What are the guidelines for defining a doctoral degree in psychology?

The following criteria, as developed at the 1977 National Conference on Education and Credentialing in Psychology, will be used to identify doctoral programs as psychology programs. Reference to "professional psychology" refers to psychology as a profession. The term is not intended in the more restrictive sense of applied or practice areas of psychology as the intent is for a generic designation system.

1) Programs that are accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) are recognized as meeting the definition of a professional psychology program. The criteria for accreditation serve as a model for professional psychology training.

OR all of the following criteria, 2 through 11:

2) Training in professional psychology is doctoral training offered in a regionally accredited institution of higher education. A regionally accredited institution is an institution with regional accreditation in the United States, an institution with provincial or territorial authorization in Canada, or in other countries, an institution that is accredited by a body that is deemed by the ASPPB/National Register Designation Committee to be performing a function equivalent to U.S. regional accrediting bodies.

3) The program, wherever it may be administratively housed, must be clearly identified and labeled as a psychology program. Such a program must specify in pertinent institutional catalogues and brochures its intent to educate and train professional psychologists.

4) The psychology program must stand as a recognizable, coherent organizational entity within the institution.

5) There must be a clear authority and primary responsibility for the core and specialty areas whether or not the program cuts across administrative lines.

6) The program must be an integrated, organized sequence of study.

7) There must be an identifiable psychology faculty sufficient in size and breadth to carry out its responsibilities and a psychologist responsible for the program.

8) The program must have an identifiable body of students who are matriculated in that program for a degree.

9) The program must include supervised practicum, internship, field or laboratory training appropriate to the practice of psychology.

10) The curriculum shall encompass a minimum of three academic years of full time graduate study and a minimum of one year's residency at the educational institution granting the doctoral degree. The core program shall require every student to demonstrate competence in each of the following substantive areas. This typically will be met through substantial instruction in each of these foundational areas, as demonstrated by a minimum of three graduate semester hours, five or more graduate quarter hours (when an academic term is other than a semester, credit hours will be evaluated on the basis of fifteen hours of classroom instruction per semester hour), or the equivalent:

a) scientific and professional ethics and standards;
b) research design and methodology;
c) statistics;
d) psychometric theory;
e) biological bases of behavior: physiological psychology, comparative psychology; neuropsychology, sensation and perception, and psychopharmacology;
f) cognitive-affective bases of behavior: learning, thinking, motivation, and emotion;
g) social bases of behavior: social psychology, group processes, organizational and systems theory; and
h) individual differences: personality theory, human development, and abnormal psychology.

11) All professional education programs in psychology shall include course requirements in specialty areas.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the guidelines for defining a doctoral degree in psychology or want to submit a program for review by the ASPPB/National Register Designation Committee, contact laura@nationalregister.org.

We want to help you complete your application.

We appreciate your interest in becoming credentialed as a National Register Health Service Psychologist, and we want to help you complete your application. The first step is to spend an hour completing your online application. After that, you can request a personal application coordinator by emailing Laura Rhymes. Your Personal Application Coordinator uses our credentials verification resources to locate the supervisor/training director of your internship and postdoctoral year and help you with any application questions. If we cannot locate your supervisor/training director, your personal application coordinator will help you contact psychologists currently at your site to verify your training and experience. Documenting your doctoral education is easy - you need only order the transcript from your university or professional school. Just be certain to submit transcripts from all graduate coursework. We are partners in this, and we want to make it work for you. Submit your online application and your personal application coordinator will work with you to make this a successful experience!

We want to encourage psychologists who completed their education and supervised experience many years ago to apply for the National Register credential.

Although it may at first seem a difficult task to acquire verification of your experience because of relocation, deaths, etc. of supervisors, a thorough reading of the information above should assure you that we are more than willing to help you locate supervisors, or find possible alternatives in difficult cases (see #41). As well, although a formal internship may not have been required during your training, you still may have completed an organized training program which would fulfill our guidelines. You may also complete an internship postdoctorally, even after your other required postdoctoral supervised experience, if need be. It is important to note that it is possible for you to be credentialed although you completed your training many years ago. Please request an application and we will be happy to assist you in any way towards expediting the credential review procedure.

What happens if my application becomes inactive?

If your application becomes inactive and you decide to pursue credentialing by the National Register, you must re-apply under the criteria and application fees in effect at that time. Primary source documentation previously submitted can be used to complete your re-application.

How long will my application remain active?

