Best Clinical Psychology Programs

Updated August 17, 2022

Discover the best clinical psychology programs in the U.S. and how to choose a psychology program that fits your needs.

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If you're on the path to becoming a clinical psychologist, you've probably spent a great deal of time researching which doctoral program is right for you. Deciding on where to apply can be difficult.

Read on to learn about what to look for in a doctoral program, the best clinical psychology programs in the U.S., and what to expect from doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) programs.

What to Look For in a Clinical Psychology Program

When narrowing down program options, consider the following factors.

  1. 1

    Cost

    Tuition for Psy.D. programs can vary between $20,000 and $45,000 per year. When calculating the total cost of a doctoral program, consider the length of time it takes to complete. Most Psy.D. programs take five years to finish. But some are as short as four years or as long as seven years.

  2. 2

    Staff-to-Student Ratio

    Programs with smaller class sizes give students the opportunity to make more meaningful connections with their peers and professors. This becomes important when looking for jobs. If a program doesn't list its student-to-staff ratio on their website, ask an admissions officer.

  3. 3

    Admission Requirements

    To apply for most Psy.D. programs, you need to provide your GRE scores, a GPA of at least 3.0, an essay or personal statement, and recommendation letters. In-person interviews are typically required. Programs often require a $200-$300 deposit.

  4. 4

    Accreditation

    If you plan to pursue psychology licensure, you must hold a doctorate in psychology from an American Psychological Association accredited psychology program in most states.

  5. 5

    Financial Aid Options

    Most graduate students receive some kind of financial aid for psychology students. Federal loans and federal work study funds are available by applying with FAFSA. Schools typically offer a number of different scholarships.

Practical Experience Requirements

In a Psy.D. program, students must complete a psychology internship. This gives them a chance to get hands-on experience working with patients in their field of interest.

It also helps fulfill a certain number of supervised clinical hours required for psychology licensure. Internships typically last one year, but they can sometimes be as short as six months or as long as 24 months.

After graduation, most students apply for a psychology postdoctoral fellowship, which some states require to apply for clinical psychology licensure. Postdocs are paid experiences that typically last 1-2 years. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards' interactive map shows the requirements in each state.

Career Relevance

Many programs allow students to specialize in a certain area within clinical psychology. Examples include primary care psychology, child and adolescent psychology, clinical forensic psychology, and clinical neuropsychology.

If you're not sure which psychology speciality is right for you, choosing a program that offers a few different concentrations can give you more options and time to decide. Some Psy.D. programs offer many concentrations, while others only offer only two or three.

Featured Online Psychology Programs

Best Clinical Psychology Programs

#1 Best Clinical Psychology Programs

Harvard University

  • Cambridge, MA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Renowned for academic and research excellence, Harvard offers a Ph.D. in clinical psychology that uses a clinical science training model. The program prepares students for clinical psychologist licensure in Massachusetts. Learners can complete this degree in five years. The program emphasizes research on severe psychopathology. 

The curriculum covers topics like psychotherapy research, psychological testing, and diagnostic interviewing. Enrollees complete six semesters of clinical training and a one-year clinical internship. Students design a research project that culminates in a dissertation.

Enrollees receive financial aid that includes tuition, health fees, and stipend support. The psychology department also guarantees teaching fellowship support in years three and four. Applicants typically need a bachelor's degree and strong academic record.

Average Tuition
In-state
$47,730
Out-of-state
$47,730
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
5%
Students Enrolled
31,655
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#2 Best Clinical Psychology Programs

Northwestern University

  • Evanston, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Northwestern's MA in clinical psychology prepares students for academic roles.

The 15-month program does not lead to licensure for clinical practice. Learners complete at least 17 units exploring major areas of psychology. The curriculum includes child psychopathology, health psychology, and forensic psychology. 

Enrollees complete weekly career development proseminars. These events teach about faculty mentors, labs, and career options. Students complete about 10 hours of research lab experience each week. The program culminates in a capstone project. The MA is embedded in the Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Master's and Ph.D. students complete coursework and labs together. 

Most students use the MA to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology. Master's degree-seekers receive a graduate scholarship that reduces tuition by 45%. In exchange, they complete research lab work. Applicants need a bachelor's degree. The department prefers at least a 3.2 GPA.

