Clinical Psychology Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Oct 08, 2019

Essential Information

If you wish to work in the field of clinical psychology, you might consider earning a master's degree. While this degree won't allow you to work as a licensed psychologist, it will prepare you to work as a psychologist assistant. A Ph.D. in clinical psychology is generally open to applicants with significant research experience and may prepare students for work as licensed psychologists, though some programs are specifically research-oriented and don't prepare students for licensure. Post-doctoral certificate programs are for those with a doctoral degree in an area other than clinical psychology.

Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology

A master's degree program in clinical psychology offers students a foundation in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of patients living with psychological disorders or depression. Students in the program gain practical experience in clinical psychology settings. While this degree is designed as a pathway to a doctoral degree in the field, graduates with a master's degree can find careers in mental health settings.

A typical clinical psychology master's degree program requires students to have a bachelor's degree in psychology or a closely related field for admission. Some programs require that a student state their area of research interest before applying. Three letters of recommendation and a GPA of at least 3.0 are standard.

Along with advanced coursework, such as adolescent and group therapy, students are often required to research and complete a thesis. Examples of classes in a clinical psychology master's degree program include:

  • Social behavior
  • Treating substance abuse
  • Human sexuality and human development
  • Ethics and law practices
  • Psychological recovery and psychopharmacology
  • Clinical techniques and methodology

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology

A doctoral program in clinical psychology trains students to be practicing clinical professionals, as well as educators and researchers in academic settings. Initially, students must choose their own relevant area of study, such as adolescent mental health or clinical pathology. Students are also required to complete research and writing for a dissertation, which is then reviewed by faculty members. Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) programs in clinical psychology are also available but focus more on preparing students for clinical practice.

Many schools offer doctorates in clinical psychology as a direct continuation of their master's programs. In order to enter into a Ph.D. program, students usually must have completed a master's degree in a related psychological discipline and have significant research experience.

Like most Ph.D. programs, clinical psychology programs of this kind are focused on in-depth research. A few topics covered in the program include:

  • Mood disorders and anxiety
  • Quantitative techniques
  • Child psychopathology
  • Social psychology advanced research methods
  • Analysis of regression

Post-doctoral Certificate in Clinical Psychology

Postgraduate certificate programs in clinical psychology are available to students who hold a doctorate in another area of psychology and want to refocus their studies. Faculty members oversee students as they practice treating patients in a clinical setting.

Applicants to the program must have a doctoral degree in a psychology-related area from an accredited university and submit personal goals, transcripts and reference letters. Post-doctoral certificate programs may also require students to complete a personal interview and provide evidence of clinical potential.

Internships and fieldwork typically form the bulk of a postgraduate certificate program in clinical psychology. Seminars and conferences are also quite common. A few courses one may expect include:

  • Psychological assessment
  • Personality theories
  • Adult and child assessment
  • Legal, ethical and professional practice
  • Multicultural comprehension

Career Information

Graduates with a master's degree in clinical psychology must generally complete a doctoral degree program to become an independent clinical psychologist, though this depends on state requirements. Other options for those holding a master's degree in clinical psychology include working under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist as a mental health counselor or researcher.

Graduates with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology have a multitude of job options. A handful of job titles an individual might hold include:

  • Clinical psychologist
  • Clinical therapist
  • Educator
  • Researcher
  • Neurophysiologist

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that employment of clinical, school and counseling psychologists may grow 15% for the years 2018 through 2028 ( These workers made a median annual wage of $76,990 in 2018.

Doctoral degree and post-doctoral certificate programs are available to students who want to receive the necessary training for licensure as clinical psychologists or prepare for academic careers. There are also clinical psychology master's degree programs for students interested in work in counseling or research.

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