Applications from licensed psychologists remain active for two years from the date you submit your application fee. If you do not submit all of the required supporting documentation within two years from that date, your application will become inactive. If your application is approved, you have two years from the date of approval to submit your final Registration fee and attestation form. If not, your application will become inactive. If we request additional information during the review of your application, you have two years from the date of our request to submit the additional information. If not, your application will become inactive.

Are application fees refundable if my education and training do not meet the criteria, or if I can’t complete my application?

No, application fees (also called 'Credential Review Fees') are non-refundable.

My supervisor is deceased and there is no one else who can complete my form. Should I forget about applying?

No, we can help. Typically the site has employment records with which the experience can be documented. Once we have official information from the site, we need information on the supervisor's credentials at the time of supervision. Often the name of the supervisor has been previously documented for licensure. Therefore, if all possibilities of locating the supervisor have been exhausted or if the supervisor is known to be deceased, we have accepted other forms, particularly from state/provincial licensing boards, that will document the information we need. Although we uniformly require documentation of all experiences used for meeting our requirements, it is very rare for an individual to be denied the National Register credential solely on the basis of not being able to provide verification of having completed the necessary experiences. If you have any other questions, contact kim@nationalregister.org.

Is it okay for my supervisor to be located at another site?

Yes, as long as you meet face to face for at least one hour per week of formal individual supervision. If supervision is provided through a distance format, the details of that would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and approved in advance by the site at which you are working.

Is it okay to pay my postdoctoral supervisor for supervision?

Yes, as long as all requirements are met. The National Register guidelines do not stipulate anything about payment for postdoctoral supervision, although some state boards do.

Since I actually work 60 hours per week, can I complete the postdoctoral 1,500 hours in 25 weeks?

We do not credit hours beyond 40 hours per week for either the internship or the postdoctoral supervised experience.

While completing my postdoctoral internship I also worked part-time under supervision. Can I use those hours towards fulfilling the postdoctoral requirement?

We do not allow internship and postdoctoral hours to be completed simultaneously. Each experience should be completed at a separate time. However, we have allowed individuals to complete an internship after the postdoctoral year. This has occurred when an individual has completed training not meeting our internship guidelines, has done a postdoctoral supervised experience, and then completed an internship to meet our credentialing standards.

I completed my 2,000-hour internship postdoctorally; since you only require a 1,500-hour internship, can the other 500 hours be used toward the 1,500-hour postdoctoral requirement?

No, you may not use a portion of what was formally arranged to be part of your internship to fulfill postdoctoral hours, even if the internship was more than 1,500 and was completed postdoctorally. Our requirement is "an internship of at least 1,500 hours," not to be confused with "at least 1,500 hours of an internship."

Can I have a psychiatrist or social worker supervise me?

Yes, it is possible to have a psychiatrist or social worker supervise you for the postdoctoral year, but only when a qualified psychologist is not available to provide the supervision due to unusual circumstances. This typically occurs in rural areas. Like a psychologist supervisor, the psychiatrist or social worker should have training in direct health service delivery, be senior to you in experience (e.g., board certified), and have experience relevant to the experience for which you are being supervised. It is important to keep in mind that half (1,500 hours) of the required 3,000 hours of direct service experience must be supervised by an appropriately qualified psychologist. In either case, you will need to submit a vita for that individual indicating the date and currency of board certification status.

Will any licensed psychologist be an acceptable supervisor?

The supervisor needs to be a doctoral level psychologist who is licensed at the independent level in psychology. It is important to check before you begin being supervised that your supervisor has been appropriately trained and experienced in addition to being licensed. Since licensing is generic in some states/provinces, licensure alone does not guarantee that a psychologist is an appropriate supervisor in terms of having been trained as a health service provider. In addition, if the supervisor is a graduate of a program that is not regionally accredited or an approved doctoral program in psychology, that supervisor does not meet our requirements. Hopefully there were other supervisors who provided supervision.

Can I have two different supervisors: on alternate weeks? For two halves of the total postdoctoral experience?

Yes, it is also possible to have two supervisors on alternate weeks or two different supervisors for two different locations of the total experience.

If an hour per week of supervision is required, will a half hour per week be acceptable if I am only working 15 hours per week in direct services?

No, regardless of whether you are working full-time or just a few hours per week in direct health service provision, the requirement is at least one hour per week of individual supervision.

Part of my duties include research and supervising others. Can this time be included in the postdoctoral hours?