Average Tuition
In-state
$56,232
Out-of-state
$56,232
Retention Rate
98%
Admission Rate
9%
Students Enrolled
22,448
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
2% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 Best Clinical Psychology Programs

University of Central Florida

  • Orlando, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students complete UCF's MA in clinical psychology at the Sanford/Lake Mary campus. Degree-seekers choose a research/thesis or an applied pre-licensure/non-thesis track. The pre-licensure track trains enrollees to provide clinical services in a variety of settings. Learners complete two years of supervised clinical experience to qualify for a Florida licensed mental health counselor license.

Degree-seekers who want to pursue careers in clinical research enroll in the research/thesis track. This option does not lead to licensure. Students complete less coursework than their pre-licensure track peers. This lets them devote more time to research activities. Pre-licensure students receive clinical training through a practicum and internship. Research/thesis students can complete an optional internship.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,478
Out-of-state
$19,810
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
44%
Students Enrolled
69,402
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Best Clinical Psychology Programs

New York University

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

NYU's MA in psychology offers a clinical psychology focus. The 36-point program prepares students for work in research labs or human services. The MA does not lead to licensure. Most graduates continue on to Ph.D. or Psy.D. programs.

Core classes cover topics like child development, cognitive neuroscience, and theories of personality. Enrollees supplement the rest of the curriculum with elective classes. Options include health psychology, neuropsychology, and modern psychological treatments. With approval, students can pursue electives in other NYU departments and schools.

Enrollees culminate one of the nation's best clinical psychology programs with a comprehensive exam or master's thesis. Students can enroll part time or full time. They can take up to five years to complete the degree. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and school transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$50,684
Out-of-state
$50,684
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
52,885
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#5 Best Clinical Psychology Programs

University of Houston-Clear Lake

  • Houston, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

UHCL serves about 9,000 students and offers degrees across four colleges. The MA in clinical psychology teaches students psychological assessment and evidence-based intervention strategies. Graduates qualify for professional counselor and psychological associate licensure.

Core classes cover topics like psychopathology and the biological bases of behavior. Students receive training in behavioral, cognitive, and personality assessment. Enrollees  explore psychotherapy theory and research. They learn how to practice individual and group therapy.

One of the nation's best clinical psychology programs, the program lets students pursue training in specialized areas. Options include methods of treatment for anxiety and stress management and couples and sex therapy. During a two-semester practicum, students deliver therapy services to clients under supervision.

Degree-seekers complete a 500-hour internship in a mental health setting in the Houston area. Admission requires a bachelor's degree, prerequisite courses, and GRE scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,740
Out-of-state
$19,176
Retention Rate
80%
Admission Rate
74%
Students Enrolled
9,082
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
42% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#6 Best Clinical Psychology Programs

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

  • Edinburg, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

UTRGV's MA in clinical psychology prepares clinicians. Graduates can pursue licensure as professional counselors or psychology associates in Texas. The school notes the need for highly qualified counselors and psychologists in the Rio Grande Valley region. 

Students choose a 48-credit thesis or nonthesis option. The thesis track provides the foundation for learners to move into a doctoral program. All enrollees complete most of the same courses. They explore issues like neuropsychology, cross-cultural psychology, and advanced psychological measurement. Degree-seekers learn personality assessment techniques and other clinical applications. They apply their learning during practicums and internships.

Non-thesis students complete career development and developmental psychology coursework to prepare for licensure. They culminate the program with a comprehensive exam. UTRGV offers financial aid like scholarships, grants, and paid assistantships. Admission requires a bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and GRE scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,664
Out-of-state
$16,792
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
80%
Students Enrolled
29,113
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#7 Best Clinical Psychology Programs

Teachers College at Columbia University

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

New York-based Teachers College offers a 36-credit MA in psychology in education. The program provides a tailored educational experience with curriculum customization and enrollment flexibility. The program suits students planning to enter doctoral programs and does not lead to licensure. 

Degree-seekers receive foundational training in psychopathology, treatment interventions, and research methods. World-renowned clinicians and researchers teach classes. The program features 10 optional specializations. Choices include forensic psychology, psychotherapy, and clinical psychology and technology. 

A unique spirituality and mind/body practices specialization examines how spirituality and contemplative practices can contribute to well-being. Students can choose more than one concentration.

