Those who choose to pursue higher education in clinical psychology typically have a desire to become a therapist or mental health counselor in areas such as family therapy and substance abuse. Getting a master’s degree in clinical psychology can be accomplished, though an increasing number of schools are combining the master’s program with a doctoral program. However, there are still some schools that offer a master’s degree as an individual degree. Another option is to get a master’s degree in general psychology with a clinical specialization. Most that pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology have undergraduate degrees in such disciplines as psychology, social work, and other programs that have a heavy psychology focus.
Psychology Counseling Degrees & Career Paths
- It’s an accepted fact for most people who have attained an undergraduate degree in psychology that pursuing a master’s degree is required. Many agencies have specific degree requirements and won’t hire people with just a bachelor’s degree for positions other than assistants or aides. If someone wants to work as a counselor or therapist, a graduate degree is required to attain the licenses needed to practice as a counselor or therapist. Another reason to attain a master’s degree is financial. Those with graduate degrees will earn more than those working in the industry with only a bachelor’s degree because they can work as counselors and have the opportunity to move into management positions. Finally, a person with a graduate degree in clinical psychology can earn other certifications, which will also open new opportunities for career advancement.
- A master’s degree is a large investment of both money and time, especially for positions which require supervised clinical experience. The degree can take up to three years to complete and, depending on the program, a master’s thesis or comprehensive exam could be required. Also, those who do not have a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average in their undergraduate degree program might not be accepted into a master’s program. Also, as was mentioned earlier, many clinical psychology programs are being rolled into a doctorate program, which is an even bigger commitment of time and money. Finally, depending on the career path of the person, they might not make a large salary, which would mean that your advanced degree offers a lesser return on the investment for the graduate degree. Online programs are also relatively rare. You may be able to take a few courses online, but because of the hands-on nature of counseling careers, the program as a whole is unlikely to be online-accessible.
Certificate Vs. Master in Clinical Psychology
What Clinical Psychology Master’s Degrees are Available?
The majority of clinical psychology graduate degrees fall under the Master of Art category, but some programs fall under a Master of Science degree category. It depends on whether the college or university places psychology under science or humanities but the vast majority of master’s degrees in clinical psychology are under the humanities umbrella. It’s also important to note that many clinical psychology programs are specializations under a general psychology degree but are also being absorbed into doctoral programs for clinical psychology.
To summarize, available degrees include:
- Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology
- Master of Science in Clinical Psychology
- Master of Arts in Psychology with Clinical specialization
- PsyD in Clinical Psychology
- PhD in Psychology focused on Clinical Psychology
The requirements to enter a Master’s in Clinical Psychology degree program varies by school, but the general requirements include:
- A bachelor’s degree with a high concentration of psychology courses. A psychology undergraduate degree is not required, but there needs to be a minimum of 16 hours of psychology courses included in the degree. This means a person who majored in social work and minored in psychology could apply.
- GRE results: some schools are not requiring GRE results as part of their application, but some are. Check with your selected school to determine if this exam is required.
- Transcripts from all colleges attended.
- Letters of recommendation - a minimum of three letters is required for most programs but some require more. Check with your school of choice for the required number.
- Application fee.
How long does it take to earn a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology?
A master’s degree in clinical psychology typically takes three years. The programs include classroom study, a clinical internship, a master’s thesis, and a comprehensive exam. Some graduate students take longer than three years, while others take less. The difference depends on the course load, work experience, and other external factors such as personal and familial responsibilities.
Potential Careers in Clinical Psychology with a Master’s Degree
Many states require those who want to work as practicing clinical psychologists to have a PhD in Psychology. However, those with a master’s degree can still have successful careers in the profession.
Some of the career paths a person can pursue with a master’s degree in clinical psychology include:
- Counseling Psychologist
These psychologists offer counseling to individuals for a variety of issues and conditions in a clinical setting. They often work as part of a clinical team but can work as a solo counselor under another psychologist.
Average salary: $58,900
- Forensic Psychologist
Forensic psychologists work in many different settings, but their job is ultimately the same: profiling criminals and diagnosing mental illnesses in this particular population. Forensic psychologists may find work in mental institutions, prisons, hospitals, and for the court system.
