Is a Clinical Psychology Career For You?

The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Become a Clinical Psychologist

Becoming a clinical psychologist takes time, effort and dedication. If you’re interested in this career path, it’s important to understand exactly what it takes to become a clinical psychologist, so that you can plan accordingly. This job is not for the faint of heart. You must be willing to go above and beyond in order to succeed as a clinical psychologist. Read on to learn more about what it takes to become a clinical psychologist, as well as information about educational requirements, licensure and certification.

What is a clinical psychologist?

A clinical psychologist is a health care provider who has specialized training in psychology and can provide patients with both mental and emotional support. They can help individuals understand why certain psychological issues have arisen, as well as provide recommendations for how to overcome or manage these issues.

It is important to note that clinical psychologists are not the same as psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialized training in the application of mental health treatments, such as medications or therapy. Clinical psychologists, on the other hand, deal solely with the mental and emotional aspects of a person’s well-being.

What Does a Clinical Psychologists Do?

Clinical psychologists are trained to help patients identify and overcome mental and emotional issues that are negatively impacting their daily lives. These issues can include anxiety, depression, trauma, grief and many more.

Clinical psychologists typically utilize talk therapy to assist patients in identifying issues, challenging negative thoughts and behaviors, and instilling self-esteem and confidence. While clinical psychologists can provide therapy to individuals, they can also be employed in various other settings. They work in hospitals, schools and other medical environments, helping patients and clients cope with issues.

What Are the Steps to Become a Clinical Psychologist?

To become a clinical psychologist, you will need to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree from a school accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).

In order to be accepted into a doctorate program, you will need to have earned a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA requirement and have solid GRE or PhD admission test scores.

Once admitted, you will be required to complete a minimum number of supervised hours in a clinical setting, usually at least 2,000 hours. You will be required to complete coursework on topics such as abnormal psychology, research methods, clinical interventions, and assessment. After completing your PhD or PsyD, you will be required to earn licensure by providing documentation of at least 1,000 supervised clinical hours, passing a state licensing exam, and submitting a license application.

Where Do Clinical Psychologists Work?

Clinical psychologists have a wide range of career options and can work in a variety of settings. They can work in hospitals, independent clinics or mental health practices and schools. Some clinical psychologists choose to work as academics and teach students at colleges or universities.

Clinical psychologists can also work in private practice, alone or with a partner. Since clinical psychologists often work with individuals who have experienced trauma, they may also choose to work in the field of victim services, helping victims of various crimes recover from their experiences.

What do clinical psychologists do on a daily basis?

Clinical psychologists have a wide range of responsibilities on a daily basis. They use their knowledge and understanding of mental health to assess, diagnose, and treat individuals with various mental health concerns.

This often involves conducting psychological evaluations, providing individual or group therapy sessions, creating treatment plans, providing case management services, consulting with families and other professionals, developing psychometric tests to measure behavior or abilities, and conducting research to further advance the field.

Clinical psychologists also need to have excellent interpersonal skills in order to build strong working relationships with clients. They often work collaboratively with other medical professionals such as psychiatrists and social workers in order to provide comprehensive care for their patients.

Clinical psychologists must also stay up-to-date on new developments in the field by attending workshops and conferences. Ultimately, clinical psychologists are responsible for ensuring that their clients’ emotional needs are met through evidence-based treatments that promote healing and improved quality of life.

Duties of a Clinical Psychologist

  • Interact with clients to assist them in gaining insight, defining goals, and planning action to achieve effective personal, social, educational, or vocational development and adjustment.
  • Conduct assessments of patients’ risk for harm to self or others.
  • Counsel individuals, groups, or families to help them understand problems, deal with crisis situations, define goals, and develop realistic action plans.
  • Write reports on clients and maintain required paperwork.
  • Collect information about individuals or clients, using interviews, case histories, observational techniques, and other assessment methods.

Educational requirements to become a clinical psychologist

There are many different educational paths you can take. Many schools offer joint psychology degree programs, which allow you to earn a Bachelors and Masters in 5 years. Other options include earning a BA in Psychology and MA in Clinical Psychology or a BA in Psychology and a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

It’s important to note that in some states, you can become a clinical psychologist after earning a Masters degree, while others require a PhD. Regardless of your educational path, you’ll need to complete many supervised hours of practicums (internships), as well as a full-length practicums. After completing all educational requirements, you’ll need to pass a licensure exam to become fully licensed as a clinical psychologist.

Licensure and certification to become a clinical psychologist

In order to become a licensed clinical psychologist, individuals must first earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. This typically takes about 6 years, but can vary from school to school. After earning your degree, you’ll need to complete several supervised hours of practicums to gain field experience.

