How to become a clinical psychologist

How to become a clinical psychologist

All About Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology is one of the largest specialty areas within psychology. Having a passion for discovery, learning and listening are part of what it takes to be successful as a psychologist who delivers clinical or counseling services.

Psychologists trained to provide clinical services work in research, education, training and health sectors. Others specialize in areas such as counseling and school psychology. Working with numerous populations, they focus on individual differences, normal and abnormal behavior, mental and emotional health, healthy behaviors and mental disorders and their prevention.

Health service psychologists are an example of psychologists working in clinical practice. They apply psychological science in their work in ways that range from helping patients overcome depression or anxiety to better understanding how to manage stress. Others specialize in physical health concerns and help patients manage diabetes or other chronic illnesses. Still others specialize in working with the elderly and the challenges of aging, or working with children or college students. The possibilities for a career as a health service psychologist are vast and varied.

If you are interested in understanding human behavior and enjoy working with people, a career as a clinical or counseling psychologist may be for you.

What You Can Do

Psychologists who provide clinical or counseling services are trained in a range of techniques and theoretical approaches, making hospitals, schools, counseling centers, group or private health care practices and hospital systems all good places to launch a career. Some psychologists working in clinical practice choose to specialize in treating those with chronic illnesses such as obesity or diabetes; others specialize in treating people with specific psychological disorders, such as anxiety, schizophrenia or depression. Others work with school children who have learning disabilities or in college counseling centers to promote wellness and academic success.

If you are passionate about working with special populations like children, the economically disadvantaged or seniors, you might consider looking at community-based organizations that work with these groups.

Making It Happen

The path to becoming a psychologist usually begins with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, where students learn the fundamentals. You must then obtain a graduate degree. While some graduate programs accept applicants with an undergraduate degree in other disciplines, most encourage students to get a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Each graduate program determines its own entrance requirements. Some doctoral programs require applicants to have a master’s degree in psychology. Some students enroll in programs that culminate in a master’s degree, planning then to enroll in a doctoral program either immediately upon completion or after a few years of work. Others enter doctoral programs with only a bachelor’s degree and work directly on a doctorate. Anyone working in psychology with a master’s degree is usually supervised by someone with a doctoral degree. In most states, the independent practice of psychology requires a doctoral degree and a state license.

Most doctoral degrees take five to seven years to complete. Some institutions require their students to complete their doctoral studies within 10 years of admission to the institution. In addition, you must pass a comprehensive exam and write and defend a dissertation.

If you want to practice as a psychologist in clinical, counseling or school psychology, you will also have to complete a one-year internship as part of your doctoral study in your area of practice. Some universities and professional schools offer a PsyD degree in lieu of the traditional research PhD or EdD degree. PsyD degrees, with their emphasis on clinical psychology, are designed for students who want to do clinical work.

What You Can Earn

In May 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual salary of clinical psychologists was $67,800. The salaries of clinical psychologists vary depending on work setting, experience and work location.

Helpful Resources

APA Division 12: Society of Clinical Psychology
Division 12: Society of Clinical Psychology includes APA members who are active in practice, research, teaching, administration and/or study in the field of clinical psychology.

Finding the Right Job
Searching for a new job — or your first job —can be challenging. APA has resources to help you navigate your search for the clinical psychology job that’s right for you.

Clinical psychologists are licensed professionals who are qualified to provide direct services to patients. Their work may include administering and interpreting cognitive and personality tests, diagnosing mental illness, creating treatment plans, and conducting psychotherapy. Psychologists are experts in psychometrics, or psychological measurement. Often they are called on to give a battery of tests to evaluate cognitive ability or mental status. In addition to formal tests, clinical psychologists may use interviews and behavioral observations. Key to effective practice is understanding how conditions manifest themselves across diverse populations.

Grand Canyon University (GCU) – offers a variety of Master’s in Psychology programs modeled after the standards and recommendations set by the American Psychological Association with emphases in: Forensic Psychology, General Psychology, GeroPsychology, Health Psychology, Human Factors Psychology, Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Life Coaching. Three Bachelor’s in Psychology programs are also offered. Click here to learn about GCU and their programs.

