To become a clinical psychologist, each individual must earn a minimum of a master’s degree. Master’s degree-holders can practice general psychological therapy, but earning a doctoral degree in the discipline allows professionals to pursue more specialized and advanced career opportunities.
Online Clinical Psychology Degree Programs
What Does a Clinical Psychologist Do?
Clinical psychologists provide services to individuals, families, and groups with mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. These psychologists assess, diagnose, and treat people with acute concerns and chronic conditions. Clinical psychologists interview patients, administer diagnostic tests, and provide therapy to families and individuals. Although clinical psychologists may treat patients, they are not physicians and cannot prescribe medication in most states.
As a large and diverse field, clinical psychology includes professionals working in healthcare, education, research, and training. Some clinical psychologists provide general psychological treatment, while others focus on specific disorders or populations such as children, aging adults, or patients with physical health problems. In addition to direct care, clinical psychologists may also provide consultation to other health professionals and organizations.
Job satisfaction is very high among clinical psychologists. This job requires professionals to work with vulnerable populations, so clinical psychologists must possess compassion, patience, understanding, and strong communication skills.
What Is the Difference Between Clinical and Counseling Psychology?
Clinical psychology and counseling psychology share many similarities. Professionals in both fields practice psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as talk therapy. The primary difference between the two lies in the types of clients and issues they usually treat. Counseling psychologists generally help patients across the lifespan understand and navigate problems at home, work, or in their communities. Clinical psychologists often see clients experiencing severe symptoms of mental disorders.
Counseling psychology doctoral programs delve into assessment and evaluation, human lifespan development, and theories of counseling. In clinical psychology programs, students may learn about clinical assessment and diagnosis, interviewing patients, and clinical psychopharmacology. Students also explore child and adolescent therapy, individual and group therapy, and cognitive and behavioral therapy. Graduates of either program can work in private practices, schools, hospitals, and other centers and agencies.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Clinical Psychology
What degree is needed for clinical psychology?
How many years does it take to become a clinical psychologist?
The length of time it takes to become a clinical psychologist can differ depending on the circumstances and the degree level. Earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology usually takes learners about four years, while master’s degrees take around 2-3 years, and doctoral programs can last 4-7 years. Once candidates satisfy their educational requirements, they take between 1-2 years to complete training and licensing requirements.
What do clinical psychologists do?
Clinical psychologists diagnose psychological issues and provide treatment. These psychologists collaborate with other medical professionals to ensure patients receive quality care. Clinical psychologists provide individual and group therapy.
What can you do with a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology?
Earning a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology can prepare graduates for many entry-level career opportunities across the field. Some common job titles for graduates to consider include correctional treatment specialists, labor relations managers, and community organization workers.
Can a clinical psychologist prescribe medicine?
While a few states allow clinical psychologists to prescribe medicine, most states do not. These psychologists can prescribe medication in Louisiana, New Mexico, and Illinois, along with military settings. In these states, psychologists must meet specific criteria before receiving prescriptive authority.
Can You Get a Degree in Clinical Psychology Online?
Students can choose from dozens of online programs when pursuing bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees in clinical psychology. Online programs generally include the same core curriculum as campus-based programs, so distance learners become just as prepared to enter the workforce as their on-campus peers.
Online programs offer several advantages for learners who require flexibility.
Online programs offer several advantages for learners who require flexibility. Students can access class materials whenever and wherever is most convenient for them. This allows enrollees with work, family, and other responsibilities to complete schoolwork on their own schedules. Some online programs have several different start dates throughout the year, as well. Online learners can typically choose whether to complete their studies part-time or full-time.
Clinical psychology students may also save money by earning their degrees online. Some institutions give distance learners tuition discounts or charge flat rates for in-state and out-of-state residents. Online schools sometimes have shorter terms than traditional programs, allowing degree-seekers to graduate sooner and incur fewer costs.
Are Practicums and Internships Required in an Online Clinical Psychology Program?
Depending on the program and degree level, an online clinical psychology student may need to complete a practicum, internship, or both. Undergraduate programs do not always require students to complete field experiences.
Clinical psychology graduate programs typically include a mandatory practicum and internship component to prepare students for licensure. Enrollees can usually complete this field experience at approved locations within their communities.
Most states require each licensed, practicing clinical psychologist to earn a doctoral degree. Every state sets specific internship and education requirements, so aspiring psychologists should check with the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) to determine requirements.
ASPPB will also inform students whether they need to graduate from a program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), ASPPB, or the National Register of Health Service Psychologists to receive licensure in their state. The APA only accredits doctoral programs, and it does not accredit programs that only use online instruction. However, some APA-accredited programs may offer certain courses online or use some distance education methods.
Students should learn their state’s requirements before enrolling. Program’s websites usually specify whether they prepare students for licensure, including the type of licensure and qualifying states. These sites should also specify internship and practicum requirements.
