you.
LSWA, LSW, LCSW, and LICSW: what’s the difference?
There are a number of common acronyms discussed within the world of social work, some of which can be confusing to those who are not well-versed in industry terminology. LSWA (Licensed Social Work Associate), LSW (Licensed Social Worker), LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker) are the 4 most prominent titles in social work.
The major difference between titles comes down to whether a social worker performs clinical or non-clinical work. LSW, LCSW, and LICSW are all titles falling under the umbrella of clinical social work, for example, while work as a LSWA tends to be entry-level and non-clinical in nature. In fact, LSWA professionals must be supervised by a LSW, LCSW, or LICSW in order to work and maintain certification.
Two distinct paths exist for those seeking a Virginia social work license—a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or Master of Social Work (MSW). Both degrees involve practicums with a focus on hands-on experience, as well as course loads covering topics such as human growth and development, sociological constructs, and behavioral issues, among others.
While those who earn a BSW will typically work in an entry-level social worker position under the supervision of a licensed social worker, MSW graduates may have additional opportunities that can result in higher salaries and a deeper connection to their field.
Social work licensing requirements
Requirements to become a licensed social worker in Virginia can vary depending upon the type of degree obtained and preferred type of license. To become an LSW, candidates must complete the proper education requirements at a CSWE-accredited school, apply to the state of Virginia Board for supervision, and complete no less than 3,000 hours of supervised experience (including at least 100 hours of face-to-face supervision). Supervision must be completed within 2 to 4 years.
In addition to these requirements, LSW and LCSW candidates must take the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) master’s exam, a 4-hour test consisting of 170 questions.
There is no license reciprocity for social workers in the state of Virginia. However, the board does allow licensure by endorsement. In this scenario, LSWs and LCSWs can use their exam scores and certain forms of experience gained in other states to obtain a social work license in Virginia. Candidates must have an active social work license within another state to qualify for endorsement.
Social worker salary and career advancement
The BLS lists the median pay for social workers as $47,980 per year, or $23.07 per hour. As with many other careers in the field of psychology, the current job outlook for social workers is promising, with growth of 16% expected through 2026.
Social workers also have the benefit of being able to work within a wide range of different settings and environments, such as mental health clinics, schools, hospitals, and more. This allows those who are early on in their careers to gain diverse and valuable experience to further support their advancement in the field.
There are two professional organizations social workers in Virginia can join:
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW)–Virginia Chapter provides timely information on conferences, policy changes, and local chapters within the state. They also have continuing education information and networking opportunities for members.
The Virginia Society for Clinical Social Work–supports the professional education standards for clinical social work practice. This organization provides advocacy, professional development opportunities, continuing education information, and networking for its members.
Ready to Get Started?
Careers in psychology, professional counseling, and social work can all be extremely rewarding. There are a number of different routes that can be taken depending upon where your interests lay, all of which not only lead to fruitful careers, but truly work to serve the community and improve the lives of others. Whether you’re committed to completing your doctorate or aim to get a master’s in counseling and become licensed as a professional family therapist, it all starts with the right education and a commitment to excellence.
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