Online Clinical Psychology Degree Programs

Updated December 20, 2022

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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 also:

  • Interview patients
  • Administer diagnostic tests
  • Provide therapy to families and individuals

Although clinical psychologists may treat patients, they are not physicians and cannot prescribe medication in most states.

Clinical psychologists work 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, and patients with physical health problems.

In addition to direct care, clinical psychologists may also provide consultation services to other health professionals and organizations. These professionals work with vulnerable populations, so clinical psychologists must possess compassion, patience, understanding, and strong communication skills.

Learn more about online degree programs for clinical psychology.

What Is the Difference Between Clinical and Counseling Psychology?

Clinical and counseling psychology have different focuses within the field. Counseling psychologists assist clients with emotional difficulties that affect their daily lives, whereas clinical psychologists study, identify, and manage psychological disorders.

Counseling psychologists work with individuals to address communication, decision-making, and behavioral issues within settings such as healthcare offices, schools, private practices, or major companies. Required coursework consists of social psychology, abnormal psychology, and statistics. Specialty areas include couples, workplace stress, college life, and family issues.

Clinical psychologists analyze and treat mental disorders via counseling and various therapies. Their required coursework leans toward psychopathology (the study of mental conditions). Clinical psychologists practice within hospital and healthcare settings, schools, or research facilities.

Online Psychology Degree 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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Clinical Psychology

What degree is needed for clinical psychology?

To become a clinical psychologist, you must earn at least a doctorate degree. Master's degree-holders can become counselors or therapists. But, if you earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, you can pursue more specialized and advanced career opportunities.

How many years does it take to become a clinical psychologist?

Becoming a clinical psychologist involves earning a bachelor's degree, progressing to a master's degree, and then a doctorate. Sometimes, students may enter a doctorate program directly after undergraduate studies. This process may take anywhere from 8-12 years, depending on your degree path, your states' licensure regulations, and the amount of required supervised hours.

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 careers. 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?

In many U.S. states, a clinical psychologist does not have the necessary credentials to prescribe medication. However, New Mexico, Louisiana, Iowa, Illinois, and Idaho permit psychologists to prescribe medicine, given that they fulfill specific education and testing requirements in psychopharmacology and complete a supervised experience.

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. 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?

Becoming a clinical psychologist involves several steps. First, students must earn a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and finally a doctorate from either an APA-accredited program or a regionally accredited college. This educational path can take anywhere from 8-12 years.

Prospective clinical psychologists must complete a specific amount of supervised hours in a clinical setting. The number of required hours varies by state and helps ensure that students will be prepared for licensure. This process takes between one and two years to complete.

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.

Example Courses

  • Physiological Psychology

    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.
  • Cognitive 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.
  • Abnormal Psychology

    This course explores behavioral disorders and how society defines, explains, and treats these behaviors. Clinical psychologists often treat patients with severe mental illnesses.
  • Health Psychology

    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 doctorate.

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.

Example Courses

  • 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.
  • Personality Assessment

    Students learn about psychological evaluations and assessments specific to their application. This course also provides instruction on conducting and scoring psychological tests, evaluating behavioral elements, and discerning societal factors that might influence testing outcomes.
  • Group Process and Dynamics

    This course covers group counseling methods and perspectives, including how to lead groups. Students explore the phases and elements of the group model, plus theories and practices within group counseling.
  • Multicultural Counseling

    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 necessary to apply for licensure in most states. Students can earn either a Ph.D. in clinical psychology or a Psy.D. in clinical psychology.

A Ph.D. typically focuses on research and requires students to write dissertations based on original research. In contrast, a Psy.D. emphasizes practical work for students who want to pursue clinical practice.

All accredited psychology doctoral 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 you graduate and complete the licensure requirements set by your state, you can practice as a general clinical psychologist or pursue a specialty, such as:

  • Clinical neuropsychology
  • Health psychology
  • Child psychology
  • Geropsychology

Example Courses

  • 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, 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.
  • Psychopharmacology

    Students in this class review the neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and biological actions of medical drugs. They learn the indications for prescribing medication, potential side effects, and considerations when referring patients for medication evaluation.
  • Biopsychology

    In a biopsychology class, students learn about the connection between the human body's physical and mental functions. The curriculum also covers the biological factors that can affect psychological operations, including genetics, neurological issues, and brain activity.
  • Advanced Psychopathology

    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 you to:

  • Hold a doctorate in psychology
  • Complete an internship
  • Perform 1-2 years of supervised clinical work
  • Pass the examination for professional practice in psychology, a licensing exam administered by ASPPB

Depending on the state, students will need to accrue 1,500-6,000 total hours of supervised experience.

You must correctly answer about 70% of the questions to pass the licensing exam. Candidates pay a $600 exam fee and a $87.50 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 $600-$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 healthcare practices, mental health facilities, and schools. 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 because patients need to trust them to treat sensitive problems.

Clinical Psychologist

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.

Clinical Child Psychologist

Clinical child psychologists focus on childrens' emotional wellbeing and mental fitness. Within the developmental stages, these psychologists work with children and their parents to identify and treat psychological conditions, and administer therapy.

Professionals can work in schools, healthcare organizations, and private practices. Degree requirements for clinical child psychologists include a doctorate.

Clinical Therapist

Clinical therapists assess and treat clients with mental disorders through evaluations, therapy, and case management. They typicaaly see patients with severe and persistent mental illnesses, and individuals with personality or behavioral issues.

Clinical therapists can practice multiple forms of therapy, including group, couples, and families. Work settings can include social work, counseling within a private practice, and healthcare offices. A master's degree with licensure is the base education level required for clinical therapy.

Clinical Director

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 Supervisor

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 $81,040, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Health practitioner offices employ the most clinical psychologists and offer the highest salary opportunities.

California features the highest employment levels for clinical psychologists. New Jersey offers the highest pay for clinical psychologists. Massachusetts 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 $47,010 in the bottom 10% to $167,460 in the top 90% of the occupation, reports the BLS.

Compare the following clinical psychologist salary figures and career opportunities to better understand possible options in the field.

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