How Do I Become a Clinical Psychologist?
Aspiring clinical psychologists should plan to devote several years to their education and supervised clinical experience before earning their licenses. Undergraduate degrees do not lead to licensure, but aspiring professionals must obtain them before pursuing graduate-level education. Students typically complete a bachelor’s degree in four years.
Psychology master’s programs take 2-4 years, depending on the school and how many credits students take each semester. Doctoral programs include more extensive coursework, generally taking 5-7 years to complete. These programs also typically include a one-year internship. Many states also require candidates seeking licensure to complete one year of supervised clinical work after earning their doctorates, though many states continue to drop this requirement.
A 2016 APA study found that students who earned master’s degrees in psychology accrued an average of $60,000 in debt. Recent graduates of clinical psychology doctoral programs had about $113,600 in debt. Additionally, licensure fees, which include application, exam, and initial licensing costs, can range from $500-$1,000 or more. Students who pursue their degrees online may save a significant amount of money. For instance, online learners do not have to pay fees for campus-based amenities and can continue working full-time jobs while pursuing their degrees.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Psychology
Earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step to becoming a clinical psychologist. Schools do not typically have undergraduate programs in clinical psychology. Instead, they offer a bachelor’s in psychology with a clinical or counseling concentration. These degrees prepare students to pursue master’s degrees in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or social work.
Some online programs also offer dual-degree options, allowing undergraduates to begin coursework for their master’s degree. Some online clinical psychology Ph.D. programs accept applicants who only hold bachelor’s degrees, potentially saving students a significant amount of time and money.
Learners explore the biology behind human behavior, including emotions, motivation, learning, and memory. Practicing clinical psychologists must have a strong understanding of the body’s biology to suggest different treatment methods for patients.
Human Development in Childhood and Adolescence
This class examines developmental theories for infants, children, and adolescents at the social, biological, and cognitive levels. Topics include attachment issues and temperament, personality development, and puberty and sexual development. This may serve as a helpful introductory course for students hoping to eventually specialize in clinical child psychology.
Students in this class learn the fundamentals of human thought processing, including perception and pattern recognition, learning and memory, problem-solving, and decision-making.
This course explores behavioral disorders and how society defines, explains, and treats these behaviors. Clinical psychologists often treat patients with severe mental illnesses.
This course prepares students for careers in clinical health psychology. Students learn the relationships among the biological, cultural, environmental, and psychological factors critical to physical health and preventing illnesses.
Online Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology
After earning an undergraduate degree, clinical psychology students may pursue a master’s degree or a doctoral program. Students interested in an online master’s in clinical psychology may choose either a master of arts degree, which generally includes a stronger emphasis on a liberal arts curriculum, or a master of science degree, which is more focused on STEM-related topics. Some clinical psychology master’s programs include specializations.
Potential concentrations include clinical counseling, forensic psychology, sex therapy, and applied research. Colleges typically deliver online master’s programs through full-time enrollment, but some offer part-time schedules. Online master’s students complete any required practicums or internships at approved agencies in their communities.
Introduction to Psychopathology
This course focuses on assessing, diagnosing, and treating psychopathology. Students also explore theories of psychopathology, along with the politics of mental disorders, contemporary diagnoses, and ethical and multicultural issues within the field.
Ethics and Standards of Professional Practice
Students learn the principles of conduct, ethics, and standards of practice for psychologists. They also review guidelines for practice in certain psychological services and with specific populations. Topics include informed consent, confidentiality, mandated reporting, recordkeeping, and duty to warn.
This class discusses the administration, scoring, and interpretation of tests used in the clinical assessment of personality. Students learn interviewing techniques, personality inventories, and projective techniques. They may also gain experience in assessment and professional report writing.
Group Process and Dynamics
Degree-seekers delve into group therapy, including the study of methods for counseling various types of groups. Students also learn about multicultural and diverse populations, along with the stages of group development.
Students review how race, socioeconomic status, spirituality, sexual orientation, gender, and ability affect individual, couple, and family counseling. This course helps aspiring psychologists stay mindful and sensitive to all patients and their backgrounds.
Online Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
Earning a doctorate in clinical psychology is a major step towards obtaining licensure. In most states, each clinical psychologist must hold a doctoral degree in psychology. Students can earn either a Ph.D. in clinical psychology or a Psy.D. in clinical psychology. While a Ph.D. typically focuses on research and requires students to write dissertations based on original research, a Psy.D. emphasizes practical work for students who want to pursue clinical practice.
All accredited psychology programs require field experience, which may include clinical hours or an in-person internship. Online students can typically complete these field experiences near their residence. However, some clinical psychology Ph.D. programs require distance learners to attend residencies on campus.
After a student graduates and completes the licensure requirements set by their state, they can practice as a general clinical psychologist or pursue a specialty, such as clinical neuropsychology, health psychology, child psychology, and geropsychology.