Pepperdine University – Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy online – Prepare to pursue licensure as an LMFT or LPC in as few as 24 months. No GRE required. Click Here to request information today.

New York University – Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance online – No GRE required. MPCAC-accredited. Complete in as few as 18 months. Bilingual concentration available. Scholarships available.Click Here to request information today.

University of Southern California – Online MSW – With options for both online and in-person field placement, USC’s CSWE-accredited MSW program allows those with a BSW to earn their degree in as few as 12 months. Click Here to request information today.

Clinical psychologists may be employed in a number of settings, including hospitals, outpatient centers, government agencies, and private practice offices. Clinical psychology is the most common psychological specialty. Clinical psychologists have traditionally served a more severely impaired population than counseling psychologists, but the line between the two is blurry. Sometimes clinical psychology” is used to refer to both disciplines.

Many clinical psychologists focus on subsets of the population or on particular disorders, for example, schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Clinical psychologists are well versed in research methodologies. Their careers may include evaluating programs, publishing research findings, and supervising mental health professionals across disciplines. Although psychologists often consult with psychiatrists about medical issues, they have prescription privileges in only two states; both require education beyond the norm.

Clinical Psychologist Education and Training

Clinical psychologists hold doctoral degrees. Many states expect clinical psychology programs to be accredited by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Programs may also be accepted if they meet designation criteria of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards and the National Register.

Grand Canyon University (GCU) offers a variety of Master’s in Psychology programs modeled after the standards and recommendations set by the American Psychological Association with emphases in: Forensic Psychology, General Psychology, GeroPsychology, Health Psychology, Human Factors Psychology, Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Life Coaching. Three Bachelor’s in Psychology programs are also offered. Click here to learn about GCU and their programs.

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers online Bachelor’s and Master’s in Psychology programs with several emphases to select from as well as a CACREP accredited online Master’s in Counseling. Click here to learn about SNHU and their programs.

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers several online bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in psychology including both clinical and non-clinical specializations. Capella University also offers three online CACREP-accredited programs: MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, MS in School Counseling, and PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision, as well as a COAMFTE-accredited program, MS in Marriage and Family Therapy. Click here to contact Capella University and request information about their programs.

Click Here to learn more about psychology education options based on your current educational attainment.

The degree awarded may be either a PhD or PsyD. A PsyD is usually shorter and may not include a traditional dissertation; the focus is on practice. Students in PsyD programs often graduate with more debt; chances are greater that a PhD student is receiving funding for carrying out research.

Typical clinical psychology coursework includes the following:

  • Psychopathology
  • Psychiatric measurement and scaling
  • DSM applications
  • Research methods in clinical psychology
  • Assessment practicum
  • Intervention practicum

Some programs focus on sub-specialties like clinical child psychology, health psychology, or neuropsychology.

A clinical psychologist typically completes the equivalent of a year of formal internship before graduating with a doctoral degree. Most states require the equivalent of a year of supervised practice at the postgraduate level. During this period, the individual will have a supervisor who oversees service delivery and guides professional development. In many states, the supervisor provides detailed evaluation to the licensing agency and makes a recommendation for licensure.

Clinical psychologists in all states are required to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). Many jurisdictions also have state-specific examinations.

In some jurisdictions, a clinical psychologist applies for both psychology licensure and health service credentialing.

Professional Resources for Clinical Psychologists

There are a number of professional organizations offering resources for clinical psychologists. Division 12 of the American Psychological Association, the Society of Clinical Psychology, supports professionals from the student years on (http://www.apa.org/divisions/div12/aboutcp).

A clinical psychologist can apply for specialty certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology (http://www.abpp.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3355). The ABPP will first review credentials, including education. The candidate will then submit work samples. An oral examination will eventually be scheduled. ABPP diplomate status can make mobility easier.

Another option is fellowship status through the APA; this is for professionals who have already distinguished themselves in the field (http://www.apa.org/membership/fellows).

Career Outlook for Clinical Psychologists

The Bureau of Labor Statistics groups clinical psychologists with counseling and school psychologists for reporting purposes. The mean salary was $72,220 in May of 2012. The BLS has predicted 22% job growth between 2010 and 2020; this would represent an increase from 154,300 to 188,000.