Research, teaching, and consulting about general issues are not considered direct health service activities. Only the activities that directly concern specific patients, including planning, testing, treatment and consultation concerning a patient should comprise the postdoctoral hours. However, a small percent of time can be spent in research and the year will still qualify.

Do I have to work a calendar year under supervision to meet the postdoctoral requirement?

If you are working full-time (37 1/2 to 40 hours per week) in direct service provision, you will be able to accumulate the required 1,500 hours in about 10 months. You do not have to complete a full calendar year if you have acquired the necessary hours.

My degree requirements were completed in August but the degree was not awarded until January. Can the supervised hours from August be counted toward the postdoctoral 1500 hours?

If the date that you completed all degree requirements is on your transcript, that date for initiation of your postdoctoral experience is acceptable. If it is not, certification of that date from the Registrar is necessary.

I completed all other degree requirements five years before my dissertation was defended. Can I use the supervised work in direct services during those five years to meet your postdoctoral requirement?

We do not accept any supervised time prior to your having completed all degree requirements, even if it takes a number of years for you to complete and defend the dissertation.

Is a formal postdoctoral organized training program required?

A formal postdoctoral training experience is not required, although it may be acceptable for fulfilling the postdoctoral requirement. Our requirement is that you work in direct health service provision and receive a minimum of one hour per week of formally scheduled, individual supervision from an appropriately qualified psychologist for the work you are doing in direct health services.

If my internship was not APA accredited or APPIC listed, but was listed in the CAPIC directory, will that help the review of my application?

Yes, that will be very helpful during the review of your internship program. Please be sure to send a copy of the internship description from the CAPIC directory contemporaneous to the time period that you completed your internship and a copy of the internship brochure.

Will my internship be acceptable if it was not APA/CPA accredited or APPIC listed?

It is possible for an internship that is not APA/CPA accredited or APPIC listed to be acceptable. However it will be necessary to obtain official documentation describing how the training meets the National Register internship guidelines. Your internship training director and/or primary supervisor should submit a brochure/contract with your university and complete the internship guidelines compliance worksheet.

Are APA/CPA accredited internships automatically acceptable?

In most instances, APA/CPA-approval is sufficient to ensure that the internship program is acceptable. In the rare instances when the Internship Confirmation Form seems to indicate that some of the guidelines were not met, (e.g., the supervisor is a licensed psychologist, but not from an acceptable program) an applicant would be asked to provide further documentation even if the internship was APA/CPA-approved. Please be sure to accurately list the name, location and dates of your internship so NR staff can properly identify your program and its accreditation status.

Why is my internship being questioned when I know several people who have been accepted by the National Register who completed the same internship?

It is possible for two individuals to be at the same site but have very different training experiences, supervisors, etc. even during the same time period. For this reason, each application is evaluated based upon the documentation submitted.  Secondly, the other individuals' internship may have been questioned also. Nonetheless, if you can provide the names of these individuals, we will pull their file for comparison.

Since my internship was completed as part of my APA/CPA-approved doctoral program, why are you questioning it? Doesn’t that mean the internship would meet your guidelines?

The fact that the doctoral program was APA/CPA-approved does not mean that the internship is automatically acceptable. Some individuals have mistakenly assumed that the APA/CPA-approval of the doctoral program means that the internship is APA/CPA-approved as well. The APA/CPA-approval of doctoral programs and internships are two separate processes, and, likewise, the National Register's evaluation of the doctoral program and internship is done separately.

If my internship was completed at several different sites, should each supervisor complete an Internship Confirmation Form?

If the sites were entirely separate with different training directors and required separate applications for acceptance to the training, then yes, we should receive forms from each site. However, if the different sites were part of rotations under the auspices of one training director and training program, then only one form needs to be submitted.

Since my university training director was actually in charge of the internship, should that person complete the confirmation form?

No, we prefer that the on-site psychologist supervisor or director of training complete the internship confirmation form(s) since the signer is attesting on-site knowledge that the intern satisfactorily completed the requirements for the internship.   An off-site university training director does not have complete knowledge.


Since I earned my doctoral degree a number of years ago before they required an internship and have been working in the field for quite a while, can I complete an internship now to qualify for listing?

Applicants to the National Register must meet all of the credentialing requirements regardless of when their training took place or what other credentials they possess. Since there is no stipulation about when the internship training program takes place, it is possible for individuals to complete an internship at any time in order to meet our credentialing criteria.

