Master of Arts (MA): Clinical Psychology Degree Overview

Oct 16, 2019

Typically, a 2-year Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology program provides a theoretical and practical background in mental health. A concentration in marriage and family therapy may be available.

Essential Information

These programs usually require internships or hands-on experience in a clinical setting under the supervision of professionals. Some programs require a thesis as well. Courses cover individual- and family-oriented topics so students can help people with a variety of personal concerns. Following degree completion, graduates can seek licensure and employment or opt to continue their education in a doctoral program. Programs generally last two years. Prerequisites include a bachelor's degree (psychology related field preferred), as well as GRE scores. Programs may offer specializations in marriage counseling or family therapy. A final thesis is often required.

Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychologists diagnose and counsel clients with mental health challenges, ranging from temporary crises to chronic mental illnesses. Specifically, students of clinical psychology programs are trained to evaluate individuals who have personal problems and behavioral disorders, or who have suffered emotional traumas. They learn to assess clients and develop treatment plans for individuals, couples, and groups.

Some of the issues that students might explore include death, divorce, substance abuse, and everyday stress. Classes include training in assessment and therapy techniques, and cover topics such as:

  • Professional ethics
  • Research and statistics
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Child and adolescent therapy
  • Human sexuality
  • Family counseling

Popular Career Options

Psychologists with doctoral degrees, practical experience, and specializations have the best career opportunities, the BLS stated. Clinical psychology master's degree-holders do have some options though. Job titles they could attain include:

  • Marriage and family counselor
  • Child and adolescent therapist
  • Emergency assessment counselor
  • Psychology assistant
  • Research assistant

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS lists an annual mean salary of $76,990 for school, clinical, and counseling psychologists as of 2018. The BLS anticipates a 15% increase in opportunities from 2018 to 2028.

Continuing Education Information

Psychologists who work with patients must meet state licensing requirements. Master's degree graduates might qualify for licensure as a professional counselor (LPC) or a marriage and family therapist (MFT). Continuing education might be required to renew a license. Students should check with their state licensing board for specific requirements.

For those wishing to enter private practice, a Ph.D. or Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) is typically required. Doctoral programs usually require five years of coursework, a dissertation, and supervised post-doctoral work in the field. Most states also require that clinical psychologists complete an internship, at least one year of experience and a state exam.

The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) awards voluntary certification in 14 areas, including clinical psychology, couple, and family psychology, and clinical child and adolescent psychology. Candidates for certification must be doctoral degree-holders, be licensed in their discipline, meet professional experience criteria, and pass a board exam (

A M.A. in clinical psychology will help students attain a career in different psychological specializations. These degrees serve as a means towards achieving state licensure, or subsequent education in a psychology doctoral program.

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