Clinical Psychology Degree

Clinical Psychology 

Clinical psychologists are trained, by earning their clinical psychology degree in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses and disorders. 

Psychology can be defined in one of two ways. First and foremost, it is the mental characteristics or attitude which defines a person or group of people. It also can be defined as the scientific study of the human mind and its function, particularly those which affect human behavior in certain situations. People who study psychology are called psychologists. 

It is the goal of psychologists to both understand and treat the human psyche, which includes treatment for mental health, enhancing the performance of the human brain, self-help therapy and other mental health issues that affect one’s daily health and living. 

What is a Clinical Psychologist?

Clinical psychology is one of the largest subfields or specialties of psychology. Clinical psychologists can work in hospitals, treatment centers and even academic settings such as schools; however, they are not medical doctors and as such, are unable to prescribe medications. 

Clinical psychology has several subsets: adolescent mental health, adult mental health, special needs/learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, alcohol/drug abuse, geriatrics and general health. Clinical psychologists focus on counseling and therapy options for treating mental health disorders, whereas other subsets of psychology and even psychiatry may focus more on medication in conjunction with therapy. 

Education Requirements

In order to become a clinical psychologist, prospective students should be prepared to not only earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in clinical psychology from an accredited college or university; they also should be prepared to continue on to graduate school, which can take an additional four to six years. 

Many clinical psychologists possess a doctorate degree in their field, and have completed a residency program in a clinical setting. 

There are many different types of clinical psychology degrees available, including many accredited online clinical psychology degrees. According to a U.S. News and World Report special feature on the best graduate schools in the country, the University of California in Los Angeles ranks number one for clinical psychology graduate degrees. The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; the University of Washington; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and Yale University round out the top five on the list. Results were based solely on peer assessment surveys sent to deans, administrators and faculty members of accredited colleges and universities which offer graduate programs in clinical psychology. Earning a masters degree in clinical psychology is a popular option.

Those seeking a graduate degree in clinical psychology have two options:

  • Doctoral Degree (Ph.D.) in Clinical Psychology: Students who wish to pursue this level of psychology degree can plan on taking five to seven years of graduate-level study. They also must complete an internship with a licensed psychologist as a requirement of graduation. Those seeking a Ph.D. generally focus on research-oriented jobs within the field, which can include theoretical and applied training. Those seeking a Ph.D. will be asked to select a specialty within their field, which can include private practice, clinical psychology or counseling services. Some people who earn a Ph.D. choose to continue working in the field of research. 
  • Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D): This degree was created as an alternative to a traditional Ph.D. and tends to focus on the professional practice of psychology. Those who wish to become a licensed psychologist, who is qualified to diagnose and treat mental disorders, should seek to earn this degree. Psy.D. degrees take an additional four to seven years of graduate study to complete. Students who attempt to earn this degree will be required to intern with a licensed psychologist as part of their degree requirements.

As important as determining the type of graduate degree to be earned is ensuring that the program chosen is accredited by the American Psychological Association. Clinical psychologists are required to complete a residency following graduate studies, where they will be observed and further trained by a licensed professional in the field. They also must pass a licensing test before they are permitted to practice on their own. Licensing requirements vary by state. 

Future Outlook

As with other health careers, qualified clinical psychologists are expected to be in high demand over the next decade. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for trained professionals in this field is expected to increase by 24 percent by 2020. As of March 2012 – when the most recent salary figures were available – clinical psychologists were averaging $67,880 annually. The biggest demand for clinical psychologists is in Pennsylvania, New York, California, Illinois and Texas. 


Article by Shari Berg, PsychologyCollegeFinder.org

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