Clinical Psychology Programs Degree paths, certifications and expert advice for becoming a clinical psychologist

Clinical psychologists work with people experiencing behavioral or emotional struggles, and have the option to specialize with certain populations such as the elderly or adolescents. The job can be equally challenging and rewarding, as clinical psychologists help their patients strive towards better mental and emotional health. The field involves intense patient interaction, specialized application of knowledge, and a strong commitment to ethics. It takes a great deal of time, effort and study to complete a clinical psychology program. Read on to learn about degree options in clinical psychology, license and certification requirements and potential specializations.

Best Clinical Psychology Programs: 2016-2017

Tuition costs, financial aid options, acceptance rates, number of programs available, and student-to-teacher ratios are all factors that can help determine the best clinical psychology school for a particular student. By comparing the top programs for 2016-2017, students can see excellent examples of what they want to look for in a program.

Rank School Name Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % Total Programs Student-teacher Ratio Grad Rate Placement Services Counseling Services Credit for Experience Program Breadth Online Programs Acceptance Rate
Marywood University
99.79 $$$$$ 97% 4 11:1 69% No Yes Yes 3 N/A 74% Read More Read Less
Murray State University
99.59 $$$$$ 86% 1 16:1 52% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 80% Read More Read Less
Brigham Young University-Provo
98.66 $$$$$ 71% 1 18:1 79% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 47% Read More Read Less
Loras College
98.47 $$$$$ 98% 1 12:1 64% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 95% Read More Read Less
Yeshiva University
98.27 $$$$$ 83% 4 7:1 85% Yes Yes No 2 N/A 82% Read More Read Less
Duquesne University
97.82 $$$$$ 95% 1 13:1 77% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 73% Read More Read Less
University of Central Florida
97.81 $$$$$ 72% 1 31:1 70% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 50% Read More Read Less
Sam Houston State University
97.75 $$$$$ 82% 2 21:1 53% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 74% Read More Read Less
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Harrisburg
97.37 $$$$$ 80% 1 14:1 68% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 82% Read More Read Less
Jackson State University
97.28 $$$$$ 79% 1 15:1 43% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 70% Read More Read Less
Saint Michael's College
97.03 $$$$$ 96% 1 12:1 79% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 80% Read More Read Less
University of Kentucky
97.01 $$$$$ 84% 2 18:1 61% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 72% Read More Read Less
Marquette University
96.97 $$$$$ 95% 2 14:1 79% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 67% Read More Read Less
Abilene Christian University
96.85 $$$$$ 94% 1 14:1 62% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 50% Read More Read Less
Emporia State University
96.85 $$$$$ 78% 1 18:1 39% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 76% Read More Read Less
Xavier University
96.75 $$$$$ 91% 1 12:1 71% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 73% Read More Read Less
University of Iowa
96.68 $$$$$ 57% 1 16:1 70% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 81% Read More Read Less
Lesley University
96.67 $$$$$ 80% 1 10:1 58% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 71% Read More Read Less
Adelphi University
96.62 $$$$$ 89% 1 11:1 64% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 72% Read More Read Less
George Fox University
96.59 $$$$$ 90% 2 14:1 65% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 78% Read More Read Less
Corban University
96.54 $$$$$ 93% 1 14:1 56% Yes Yes Yes 1 1 37% Read More Read Less
Evangel University
96.46 $$$$$ 93% 1 14:1 48% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 65% Read More Read Less
University of Louisville
96.38 $$$$$ 74% 2 12:1 54% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 74% Read More Read Less
Bushnell University
96.22 $$$$$ 88% 1 15:1 66% No Yes Yes 1 N/A 72% Read More Read Less
Eastern Kentucky University
96.21 $$$$$ 76% 1 15:1 42% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 74% Read More Read Less
Marshall University
96.08 $$$$$ 73% 2 19:1 45% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 77% Read More Read Less
Seattle Pacific University
96.08 $$$$$ 93% 1 15:1 75% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 83% Read More Read Less
University of Rhode Island
96.06 $$$$$ 71% 3 17:1 59% Yes Yes No 2 N/A 77% Read More Read Less
Pacific University
96.03 $$$$$ 92% 3 10:1 59% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 80% Read More Read Less
University of Tulsa
96.01 $$$$$ 84% 3 11:1 70% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 40% Read More Read Less
The University of Texas-Pan American (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley)
95.97 $$$$$ 75% 1 22:1 43% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 63% Read More Read Less
University of Indianapolis
95.82 $$$$$ 84% 2 11:1 52% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 66% Read More Read Less
Biola University
95.82 $$$$$ 91% 2 17:1 69% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 75% Read More Read Less
Union College
95.72 $$$$$ 94% 1 13:1 32% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 75% Read More Read Less
University of Northern Iowa
95.66 $$$$$ 55% 1 16:1 64% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 78% Read More Read Less
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
95.55 $$$$$ 76% 1 20:1 39% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 73% Read More Read Less
The Lincoln University
95.52 $$$$$ 86% 1 16:1 41% No Yes No 1 N/A 27% Read More Read Less
University of Dayton
95.51 $$$$$ 91% 1 15:1 76% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 59% Read More Read Less
Appalachian State University
95.48 $$$$$ 45% 1 16:1 70% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 63% Read More Read Less
University at Buffalo
95.41 $$$$$ 53% 1 13:1 72% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 58% Read More Read Less
Wheaton College
95.40 $$$$$ 74% 2 12:1 89% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 69% Read More Read Less
Barry University
95.36 $$$$$ 84% 4 12:1 36% Yes Yes Yes 2 N/A 46% Read More Read Less
Ball State University
95.36 $$$$$ 63% 1 15:1 60% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 60% Read More Read Less
Stony Brook University
95.34 $$$$$ 58% 1 16:1 69% Yes Yes No 1 N/A 41% Read More Read Less
Norfolk State University
95.29 $$$$$ 78% 2 18:1 34% Yes Yes Yes 1 N/A 66% Read More Read Less

