Clinical Psychology Degree

A clinical psychology degree is highly recognized in the field of psychology and will open doors to careers in health psychology, mental health, and substance abuse. Clinical psychologists may work in hospitals, private practice, or other medical settings to diagnose and treat disorders such as schizophrenia and depression, but, will not prescribe medicine for these conditions. Along with treating patients, there will be administrative tasks, such as keeping records of a patient’s progress, since insurance companies require an extensive amount of paperwork. People who are interested in helping treat people with major mental and emotional problems will find this profession deeply rewarding. Many patients suffer from extreme health conditions, so there will be challenges and a certain amount of stress. Many times this line of work requires long hours with the increased chance of burnout. Before applying to the psychology schools of your choice, try volunteering to decide if this career is for you.

Clinical psychologists develop treatment plans for their patients. Being that each patient’s condition is different, a clinician will need to be creative and resourceful.

Most employers require a doctoral degree in psychology with experience in a clinical setting. Educational requirements are rigorous for admission to schools offering a PhD and a PsyD clinical psychology degree. The difference between the two programs is that a PhD is more research-based as opposed to a PsyD which focuses on actual clinical training. A PsyD is practice-oriented and generally takes less time to complete than a PhD, where the student is expected to complete a master’s level research project a dissertation. The admission requirements for a PhD program are usually more competitive. Financial aid, internships, and stipends are more readily available for PhD programs than PsyD programs. Some master’s degree graduate are able to find work in the clinical psychology field, however career choices are limited.

It is important for potential students to research the programs in which they are interested to make sure the program they enter is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Before actually practicing in the field, a graduate must have supervised training and pass an exam in order to be eligible for state specific licensing.

Clinical Psychology Degree

Each clinical psychology degree program will teach a student different theoretical approaches within the field of clinical psychology. When treating a patient, any one approach or a combination of approaches may be used to develop a treatment plan when working with clients. The psychodynamic approach arose from the work by Sigmund Freud and involves the role of the unconscious mind in human behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on a client’s feelings, behaviors, and thoughts and the effects these have on their mental disorder. The humanistic approach evolved from Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers and involves more holistic treatment to help people realize their full potential. Each theory is equally fascinating and well-regarded in the psychology field. A clinical psychologist providing psychotherapy will be extensively trained in the research conducted in each area, as well as more recent schools of thoughts and theories, to best assess and diagnose the appropriate treatment for each patient.

According to, average salaries for clinical psychologists range from $39,000 – $133,000 per year. The highest salaries occurred in healthcare and psychotherapy. Private practice can bring high salaries, flexible schedules, and personal rewards; however it may take some time to establish a stable client base. Sixty percent of people employed in the field are women. The cities that are most popular for clinical psychologist jobs are Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Philadelphia.

How to Become a Clinical Psychologist

The first step to becoming a clinical psychologist is to earn a bachelor’s degree in which most students choose to focus on psychology or social work. At the bachelor degree level, few, if any programs, focus on the medical and clinical aspects of the mind. Once the student enters a program at the master’s level, she will begin to study the diagnostic, therapeutic, and consultative skills necessary to work with children and elderly, as well as emotional and psychological conditions and problems.

At the master’s level, a student enters a specialization track, such as applied behavior analysis, counseling, or school psychology. The applied behavior track deals with understanding one’s environment and the necessities to improving social behavior. In some cases, this means analyzing school-based curriculum and materials. Sometimes it will involve analyzing developmental disabilities and geriatric conditions. This is a rapidly growing and rewarding field which brings significant improvements in the way people behave under various conditions. The counseling specialty prepares students with the essentials in clinical practice through intensive course work and clinical placements. By the end of this experience, students are well-educated and experienced enough to help children, adults, and seniors who suffer from a wide range of issues.

The school psychology specialization prepares students to handle issues encountered by some students, teachers, parents, and administrators. These issues may include learning disabilities, medical illness, behavioral problems, or substance abuse.

