A career in clinical psychology begins with the right education and ends with a huge variety of opportunities throughout many fields within the psychology sector. As a clinical psychology professional, you’ll address the behavioral health, emotional health, and mental health issues of either children or adults. You could also pursue research or therapy career pathways, both of which include observing, assessing, analyzing, and customizing treatments. Some clinical psychologists will specialize in specific disorders, and some will focus on specific age ranges of patients or research subjects.
To become a successful clinical psychologist, it’s essential to complete at least a doctoral degree. Many individuals will pursue their education one degree at a time while gaining invaluable experience in alternative clinical psychology positions until all degree requirements and clinical hours have been completed. These jobs vary greatly based on education but include social work, addiction counseling, school counselors, research assistants, consultants, family therapists, and more.
Many clinical psychologists have irregular hours unless they work in private practice. However, evenings and weekends are quite common for everyone. The type of work environment will depend entirely on the field of study of each individual such as medical facilities, hospitals, outpatient rehab centers, home office, nursing homes, schools, businesses, government agency buildings, patients’ homes, research labs, and many others.
Components of a Successful Career in Clinical Psychology
Successful careers in clinical psychology commonly require a set of advanced soft and hard skills. It will be essential to be able to utilize soft skills when interacting with patients and research subjects. However, hard skills are necessary for the day-to-day business aspects of clinical psychology.
Soft skills will be the skills that make or break one’s career. Some people will be naturally gifted in these areas, whereas others will have to work harder to develop their soft skills. It’s of critical importance to begin working on and crafting soft skills as early as possible, particularly for those who struggle in these areas. The primary soft skills that are essential in clinical psychology are relatively straightforward and include communication, ethics, patience, open-mindedness, and interpersonal skills. In some ways, soft skills are more difficult to teach and learn than hard skills.Read More
Much like soft skills, some people will develop hard skills more quickly and effectively than others. These skills are necessary to ensure all clinical psychologists are following the laws, regulations, and good business practices required to have a successful business or study. The essential hard skills for clinical psychologists will also be similar for everyone regardless of employer or position and include time management, marketing, record keeping, business registration, finances, taxes, and more. Technical skills also fall within the hard skill parameters.
Both types of skills are essential to a successful career. While soft skills will keep a clinical psychologist in business, hard skills will make a business profitable.
How to Earn a Degree in Clinical Psychology
What Can You Do with a Clinical Psychology Degree?
A clinical psychology degree opens numerous career possibilities. With such a degree, people can choose from psychology-based fields, research positions, and professorships. If an individual wishes to pursue the route of therapy, they can specialize in disorders, communities, and age ranges. Some people prefer to work with children, young people, families, adults, or within the geriatric classification. The same is true for specific disorders such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, schizophrenia, dementia, personality disorders, and many others.
Or, you could choose to work as a professor, a researcher, or both. These individuals typically work at colleges and universities, for government agencies, in the private sector, or for other non-profits. Professors teach within a classroom, online, or a hybrid of both. Researchers typically work in a lab, in a clinical practice setting, at a hospital, and in other various locations. The courses one teaches and the clinical trials and studies in which one participates will often depend on the degree specialization.
Typical Clinical Psychology Degree Requirements
It’s possible to complete degrees in psychology and clinical psychology at all degree levels and in both undergraduate and graduate certificates. However, a doctorate in clinical psychology will be necessary to become a practicing psychologist. To reach this degree level, you will require a high school diploma or the equivalent to pursue either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. Whether or not one requires a master’s degree will depend upon the college or university and the clinical psychology program.
Some doctorate programs in clinical psychology combine both a master’s and a bachelor’s degree. Other PhD or PsyD programs will allow entry into the program with a bachelor’s degree and the appropriate prerequisite courses. At other higher learning institutions, a master’s degree or a graduate certificate will be necessary to apply for a doctorate degree in clinical psychology. Each state will have unique licensure and certification requirements, as well as supervised clinical hours for each doctoral candidate to complete.