Find Clinical Psychology Programs Near You

Students earning a clinical psychology degree are expected to gain practical experience working with patients, as one-on-one interactions are a major part of clinical psychology work. Exploring nearby programs allows students to build up experience and practice with local professionals and gain a sense of the clinical work they will do in their communities

Degree Level
School Type

Timeline: Clinical Psychology Degree Path

Undergraduate programs in clinical psychology provide an initial overview of this field and allow students to complete prerequisite work that provides a solid base of information to build on in later programs. Master’s degrees deepen a student’s knowledge of clinical psychology. However, most employers will require applicants to have a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. A doctoral degree demonstrates that a student is skilled enough to practice clinical psychology, engage in and apply research that expands the field, and contribute to scholarly discussion.

Associate Degree in Psychology
Program Length

2 years, full-time

Goals of the program

Students learn to communicate psychological information in a variety of contexts, think critically about solving mental and behavioral problems, understand the importance of ethical behavior in the practice of psychology, and both understand and apply psychology knowledge.

Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
Program Length

4 years, full-time

Goals of the program

After establishing a base knowledge for upper division psychology courses, students learn applied psychology concepts, clinical assessment methods, behavioral disorder treatments, and the biology that underlies mental processes. Students can also take specialized courses in specific areas of clinical psychology, such as abnormal psychology and substance abuse counseling.

Master’s in Clinical Psychology
Program Length

2 to 3 years, full-time

Who earns this degree?

Those who have obtained a bachelor’s may pursue a higher degree in order to expand their career options and become a licensed clinical psychologist.

Application requirements

Master’s programs require students to have a bachelor’s degree in psychology. There may be previous course requirements that prove an applicant is proficient in the various area of psychology, particularly in its history, systems, and ethics.

Program overview

In a clinical psychology master’s, students can expect to study scientific methods and research techniques, as well as more advanced courses in human neuropsychology and psychopathology. They will complete a thesis or a research report and practicum assignment in an area that they wish to specialize in, with the guidance of a department faculty member.

PhD/PsyD in Clinical Psychology
Program Length

4 to 7 years, full-time

Who earns this degree?

Earning a PhD in clinical psychology prepares graduates for careers in psychotherapy, clinical psychology, psychological testing, mental health consultation, research, and teaching clinical psychology at a higher education level.

Application requirements

To apply for a place in a clinical psychology PhD program, applicants must have a completed master’s in psychology, letters of recommendation, and a statement of the personal goals that earning a PhD will help an applicant achieve.

Program overview

Earning a doctoral degree in clinical psychology takes a combination of research and coursework combined with practical experience in a professional psychology setting. Students apply their knowledge during internships with local offices. They also must create a professional psychology study that serves as their dissertation while also contributing original research to the clinical psychology community within their chosen specialization.