The field of clinical psychology concerns itself with the emotional and mental health of human beings. Clinical psychologists have extensive skills and knowledge that they use in order to help their clients improve their overall quality of life, by helping them deal with the difficulties they are facing. Being a clinical psychologist is the perfect career for people who are ethical and emphatic, as well as being problem solvers.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

There are no clinical psychology bachelor’s degree levels. However, there are a variety of different degrees you can complete that will enable you to enter this field. Naturally, psychology is the best and most popular option out there, not in the least because you will complete the prerequisite courses that will enable you to enter a more advanced degree. That said, other popular bachelor’s degree options include anthropology, sociology, and pre-med.

Degree programs for clinical psychology are incredibly competitive. This means that it is very important that you choose the right courses at undergraduate level, and that you maintain a very high GPA standard. You should also make sure you take on any research opportunities that you are given, and that you take part in extracurricular activities such as field placements and internships.

Complete a Master’s Degree

There are master’s degrees that focus specifically on clinical psychology. Completing this degree, however, does not allow you to become licensed as a clinical psychologist. If you do want to become licensed, then you also need to complete a doctorate degree. For those who are sure that clinical psychology is the avenue that they wish to travel, there are also combined master’s and doctorate degrees. However, these are usually available only to those who have completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology specifically.

A master’s in clinical psychology generally takes between two and three years to complete. To be accepted, you will have to have a high GPA at undergraduate level, as well as presenting letters of recommendation and a variety of other requirements. To complete the degree, you will have to pass a comprehensive examination.

Complete a Doctorate Degree

At the doctorate degree level, you can choose between the Ph.D., which is a research degree, and the Psy.D., which is a clinical degree. As such, you need to already have a good idea of what you want to do once you graduate. It is incredibly hard to be accepted into these programs. In fact, on average, only 3% of applicants are matriculated into the programs. This is why it is so important to set yourself apart as an extraordinary student at bachelor’s and master’s level.

The Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) in clinical psychology usually takes four to five years to complete. To graduate, you will have to complete an internship, which is generally at least one year in length. You will also have to complete a dissertation and defend it, as well as pass a range of examinations.

The Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) also takes between four and five years to complete. You will be required to complete a dissertation to graduate, as well as pass examinations and complete fieldwork.

Besides having to complete a dissertation and coursework, both the Ph.D. and Psy.D. will require you to work as an intern for around two years. This will enable you to fine tune your clinical skills while being supervised by a more experienced, licensed clinical psychologist. It is vital that your program is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Complete Clinical Training

If you want to work as a clinical psychologist, you have to become licensed. Each state sets its own licensing requirements. However, they all need you to complete clinical training in your personal jurisdiction. Your state board of psychology will have the exact requirements listed. It is also at this point that you should consider whether you want to specialize in a certain area of clinical psychology, such as gerontology or child, because you may need to complete further clinical training.

Become Licensed

Each state has set its own licensure requirements. However, most of them will require you to:

  • Have graduated from an APA-accredited Psy.D. or Ph.D. program
  • Have completed a certain number of supervised clinical work experience
  • Have passed certain examinations

Usually, the number of hours of supervised clinical experience is between 2,000 and 3,000, which equates to approximately two years. However, there are certain states in which supervised experience is not a requirement. What is a national requirement, however, is that you pass the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Board’s Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

Maintain Your License

Once you have obtained your license, you can call yourself a clinical psychologist and start practicing as such. However, you also have to maintain this license. The exact requirements are mandated by your state board of psychology, although all state boards have a requirement for continuous education credits. Exactly how many credits are required will vary so do look into this. You can find a list of approved continuous education courses through the APA.

Upon receiving a license, the most important thing a clinical psychologist must do is maintain that license. Also mandated at the state level, continuing education is a vital component of a clinical psychologist’s career. Hours required vary by state, so CPs will need to keep track of requirements in their jurisdiction once licensed. The APA provides a list of approved courses.