Typical Clinical Psychology Certification Needs
Within clinical psychology, a variety of certifications can boost career prospects and skill development at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. It’s also important to understand that the completion of state licensure and clinical psychology certification will be necessary based on state regulations before one can become an official and legal practicing psychologist. These requirements will vary by state.
Clinical psychology certificates at the undergraduate level are ideal for skill development, career development, specialization, and to meet graduate degree entrance requirements. These certificates can be offered through higher learning institutions or by professional clinical psychology organizations. A minimum GPA may be necessary to enter these certificate programs and a bachelor’s degree may be necessary, or simply a minimum number of college credits in psychology and specific clinical psychology courses.
The undergraduate certificates available vary, but include these:
- Alzheimer Caregiver Certification
- Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement Certification
- Co-Occurring Disorders Specialist Certification
- Personal/Life Coach Certification
At the master’s degree and post-graduate certification level, clinical psychology certifications are designed for specialization, salary increases, promotions, and career shifts. Some graduate certificates may require a program participant to have completed licensure as part of continuing education and licensure renewal. Each individual will have a unique reason or requirement for completing certifications at this level. Many of these certifications are available online at this time.
The subject matter for graduates certificates will vary greatly and may include:
- Psychology Leadership
- Clinical Health
- Clinical Neuropsychology
- Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Rehabilitation Psychology/Psychoanalysis
- Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology
- Group Psychology
Academic Standards for a Clinical Psychology Degree
While becoming a practicing clinical psychologist may seem like a never-ending process, it will one day come to an end, and each new stage of the process is as important as the last. If one begins with an associate degree at a community college or online school, a high school GPA of 2.0 or higher will be necessary. Of course, this will depend on the school you attend.
For those pursuing a bachelor’s degree, the GPA requirements will typically be higher, such as a high school or associate degree GPA of 2.5 or higher. ACT or SAT requirements will also be established by the higher learning institution.
Once an individual is prepared to pursue a master’s degree, students must have respectable GPAs of 3.0 or higher and quite possibly be required to complete the GRE with a minimum requirement. Again, these standards vary by school. A formal thesis or a comprehensive exam may be necessary to complete these degrees successfully.
To gain entrance into doctoral programs that do not include both a master’s degree and a doctoral program, it will be essential to graduate from a college or university with regional accreditation. It will also be beneficial to graduate from an accredited master’s program. GPAs, certifications, professional organization memberships, and work experience are also influencing factors.
Exam/Experience Needed for a Clinical Psychology Degree?
To become a fully practicing clinical psychologist, each individual will be required to complete state licensure, clinical psychology certification, and between 3,000 and 6,000 hours of clinical work under authorized supervision. For any other non-psychology-related career, exams and experience will depend upon the degree level and job title. One may have to take the GRE exam. An internship may be necessary. And exams are also required to complete certain master’s degree programs.
Clinical Psychology Degree Options
To become a fully practicing clinical psychologist, several degrees will be necessary. You can begin with an associate degree and end with a doctorate degree. Most people begin with a bachelor’s degree or a combination of a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. Some programs offer a master’s and doctorate dual degree program. Or you can pursue a clinical psychology doctorate degree program immediately after the bachelor’s degree program in the right circumstances.
- Associates Degrees Range $26,000 - $33,000
- Bachelor’s Degrees Range $50,000 - $85,000
- Master’s Degrees Range $30,000 - $1,200,000
Associate Degree in Clinical Psychology
For individuals who wish to begin with an associate degree, it’s best to consider specific degrees as a way to secure jobs related to psychology upon graduation or to be able to apply for bachelor’s degree programs in clinical psychology. Many psychology associate degrees are available today from community colleges and online degrees. It may also be a good idea to pursue science-related degrees to complete the necessary course requirements at the bachelor’s degree level if one intends to transfer to a four-year clinical psychology program.