You’ll also need to pass a licensure exam. In order to take this exam, you must first become a member of a state psychological association. Once you’re a member, you can become certified as a clinical psychologist by maintaining your membership and continuing to provide quality services to your clients.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Clinical Psychologist?

First, you will need to earn a Ph.D. or PsyD degree, which usually takes between 4 and 8 years; some universities offer a combined master’s and doctoral program, which can shorten the time to 3–4 years.

During your education, you’ll need to attend classes, conduct research, and take courses in the field of psychology, such as abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, and clinical psychology. Most schools require you to have a master’s degree before you can apply to a Ph.D. program.

Once you’re accepted, you’ll need to complete a doctoral dissertation, which takes between 1 and 2 years. In most cases, you must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher to stay in the program.

How Much Do Clinical Psychologists Make

The average salary for Clinical and Counseling Psychologists is $99,640. The three states that pay Clinical and Counseling Psychologists the most are New Jersey ($143,150), Delaware ($129,450) and Oregon ($126,230).

When adjusted for cost-of-living, the states that pay Clinical and Counseling Psychologists the highest average annual salary are Delaware ($132,267), New Jersey ($128,778) and Oregon ($123,007).

See our complete guide to state-by-state and city-by-city clinical psychologist salaries.

Salary Range by Education and Experience

%YearsEmployedAnnual Salary
10%Less than a Year5,810Under $47,010
15%2 – 4 years8,715$47,010 – $62,040
25%5 – 9 years14,525$62,040 – $82,510
25%10 – 14 years14,525$82,510 – $126,590
15%15 – 20 years8,715$126,590 – $167,460
10%20+ years5,810Above $167,460
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Commerce – 2022*

Frequently Asked Questions

The amount of time it takes to become a clinical psychologist varies. Generally, the process requires earning an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field, followed by obtaining a master’s degree and doctorate in clinical psychology. Depending on the type of school and program in psychology you choose chosen, this can take as many as eight to 12 years.

During those years, students take classes in topics such as psychopathology, behavioral assessment and psychotherapy. They also complete supervised internships where they can gain experience working with clients. After graduating with a doctorate, individuals must typically receive licensure from their state before they can practice as a clinical psychologist.

To maintain their license, they may have to complete continuing education credits each year. Therefore, becoming a clinical psychologist is an intense process that takes approximately seven years of study and training but can lead to great rewards for both patients and practitioners alike.

Becoming a licensed clinical psychologist is an expensive process that requires several years of schooling and training. The exact cost varies depending on the state, but typically involves thousands of dollars in tuition fees, licensure fees, and associated costs.

In addition to the cost of tuition, students may need to purchase study materials, take additional exams, and invest in experience such as internships or externships. The cost for these items can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Furthermore, after completing the educational requirements for licensure, there are also annual renewal fees for which the cost can vary depending on the state or area. All in all, becoming a licensed clinical psychologist is an expensive endeavor that requires a significant investment of time and money.

The work of a clinical psychologist varies greatly depending on their setting. While some clinical psychologists work in an office in which they see one patient per day, others work in emergency rooms or crisis centers and may see up to 20 patients per day.

Regardless of setting, clinical psychologists are often employed to help patients cope with a variety of issues, including anxiety, depression and trauma. Depending on the patient and the situation, clinical psychologists may utilize talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or some other form of treatment.

Clinical psychology and counseling psychology are two distinct fields within psychology. Clinical psychology focuses on diagnosing and treating mental health disorders, while counseling psychology focuses more on providing psychological services for individuals, couples and families to help them address everyday issues.

The primary focus of clinical psychologists is to diagnose mental illness and provide evidence-based treatments such as psychotherapy, medications or other forms of therapy. Counseling psychologists, on the other hand, often use a variety of techniques to assist individuals in developing better coping skills and improving their overall wellbeing.

They may also work with individuals to develop healthier relationships or help them manage stressors in their life. Clinical psychologists may specialize in areas such as child development, substance abuse or geriatric psychiatry; whereas counseling psychologists may specialize in topics such as marriage and family therapy, educational guidance or career counseling.

Becoming a clinical psychologist is no easy feat. It takes years of dedication and hard work to achieve this goal, but the rewards are worth it.

You must obtain an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field, and then typically go on to complete a doctoral program in clinical psychology. After completing the doctoral program, one will need to pass licensing exams in order to practice as a clinical psychologist.

Additionally, many states require internships or postdoctoral supervised experience prior to becoming licensed. In other words, it takes significant time and effort, but it can lead to a rewarding career helping others understand and improve their mental health.

Clinical Psychology Organizations

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