Salary and Career Opportunities for Clinical Psychology

As you can see, becoming a clinical psychologist requires a significant investment of time, and therefore also of money. So much so, in fact, that some people are reluctant to start on this path. Salary is only one benefit of being a clinical psychologist, but one that does demonstrate that the lengthy journey is worth it, and that you will see a significant return on investment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical psychologists can expect to earn around $70,850 per year. The bottom 10% earn $40,920 or less, and the top 10% earn $116,960 or more per year. The more experience and certification you have, the more you are likely to earn. Additionally, there are very significant differences in salary depending on where in the country you work.

Of course, you are never guaranteed to attract these types of salaries. However, according to the BLS, demand for clinical psychologists will rise by 19% from 2014 top 2024. This equates to 32,500 new positions, far exceeding the number of graduates that are produced. As such, while there are never any guarantees in life, you can be pretty sure that you will have an interesting and lucrative career.

How to become a clinical psychologist

In the present times where the urge to earn more and more money and soar higher in the competition, it becomes easy to fall prey to mental illnesses and disorders. Each one of us has some off days wherein we do not feel like ourselves and start feeling weird, owing to endless problems, stress and tension hovering around our mind. These feelings generally do not endure within us for a long time and after a while, we come back to being normal. However, there are times when these thoughts and feelings refuse to bequeath us, and what we are left with is negativity and mental disorders. This is why the demand for clinical psychology is rising exponentially. Owing to enormous career prospects and opportunities in this branch of psychology, more and more people are flocking towards pursuing various clinical psychology courses. If you are intrigued by how clinical psychology works and want to work towards the well-being of others, this blog is just for you. Wondering about how to become a clinical psychologist? Read on to know more about it.

This Blog Includes:
  1. What does Clinical Psychologist do?
  2. How to Become a Clinical Psychologist?
    1. Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s degree
    2. Step 2: Gain Work Experience
    3. Step 3: Get a Postgraduate Degree

What does Clinical Psychologist do?

Prominent since the 19th century, clinical psychology is one such specialisation which was widely recognized and respected among the public. Clinical psychologists are the ones who are responsible for examining, diagnosing and providing psychological treatment to the people or a specific group facing some kind of mental abnormalities and disorders. Through their extensive knowledge and skills acquired during their clinical training, these professionals help their clients or patients improve their mental well being which further leads to a better quality of life and confidence to deal with future problems. A licensed clinical psychologist administers and evaluates various personality and cognitive mental tests and accordingly prepares the treatment plan along with psychotherapy if needed.

How to Become a Clinical Psychologist?

Becoming a clinical psychologist is not a piece of cake as it seems to be. It takes a lot of patience, dedication, hard work and consistency to become one. Given below is the chronological step-wise procedure on how to fulfil your dream into becoming a successful psychologist.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s degree

Starting off from the scratch level, the first step towards becoming a clinical psychologist is to pursue a bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology. Through pursuing a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science degree, you will be introduced to all the basic fundamental concepts of psychology and that’s when you will be able to decide whether clinical psychology is the ideal field for you or not. The undergraduate degrees will be able to provide the students with the required coursework that will build a strong foundation and work as a prerequisite for further studies in your field of interest.

Having a duration of about 3 to 4 years, the following are some of the most popular and sought-after undergraduate courses in clinical psychology:

  • Premedical course (foundational) for Clinical Psychology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Sociology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology
  • Bachelor of Education (BEd)

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

After you complete your undergraduate degree, certain higher-level programs require a considerable amount of work experience in the same field you are pursuing. Upon successful graduation, you can take part in various research projects or internship programs where you can not only get just theoretical knowledge but also hands-on practical knowledge. Through these activities, you can determine what being a clinical psychologist is like and you get to know their daily activities and how do they administer their psychological treatments to the patients. Apart from internships and projects, you can also look for some clubs and active groups on psychological health and like wherein you get to network yourself and get additional knowledge, outside your books and classrooms.

Step 3: Get a Postgraduate Degree

The next and most important step towards becoming a clinical psychologist is to pursue a master’s degree wherein you will actually start your focus on this specialization. After completing your 2-3 year master’s degree, if you want to be a licensed professional, then it is a must to complete your doctorate degree. A PhD program within your domain of interest would generally take 4 to 5 years to complete.