My training was completed in 19– before many internships were established or required and before your guidelines were written. Does my extensive supervision, which satisfied licensure requirements, in place of an internship qualify me for listing?

Applicants to the National Register must meet all of the credentialing requirements regardless of when their training took place or what other credentials they possess. Since there is no stipulation about when the internship training program takes place, it is possible for individuals to complete an internship at any time in order to meet our credentialing criteria.

I was the only intern. Does that mean I am ineligible?

Please note that the guidelines require that there be two or more interns at the site. However, because of budget cuts and last minute cancellations, occasionally individuals become the only intern at the site. In those instances, we suggest that arrangements be made for the intern to have weekly scheduled meetings and activities with interns from other sites in the same geographic area. The requirement of two interns makes it clear that there is a training environment. If an applicant was the only intern at the site, then it becomes necessary for the supervisor to demonstrate how a training environment was maintained and what arrangements were made for the applicant to interact with and effect a collegial relationship with other individuals going through doctoral level training.

Do you accept internships completed in school settings (or private practice, etc.)?

It is possible for an internship in a school setting or, less frequently, private practice settings to be acceptable. Our focus is on the nature of the training rather than on the site at which the training took place. Regardless of where the training was completed, it will be necessary for documentation to be submitted describing how the training meets the NR internship guidelines.

Will internships listed in APPIC (Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers) be acceptable?

In most instances the internships listed in APPIC are acceptable. However, if information on the application or confirmation form indicates that some of the guidelines may not be met, further information or clarification will be requested.

Can I submit the state/province forms I submitted for licensure instead of yours?

To maintain a fair, uniform review process confirmation forms must be submitted from the primary source unless it is virtually impossible for the original supervisors to complete the forms (i.e., they are deceased or cannot be located after a diligent search). Consult the National Register database, the APA, or the relevant state psychological association to locate your supervisor(s) and/or the list of licensed psychologists in the residential state of the supervisor(s). Contact us and we will try to help you find your supervisors.

Who should sign the Internship Confirmation Form?

The psychologist who was the director of training or your direct supervisor (while you were completing your training) should complete the form. If the experience took place a number of years ago and the supervisors are no longer at the site of the internship, it is possible for the current director of training to complete the form based on institutional records. Signing the form involves attesting to the satisfactory completion of the internship requirements.  It is important that doctoral level psychologists attest to the competence of the doctoral intern.

Does the internship have to be part of the doctoral program?

No, the internship does not have to be part of or approved by the doctoral program, but must meet the current guidelines regardless of when it is completed.

Is a predoctoral internship required?

No, an internship or organized training program meeting the National Register's guidelines is required. However, there is no stipulation regarding whether it is completed predoctorally or postdoctorally, although most individuals complete the training predoctorally as part of the doctoral program graduation requirements.

May I fax you a copy of my transcript?

No, you must arrange to have an Official Transcript of your doctoral degree sent directly to the National Register from the degree granting institution. In addition, if you completed graduate coursework in psychology (e.g., a master's degree) at another regionally accredited institution, please request that the institution forward an official transcript to the National Register (unless all that coursework is clearly reflected on your doctoral transcript and the name of the institution where you completed the coursework is listed).

Does listing in the APA’s Graduate Study in Psychology mean that a program is acceptable?

No, listing in the Graduate Study in Psychology tells you only that the program considers itself able to educate and train psychologists. It is a voluntary description provided by the program and does not involve an evaluation of the program by certain standards for acceptability.

What is the difference between APA/CPA-approval and Designation?

APA/CPA approval requires an extensive, in-depth review of the program, including site visits, in which the quality of the program as well as its meeting APA/CPA standards is evaluated. Designation is a review of official institutional documentation that demonstrates the program meets the doctoral degree guidelines as a psychology program. APA/CPA-approval applies only to the practice areas of clinical, counseling, school and professional-scientific programs and new areas approved by APA. Approval for Designation can include any doctoral psychology program inlcuding those not reviewed by APA.

Is an ASPPB/NR designated program automatically acceptable?

-If a program is not listed, is it definitely not acceptable?
-What does the date in parentheses by the program indicate?
-How are programs completed before designation began (in 1981) evaluated?

Listing in the online designation publication means that the general program has been reviewed and found to meet the guidelines. Therefore, if the program was designated at the time the applicant completed it, the applicant's transcript is simply reviewed to ensure that the required curriculum described in the doctoral degree guidelines have been covered by the individual's program.

