by Alexander Khaddouma, PhD, ABPP
The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) is the primary organization for Specialty Board Certification in Psychology. There are currently 15 Specialty Boards and one Subspecialty Board. At this time of writing, there are also two new boards in the process of affiliating with ABPP (Addiction Psychology and Serious Mental Illness Psychology), and one board in the process of re-organizing (i.e. Psychoanalysis becoming Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Psychology, and offering a Subspecialty in Psychoanalysis).1 In 2023, approximately 4,665, or 4 percent, of licensed psychologists in the United States were board certified.2
Across work settings assessed in the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Survey of Health Service Psychologists, most licensed psychologists are not board-certified.3 The settings with the highest percentages of board-certified psychologists are Hospital Settings (18%), Other Educational Settings (16%), and VA Medical Centers/Military Hospitals (14%).4
The uneven distribution of board-certified psychologists across work settings may be attributable to differing salary incentives, credentialing expectations, and structural support to pursue board certification among these settings. The addition of new specialty boards to ABPP may further diversify the kinds of settings where specialists work and their distribution across workplace settings.
All data are from the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Survey of Health Service Psychologists (April 2021, N = 842). The survey included doctoral-level licensed psychologists in the United States who provide direct client or patient care.
Work settings were based on psychologists’ reported primary job (job spent the most hours during a typical work week). Business settings include self-employed (not private practice), consulting firm, private research organization or lab, independent consultant, union, business or industry (excluding consulting firm or research organization), other non-profit organization, and other non-educational or non-service settings not listed above. Government settings include government research organization or lab, criminal justice system, military service (not military hospital), federal government agency (other than above settings), state government agency (other than above settings), and local government agency (other than above settings). Other settings include social services settings (e.g., day program, homeless program), in home-provider in home setting, in home-via telehealth settings. Other educational settings include two-year college, medical school, independent professional school of psychology, professional schools not listed above, elementary or secondary school, school system district office, and other educational settings. University and four-year college include psychology, education, business, or other academic department or unit, management or administrative office; student counseling or services center; research center or institute; professional school of psychology —university-based; and other university or four-year college settings. Organized human service settings include rehabilitation facility; counseling or guidance center not in university or college; outpatient mental health clinic —free-standing; community mental health center or clinic (CMHC); community health center (CHC) or clinic; long-term care residence; specialized health service; Preferred Provider Organization (PPO); Independent Practice Association (IPA); Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), excluding IPA; Accountable Care Organization (ACO); and other managed care setting. Hospital settings include public or private general hospital, city or county or state psychiatric hospital, and for-profit or not-for-profit private psychiatric hospital.
Visit APA’s 2021 Survey of Health Service Psychologists webpage for more information about the survey.
1 A specialty is a defined area in the practice of psychology that connotes special competency acquired through an organized sequence of formal education, training and experience. Board certification (awarding a certificate in a specialty) assures the public that specialists designated by the ABPP have successfully completed the educational, training and experience requirements of the specialty, including an examination designed to assess the competencies required to provide quality services in that specialty. Note that at the time of the 2021 Survey of Health Service Psychologists, the ABPP consisted of 15 fully-affiliated Specialty Boards and one Subspecialty Board.
2 ABPP. (2023). ABPP Directory. Retrieved from https://abpp.org/directory/.
3 American Psychological Association. (2022). 2021 Survey of Health Service Psychologists: Technical report. https://www.apa.org/workforce/ publications/health-service-psychologists-survey/full-technical-report.pdf
4 American Psychological Association. (2022). Health Service Psychologists across Work Settings [Interactive Data Tool]. Retrieved [July 11, 2023], from https://www.apa.org/workforce/publications/health-service-psychologists-survey/work-settings