Given below are some popular masters degree programs which you might want to consider.

  • MSc Clinical Psychology
  • Master of Science Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
  • Master in Clinical Mental Health Counselling
  • Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology (Marriage and Family Therapy)
  • Master of Science in Abnormal and Clinical Psychology
  • Master of Science Clinical Psychology and Psychological Empowerment
  • Master of Science in Clinical Health Psychology
  • Master in Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Master in Clinical Psychology

Opting for a postgraduate program is a useful step whether you want to either practice as a clinical psychologist or want to pursue a career as an academician. Upon receiving your license for practising as a clinical psychologist, you can complete further clinical training in order to get a hand of practical knowledge in various areas of employment.

We hope that we have provided you with all the information related to becoming a Clinical Psychology with this blog. If you are looking for a career in psychology and want to study abroad, then get in touch with mentors at Leverage Edu and we will help you gain insight into everything you need to know about the specialization and help you get admission into your dream university.

5 Advantages of a Career in Clinical Psychology

  • Engaging Work
  • Good Job Prospects
  • Helping People
  • Problem-Solving Opportunities
  • Varied Career Paths

There are several reasons to become a clinical psychologist ranging from the rewarding nature of the work to the job outlook and more. Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat people who have disorders that are behavioral, mental or emotional. They may specialize in different areas of clinical psychology, such as neuropsychology or child psychology, as well as specializing in certain approaches to treatment.

Engaging Work

One reason to become a clinical psychologist is that it can be a stimulating, engaging career. Clinical psychologists may work in many different settings and with a variety of different populations. For example, they might work in clinics, hospitals or schools. They may specialize in working with children, adolescents or the elderly. It is a job that calls on a variety of skills, including communication and analytical skills.

Good Job Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the next 10 years, job opportunities for psychologists are expected to grow at a faster rate than others, and of all the specialties in the field of psychology, clinical psychology is expected to grow at the fastest rate. Having a doctorate may increase a person’s competitiveness in the field. The median annual salary for clinical psychologists in 2018 was just under $77,000, so the pay is good as well.

Helping People

Psychology is a helping profession, and clinical psychology, in particular, involves working closely with individuals and helping them with their behavioral, emotional or mental difficulties. Working as a clinical psychologist can be an opportunity to make a genuine difference in people’s lives, and although this can be demanding, it can also be very rewarding.

Problem-Solving Opportunities

Another reason to become a clinical psychologist is the opportunity to problem-solve. The work of a clinical psychologist is rarely monotonous or routine. Instead, clinical psychologists will find themselves in a variety of situations in which they need to figure out the best way to approach treatment based on both a person’s diagnosis and the person’s needs. They might work with people on resolving emotional or behavioral issues or develop a treatment plan for addressing a person’s mental illness. Individuals who enjoy analyzing problems and coming up with a solution are likely to enjoy work as a clinical psychologist.

Varied Career Paths

The variety of career paths available is another good reason to become a clinical psychologist. Clinical psychologists might work in schools, mental health clinics, prisons or hospitals. They might eventually go on to teach at a university and train other clinical psychologists. Clinical psychologists can write books, consult or run their practices. They may even go to work with law enforcement with a specialty in forensic psychology.

Clinical psychology is a stimulating and fast-growing field that offers many opportunities to people who are both empathetic and analytical and who are good communicators. The variety and stimulation that the job offers and the chance to help people are among the other excellent reasons to become a clinical psychologist.

The exciting and rewarding career field of clinical psychology may only be a few years of school away. Check out this quick rundown of what it takes to become a clinical psychologist.

In general, clinical psychologists help people with both short-term and chronic issues and use their knowledge to assess and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.

If you want to train for a clinical psychology career, it can help to know just what might be expected of you once you hit the working world. These are the responsibilities you’re likely to have after becoming a clinical psychologist:

  • Interacting with clients to help them achieve effective social, vocational or personal development
  • Counseling individuals and groups with problems like stress, substance abuse or family issues
  • Determining potential emotional, behavioral or psychological issues and diagnosing disorders
  • Selecting from a variety of therapeutic methods to develop and implement treatment plans
  • Referring clients to support services and other specialists if necessary

Where do clinical psychologists work?

