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Clinical Psychology Masters Degree Through Distance Learning

The majority of clinical psychologists must have a doctoral degree, but an online clinical psychology master's degree program can help students on the journey to reaching admission in a Ph.D. program. Read on to explore these distance learning graduate programs and career prospects.

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Program Overview

Clinical psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the study of the nature, causes and treatment of mental illnesses. Master's degree programs in clinical psychology -- offered by four-year institutions -- typically take two years of full-time enrollment or three years of part-time enrollment to complete. Students study psychological theories and learn the foundations of the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Graduates may go on to a doctoral program that prepares them for state licensure as clinical psychologists.

Distance Learning Considerations

In order to help students gain experience, online clinical psychology programs typically require practica or internships. Many distance learning master's programs also require students to attend approximately three week-long residencies on campus.

These week-long events give students the benefits of in-class instruction, and students typically begin certain courses during residencies and complete them online. Residencies also allow students to meet with faculty members and staff, discuss licensing, clinical training and research requirements, ask questions and network with other students.

As for the online coursework, the majority of distance learning classes are asynchronous, but students are generally required to access their courses weekly in order to keep pace with the curriculum schedule. Content management systems provide a virtual classroom environment in which students can access lectures, assignments and communication tools.

Common Courses

Graduate students studying clinical psychology often must conduct a research project or a master's thesis as part of the degree requirements. The curricula for both online and traditional on-campus master's programs generally cover the following topics:

  • Psychopathology
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Life span development
  • Clinical and diagnostic skills
  • Assessment and intervention
  • Professional ethics
  • Diversity and multicultural issues
  • Research methods

To gain clinical experience, students are placed at practicum sites and supervised by faculty members online. Virtual practicum supervision is accomplished through scheduled group and one-on-one online meetings between faculty and students. In order to participate in these virtual meetings, students must have access to a computer, a broadband Internet connection, a webcam and the appropriate software.

Career Opportunities

Many graduates of online master's programs choose to pursue doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, after which they qualify for licensure as clinical psychologists. Master's degree holders who meet state and national licensure requirements may pursue careers in:

  • Licensed professional counseling
  • Marriage and family therapy
  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Substance abuse counseling

According to projections data prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of clinical and counseling psychologists is expected to increase by 11% between 2012 and 2022 ( Counselors and psychologists who work as private practitioners typically earn the highest income.

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