The date in parentheses refers to the date that the program was first designated. The program may have existed prior to the date of designation but not reviewed and accepted until the date indicated. Also, significant changes in a program, including name changes, will result in a program being considered "a new program " and the date then reflects the date of the change.

Individuals who completed programs prior to their designation date listed or are not listed at all should check with the National Register office. It is possible that the program is no longer designated but was when you completed it. A staff person can check back issues of the publication to determine if your program was formerly listed.

Do APA/CPA accredited programs meet all the criteria for an approved program in psychology?

APA/CPA-approval is sufficient to ensure that the doctoral program is acceptable.  A difficulty may occur in the rare instance when the doctoral transcript seems to indicate that the scientific foundation coursework was not taken or if the transcript shows substantially less than three years of full-time graduate study.  In either instance, such an applicant or the institution would be asked to provide further documentation.

All transcripts from doctoral programs including APA accredited, CPA accredited, and ASPPB/NR Designated programs are reviewed to ensure that the following core scientific foundations in psychology have been included in the program completed. If the Committee cannot identify these foundational areas after reviewing the doctoral transcript(s), then additional information will be requested from the program director or from the applicant.   If instead of a course, an applicant took a separate examination in one of the areas and that competency exam is reflected on the transcript (e.g., psychometric theory, cognitive-affective basis of behavior) that can be acceptable.  General comprehensive exams and audited courses do not substitute however for these foundational areas.

  • scientific and professional ethics and standards;
  • research design and methodology;
  • statistics;
  • psychometric theory;
  • biological bases of behavior (e.g., physiological psychology, comparative psychology, neuropsychology, sensation and perception, and psychopharmacology);
  • cognitive-affective bases of behavior (e.g., learning, thinking, motivation, and emotion);
  • social bases of behavior (e.g., social psychology, group processes, organizational and systems theory); and
  • individual differences (e.g., personality theory, human development, and abnormal psychology).

My program is not APA accredited, CPA accredited, or ASPPB/NR designated. Will my program be accepted?

EXCEPTIONS to APA/CPA Accreditation and ASPPB/National Register Designation:

If the applicant earned a doctoral degree in psychology from a program that meets one of the three exceptions listed below, the National Register will individually review the program to determine if it meets criteria contained in Guidelines 2-11:

  • Doctoral programs in psychology that are currently APA/CPA accredited or ASPPB/National Register designated but not when the applicant completed the program (unless that program was specifically denied accreditation or designation during or subsequent to the time the applicant was enrolled).  For this exception, it must be demonstrated that the program completed by the applicant is essentially the same (course content, requirements, faculty, etc.) as the currently accredited/designated program.
  • Doctoral programs in psychology completed prior to 1981 in the U.S. and 1988 in Canada.
  • Doctoral programs in psychology completed outside of the U.S. and Canada.

Note: A graduate of a doctoral program that was denied for ASPPB/National Register designation or APA/CPA accreditation while he/she was enrolled in the program or after he/she completed the program is not eligible for the National Register Health Service Psychologist Credential.

Do licensed school psychologists qualify as Health Service Psychologist?

Yes. School psychologists are often licensed at the doctoral and independent practice level by a state, provincial or territorial psychology board. However, school psychologists who are certified by another board/agency (e.g., State Board of Education or a school psychology licensing board) will not qualify on that basis alone.

If my state/province requires two years of postdoctoral supervised experience while you only require one, should I apply before I’m fully licensed?

No, but you may save time by applying for both at the same time, since for both you will need to submit a transcript and supervisor confirmation forms. However, approval for the National Register credential must await confirmation of active license.

Do I have to be licensed in the state/province in which I’m residing before I apply for listing?

No, residency is not required, but you must have an active psychology license issued by a state, provincial or territorial board of examiners.

Why do I have to submit primary source verification of degree, internship and postdoctoral year of experience if I am licensed? The state/province of….has the same requirements as yours, if not tougher. Isn’t licensing enough to prove I’m qualified?

Qualified as a psychologist, yes; but the National Register credential goes beyond licensure and indicates that the psychologist has met special educational and experiential requirements related to health service provision. Although many jurisdictions have requirements for licensure eligibility similar to the requirements of the National Register, the requirements and the documentation do vary from state/province to state/province. In some instances, although the requirements appear to be the same, states/provinces will have alternative ways to be eligible for licensure which do not meet the National Register's requirements.