Once you become a clinical psychologist, you’ll have to choose the manner in which you’ll ply your trade. Many clinical psychologists become self-employed in a private practice, but they might also work in settings like these:

  • Ambulatory health care services
  • Government agencies
  • State, local and private hospitals
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals
  • Community and family services centers

Clinical Psychologist Specializations

Clinical psychologists make up the largest portion of professionals with clinical psychology degrees and focus on courses in clinical assessment, psychosocial intervention, cognitive psychology, neuropsychology and social psychology, among others.

Health psychologists study the intersections between behavior and physical health, studying subjects like stress and coping, culture and psychology, changing health behavior and research design.

  • Developmental and child psychologists take courses in the psychology of aging, cognitive neuroscience, advanced personality theory, psycholinguistics and behavioral ecology and either work privately or as school psychologists within an education system.
    • Psychoanalysts take a schedule of detailed clinical and counseling courses that includes psychoanalytic theory, oedipal development, biology of behavior, psychopathology and cultural issues in counseling.

    How to Become a Clinical Psychologist

    Clinical psychologists must typically earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree before they’re able to officially practice. A general psychology bachelor’s degree is a common starting point on the road to a clinical psychology career, but some institutions may offer clinical psychology degrees to undergraduates. Read about the top schools for psychology degree programs.

    Degree programs in the field often make online courses available for students who need extra flexibility.

    Exams and licensing for psychologists

    After your clinical psychologist degree requirements are complete, you’ll need to earn a license before you can set up shop. All 50 states and Washington, D.C., require clinical psychologists to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), a qualifying exam developed by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

    Each jurisdiction has its own set of education and experience requirements that you’ll have to satisfy before beginning your clinical psychologist career. Practitioners may also choose to pursue additional specialized certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology.

    Important Skills and Abilities

    • Active listening, or the ability to pay close and encouraging attention to clients when they speak, is an essential skill in clinical psychology
    • Complex problem solving skills can help you synthesize information gleaned from client interactions and move effectively toward solutions
    • Social perceptiveness gives you the confidence to understand and appropriately react to clients’ communicative reflexes and non-verbal cues
    • Problem sensitivity allows you to recognize when something might be wrong and begin to direct your energies toward addressing the problem
    • Deductive reasoning is the process by which general rules are applied to specific problems to help make sense of complex situations

    Clinical Psychologist Salary and Career Sutlook

    In general, to due a number of reasons ranging from increased awareness about living healthy lifestyles to improved medical technology, health care jobs in general are expected to grow faster than the national average, per the BLS. Here’s an idea of the salary and job outlook clinical psychologists might expect to look forward to in the coming years:

    Career Annual Median Wage
    Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists $78,200

    Professional Organizations

    • American Psychological Association: APA is a large and long-standing organization that counts researchers, clinicians, educators, consultants and students among its members
    • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Works to provide resources and support to enhance the practice of youth psychiatry in the U.S. and worldwide
    • Association for Behavior Analysts International: Features job placement services, scholarly journals and professional events for scholars and practitioners of behavior analysis

    For more insight into the career, here’s a useful visual aid depicting how to become a clinical psychologist.

    How to become a clinical psychologist

    Clinical Psychologists

    diagnose or evaluate mental and emotional disorders of individuals through observation, interview, and psychological tests, and formulate and administer programs of treatment.

    Table of contents

    A Clinical Psychologist assesses, diagnoses, and treats mental disorders. Sometimes they work with a particular disorder or condition, and other times they treat a wide range of patients. It is the largest subfield of Psychology.

    Psychologists need a Master’s Degree to become a Clinical Psychologist, but many earn a Doctorate. They can choose a specialty within this field for their focus during education. They often complete an internship or practicum while they are in school.