The following are some examples of possible courses in an associate degree clinical psychology degree program:
- Personality Types and Theories
- Psychological Disorders
- Developmental Stages
- Social Influence
- Applied Statistics
- Research Methods
- History and Systems
- Social Psychology
Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Psychology
At the bachelor’s degree level, it’s essential to pursue psychology degrees. A psychology major is the best way to gain internships in psychology careers, as well as to be able to apply for psychology-related jobs upon graduation. One aspect that varies at the bachelor’s degree level from the associate degree level is the option to specialize or choose a concentration. This can help set graduates apart when they apply for graduate programs or help them gain an advantage in the highly competitive job market.
Here are some examples of possible clinical psychology bachelor’s degree courses:
- Intro to General Psychology
- Intro to Drugs and Behavior
- Sex, Evolution and Human Behavior
- Developmental Psychology
- Psychology of Education
- Cognitive Psychology
- Intro to Abnormal Psychology
- Social Psychology
Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology
Before selecting a master’s degree, it’s important to consider whether a master of arts or a master of science is most ideal for one’s career aspirations. A Master of Science in Clinical Psychology is often the preference for individuals seeking a career in research and sciences.
You can also select a specialization at the master’s degree level. This will begin the proper training, education, and experience necessary for a long-term career in a wide array of psychology arenas including education, research, or therapy.
The following are some examples of courses for a master’s degree in clinical psychology:
- Psychology of Social Media
- Sensation and Perception
- Biological Basis for Abnormal Behavior
- Forensic Assessment
- Conflict and Negotiation
- Criminal Behavior and The Prison System
Degree program concentrations and specializations are also diverse, and may include some of these options, depending on the school you attend:
- Experimental Psychology
- Industrial-Organizational Psychology
- Forensic Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Social Psychology
- Child Development
- Sexual Psychology
- Sport Psychology
What Can You Do with a Clinical Psychology Degree?
The career options with a clinical psychology degree depend on the degree, the state you work in, and your employer. An individual with an associate degree will primarily be eligible to apply for entry-level support positions in various psychology fields such as social service assistants, human services assistants, substance abuse counselors, psychiatric technicians, and psychiatric aides.
With a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology comes greater responsibility, greater pay, and greater career options including positions as substance abuse counselors, behavioral disorder counselors, social worker case manager, human resources manager, market research analyst, polygraph examiner, child development specialist, research assistant, technical writer, criminal investigator, employment counselor, and many others.
Once an individual has a master’s degree, they can explore more mental health and therapy-based careers. This, too, is based on the state and employer requirements, but may include positions such as marriage and family therapists, school counselors, mental health counselors, probation officers, and more.
At the PhD and PsyD level, you can become a fully practicing clinical psychologist in all states, or a professor or research psychologist. Many individuals will choose various clinical psychology specializations at this level including forensic psychology, sport psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, criminal psychology, sexual health psychology, family psychology, learning disability psychology, child psychology, and many more.
Clinical Psychology Fields of Study
- Social and Consumer Psychology
A concentration in social and consumer psychology centers around various aspects of consumer behavior including social influence, purchase behavior, decision making, marketing effectiveness, brand management, and more.
- Black Psychology
Black psychology has been growing in need and popularity over the past few decades. It entails the study of historical experiences, cultural expressions, values and traditions, African principles, social movements, and much more.
- Geriatric Psychology
With a rapidly aging population, geriatric psychology is becoming more important than ever. Geriatric psychology addresses the issues and challenges often associated with later stages in life such as body deterioration, mental health issues, emotional problems, physical limitations, loss of friends and family, personal mortality, financial stresses, and more.
- Long-term Mental Illness
The psychology of long-term mental illness is a relatively new subsector of clinical psychology. This area focuses on the evaluation and treatment of persistently and severely mentally ill children and adults, as well as their families. Treatments may include assessments, interventions, psychopharmacology, and/or psychosocial rehabilitation. These specialized psychologists may also develop programs and public policy.
- Child Psychology
Child psychology has always been one of the most popular concentrations. Within this specialization, professionals work with children who are in need of psychological help for any number of reasons such as developmental issues, abuse, trauma, mental disorders, disease or illness, and many others.
- Forensic Psychology
Another growing field of psychology is forensic psychology. These individuals work within the criminal justice system to help solve crimes, determine criminal competency, perform psychological autopsies, criminal profiling, parental fitness, child custody, and conduct research and studies.
