The American Psychological Association and its branch in West Virginia are urging lawmakers in the state to make it a requirement for psychology students who want to practice there to earn a doctorate degree.
The state currently allows those with a master's degree to practice psychology. Proponents of the move argue that West Virginia is the only state that doesn't require doctorate degrees in areas such as health and medicine degrees.
"This is not an in-your-face crisis, but it's been growing for decades, and it holds West Virginia back," Dr. David Blair, former president of the West Virginia Psychological Association, told The State Journal.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 34 percent of psychologists are self-employed, typically as private practitioners and independent consultants. Acceptance into graduate programs is very competitive, but the agency says the field will grow through 2012.
A doctorate degree typically is required for independent practice as a psychologist, and those who earn a doctorate degree can hold positions in teaching, research, clinical, and counseling positions in universities, healthcare services, elementary and secondary schools, private industry, and government, according to the BLS.