Enrollees complete a culminating project that contributes to the field. Full-time and part-time enrollment options provide flexibility. Admission requires a bachelor's degree, school transcripts, and recommendation letters.

Average Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
4,489
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#8 Best Clinical Psychology Programs

The University of Texas at Tyler

  • Tyler, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

UT Tyler's MS in clinical psychology prepares enrollees for licensure in Texas. Students learn how to administer psychological tests and counseling. They also explore psychotherapy techniques in mental health settings. The 60-credit curriculum offers a general program of study and a neuropsychology specialization. 

All enrollees complete core classes covering concepts like advanced psychopathology, counseling theories, and advanced psychological statistics and design. Students completing the general program choose electives from graduate psychology and counseling courses. The neuropsychology specialization provides training in behavioral neuroscience, flexible neuropsychological battery, and neuropsychological assessment of memory.

Students in both tracks practice clinical skills with community clients. They complete 300 hours of supervised practicums in psychology. The program meets the requirements for licensed psychological associate credentialing in Texas. The Department of Psychology and Counseling offers limited graduate assistantships. Admission requires a bachelor's degree, prerequisite psychology coursework, and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,540
Out-of-state
$20,760
Retention Rate
71%
Admission Rate
83%
Students Enrolled
9,617
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
62% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#9 Best Clinical Psychology Programs

Antioch University-Los Angeles

  • Culver City, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Founded in 1852, AU is a private school with several campuses. AU-Los Angeles offers an MA in clinical psychology. The 90-unit program prepares students for licensure as marriage and family therapists (MFTs) in California. The curriculum explores concepts like psychopathology, psychological testing, and dependency and addiction. Students learn how to treat children and adolescents.

The program offers eight specializations, including addiction and recovery and psychological trauma studies. A notable body-mind-spirit wellness specialization integrates evidence-based practices from the East and West. Students who want to work as licensed professional clinical counselors (LPCCs) can choose a specialization for this purpose.

Enrollees learn MFT and LPCC psychotherapeutic techniques. They apply these techniques under supervision at affiliated mental health services agencies. The program offers study-abroad opportunities to enrich students' multicultural competence while they earn credit. Learners complete most of the program as part of a cohort. Admission requires a bachelor's degree, school transcripts, and recommendation letters.

Average Tuition
In-state
$20,370
Out-of-state
$20,370
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
792
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#10 Best Clinical Psychology Programs

California Lutheran University

  • Thousand Oaks, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Thousand Oaks-based CLU offers an on-campus MS in clinical psychology. The program prepares students for roles in research or program evaluation. It does not lead to licensure. 

Degree-seekers complete 37-40 credits with thesis and nonthesis options. Required classes cover topics like clinical and research ethics, psychometrics, and behavioral clinical methods. Enrollees receive advanced clinical training in one of several two-course concentrations. Options include a dialectical behavior therapy/methods in suicide assessment and risk management sequence.

Alternatively, students can pursue advanced quantitative training in meta-analysis and structural equation modeling. Learners complete a research practicum leading to a thesis or a culminating exam. 

Degree-seekers study in small classes with about 12-15 students. The program offers two-year full-time and three-year part-time degree plans. Evening classes let students continue to work. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and school transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$43,900
Out-of-state
$43,900
Retention Rate
84%
Admission Rate
71%
Students Enrolled
4,303
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
9% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Frequently Asked Questions


What's the difference between a Ph.D. in psychology and a Psy.D.?

While there is significant overlap between these two programs, a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in psychology program focuses more on research, while a Psy.D. program focuses more on clinical aspects.

Can I become a clinical psychologist with a Ph.D. in psychology?

Yes. However, if you didn't fulfill clinical experience requirements to practice as a psychologist, you must accrue a certain number of hours determined by your state to qualify for licensure.

How is a clinical psychologist different from other types of psychologists?

Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. The word "clinical" implies that they work directly with patients in a health clinic or hospital, as opposed to exclusively teaching or conducting research.

How long does it take to become a clinical psychologist?

To become a clinical psychologist, candidates must complete a bachelor's degree, sometimes a master's degree, and a doctorate degree. Depending on whether or not a student completes a master's degree, the total time in higher education adds up to about 8-12 years.

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