    Featured Schools

    Clinical Psychologists Requirements

    Step 1: Take Science and Psychology Courses in High School

    During high school, you should take science classes, such as chemistry, biology, anatomy, and others. You should also take psychology. If your school offers it, you can take AP Psychology and other medical and healthcare preparation courses. The key is to build a foundation in math and science so that you are ready for higher education. In addition, classes in English, writing, and speech are useful because you will be expected to write and communicate effectively.

    If you focus on your academics while you are in high school, you will be better prepared. Your high school may not offer Psychology or AP Psychology, but you can take sciences, including chemistry and biology. You will want to take math seriously, and take a statistics class. In addition, you should work on your writing skills, economics, and other social sciences. This will prepare you to study Psychology in college.

    Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

    Most people who want to become a Clinical Psychologist start off by earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. However, some earn a degree in Sociology, Anthropology, or Premed. You will also take the general education requirements. The last two years in your undergraduate program, you will focus on classes in your major.

    It is important to choose the right courses in your undergraduate program because Clinical Psychology is a competitive field. You need to maintain a high GPA, and make sure that you have teachers who will write recommendations for you. You want to prepare to apply to graduate programs while you are in your undergraduate program.

    Step 3: Complete Your Master’s Degree

    After you earn your Bachelor’s Degree, you will earn your Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. This takes between two and three years. Although some people go to work once they earn this degree, it is not enough for you to become licensed as a Clinical Psychologist. However, it will allow you to work under supervision. If you are going to continue on and earn your PhD or your Psy.D, there are programs that allow you to earn a combined degree that includes your Master’s. However, these programs are usually limited to applicants who earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology.

    Step 4: Earn Your Doctorate Degree

    If you pursue your Doctorate Degree in Clinical Psychology, you can choose between a PhD and a PsyD. The PhD is a Doctor of Philosophy, and it takes between four and five years to complete. The final year is usually spent in an internship, and you will need to complete a dissertation and defend it.

    The PsyD is a Doctor of Psychology, and it takes the same amount of time. It also requires you to complete a dissertation, and you will also take exams once you finish. Both degrees expect you to work as an intern for close to two years. During this time, a licensed Clinical Psychologist will supervise you as you develop your clinical skills. You need to make sure that your program is accredited with the APA (American Psychological Association).

    Step 5: Complete Your Clinical Training

    You have to complete clinical training to become a licensed Clinical Psychologist. The requirements will depend on the state where you want to be licensed, but all states require that you complete clinical training. If you plan to specialize in child or another specialty in Clinical Psychology, you will want to do your training in this field.

    Step 6: Get Your License

    Although your state will have its own licensing requirements, you will have to have graduated from an APA accredited PsyD or PhD program, you must have had clinical training, and you must have passed the appropriate exams. Most states require 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical training, but certain states do not have this requirement. However, everyone is required to pass the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Board’s Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

    Step 7: Maintain Your License

    As soon as you receive your license, you can begin your career and start seeing patients as a Clinical Psychologist. However, you need to maintain this license according to the requirements of your state. You will need to take continuing education credits, and you can find out how to do this through the APA. These continuing education courses are critical to maintaining your license, and you will be required to have a certain number of hours. Make sure that you keep track of your hours and do enough to maintain your license.

    What degree do most Clinical Psychologists have

    We did a survey to ask other Clinical Psychologists what degree they had when they first became one. Here are the results.

    How to become a clinical psychologist

    I wrote this guide because people often ask me how to become a Clinical Psychologist. Much of it is my opinion – other psychologists may have different suggestions so I’ve included links to other sources at the bottom of this page.

    What qualifications do you need to become a Clinical Psychologist?

    To become a Clinical Psychologist you need to complete a Masters or Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. You may also need ‘Professional Accreditation’.

    The rules and qualifications vary depending on which your country you plan to work in. Here are the steps you’ll need to take if you are planning to work in Malaysia.

    Studying Clinical Psychology in your Home Country

    These are the steps if you plan to study Clinical Psychology in Malaysia:

    1. Obtain a good grade in a Psychology undergraduate degree.
    2. Gain some relevant work experience.
    3. Complete a Masters in Clinical Psychology.
    4. Become a full member of the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology.This is not yet a legal requirement but it’s one way of showing potential clients and employers that you are properly qualified.