Average salary: $70,200
- Marriage & Family Therapist
Marriage and family therapists focus on diagnosing and treating conditions that affect married couples and the family in general. The therapist will counsel and treat individuals, a married couple, or the entire family, depending on the issues they face. Marriage and family therapists can work in private practice or as part of a clinic or hospital.
Average salary: 49,500
- School/Career Counselor
School and career counselors help students decide their futures. At the high school level, these counselors help students determine if college is their ideal path or a technical or trade school is a better approach. At the collegiate level, career counselors help students home in on a specific path geared toward their major.
Average salary: $45,000
- Substance Abuse Counselor
Substance abuse counselors help those struggling with addiction overcome their issues. They can work through the court system, mental health institutions, or health clinics. Those who seek counseling can use a substance abuse counselor as a sounding board as they work through the issues that led to their substance abuse. Many substance abuse counselors have struggled with addiction themselves and therefore have a unique perspective they can use when helping others.
Average salary: $40,000
Options to Advance
If a person with a master’s degree in clinical psychology wants to advance in their career, additional education in the form of a PhD and licensure may be required. Although counselors can obtain certain licenses with a master’s degree, others need you to obtain a PhD instead. This is also true for those who want to advance into management and director positions and those working as clinical psychologists with a master’s degree will need to work under a fully licensed psychologist for a period of time to qualify for their own license and to go into private practice on their own.
Colleges That Offer Traditional Master’s Degrees in Clinical Psychology
For those seeking a traditional master's degree in clinical psychology program the following schools offer degrees in this area:
Duquesne University is a private not-for-profit university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They have a student body of 9,197 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 13 to 1. The degree program is a combination of classroom study, clinical hours, a thesis, and a comprehensive examination. The program takes approximately three years to complete.
- PhD in Clinical Psychology - The master's degree is folded into the doctorate program
George Washington University
George Washington University is a private not-for-profit university located in the US Capitol. It has a student body population of 27,800+ and a student to faculty ratio of 13 to 1. The degree program takes approximately three years to complete and is comprised of classroom study, a thesis, and clinical hours.
- Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Kent State University
Kent State University is a public university located in Kent Ohio. It has a student population of nearly 28,000 and a student-faculty ratio of 20 to 1. The master's program is part of the doctoral program and consists of 80 hours of classroom study, clinical hours, and a thesis plus a dissertation. The program takes approximately 5 years to complete.
- PhD in Clinical Psychology
Huntington, West Virginia
Marshall University a public university located in Huntington, West Virginia. It has a student population of 17,000 and a student-faculty ratio of 18 to 1. The master's program consists of classroom study, clinical hours, and a master's thesis. The program takes approximately three years to complete.
- Master of Arts in Psychology with Clinical Specialization
Syracuse, New York
Syracuse University is a private, not-for-profit university located in Syracuse New York. The university has a student population of around 22,900 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 15 to 1. The program consists of clinical hours, a thesis, a comprehensive exam, and classroom study. The program takes roughly 36 months or three years to complete.
- Master of Arts in General Psychology with a Clinical Psychology specialization
Colleges That Offer Online Master’s Degrees in Clinical Psychology
For those seeking a degree program that can be completed online, here is a list of schools that offer a master’s degree in clinical psychology that can be completed online:
Capella University is an online, for-profit college located in Minneapolis Minnesota. It has a student population of 27,000 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 27 to 1. The entire degree can be completed online, while clinical hours are completed in the students’ local area. The program takes approximately 33 months (less than three years) to complete.
- Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology
Pepperdine University has a student population of 5,000 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 13 to 1. It’s a private, not-for-profit university that offers degrees entirely online. Any clinical hours required can be completed in the students’ local area. The program takes approximately 24 months to complete and consists of classroom study, clinical hours, and a thesis.
- Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy
Walden University is a private, for-profit college located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. All of the programs can be completed online, with any clinical hours completed in a student’s local area. The program consists of classroom study, a thesis, and clinical hours. The school has a student body population of just over 48,400 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 17 to 1. The program takes roughly 30 hours to complete.
- Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling