Master's Programs in Clinical Psychology

Updated October 14, 2022 · 5 Min Read

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A Master's degree program in clinical psychology prepares learners for various careers. Instruction and training in areas including counseling, psychological theory, abnormal behavior, and research techniques prepares students to be competitive in the job field.

Those with a masters in clinical psychology should be well-prepared for a career in mental health counseling.

Explore the degree's requirements, courses, and various professional paths associated with this degree.

Degree Snapshot

  • Typical Admission Requirements: Each applicant often needs to hold an accredited bachelor's degree in a related field, a competitive GPA, to provide recommendation letters, and submit a personal statement. Applicants may also need to meet minimum GRE scores.
  • Time to Completion: 1-3 years, depending on enrollment status
  • Average Salary: $56,000

Featured Online Psychology Master's Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology?

Most learners pursue a master's in clinical psychology for personal and professional reasons. Graduates can enjoy the following benefits:

1. Increased Earning Power

Professionals with a master's clinical psychology degree or higher often earn larger salaries than bachelor's degree-holders.

2. Greater Professional Opportunity

Students earning a master's degree in clinical psychology develop a broad knowledge base and expert-level skills that can lead to advanced professional opportunities.

3. Personal Accomplishment

After earning a graduate degree in the field, people might feel a sense of personal accomplishment.

4. Licensure

Most clinical psychologists need a doctorate to obtain a license to practice. Licensure requirements vary by state.

5. Further Study

A student interested in pursuing a doctorate in clinical or counseling psychology may earn a master's degree first, although it is not always required for doctorate enrollment. Students enrolled in a terminal doctoral program often receive a masters along the way.

Completing a clinical psychology master's program may offer learners a greater selection of programs if they wish to pursue a doctorate.

Example Courses

The courses below are a sampling of popular offerings in psychology graduate programs. While most programs share common learning objectives, core courses and free electives vary by school. Research the specific requirements and curriculum description for each program that interests you.

Master's-level learners often take coursework covering all the major components of clinical psychology. They explore foundational theories and counseling techniques, research methods and assessment strategies, professional ethics, and contemporary issues in cultural diversity.

  1. 1

    Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy

    This course introduces the theoretical foundations for various approaches to counseling and psychotherapy.

    The class covers both historical and contemporary approaches to client interaction. Learners focus on practical applications and problem-solving throughout the therapeutic process by practicing active listening, setting manageable goals, and giving constructive feedback.

  2. 2

    Clinical Psychology

    Students in this course gain a working understanding of the history, development, and current trajectory of clinical psychology as a discrete subdiscipline. Coursework explores the clinical symptoms and characteristics of common psychiatric disorders, along with valid treatment plans. Enrollees examine several popular case studies and practice strategies for mental health assessment and intervention.

  3. 3


    This class explores definitions and models that focus on common psychological disorders. Students learn about prominent literature in the field, including "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders." Learners use this text to classify symptoms, offer diagnoses, and create long-term treatment plans for clients.

  4. 4

    Human Development

    Learners in this course examine major theories and concepts related to lifespan development. Students learn to use psychoanalytic theory, understand the origination of cognitive processes, and identify some behavioral approaches.

    Coursework covers language development, social development, object attachment, separation and individuation, and identity development. Near the end of the course, learners apply these theories and concepts, and may complete an integrative research project.

What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Psychology?

Obtaining a master's degree in psychology opens the door to numerous career options. Although licensure regulations vary per state, people who hold a master's degree may practice in fields including counseling, school psychology, industrial/organizational or human resources settings, forensics, and even teaching.

People interested in further study and education may wish to pursue a doctorate, which would allow for a career as a clinical psychologist. This path aims to provide doctorate-seekers with more comprehensive knowledge of psychological concepts, as well as valuable research experience.

What is the Role of a Clinical Psychologist?

Clinical psychologists help patients overcome mental health challenges, diagnose and treat complex and severe conditions, and conduct in-depth research and assessment. They may function as generalists or focus on specific patient populations or disorders.

Where Do Clinical Psychologists Work?

Clinical psychologists work in private practice, hospitals, mental health clinics, outpatient care centers, and as independent consultants.

Can You Practice Clinical Psychology With a Master's?

No, you need a doctoral degree to practice independently as a clinical psychologist in most states. Some doctoral programs require a master's degree in clinical psychology for admittance.

Career Advancement

A professional with a master's in clinical psychology can consider many career advancement opportunities. Graduates can pursue licensure, advanced studies, and membership with professional organizations. Each opportunity offers resources that can expand professional prospects and increase earning potential.

Doctoral Programs

In most disciplines, including psychology, a doctoral degree is the highest academic credential. Many learners enroll in a psychology master's program to pursue a doctorate.

A doctoral degree demonstrates expert-level skills and qualifies holders to obtain licensure to practice clinical psychology.

Professionals with a doctoral degree can work as scientific researchers in clinical psychology. Other doctorate-holders pursue positions as postsecondary educators in higher education settings.


Graduates from psychology master's and doctoral programs who plan to work in clinical psychology must obtain a license to practice professionally.

A candidate for licensure to independently practice clinical psychology must often hold at least a doctoral degree in psychology and complete an internship that includes a state mandated number or clinical hours with supervision by an approved professional.

After meeting these requirements, candidates often sit for written and oral exams that assess skills, knowledge, and foundational competencies in clinical psychology. Most states grant initial licenses following the exam.

To maintain their licenses, professionals must periodically apply for renewal, which often requires an application and completing continuing education credits.

Questions About Master's in Clinical Psychology

What Exactly Is Clinical Psychology?

The psychological specialty of clinical psychology encompasses behavioral, emotional, and mental healthcare for people, families, and groups, along with research into interventions and treatments.

What Is an Example of Clinical Psychology?

Child psychology is an example of a clinical specialty area. Child psychologists help young patients with the effects of abuse, developmental disorders, and learning disabilities.

Why Is Clinical Psychology Important?

Training for work in clinical psychology prepares practitioners to help people with complex behavioral, emotional, and mental conditions, including chronic conditions and those resulting from injury or illness.

Professional Associations

This organization serves as a hub that connects working professionals throughout the United States. The organization promotes advanced competency in clinical psychology by sponsoring publications, hosting events, and providing continuing education resources. A subdivision of the American Psychology Association, this society supports clinical psychologists through grants and awards and by offering toolkits and other resources to practicing clinicians. This organization focuses on scientific research in the discipline. The society serves as an integrative catalyst for researchers and practitioners by sponsoring events, providing grants and fellowships, and disseminating innovative scholarships.

Page Last Reviewed: October 11, 2022

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