Clinical Psychology Degree Overview

Clinical psychology applies scientific research and theoretical knowledge in mental healthcare settings. Clinical psychologists enjoy strong job prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects clinical psychology jobs will grow 14% between 2016 and 2026 — twice as fast as the national average for all occupations.

Graduates with a degree in clinical psychology can work as researchers, educators, and mental health counselors. This page covers important information for prospective clinical psychologists, including available degrees, core competencies, and potential career paths.

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What is Clinical Psychology?

A specialty within the larger discipline of psychology, clinical psychology entails application-oriented work with patients and clients of all ages and backgrounds. Clinical psychologists provide comprehensive mental, emotional, and behavioral healthcare services in settings such as private practice, nonprofit organizations, and hospitals.

Clinical psychologists assess, treat, and diagnose clients. They typically work as mental health professionals with a broad understanding of psychopathology and human behavior. They often integrate clinical psychology with other social services to provide a holistic approach to healthy living.

Clinical Psychology vs. General Psychology

General psychology typically refers to the discipline of psychology at large. It focuses on the general study of mental behavior, emotional responses, and cognitive functions. Instruction and practice in this area tends to involve scientific research and scholarly investigation through experimentation and testing. Experts in this field often work in laboratories and academic settings.

Clinical psychology uses the knowledge and information generated by studies in general psychology to assess, evaluate, and treat mental illnesses in clinical settings. It is the applied practice of psychology.

What Can You Do With a Clinical Psychology Degree?

Clinical psychologists may work in private practice, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, or other healthcare settings to provide clients with mental health treatments. They may administer psychotherapy to groups, families, or individuals, and they often diagnose patients and design long-term treatment plans to help them modify destructive thoughts or behaviors.

Clinical psychologists can also apply their skills as researchers in laboratories or as providers in social service settings. Clinical psychologists with a doctorate can work in academia as professors or administrators.

Clinical Psychology Degree Programs

A clinical psychology degree can lead to many different career paths, depending on education and experience. This section outlines various clinical psychology degrees, including core competencies and career outcomes.

  • Undergraduate Clinical Psychology Programs

    A bachelor’s degree in psychology provides learners with an introduction to the field and its applications. While some schools offer specializations at this level, most focus on general psychology concepts.

    • Time to Completion: 2-4 years
    • Core Competencies: Clinical psychology foundations, research methodologies, professional ethics
    • Example Careers: Case manager, social and community service manager, teacher

  • Clinical Psychology Graduate Programs

    Master’s programs in clinical psychology typically allow students to specialize in an area of psychology while developing the skills and knowledge needed to provide clients with mental and emotional healthcare. Doctoral programs focus on further specialization, qualifying graduates to work as professors in addition to clinical providers.

    Master’s in Clinical Psychology

    • Time to Completion: 1-3 years
    • Core Competencies: Counseling theories and methods, lifespan development, assessment and evaluation
    • Example Careers: Social worker, licensed professional counselor, psychotherapist

    Master’s in Clinical Psychology

    Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology

    • Time to Completion: 4-7 years
    • Core Competencies: Psychiatric research and application, neuropsychology, behavioral intervention
    • Example Careers: Clinical psychologist, postsecondary teacher, laboratory researcher

    Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology

Online Clinical Psychology Programs

Online clinical psychology programs offer students the flexibility to balance school with work and family obligations. Many programs offer accelerated options that allow students to graduate in less time than a traditional program. Online programs use the same curricula and faculty as on-campus programs, and most online graduate programs still require internships or practicums. Online students can typically work at approved sites near their homes.

How to Choose a Clinical Psychology Program



Accreditation ensures that a school meets quality standards with respect to faculty, curricula, and degree outcomes. Accreditation expands employment, education, and financial aid opportunities. Programs within a school can also receive programmatic accreditation. Prospective psychology students should look for programs accredited by the American Psychological Association or the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System.


Areas of Specialization

Many clinical psychology programs offer specializations that align with different career paths and professional goals. Specialization options include developmental psychology, forensic psychology, psychometrics, neuropsychology, and cognitive psychology.


School Reputation and Program Emphasis

Beyond specialized areas of study, many schools and programs offer specific focuses and approaches to the field. These programs attract degree-seekers and employ faculty experts interested in advancing those goals.

Learn More About How to Choose aPsychology Program

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