- Clinical Health Psychology
Clinical Health Psychology is an area that specializes in the interaction and correlation of one’s physical health and the emotional, cognitive, social, and behavioral functions. Essentially, this type of psychology encourages a healthy lifestyle as a way to eliminate controllable life issues associated with a variety of ailments such as chronic pain, obesity, diseases, anxiety, and many others.
Clinical neuropsychology is directly related to brain function and its association to behavior in all regards. Individuals who pursue this psychology disciple will focus on perspective, approach, and practice settings.
- Psychodynamic Psychology
Psychodynamic psychology provides work on the theory of personality, psychotherapy, and pathology. This includes various personality disorders such as narcissism, borderline, character disorders, and more.
Clinical Psychology Careers and Salary
Careers in clinical psychology have varying levels of responsibility and pay based on degree completion, work experience, location of the position, employer, roles and responsibilities, and additional variables. Entry-level positions will generally have little responsibility and more administrative and support tasks. An associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology will be necessary for these positions with a general salary range between $35,000 and $50,000.
With a master’s degree and a doctorate degree, clinical psychology professionals will earn more money, have more career options and be able to practice therapy and psychology, become a professor, or perform studies and research with the right degrees, licensures and, certifications. Individuals with these degrees can expect to make between $60,000 and over $100,000.
Clinical Psychology Career Options
- Substance Abuse Counselor
A substance abuse counselor is one of the most rapidly growing careers in the United States. These counselors work with individuals who are addicted to various illicit and prescription drugs, as well as alcohol. In some states, it’s possible to become a substance abuse counselor with as little as an associate degree.
- Human Resources
Human resource positions are increasingly using graduates with psychology degrees to fill their openings. These psychology professionals excel in workplace conflict resolution, character and personality assessment, mental health program development, and much more.
- Family / Marriage Counselors
Family and marriage counselors have always been in demand. Again, these individuals can work in this field at varying levels depending upon their degree, from social work to psychiatry. The type of work setting will also vary such as a hospital, private practice, school, and others.
- Forensic Psychologist
A forensic psychologist works directly with local, state, or federal law enforcement. They might be an expert witness, determine competency, evaluate witness credibility, recommend treatments, and more.
- Learning Disability Specialist
A learning disability specialist often works within an elementary, middle school, or high school environment. These mental health professionals diagnose and treat students with learning disabilities, including ADD, ADHD, autism, and others.
Important Questions to Ask (FAQ)
How long does It take to earn a clinical psychology degree online?
An online clinical psychology degree at the doctoral level can take between four years and eight years, though most take between four and six years. These often include a one-year internship. However, this does not include the time it takes to complete the separate and required bachelor’s degree or master’s degree.
Keep in mind that it’s possible to take either a bachelor’s and a master’s degree together or a master’s and a doctoral degree together to eliminate years off of the total amount of time. These numbers also don’t include the mandatory 3,000 licensure hours or supervised work, and some states require up to 6,000 supervised hours.
How much does a clinical psychology bachelor’s degree cost?
A bachelor’s degree in psychology will cost in a range between $8,000 to $60,000 annually. However, it’s possible to save money by completing basic course requirements at a community college before transferring to a four-year college or university. Another way to save money is to select public schools over private schools and to pursue degrees in-state over out-of-state programs.
Does the school have the major[s] you’re considering?
Before selecting a college or university, it’s essential to consider the majors offered that will allow for a successful career in clinical psychology. Your major of choice will determine the likelihood of entrance into master’s degree programs, and it will influence the type of jobs for which a graduate will qualify.
Generally speaking, any psychology bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university will lead to positive career prospects. An accredited psychology program and the option of selecting from a variety of specializations or concentrations will also be beneficial. And be sure to seek out schools that offer assistance to help you find internships.
How many students graduate “on time”, in four years?
