Doctoral Degree Programs in Clinical Psychology

Learn about the types of doctoral degrees available in clinical psychology and program requirements. Also find out about licensure, salary and employment outlook for clinical psychologists. Schools offering Clinical Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are My Options for a Clinical Psychology Doctoral Degree Program?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical psychologists are the most numerous of all psychology specialists (www.bls.gov). You have the option of pursuing a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. Generally speaking, programs leading to a Psy.D. are focused on preparing students to become practicing psychologists and those leading to a Ph.D. concentrate on producing competent academicians and researchers. Both types of program typically take 4-5 years to complete.

There are at least two sources that you can use to locate a suitable program. The American Psychological Association (APA) maintains an online directory of schools that offer accredited doctoral programs in clinical psychology (www.apa.org). In addition, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) offers an online directory of postsecondary education institutions (www.nces.ed.gov). A search yields at least 200 schools that offer advanced degrees in clinical psychology.

Degree OptionsDoctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Course TopicsPsychopathology, behavioral neuroscience, personality psychology, behavioral therapy, psychometrics
Licensing RequirementsDoctorate, internship, work experience and examination; continuing education may be required to renew
Job Outlook (2014-2024)20% growth (for clinical, counseling and school psychologists)*
Median Salary (2014)$68,900 (for clinical, counseling and school psychologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Can I Expect From a Program?

A program leading to a doctorate in clinical psychology can contain 101-150 credits. These include academic, internship and dissertation credits. While online programs are quite rare, those that are available include internships and clinical requirements, which must be completed in person. Didactic courses can be completed online.

Both Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs require you to develop foundational knowledge regarding theories, research methods, interventions and ethics in clinical psychology. You'll need to complete practicum field experiences and a clinical internship. In addition, you must pass comprehensive examinations. Both types of programs require you to write a dissertation, but the format of this paper might be slightly different for Psy.D. students; their doctoral projects might also include training manuals or case study examinations. Psy.D. programs focus more on diagnosis and treatment methods and will require you to complete more clinical rounds.

As a doctoral student of clinical psychology, you'll take a wide variety of courses. These may include: personality psychology, cognitive and behavioral assessments and diagnosis, psychopathology, psychotherapy, behavior therapy, behavioral neuroscience, family and couples therapy, group psychotherapy, psychometrics and cultural diversity studies.

You may be able to select a specialty within the field of clinical psychology, thereby tailoring your degree to suit your interests. Some typical specialties include child and adolescent psychology, health psychology, neuropsychology and geropsychology. You can further focus your studies on areas such as learning disabilities, substance abuse or emotional issues.

What Are the License or Certification Requirements?

All states and the District of Columbia require that practicing psychologists hold a license; requirements vary by state. Typically, in addition to earning the doctorate, successfully completing an internship and attaining a certain amount of work experience, you'll also have to sit for a state licensure examination.

The American Board of Professional Psychology administers certification examinations in several areas of clinical psychology, including clinical health psychology and clinical neuropsychology. To qualify to take a specialty exam, you may need to submit proof of postdoctoral training, demonstrate successful work experience in your specialty and show professional endorsements.

License and certification renewal may require you to complete continuing education units. Often, acceptable continuing education units are available online or by way of DVD.

What Is the Occupation Outlook?

The BLS predicted that employment opportunities for clinical, counseling and school psychologists would increase by 20% from 2014-2024. The BLS noted the projected increase was due in part to the expanding need for psychological care incurred by unhealthy lifestyles involving substance, physical or mental abuse. The increase in other mental health difficulties and behavioral development issues are also spurring job growth. In 2014, the BLS reported the median annual wage for these professionals to be $68,900. You could find a job in a university, research firm, mental health clinic or social services organization.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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