Rigorous educational requirements exist for a clinical psychologist. The master’s in clinical psychology degree will provide an avenue for some job opportunities, however most employers will require either a Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD) or a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (PsyD) to practice. Each state has its own state licensure requirements for individuals who decide to practice as an independent clinical psychologist within the United States or Canada. For the most part, you must be licensed or have a clinical psychology certification before practicing independently. Most licensed psychologists have a doctorate in clinical psychology, and licensed marriage and family therapists usually have a master’s degree in clinical psychology. Because each state has different licensing requirements, your educational background will be reviewed by a state licensing board. In addition, graduation from an accredited university, two years of supervised professional experience, and a doctorate in psychology or a related field are required to be eligible for licensure. Be aware that accreditation may apply to an institute, as recognized by the Department of Education, or to a professional program, which means that it met the minimal standards of quality as defined by that profession. Specialized accreditation for a clinical psychologist is granted by the APA Committee and applies only to doctoral programs, internships, and postdoctoral residency programs. Should you need more information regarding licensure in your state, you may contact the American Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPS).

A Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (PsyD) is practitioner focused, giving the student extensive classroom and practical experience. This is achieved through clinical internships and completion of a dissertation. The emphasis in this program is family psychology with a broad range of topics working in multiple settings. The student will learn how to work with individuals, couples, and families in school systems, legal settings, or within a healthcare environment. More recently, this area of psychology has prepared students for issues involved in family psychology, the aspect of psychology that involves family intervention within the legal system. Psychologists are increasingly being asked to consult legal professionals in child custody cases, adoption, domestic violence, and divorce cases. This type of degree will prepare future professionals with the expertise they need.

The Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology or PhD is the more traditional research-based program and will provide the student with the knowledge and experience she will need to serve as a social scientist and practitioner. The approach used in PhD programs is to integrate psychological theory and research into evidence-based practice to help assess, diagnose, and treat patients.

APA Sheds New Light on Clinical Psychologist Salary

The American Psychological Association (APA) is a scientific and professional organization comprised of over 154,000 members worldwide. The APA is based in Washington, D.C., and acts as the primary source for psychologists by disseminating knowledge about the practice of psychological science. The APA advocates for public policy and training for scientists, practitioners, and educators. Their mission is to champion and promote human rights, health, and well-being. The APA achieves its goals by promoting research methods and findings, establishing standards and ethics, and a means for networking groups, discussions, and publications.

On the APA website, the public will find information on psychology topics, publications, news and events, research, educational opportunities, and available careers. It acts as the main resource for psychology professionals. There is even a portal page, exclusively available to members, where they have access to online databases, can obtain personal and professional discounts, and have access to APA-supported areas, such as topics involved in the advancements of psychology, supporting topics in the practice, promotions in education, and other resources that involve health, well-being, and human welfare.

Clinical Psychologist Salary

The APA tracks and forecasts industry trends in the field of psychology, and, in 2009, published a report that shed new light on clinical psychologists’ salaries.

This report was based on over twenty-five years of research by the APA to gather salary data on psychological personnel. The study involved non-retired U.S. citizens who were working full-time (at least 35 hours per week) and represented a variety of position and employment settings. The survey evaluated respondents by education levels, sex, years in the industry, race and ethnicity, and geographic region. This data produced sparse results for master’s level salaries due to an insufficient number of respondents at this degree level. Net income was adjusted after office expenses for the self-employed and, because many psychologists have additional sources of income, it may not have been reflected in the data presented.

The survey was distributed online to over 54,000 people and close to 12,000 responded with results included in the study. Ninety-six percent of the respondents were at the doctoral level. The final report was divided into fifteen sections, with the first twelve providing salary data by specific position type at the doctoral level. To read the report in its entirety, refer to the APA website for the article:

Under the heading of applied psychology, clinical psychology was the most common subfield for this group. With thirty percent of respondents, the average doctoral level salary was $100,000. For individuals working in administration, the clinical psychologist salary was a bit higher, with forty-eight percent of this subfield earning about $109,000 annually.

The data for master’s level clinical psychologists showed that forty-six percent of respondents work directly in human services, group, or individual practice. The average work experience for this group was fifteen years and most earned from $44,000 – $52,000 per year. People with less than ten years experience earned about $39,000 a year, and psychologists in private practice earned the most with an average salary of $49,000. The results of this study showed that clinical psychologists who worked independently earned the most money. This could be partly due to the fact that they have the most education and a wider range of opportunities. Salary levels also increased with the number of years experience in the field. Highest salaries were found in highly populated states, such as New York, New Jersey, California, and Illinois.

Clinical care can range from infants to elderly adults. Specialized training is required in order to assess, diagnose, and treat patients with emotional, mental, cognitive, developmental, and behavioral disorders. Salaries will depend upon employer, education, experience, and state.

Earning a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology

A clinical psychology degree will provide the theoretical, medical, and scientific knowledge you will need to become a member of a mental health team. In this field, students will study human behavior to understand how the mind works and controls the body. This profession began with scientists trying to treat mentally ill people with traditional forms of psychology. The field has grown to now include the processes of educating, researching, and developing new treatments based on the disorder from which the person suffers.

Clinical psychology encompasses two major areas: one being the field of research and the other of providing treatment to people with mental disorders. Individuals who specialize in research will be involved in discovering ways to treat disorders or uncover new ones. Regardless of which avenue a person pursues, the profession requires a specific amount of education and certification to practice. A master’s degree will provide a background in diagnostic, therapeutic, and consultative skills. Individuals with a master’s degree may treat all populations with varied emotional and psychological conditions. Three areas of specialization in clinical psychology include applied behavior analysis, counseling, and school psychology. Applied behavior analysis forms the study of environmental modifications to social behavior. Students can work in school or residential settings and treat people with developmental disabilities, behavioral issues, major mental issues, and geriatric conditions. The counseling field focuses on providing treatment to patients. Courses provide the theory of clinical skills with intensive course work and file placement with an emphasis on practical skills. An education in school psychology helps provide the student with a background about how to help students, teachers, and parents with issue that disrupt family life, mental health problems and disabilities, academic challenges, and personal development obstacles.

While most clinical psychology students just complete their master’s degree to practice, many decide to continue their education in the form of PhD or PsyD. Some master’s programs are designed to prepare the student for doctoral level programs. A master’s degree with a thesis track emphasize psychological theory, assessment, and research with a pathway to publish their thesis if the student so chooses. A master’s degree with a practitioner specialty will prepare the student for jobs under the supervision of a doctoral-trained and licensed psychologist. With a master’s degree, positions may be found as a psychological associate working as a psychologist in a school setting or as a clinician in a hospital. These programs usually act as precursors to entrance into PsyD degrees and typically prepare the student for counselor licensure.

A growing field in clinical psychology focuses on marriage and family therapy. This specialty will provide the student with knowledge in family dynamics, counseling, and developmental psychology. Coursework can be transferred to a doctoral degree. The Masters of Arts in clinical psychology, with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy, provides individuals with a foundation in the knowledge and skills related to psychotherapeutic services involving family dynamics. These issues may involve substance abuse, child molestation, violence in the home, depression, or bipolar disorders.

Most schools will offer a master’s of science in clinical psychology within two tracks- thesis and practitioner. The thesis track prepares the student for a PhD or PsyD with an emphasis on psychological theory, assessment, and research. Many people with experience in the field enter this program with the hopes of earning a doctorate. This program provides a good way to enhance eligibility into a doctoral-level program and publishing a master’s theses. The practitioner’s track prepares the student for employment under the supervision of doctoral-trained and licensed psychologists. Upon completing the program, careers may be obtained as a psychological associate, clinician in a hospital setting, or psychologist at a school. It will also prepare students who desire entrance into a PsyD program or licensure through the LCPC. Finally the master’s of science in psychology degree will provide a student with a background in development and application of psychological theories, principles of science, and basic scientific methods. This program will develop the competencies required of a pre-doctoral degree.

Clinical psychology can be an exciting career for the right person. Individuals in this profession should be well-adjusted and capable of handling conflict and stressful situations. You must also enjoy working with people. Since most jobs require a doctorate, this person should be prepared for at least ten years post-secondary schooling, as well as enjoy a lifetime of continual learning.

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