What is Clinical Psychology
A Master of Clinical Psychology degree can open doors to a range of psychology-related careers and serve as a stepping stone for those who want to become full-fledged clinical psychologists.
The American Psychological Association (APA) 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:
- Behavioral maladjustment
- Disability and discomfort
- Minor adjustment issues
- Severe psychopathology
Clinical psychologists must master several diagnostic and treatment techniques to care for their client's 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
Who needs a Master of Clinical Psychology?
There are many psychology-related jobs that can be earned with a Master's in Clinical Psychology. However, most actual psychologist jobs require a doctoral degree.
For aspiring psychologists — including Clinical Psychologists — a Master in Clinical Psychology is still a major milestone toward earning a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) clinical degree (or a PhD in Psychology for those who want to do research work).
In addition to a doctorate, psychologists must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and obtain state licensure. The EPPP is administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB).
Note, not every doctoral program requires applicants to hold a Master of Clinical Psychology, but it can make your PsyD/PhD application more competitive. It shows you have the proper foundation necessary to succeed in a higher-level program.
There are plenty of career options for those who hold a Master's in Clinical Psychology but not a doctorate. Students may opt to specialize in certain areas, such as:
- Applied research
- Clinical counseling
- Forensic psychology
- Many more
Below are a few career options to check out for master’s program graduates!
What Can You Do With a Master of Clinical Psychology?
For those who aren’t interested in pursuing a doctorate (or who want to start working before doing so), there is a range of career options for graduates from a clinical psychology master's program. Below are a few exciting paths to consider!
Substance Abuse Counselor
Substance abuse counselors work with people struggling with addiction to drug or alcohol abuse. They may serve in mental health centers, detox centers, prisons, or with parole or probation agencies. Some students start working with a certificate or bachelor’s, but for higher wages, you’ll need a master’s degree. Many finish a Master's in Clinical Psychology or similar degree in about two years if attending full-time. Here’s how it could break down:
- National University states that the typical requirement is 415 academic hours of substance abuse counseling, which can then qualify you for fieldwork.
- Internship hours vary considerably from state to state.
- Private practice workers need a master’s plus “2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience” before taking a state-specific exam.
The National Board for Certified Counselors and the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network offer helpful resources and more information. And when it comes to salary, the national average salary for substance abuse counselors is $48,520, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the top 10% earning over $77,980.
Psychological assistants are certified mental health professionals who help psychologists with various aspects of patient management. Psychological assistants can be found working in hospitals, private practices, mental health clinics, and governmental agencies.
While some may enter the field with only a four-year bachelor’s, spending an extra two years in a clinical psychology master program can boost the odds of getting hired and qualify one for higher starting salaries.
Certification requirements vary by state but may involve several hundred hours of supervised work experience plus a criminal background check. Many psychological assistants add a Board Certified Behavior Analyst credential to their master’s, as well. The average base salary for a Psychological Assistant is $65,854, according to Indeed.
Forensic psychologists apply their knowledge and training to aid workers in the legal system with complex cases that contain psychological components. They may work in correctional facilities, consult law enforcement agencies, or serve as expert witnesses in court. Many complete a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Psychology followed by a terminal Master of Clinical Psychology with a forensic concentration.
Students have the option to earn a Master of Arts or Master of Science, which puts more focus on research and analysis. Some students obtain a non-terminal master’s and then go on to complete a doctorate. Most programs take two years beyond the undergraduate level, plus additional work experience time to qualify for board certification.
Forensic psychologists need to obtain state licensure by passing the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology exam. The national average salary for a forensic psychologist is $72,982, per Payscale.
Counseling psychologists help patients understand, cope with, and overcome struggles they might face at home, at work, or in other aspects of their daily lives. Many specialize in a particular area, such as addiction or education. Counseling psychologists work in many types of settings, from mental health clinics and hospitals to nursing homes and even schools. They are not clinical psychologists and do not diagnose or treat mental health disorders.
Most states do require counseling psychologists to hold a doctoral degree, but many Master's in Clinical Psychology grads land jobs with just their master’s plus a couple of years of supervised work experience.
Graduates also need to obtain state licensure by passing the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology exam or through the American Board of Counseling Psychology certification. The national average salary for a Counseling Psychologist is $88,642, according to ZipRecruiter.
Industrial-organizational psychologists boost employee morale and workplace productivity using relevant strategies applied in a business environment. They may work in a wide range of organizations and may have just one main client or several clients. Many industrial-organizational psychologists complete a Bachelor of Science in Industrial-Organizational Psychology followed by a terminal Master of Clinical Psychology.
Some students obtain a non-terminal master’s then go on to complete a doctorate, especially if they want to offer full psychological services. Most Master of Clinical Psychology programs take two years beyond the undergraduate level, plus additional work experience time to qualify for state licensure and board certification via the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology. The national median salary for an industrial-organizational psychologist is $96,270, according to US News.
Master of Clinical Psychology Courses
Every school offering a Master of Clinical Psychology program will have its own curriculum. Most programs align their offerings with the standards set by the American Psychological Association. A few common courses to expect may include:
- Forensic Psychology - Forensic psychology is simply the application of psychology-related skills and methods for individuals affected by legal problems, such as defendants in court cases.
- Geropsychology - Geropsychology is a specialized area focused on helping older people and their families with age-related issues in order to enhance their quality of life.
- Human Factors Psychology - Human factors psychology pertains to human interactions with other people, products, and processes in an effort to improve engineering and ergonomics.
- Industrial and Organizational Psychology - Industrial and organizational psychology relates to understanding and workplace behavior at the individual, group, and organization levels in order to address common problems.
How Much Does a Master of Clinical Psychology Cost?
College tuition rates vary widely from one school to the next. In-state public universities usually have lower rates than out-of-state or private institutions.
The average total cost of tuition only for a bachelor’s degree at a public school is $37,396. Per the Education Data Initiative, “the average cost of attendance for an [undergraduate] student living on campus at a public 4-year in-state institution is $25,487 per year or $101,948 over 4 years.” Note, the cost of attendance also includes tuition, housing, books, and other fees. Out-of-state and private college students can expect to pay roughly twice as much in tuition.
The median in-state tuition cost for a Master of Clinical Psychology degree at a public school is ~$10,477, with non-residents paying up to ~$20,000. Again, these are only averages. Online programs often have better rates, while top schools such as Ivy League institutions will usually have significantly higher prices for graduate program tuition.
Licensure fees also vary by state but can run from $500 to ~$1,000. This amount covers application fees, initial licensing costs, and exam fees. Many students opt to purchase costly study prep materials which can add hundreds of dollars to your total cost.
A very rough average cost for in-state tuition only for a Bachelor’s and Master of Clinical Psychology — plus post-graduation licensure fees — is $48,873. As you can see, it pays to spend some time looking at scholarship opportunities!
Clinical Psychology Career Resources
- American Board of Professional Psychology – Founded in 1947, the ABPP’s mission is to “increase consumer protection through the examination and certification of psychologists who demonstrate competence in approved specialty areas in professional psychology.”
- American Board of Clinical Psychology – The ABCP is a board under the umbrella of the ABPP focused on various critical specialty certifications.
- American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology – ABCN is a specialty board also under the ABPP and focused on the certification of Clinical Neuropsychologists.
- Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards – Considered the “voice” of the psychology regulation industry, ASPPB is in charge of the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. All practicing psychologists must meet ASPPB standards to work.
- American Psychological Association – APA is the country’s premier scientific and professional psychological organization with 122,000+ members striving to advance the field for the benefit of society.
- Psi Chi – Psi Chi is the international honor society in psychology whose purpose is “to encourage, stimulate, and maintain excellence in scholarship of the individual members in all fields, particularly in psychology, and to advance the science of psychology.”
Is a Master of Clinical Psychology degree worth it?
- There is a broad range of highly rewarding and well-paying jobs available for students with a Masters in Clinical Psychology. The salary and career paths are promising with a Master of Clinical Psychology, but whether it is “worth it” depends on what you hope to get from your career!
How many years is a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology program?
- As with most master’s degrees, a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology usually takes two years if attending full-time. Some schools may offer accelerated options for students to finish faster, and part-time students may take four or more years.
Is a Master’s in Clinical Psychology hard?
- Yes, virtually every graduate-level college program is hard, and a Master’s in Clinical Psychology is no different. Graduates with this degree usually work in roles where they are making direct impacts on the lives of other people, so it is important to study hard and commit yourself to learn all that you can!