What Makes People Tick? Get a Clinical Psychology Degree

Extensive training is required to be a clinical psychologist. In fact, you must have at least a master's degree. To even get into a graduate program, you usually have to achieve a 3.25 undergraduate grade point average. Despite the rigorous educational requirements, most clinical psychologists obtain doctorate degrees.

Clinical psychologists have a career in variety of settings including universities, private practices and health care organizations.

Their scope of duties is wide ranging and can include:

  • Assessing, treating and preventing mental issues
  • Relieving temporary situations (grief after a death for example)
  • Assisting people through their life stages
  • Working with families and individuals
  • Providing group or individual therapy

The extensive coursework prepares the aspiring psychologist to diagnose and treat patients. If you're interested in the field on Clinical Psychology, free information on universities and colleges that offer this area of study is available online for both distance learning and on campus options.

Clinical Psychology Degree Information

Degrees in psychology require many courses in all areas of psychology and behavior, including biological, cultural-social and cognitive-affective. Courses will include personality, psychopathology, child development, psychological theories, personality assessment, ethical and legal issues, statistics, research design, diagnostics and psychotherapeutic interventions. Employment for psychology students with a bachelor’s degree is somewhat limited, and most students go on to graduate work in psychology, earning at least a master’s degree. To become a licensed clinical psychologist, you must attain a degree from an approved, accredited program, perform supervised clinical practice and pass a licensing exam.

Online Psychology Curriculum

Many universities offer online psychology programs, providing students with the equivalent foundation in psychology that traditional on-campus students receive. Besides psychology courses, most programs offer statistics, experimental methods and research design courses as most graduate programs in psychology require these classes. Abnormal psychology, developmental psychology and personality are offered as is training in psychological testing and assessment.

Bachelor’s

A bachelor’s degree in psychology can lead to a variety of entry-level positions in directly or indirectly related fields such as social work, case management or market research. Or it can prepare a student for further graduate study for a master’s or doctorate. While the federal government does hire people with a bachelor’s in psychology if they have completed 24 semester hours and at least one statistic’s course, the competition for these positions is fierce. Many people with a bachelor’s find jobs in career counseling, substance abuse rehabilitation or psychiatric technician or in unrelated fields.

Master’s

Earning a master’s degree in psychology opens up further job prospects for someone wishing to work in this field. A master’s degree requires a further two to three years of graduate level work. Training at this level usually focuses on treatment and theory rather than research, often emphasizing school, family or couples counseling. Master’s level work requires students to perform in clinical practice under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist. While many students will go on to get their doctorate, many also go directly into practice as a marriage and family therapist, licensed professional counselor or licensed psychological associate.

Doctorate

Obtaining a doctorate degree in psychology requires four to six years further study. Academic programs offering the psychology doctorate are either Ph.D. or Psy.D. (doctor of psychology). A Ph.D. program focuses more on research, while Psy.D. programs emphasize psychological treatment and are more practice based. There is stiff competition for entry into clinical psychology doctorate programs, and acceptance rates are low—only two to five percent of applicants will be accepted into the program. To become a licensed clinical psychologist may take another year or two to fulfill the required 3,000 hours of supervised clinical training.

Coursework

A psychology student at any degree level can expect to take many psychology courses, as well as some biology, mathematics, legal and ethical issues courses. Abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology, history of psychology, sensation and perception, physiological psychology and psychological testing and assessment will either be required courses or offered as electives. Classes in psychological research and experimental psychology, forensic psychology and neuropsychology can be important if one is planning on specializing in these fields.

Career Opportunities

Employment for clinical psychologists will grow by 22 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is a faster rate of growth than for all other occupations. An estimated 37,700 jobs will be added in this career category during the coming decade. Job prospects are brightest for clinical psychologists with a doctorate in an applied specialty or a degree in school psychology. Clinical psychologists can work in a many varied settings, raning from private practice to hospitals, schools, businesses and mental health agencies. Or clinical psychologists may also work in research or teaching, usually in a university. Many work as part of a medical team, providing care for patients. Clinical psychologists provide psychotherapy for families, couples, children, the elderly and those with mental illnesses or issues.

Earning Potential

Earning potential for a clinical psychologist is quite good. The BLS reports the median pay as $68,640 per year. Clinical psychologists who assess, diagnose and treat patients with psychological disorders can make anywhere in the range of $53,380 in a residential health facility to $83,650 in private practice.

Clinical Psychologist FAQ

What type of jobs can I expect with a clinical psychology degree?

Clinical psychologists generally work either in a research capacity associated with a university or business organization or in providing psychological treatment to patients. Clinical psychologists also can administer psychological testing and provide assessment and measurement, teach, develop prevention programs, consult with schools and businesses and oversee and administer psychological programs. Most clinical psychologists provide therapeutic treatment for people suffering psychological problems.

How long does it take to earn a degree in clinical psychology?

Earning a doctorate degree in clinical psychology takes four years of undergraduate work, then another four to six years for the doctorate degree. A master’s degree takes two to three years of graduate work after the bachelor’s degree. Getting accepted into a graduate program is highly competitive, but for those who succeed, the rewards are great in a growing field of employment.

What are the highest paying jobs for clinical psychologists?

Clinical psychologists providing psychotherapeutic care for patients in hospitals, mental health organizations and private practice who have 10 to 14 years of work experience can earn up to $100,000. Experience and length of employment have a great deal of impact on salary levels. Neuropsychologists who specialize in studying the brain and cognitive science can earn around $90,000 a year. Counseling psychologists work with patients suffering non-severe mental disorders and earn about $72,000 a year. Clinical psychologists who specialize in certain disorders or age groups can earn a higher salary as well. Employment in big cities, especially those on either coast, can mean higher salaries as well.

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