Typical Graduate-Level Coursework in Clinical Psychology

Graduate-level psychology programs assume that students have a basic understanding of the study of psychology. They build on a student’s understanding of the profession and focus on gaining practical experience with patients. Students learn to cultivate their own practice of clinical psychology as they come to understand what new information and new perspectives they can bring to the field.

Abnormal Psychology Students investigate abnormal behavior and mental disorders. They assess the biological, psychological, and social consequences of abnormal psychology as they develop experience with treatment methods for various disorders.
Ethics and Standards of Professional Practice Students analyze psychology’s principles and codes of conduct. The class also addresses various psychological professional services in ways that adhere to these codes.
History of Psychology This class covers the history of psychology as well as contemporary psychological schools and specialties within the field. Students learn about the implications of various psychological theories.
Multicultural Perspectives in Human Behavior A course examining the proven and theoretical issues that arise from cultural differences of individuals and groups, and how these issues impact professional psychological practice.
Research Experience Courses Students expand their experience with ethical psychology research practices, either with several psychology classes followed by a research paper or a series of lab courses.
Doctoral Internship Graduate programs may have required internship hours to fulfill before students can graduate, and their classes provide supervised on-site training that connects with course activities to monitor internship experiences.

Getting Licensed & Certified in Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychologists must earn a license within the state where they wish to practice. There are various specialty certifications that clinical psychologists can pursue as well to market themselves more closely within an area of the broad field of psychology. Different states have different requirements for professionals in this field, but they all need some confirmation that a clinical psychology program graduate meets certain ethical, scientific, and communication standards.

Requirements for Licensure in Clinical Psychology

A licensed clinical psychologist may work in hospitals or mental health offices, for schools, for the government, or as an independent psychologist with their own office. The following illustrates the steps that must be completed before a clinical psychologist is licensed to practice.

Seek a master’s or PhD in psychology

After earning a bachelor’s in psychology, graduates wishing to work as clinical psychologists must earn a graduate degree in this field, often exploring a particular specialization.

Complete an internship

Graduate programs require clinical psychology students to participate in an internship as part of their credits for graduating. They must apply their knowledge in a real-world setting and reflect on this experience.

Earn a doctorate in psychology

Clinical psychologists must complete a Doctor of Psychology degree to practice clinical psychology with clients, or a PhD in psychology to conduct research and conduct research in the field of clinical psychology.

Complete 1-2 years of supervised professional experience

Program graduates demonstrate their abilities under a trained supervisor who helps them reflect on their role and how they can improve and develop as clinical psychologists. Different states require different supervised professional experience hours before licensure.

Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology

The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards licenses clinical psychologists. Their website has multiple resources for preparing to take this exam, which is required in all states except for Illinois.

Engage in continuing education

In order to maintain a clinical psychologist license, states require professionals to engage in continuing education courses. The American Board of Professional Psychology outlines continuing education requirements by state.

Clinical Psychology Certifications

Earning a clinical psychology certification is an additional step to prove to hospitals and clinics that a candidate is well-prepared as a psychologist. The American Board of Professional Psychology offers several different certifications that can help narrow down a clinical psychologist’s range of expertise. To earn one of these specialty certifications, professionals must first earn a doctorate in clinical psychology, obtain a state license and pass the accompanying certification exam through ABPP.

Clinical Psychology

Candidates for this certification possess an understanding of clinical psychology practice that goes beyond the basics. Examinees have a doctoral degree, a license to practice independently as a psychologist, and complete postdoctoral supervised experience hours in addition to self-identifying as clinical psychologists.

Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology

Clinical psychologists working with children and adolescents commit to scientific inquiry, continuing education, and ethical professional practice as they address the family and social needs of children to promote healthy development. Candidates must meet postdoctoral practice experience and supervision requirements and commit to identifying within their specialty.

Clinical Health Psychology

A certification in clinical health psychology verifies that a candidate can apply their knowledge of the relationships between behavior, emotions, cognition, society, and biology in order to maintain individuals’ health. Candidates must have proven experience in this field, either through a fellowship, special training, or a certain amount of postdoctoral supervised experience.

Clinical Neuropsychology

These specialists apply their knowledge of brain-behavior relationships to assess, diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate patients with neurological, medical, developmental, or psychiatric conditions. Certification candidates must be competent in clinical neurosciences such as neuroanatomy and complete training and documented didactic experience requirements as well as postdoctoral supervised experience hours.

