Doctoral Degrees in Community Psychology: Program Overview

Oct 09, 2019

Community psychology is a branch of clinical psychology that focuses on how humans interact within their communities and social groups. A Doctoral of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is the terminal degree in this field.

Essential Information

Community psychology is just one of several subspecialties in the field of clinical psychology. The educational requirements that apply to clinical psychologists apply here as well. Students are typically required to complete their doctoral program coursework, a dissertation and an internship before they become eligible for licensure. Doctoral degrees in this field take about 4-5 years to complete.

Applicants to programs in this field typically have at least a bachelor's degree and an extensive undergraduate background in psychology, statistics and research methods. Alternatively, some programs will accept students who can demonstrate a high level of achievement in other undergraduate disciplines.

Doctor of Philosophy in Community Psychology

Community psychologists typically work directly in their communities and various occupational settings, such as educational institutions and clinical practices, where they investigate social and psychological issues affecting individuals, families and groups. Students in Ph.D. in Community Psychology programs learn about empowering individuals and community organizations so they can improve quality of life for everyone. These programs may focus on issues like minority and underprivileged populations, crime, social forces, social work and human ecology. Interdisciplinary courses in cultural studies, anthropology, criminal justice, city politics and biology often supplement these core psychology focus areas.

During the first three years, Ph.D. candidates complete coursework, participate in internships or collaborate with grassroots and nonprofit organizations. During the final two years, they typically design and carry out their dissertation research and write up the results. Community psychology doctoral programs typically feature clinical psychology courses covering methodology, statistics and scientific practices for assessing and treating target populations. Potential topics of study include:

  • Cross-cultural communication
  • Community organizing
  • Psychological development
  • Development planning
  • Substance abuse
  • Urban politics

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical, counseling and school psychologists can expect to see 15% growth in employment from 2018-2028 ( During that time span, opportunities for employment should be best for applicants with a doctoral degree.

In May 2018, the BLS stated that the median annual wage for these professionals was $76,990. Schools and offices of health practitioners were among the leading employers of these psychologists at that time.

Continuing Education and Licensure Info

According to the BLS, all practicing psychologists must be licensed by the state in which they operate, although specific requirements and standards vary by state. Clinical or counseling psychologists are usually required to have doctoral degrees and professional experience, and also to have completed approved internships.

The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) offers certifications in specific areas of clinical psychology, including couple, family and group psychology. Psychologists may obtain these certifications by first having their credentials and practices reviewed, then passing oral and written examinations conducted by the ABPP.

Ph.D. programs in community psychology provide students with advanced classroom instruction, real-world practical training and independent research experience. As a result, when they finish the degree, they are ready for academic careers or to pursue licensure so that they can work in clinical practice.

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