Strategies of Clinical Supervision and Consultation
This class reviews theories, functions, and methods of clinical supervision, consultation, and advocacy. Students learn about contractual, ethical, and legal issues involved in providing these services. These skills prepare students for careers as clinical supervisors.
Psychology and Social Change
This course delves into important topics such as power and social inequalities, ethnic inequalities, and gender and sexism. Students learn how social change theories can affect children, families, and communities. Future psychologists learn how they can serve as change agents.
Students in this class review the neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and biological actions of medical drugs. They learn the indications for prescribing medication, the potential side effects, and what they should consider when referring patients for medication evaluation.
Biopsychology combines neuroscience with basic psychological models to understand how the brain and neurotransmitters affect human behavior. Students in this course examine subjects such as the structure and functions of the central and peripheral nervous systems; the effect of neurobiology, endocrinology, and physiology on human behavior; and functions of the brain.
Degree-seekers delve into differential diagnosis, etiology, prognosis, and treatments for mental illness. Students also explore how culture, human diversity, legal, and ethical factors relate to treating illnesses. Learners review the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Required Licenses and Internships to Become a Clinical Psychologist
Clinical psychologists must receive state licensure to practice professionally. Requirements vary, but most states require each clinical psychologist to hold a doctorate in psychology, complete an internship, and perform 1-2 years of supervised clinical work. Depending on the state, students will need to accrue 1,500-6,000 total hours of supervised experience.
Candidates also must pass the examination for professional practice in psychology, a licensing exam administered by ASPPB. Test-takers must correctly answer about 70% of the questions to pass. Candidates pay a $450 exam fee and a $65 fee to the testing center. Some states also charge extra administrative fees. The total cost after submitting the application, fees, and taking the exam can reach $500-$1,000. Psychology students should refer to the ASPPB to learn the specific requirements for their state.
Careers for Clinical Psychology Degree-Holders
After graduating from a doctoral program and earning licensure in their state, clinical psychologists may work in hospitals, private health care practices, mental health facilities, schools, and more. They can practice as general clinical psychologists or pursue specialties in the field.
The APA recognizes the specialties of clinical neuropsychology, health psychology, child psychology, and professional geropsychology. Common traits of successful psychologists include analytical, interpersonal, observational, and problem-solving skills. They must also possess integrity and patience, as patients need to trust them to treat sensitive problems.
These psychologists evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients with psychological issues. They commonly see patients with depression, anxiety, and behavioral issues. Clinical psychologists provide therapy to individuals and groups. Aspiring psychologists should earn doctoral degrees in clinical or counseling psychology from APA-accredited organizations.
Child psychologists diagnose and treat children who are under 17 and have mental, social, behavioral, or emotional problems. They commonly help children and teens with problems associated with their age group, including phobias, eating disorders, or aggression. Common work settings include schools, large clinics, and private practices. A child psychologist needs a doctorate in psychiatry, psychology, developmental psychology, or a related field. Most professionals also hold undergraduate degrees in psychology, developmental psychology, or similar subjects.
Clinical therapists may specialize in many areas, including mental health, marriage and family therapy, or drug addiction therapy. These therapists commonly maintain their own practices but may also work in hospitals, government agencies, or corporations that provide mental and emotional services to their employees. Clinical therapists hold master’s degrees in psychology, social work, counseling, or a related field. They also must obtain a relevant state license. Therapists who have meaningful research experience are competitive on the job market.
These directors oversee and develop an organization’s clinical departments. Responsibilities include planning, developing, coordinating, and supervising the delivery of patient care services. They also work closely with the finance staff and develop and monitor budgets for service programs. Clinical directors typically need experience in management, staff supervision, and client billing. They should also be knowledgeable about generating revenue streams for clinical services.
Clinical supervisors maintain a clinic’s operational activities. Duties include scheduling, coordinating, and directing the activities of clinic employees to ensure a high degree of patient care. Supervisors often maintain clinic records, fill out clinic forms, and promptly file reports. These managers commonly hold registered nurse licensure, and those with a clinical education typically earn higher salaries.
What Does a Clinical Psychologist Make in a Year?
Clinical psychologists earned a median annual wage of $76,990 in 2018. The offices of other health practitioners offer clinical psychologists the highest concentration of employment and highest salary opportunities for the occupation. California features the highest employment levels and pay for clinical psychologists. Rhode Island boasts the highest concentration of jobs for these professionals.
Salary data differs depending on location, experience level, and educational background. Holding an advanced degree and more years of experience in the field typically leads psychologists to higher earning potential. Across the field, salaries range from $44,040 in the bottom 10% to $129,310 in the top 90% of the occupation.
In the table below, readers can compare the clinical psychologist salary figures to comparable career opportunities to better understand their options in terms of high-paying occupations in the field.
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