Clinical Psychology Programs

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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.

Top 10 Best Clinical Psychology Programs: 2016-2017

Rank School Location
1 Marywood University Scranton, PA
2 Murray State University Murray, KY
3 Brigham Young University-Provo Provo, UT
4 Loras College Dubuque, IA
5 Yeshiva University New York City, NY
6 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA
7 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
8 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX
9 Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Harrisburg Middletown, PA
10 Jackson State University Jackson, MS
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Best Clinical Psychology Programs: 2016-2017


  • Methodology +

    The scoring methodology includes factors such as:

    • Cost & financial aid
    • Number of programs and program offerings
    • Student-teacher ratios
    • Graduation rates
    • Placement or Support Services
    • Academic/Career Counseling Services
    • Employment Services

    and many others

    These factors are assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or ‘bang for your buck’ of a college or degree program.


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.

  1. Marywood University
    Location

    Scranton, PA

  2. Murray State University
    Location

    Murray, KY

  3. Brigham Young University-Provo
    Location

    Provo, UT

  4. Loras College
    Location

    Dubuque, IA

  5. Yeshiva University
    Location

    New York City, NY

  6. Duquesne University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

  7. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

  8. Sam Houston State University
    Location

    Huntsville, TX

  9. Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Harrisburg
    Location

    Middletown, PA

  10. Jackson State University
    Location

    Jackson, MS

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

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.

CourseDescription
Abnormal PsychologyStudents 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 PracticeStudents 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 PsychologyThis 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 BehaviorA 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 CoursesStudents 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 InternshipGraduate 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

For a complete list of certification study resources, see our student resources guide

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)

Learn more about potential career paths in psychology

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.

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.

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