Clinical Psychology PhD Programs Guide

A Ph.D. in clinical psychology opens the door to a variety of career opportunities in a rewarding field. Graduates of these programs make theoretical and hands-on contributions in research positions, professorships, and clinical practice in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and schools. Through experience-based practicum studies, internships, and research-heavy dissertation work, clinical psychology Ph.D. programs prepare students to become leaders in their chosen careers. Read on to learn more about Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology.

Earning a Ph.D. vs. a PsyD

To become a psychologist, prospective students must earn one of two doctoral degrees in psychology. The choice between a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and a Psy.D. in clinical psychology largely depends on the individual's ultimate career goals.

Clinical psychology Ph.D. programs train students to conduct and present psychological research. Graduates can choose from a wide range of career options, including clinical practice and patient care, teaching, research, and medical center practice. Ph.D. admissions are competitive, and schools admit only a fraction of the applications they receive.

Graduates with a Psy.D. in clinical psychology work directly with clients in a variety of clinical settings, as these programs boast a great deal of hands-on experience. Psy.D. programs may admit more students, though funding can be sparse in comparison to the Ph.D. Psy.D. students do not need to complete research-heavy coursework, which can allow them to complete the degree in 4-6 years. Ph.D. students may take longer to finish.

Degree Snapshot

Typical Admission Requirements:
GRE scores, interview

Time to Completion:
5-7 years

Average Salary:
$94,000

Why Get a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology?

A Ph.D. in psychology presents many personal and professional benefits, including an array of opportunities for rewarding career choices.

  • Clinical psychologists help clients work through emotional, developmental, and psychosocial issues to improve their quality of life.
  • Clinical psychologists who pursue research positions add a rich body of knowledge to the field in their individual areas of expertise, improving the understanding of psychology.
  • Clinical psychology Ph.D. graduates enjoy a variety of career options, including university teaching, research, forensics, and clinical practice.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects demand for psychologists to grow by 14% between 2016 and 2026.
  • Graduates of clinical psychology Ph.D. programs qualify for directorships, professorships, and supervisory positions, which can lead to higher salaries and leadership opportunities.

Example Curriculum

Degree requirements vary by program, but many clinical psychology Ph.D. programs require students to fulfill the following for graduation:

Coursework

To graduate from a clinical psychology Ph.D. program, students must demonstrate the ability to conduct psychological research, analyze results, and understand advanced theoretical and ethical principles of psychological theory and practice. In addition to research-based studies, frequently required courses include advanced cognition, neurophysics assessment, and social psychology.

Practicum

Practicums are hands-on experiences that program faculty develop to prepare students for clinical practice. Many clinical psychology Ph.D. programs require students to complete practicum assignments in assessment and behavioral therapy. Practicums may take place during students' second year of study, typically over the course of two semesters.

Dissertation

Once a student completes their coursework and successfully applies for Ph.D. candidacy, they may begin dissertation work. Dissertations are culminating studies in which students design and conduct an empirical research study, synthesizing the results into an in-depth research paper and defending the conclusion to a committee of faculty members.

Internship

Internships for clinical psychology Ph.D. programs last one year, during which students work full-time in settings approved by the American Psychology Association (APA). Students pursue internships related to their professional goals to gain hands-on, supervised experience. Internships typically happen toward the end of a Ph.D. program, in conjunction with the dissertation.

What Can You Do With a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology?

Graduates of clinical psychology Ph.D. programs enjoy a variety of career opportunities, though most become clinical psychologists or researchers. Clinical psychologists may work in medical centers, rehabilitation facilities, or forensics, while researchers may take positions in research centers or as professors at universities.

Salary: $79,010


Where Do Clinical Psychologists Work?

Hospitals, universities, private practice

Licensure

Graduates who wish to practice clinical psychology must apply for licensure in the state they wish to practice. Requirements vary by state, so students should conduct careful research and compile the necessary materials as they proceed through their degree programs.

To qualify for licensure, applicants must hold a doctoral degree in psychology from an APA-accredited program. Students should keep track of all practicum and internship hours, as most states require validating paperwork. Licensing boards may review client lists, treatment types, and other details regarding the supervised internship and practicum experience.

All 50 states require the examination for professional practice in psychology, and students should expect to pay fees upwards of $500 to obtain licensure. Typically, clinical psychologists renew their licenses every two to three years, which may require additional fees and continuing education.

Professional Organizations

  • American Psychological Association APA offers its members networking opportunities, journals, databases, and professional development, plus discounted access to professional liability insurance and psychology-related job listings.
  • American Academy of Clinical Psychology AACPSY offers members directory access and professional listings on its website, along with publishing opportunities, news announcements, and professional advocacy.
  • Association for Psychological Science APS members access employment listings, free and discounted periodical subscriptions, and an annual conference.

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