Spotlight On: Program Accreditation

Psychology program accreditation not only ensures that a program is high quality, but it is also a requirement for state licensure and certifications that professionals graduate from an accredited program. Because clinical psychologists work with individuals who may be in delicate stages of mental and/or physical health, it is important that professionals are well-trained and understand the ethical standards they must uphold. Accrediting bodies ensure that professionals are able to meet these standards of client care.

American Psychological Association (APA)

This organization is the standard doctoral program accrediting body in the United States. It does not accredit psychology programs below the doctoral level. It is also a networking membership organization for practicing psychologists, and members have access to professional development opportunities. Almost all higher-level psychology certifications require candidates to graduate from a doctoral program that is certified by the APA.

Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC)

This accrediting body programs promotes high-quality, master’s-level training in the scientific practice of professional psychology and counseling. Programs accredited by this institution emphasize science-based training in these fields, as well as focusing on providing services that are culturally responsive to people seeking professional services and the diverse public at large. While this body certifies graduate programs, they do not certify doctoral programs.

Career Highlight: Clinical Psychologist

Clinical Psychologist

What do they do?: The basic training to become a clinical psychologist prepares students to assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Professionals in this field may work with short-term personal issues as well as severe, chronic conditions, and they use a variety of approaches, from interviews to group therapy to behavior modification programs, to help their patients. Clinical psychologists may work with particular populations, such as children or the elderly.

Specialties available: Clinical health psychology, clinical neuropsychology, child psychology

Annual Salary (2015): $72,580

Projected Job Growth (201-2024): 19 percent

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015)

Similar Degree Programs in Psychology

A degree in clinical psychology provides a great beginning to a person’s career, but there are further education opportunities that allow for greater specialization in the wide-ranging field of psychology. These specializations help a professional narrow down the scope of their practice and prove to potential employers that they are dedicated to their chosen area of interest.

  • Counseling Psychology Programs

    Counseling psychologists work with communities, individuals, or families and use a variety of methods to address emotional, social, vocational, health-related, developmental, or organizational concerns a client may have.

    Read More
  • School Psychology Programs

    Earning a degree specializing in school psychology and state licensure opens up the possibility of exploring how to help an individual child to succeed academically, socially, or emotionally.

    Read More
  • Master’s in Psychology (General)

    A general master’s in psychology program prepares graduates for the fundamentals of psychology. Students learn theory and apply it, and also learn research tactics for the psychological field.

    Read More
  • PhD/PsyD in Psychology (General)

    Earning a PhD in psychology is useful for those interested in research and administration. Earning a PhysD in psychology is useful for improving clinical practice.

    Read More

Additional Resources for Clinical Psychology

Finding a career in clinical psychology means becoming a part of a community of practicing professionals. Below are some of the education, licensing, informational, and publishing resources for practicing clinical psychologists.

  • Asian American Psychological Association

    This organization works to improve the mental health and well-being of Asian-American communities through research, professional practice, education and policy.

  • Association for Women in Psychology

    A professional organization invested in feminist scholarship and advancement within the psychology field. Members work to integrate personal, professional, and political power in service of the psychological development and well-being of all people.

  • The Association of Black Psychologists

    Members of this organization value and work to restore, elevate, and maintain African-Americans’ mental health.

  • The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards

    A membership organization committed to strict credentialing programs and current, accurate information about regulations for psychologists.

  • American Board of Professional Psychology

    An accrediting body for psychologists, offering specialized certifications in specific areas of the field of psychology.

  • Annual Review of Clinical Psychology

    This journal reviews significant developments in clinical psychology research, theory, and application. The website has the full text of many articles addressing a range of clinical psychology topics.

  • Clinical Psychology Review

    A scholarly journal that is also published online as an open access resource. The downloadable articles address a range of issues, from behavior therapy to child development, all strictly relating to research or practice in clinical psychology.

  • National Latina/o Psychological Association

    This organization of academics, researchers, and students works to advance psychological knowledge and apply it effectively for the benefit of Latina/o people.

  • Society of Clinical Psychology

    As a division of the APA, this membership society has a range of subsections for clinical psychologists who work in various fields as well as those who are recent graduates and just starting their careers.

  • Society of Indian Psychologists

    An organization working to advocate for the mental well-being of Native American people by increasing awareness of issues impacting American Indian mental health.

Take the next step towards your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

Woman working at desk