    Studying Clinical Psychology Overseas

    If you plan to study Clinical Psychology at a University outside of Malaysia:

    1. Obtain a good grade in a Psychology undergraduate degree recognised by the country that you wish to train in.
    2. Gain some relevant work experience (see below for more information) .
    3. Secure funding to study overseas.
    4. Complete the post-graduate Clinical Psychology course required by the country that you are studying in.
    5. Obtain ‘Professional Accreditation’ from the country that you are studying in (or at least prove that you are eligible for that accreditation).
    6. If you have accreditation from overseas it may not be necessary but it would be helpful to become a full member of the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology.

    An example: a Malaysian studying Clinical Psychology in the UK

    This might be easier to understand with an example. A Malaysian wishing to study Clinical Psychology in the UK before returning to work in Malaysia should follow these steps:

    1. Obtain a good grade (an Upper Second Class Honours, 2:1 or equivalent) in an undergraduate degree in Psychology that is recognised by the British Psychological Society (BPS)
    2. Gain some relevant work experience (see below for more information).
    3. Secure funding to study in the UK (a three-year course is likely to cost more than 75,000 GBP plus living costs).
    4. Complete a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (a British Masters in Clinical Psychology will not allow you to work as a Clinical Psychologist in the UK and it will not allow you to work in Malaysia as a Clinical Psychologist).
    5. Apply and obtain Chartered Member status from the British Psychological Society (the legal body in the UK is the HCPC but BPS Member status is sufficient for people returning to their home country).
    6. Become a full member of the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology

    The legal situation

    In common with many countries the current legal situation in Malaysia means that anyone can call themselves a Clinical Psychologist. Technically, that means you don’t have to follow any of the steps above. However, I would strongly advise that you do. Firstly, because clients need to know that you are properly qualified, competent professional. It will be difficult to get a job or attract paying clients if you do not have the correct qualifications. Secondly, a law has just been enacted in Malaysia and it is likely to be legally enforced in the near future. This will make the steps above a legal requirement (although you may need to apply to a government body rather than the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology).

    If you are not a Malaysian, I’d advise using the steps above as a starting point. Do check the requirements for your particular country. Please share what you find out in the comments section below.

    Work experience

    Many clinical psychology courses want you to have work experience before you start studying. They want you to know what you are getting yourself into. It’s good to find out whether you like talking to people in psychological distress because that’s what Clinical Psychologists spend most of their time doing.

    It would be helpful to gain work experience working with a Clinical Psychologist but it isn’t necessary. It is more important to spend time with people in psychological distress and learn from your experiences.

    Most courses are happy to have older applicants who have some work experience outside of psychology. Many Clinical Psychologists started their careers in other fields. So there’s no need to rush into training if you’d like to try out other options first.

    An understanding of research methods

    Clinical psychologists are trained to be Scientist-Practitioners. Our practice is based on research evidence but we also approach each problem like scientists. For example:

    • We look at the existing evidence (old records, observations, information gathered in interviews),
    • hypothesise why the problem might be occurring and
    • then test our hypothesis by running an intervention.
    • We then evaluate our intervention and determine if we need to alter our hypothesis.

    This scientific approach means that many courses will test your understanding of research methods.

    Funding

    It is usually easiest to study in your own country because overseas clinical psychology programmes are expensive. You can find a list of overseas clinical psychology courses that are open to international applicants here. Some countries sponsor their citizens to go overseas to train as a Clinical Psychologist. Malaysia has done this in the past but not recently. We don’t know of any international funding sources so please share any you find via the comments section below.

    If you don’t have funds you could apply for PhD courses in the USA because they sometimes come with funding. You can also send a research proposal to professor. If they are interested in your project they may apply for a grant which would also pay for your PhD. This is most likely to work if you have know how to conduct research and have unique language skills or cultural knowledge that matches their interests.

    Variation between courses & countries

    The advice above varies depending on the course and country you are in. I have written more information for each of the countries below:

    Information on Clinical Psychology Training Programmes

    For a list of Clinical Psychology Training Programmes open to foreign students please see this page. You can also view the pages for each of the countries below: