Clinical Psychology Degree

Written by Dev FullBeaker
Published on September 12, 2022 · Updated on September 15, 2022

Clinical Psychology Degree

Written by Dev FullBeaker
Published on September 12, 2022 · Updated on September 15, 2022

Introduction to Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychologists play an invaluable role in the health and wellness of hundreds of thousands of patients every year. These critical health professionals diagnose complex mental and behavioral disorders to tailor individual treatment plans. Clinical psychologists often work with families and groups, with many choosing to focus their efforts on helping at-risk populations.

What is Clinical Psychology?

The American Psychological Association (APA) broadly defines clinical psychology as a specialty that “provides continuing and comprehensive mental and behavioral health care for individuals and families.” 

Patients come from all walks of life, suffering one or more problems from a spectrum of recognized issues, such as:

  • Intellectual
  • Emotional
  • Psychological
  • Social
  • Behavioral maladjustment
  • Disability and discomfort
  • Minor adjustment issues
  • Severe psychopathology

Clinical psychologists must master several diagnostic and treatment techniques to care for their clients’ unique needs. Other typical duties include:

  • Consultation services to local community organizations
  • Providing valuable education and training services to groups
  • Conducting studies and research to keep pushing the field forward
  • Using therapy skills to conduct psychotherapy
  • Conducting intellectual and psychological testing

What Should I Expect When Starting a Career in Clinical Psychology?

There’s more than one educational route to becoming a full-fledged clinical psychologist, but we’ll cover the most common academic pathways below!

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Psychology

The first step on your path to becoming a clinical psychologist is to obtain your Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. You can choose to attend in-person or online, but psychology happens to be a perfect major for distance learning since there is less “hands-on” work required than other subjects in the early stages. Let’s look at the general requirements for completing an online clinical psychology degree!

Admissions Requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Psychology

As with any undergraduate program, you’ll have to apply via a sometimes arduous process. Competition to get into the best schools is fierce, so be sure to read all your potential school’s website requirements closely.

Common general requirements include holding a minimum high school GPA and submitting a written letter to showcase suitable writing abilities. Letters of reference might also be requested, as well as SAT/ACT scores.

Highly competitive schools might look at other factors, such as work, volunteer, or extracurricular activities. For those who’ve already attended college elsewhere, you’ll need to submit transcripts to receive possible transfer credits. There’s almost always an application fee, too, which can vary considerably.

Many universities weigh additional factors related to one’s background to ensure equal opportunities and access. Be sure to carefully review any comments listed on the school or program’s website related to such considerations and note them in your application, if applicable.

Graduation Requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Psychology

On the other end of the degree process are graduation requirements. The most critical, of course, is to complete the total amount of applicable credits to qualify for graduation. This is usually 120 semester hours for a bachelor’s degree. In addition, you’ll need to fulfill any specific major (and minor, if needed) requirements, including finishing sufficient upper-division credits (usually around 40) and passing all mandatory classes.

Every program has its own minimum GPA standard for graduation. While the minimum national GPA to graduate might be 2.0, you must look at your program’s listed minimum. To graduate with a clinical psychology degree, expect a higher threshold than other majors might demand. You’ll also need to stay out of trouble and avoid any academic ethics issues if you want to work in this field one day!

Coursework for a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Psychology

Each program has its own unique curriculum, but much of that will be based on common national standards. There is often an emphasis on training students, so they’ll gain skills desired by employers, such as:

  • Decisiveness
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Complex problem-solving
  • The ability to communicate persuasively and professionally
  • Strong teamwork orientation
  • A solid ethical foundation is also a must!

Clinical Psychology Career Outlook and Salaries

There are a wide range of potential clinical psychology career paths. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides data on a few, including median salaries and projected job growth rates.

  • Median Salary: $79,510
  • Career Outlook: +10% (2020-2030)

Diagnoses and treats patients of all ages and walks of life for a broad spectrum of mental health issues.

  • Median Salary: $105,310
  • Career Outlook: +2% (2020-2030)

Boosts employee morale and workplace productivity using relevant strategies applied in a business environment.

  • Median Salary: $79,510
  • Career Outlook: +10% (2020-2030)

Helps patients understand, cope with, and overcome struggles they might face at home, at work, or in other aspects of their daily lives.

  • Median Salary: $102,900
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)

Applies their knowledge and training to aid workers in the legal system with complex cases that contain psychological components.

  • Median Salary: $48,520
  • Career Outlook: +10% (2020-2030)

Empathetic specialists working with persons facing disabilities caused by illness or accident.

  • Median Salary: $$102,900
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)

This broad category serves as a “catch-all” for other types of psychologists not already mentioned.

  • Median Salary: $79,510
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)

Focusing on applying knowledge and skills to assist students struggling with various learning or behavioral challenges so that they can improve performance.

 

Aspiring clinical psychologists should expect years of academic training and preparation, including a bachelor’s, master’s, and usually a doctorate. In addition, there are other requirements, such as a supervised internship, completion of specialty board certifications, and testing requirements to obtain a license, when applicable.

Clinical Psychologists State Data

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics asserts that the top five states with the highest average salaries for clinical psychologists are:

  • California
  • New York
  • Illinois
  • Texas
  • Massachusetts

Projected earnings from these states range from $92,999 to $122,000, with over 10,000 positions in the state of California alone. 

Clinical Psychology Graduate Degrees

While a master’s level education is typically acceptable for candidates that are interested in working in academic and industrial settings, most clinical psychologists in a hospital or medical setting need a Doctorate in Psychology to be eligible for licensure, which is a requirement that varies by state. At the doctorate level, students are required to complete a period of residency to learn and observe working professionals in the field before they are able to open a private practice. 

 

Best Schools With Clinical Psychology Degrees in the U.S.

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of completing an online degree versus traditional attendance. 

  • Online programs lack some of the socialization component, which often makes the college experience more fun. 
  • Live campus interaction can be either distracting or helpful to designating study time, depending on the student. 
  • Online programs can sometimes be more affordable without the additional on-campus fees.
  • Online programs may not connect students with internships and practicums, a required part of becoming a therapist.

At the end of the day, it’s important to weigh what is most important to you when searching for a college so you know what to look for. 

Here are Universities.com’s top schools that offer degrees in clinical psychology.

  1. Northwestern University

Northwestern is a prestigious, private university located in the Chicago suburbs with a nationally-ranked Clinical Psychology department. Students learn via the scientist-practitioner model and enjoy small class sizes, clinical research opportunities, and excellent job placement resources after graduation. 

  1. Tufts University

Tufts is a small, private school located in the Boston suburbs with a strong Clinical Psychology department. Students enrolled in this program take courses related to psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and often seek internship opportunities locally to further their understanding of the field before entering the job force full-time. 

  1. University of Virginia – Main Campus

The University of Virginia is one of the premier public universities in the nation. Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, the school was founded by Thomas Jefferson and remains one of the most prestigious places to earn a degree in Clinical Psychology. Their PhD program offers seven different specializations, as well as countless academic research opportunities both on-campus and at the university medical centers.   

  1. Columbia University in the City of New York

For students in the New York City metro looking to attend a top-notch clinical psychology program, look no further than Columbia University. This program provides enrolled students with a rigorous course load based on contemporary clinical science and clinical assessments and provides students with ample hands-on opportunities both in the classroom and in the surrounding community. 

  1. Binghampton University

Binghampton University is a mid-sized public university located in upstate New York with a strong clinical psychology program. Enrolled students get to choose from specializations such as Behavioral Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, and enjoy intimate class sizes and a robust job-placement program. 

 

If you’re looking for other schools that offer degree’s in clinical psychology, check out the Find Your Perfect “U” tool. You can search over 6,000 colleges and universities with 11 different filters to find the perfect school for you!

What Skills Does a Clinical Psychologist Need?

Clinical psychologists must have outstanding communication skills, in particular attentive listening and articulate, calming speech. They should also have a high degree of ethics, a ton of empathy, and an unshakable patience. Strong problem-solving abilities are a must to assess and treat very complicated issues their clients are struggling with.

How to Get Started on a Clinical Psychology Degree in Four Steps

  1. For students that are entertaining a career in clinical psychology, it’s critical to pursue a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology to ensure that you can apply to graduate programs at the master’s and doctorate level. 

 

  1. Once you graduate and depending on which state you live in, it’s typically a requirement that a person working as a psychologist holds a license or certification. Anyone practicing independently will need a license, regardless of what state you’re in. To obtain a license, you must finish do the following:

  • Complete your degree(s)
  • Complete any internship or post-doc supervised hours
  • pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)7 
  • Created by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), the computer-based EPPP contains 225 multiple-choice questions covering eight content areas:8
  • Assessment and diagnosis
  • Biological bases of behavior
  • Cognitive-affective bases of behavior
  • Ethical, legal, and professional issues
  • Growth and lifespan development
  • Research methods and statistics
  • Social and multicultural bases of behavior
  • Treatment, intervention, and prevention
  • Check with your local board of psychology to see if additional coursework is needed. For instance, if you live in California, you need to complete a suicide assessment class.

The EPPP takes a maximum of 4 hours and 15 minutes to finish. Test takers must score a minimum of 70% to pass. The EPPP exam currently costs $450, though fees can vary by region.

The American Board of Clinical Psychology (ABCP) “expects that most clinical psychologists should qualify for board certification.”9 This requirement ensures that clinical psychologists have finished all needed education and training and sufficient work experience to perform the duties and meet the responsibilities of their crucial positions.

Part of the ABCP board certification application includes an exam “designed to assess the competencies required to provide quality services.”

 

  1. Some states require psychologists to maintain currency on their skills by taking professional development courses. You can check the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards’ PSY|Book for state-specific details and information about transferring your EPPP score.

 

  1. In addition to licensure, clinical psychologists can finish optional specialty certifications to gain proficiency and qualify for specific roles or promotions. The American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology offers certification in Clinical Neuropsychology, and the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) offers specialty board certifications in the following areas:

  • Behavioral & cognitive
  • Clinical child & adolescent
  • Clinical health
  • Clinical psychology 
  • Clinical neuropsychology
  • Counseling
  • Couple & family
  • Forensic
  • Geropsychology
  • Group
  • Organizational & business
  • Police & public safety
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Rehabilitation
  • School

 

Clinical Psychology Financial Aid

Given the financial commitment associated with applying to school, it’s critical for students and their families to access federal aid from FAFSA, as well as need-based grants to offset the cost of higher education. Most schools are well-versed in connecting potential students and parents with academic advisors to help them pick a plan that works for their budget, while accessing the resources available to minimize the cost. 


Many students can apply for need and merit-based scholarships that are offered by colleges, universities, and donors. These funds are distributed annually, and some can cover up to 100% of the cost of tuition, room and board. The American Psychological Association also provide a variety of annual scholarships that provide aid to students in the field. Additionally, the same organization funds graduate level research to help students fund their studies and scholastic endeavors.