Nationwide, it’s taking longer and longer to complete bachelor’s degrees. Currently, public colleges and universities have an average four-year graduation rate of 33.3% and a six-year graduation rate of 57.6%. Private colleges and universities improve their rates at 52.8% and 65.4%, respectively. The six-year graduation rate for schools with dedicated psychology colleges or departments increases to 88.86%.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
To begin, it’s important to choose a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Another accreditation that will prove you’ve had a high quality education and give you a better chance for employment and better pay is the APA Commission on Accreditation, which is recognized by the Council for Higher Education and the US Department of Education. The Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System is another reputable program accreditation. These are most often available at the master’s degree and doctorate degree levels.
Software, Technology & Skills Needed
Software and technology skills have become an integral part of clinical psychology degrees. Various software programs are necessary to submit information to state and federal databases, as well as for managing practices and financials. They can also be used for transcribing, record-keeping, note-taking, sharing medical records, and much more.
Clinical psychologists will require know-how of a number of technologies. Computers, tablets, and smartphones are basic tools used by most psychologists today. Additional technologies can be used to help with client management, such as wearable technologies. Each year, the software and technology skills necessary grow even further.
Clarkston Scholars Program
Deadline: January 15
The Clarkston Scholars Program seeks out students with exceptional drive in academics and a passion and interest in life sciences. This scholarship will be awarded to one sophomore at a four-year, Pennsylvania-based college or university.
Gladys Carol Scholarship
Deadline: March 31
The Gladys Carol Scholarship Program is dedicated to high-performing high school seniors and graduates, as well as undergraduate students who are United States citizens and permanent residents. These students must be in pursuit of STEM programs.
Out To Innovate Scholarships for LGBTQ+STEM Students
Deadline: June 6
The Out To Innovate Scholarships for LGBTQ+STEM Students offers two awards each year for STEM students who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. One award is designated to an undergraduate student and the other is reserved for a graduate or professional student.
National Space Club Keynote Scholarships
Deadline: December 02
The National Space Club Keynote Scholarships are for students with exceptional academic records and public speaking abilities who are in pursuit of STEM careers, from high school students to graduate students.
Professional Clinical Psychology Organizations
The American Academy of Clinical Psychology unites professional psychologists to advance both standards of practice and quality of service.
The Society of Clinical Psychology features APA members in research, active practice, teaching, administration, and students. Approved students receive membership discounts.
The American Psychological Association has over 120,000 members in a variety of psychology fields including education, consultancy, clinicians, and researchers. Students can also become members.
The Association of Black Psychologists is a rapidly growing professional psychology organization featuring over 1,400 members. These professionals focus on social change and psychological assistance in black communities.
Choosing an Accredited College
Proper accreditation is essential to long-term success in any clinical psychology field. To begin, if you don’t complete a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, it will be very difficult to move into a master’s degree. Next, it’s also important to select a program that has additional accreditation from a reputable governing or professional body. These factors will influence the likelihood as to whether or not one will be accepted into graduate programs and eventually be able to earn a license to be a practicing clinical psychologist, researcher, or professor. These accreditations will also influence the lifetime earning potential of a clinical psychology professional.
Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid
Today, you can select from a variety of clinical psychology degree formats. Some people still prefer traditional classroom settings, though many schools are in transition to becoming fully online colleges and universities offering the same quality education with greater flexibility and, many times, more affordable degree programs.
You could also choose to select a hybrid program. This combines both in-person and online courses, and some online degrees require hybrid format, particularly those that require lab work and experiential learning. And keep in mind that online degrees may offer synchronous learning, which is courses that are only available in real-time online. or asynchronous learning, which is often pre-recorded and more flexible.
Does the college have post-graduate job placement help & assistance?
One of the greatest advantages of reputable colleges and universities is the offering of graduate school placement and job placement services and assistance. These services are often seen as a highly influential decision-making factor by many potential students. Be sure to look at the job and graduate school placement rates and career services at colleges and universities before making a final decision.
Why do you need to consider how rating/accreditation can affect your salary?
The accreditation and rating of a higher learning institution is the way potential employers are able to quickly assess the quality and value of an applicant’s education. Colleges and universities with in-demand and reputable accreditations and rankings will influence hiring decisions, as well as salary potential.
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