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Clinical Psychology is a division of the study and practice of psychology. As a discipline, its primary focus is on the practical application of psychological research and methods. Clinical Psychology is grounded in both theory and research. Psychologists seek to find methods of testing and understanding psychological conditions. Whether it’s helping to diagnose a mental disorder or conducting research, programs offer many opportunities for research and fieldwork.

Students learn critical theory in biological, cognitive and social behaviors. They also study developmental psychology, personality, and psychotherapy theories. Programs are strongly based around research methodology.

Research and practice provide invaluable experience for students. The integration of class work with clinical experience and research allows the student exposure to a variety of disorders and methods.

Some schools have recently offered students the option of having a concentration within the field of Clinical Psychology. The majority of students are still choosing to follow the traditional clinical track but schools have begun to offer specialized areas such as neuropsychology, psychopathology, psychodynamics, assessment (cognitive evaluation and projective testing), family therapy, group therapy, behavioral therapy, developmental psychology, and a variety of others. Most programs are at least four years in duration, much of which is spent in the clinic doing research.

Degree Information

There are several options for graduate degrees in Clinical Psychology. Students who wish for a practitioner-based degree, with less focus on research, can pursue the Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology). Students with more research-focused interests can pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Both degrees take around 5 years to complete and are highly competitive. Students can also earn a terminal M.S. degree in Clinical Psychology, usually within two to three years.

Some students choose to pursue their Clinical Psychology interests by earning a Master’s in Social Work (M.S.W.). Students should think carefully about their interests and career goals before selecting a program.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • What kinds of research are the faculty and students doing? What kinds of papers have they published?
  • What kind of research opportunities will be open to you?
  • Will you be required to choose a specialization?
  • Is your field of interest available?
  • What is the relationship between the program and the community? Are there opportunities for outreach, internships, paid work, or volunteer work?
  • How successful are the graduates in finding jobs? What kinds of jobs do they pursue?

Career Overview

Clinical psychologists usually pursue careers in clinical work, teaching, or research, depending on the degree they’ve earned. Clinical psychologists often form private practices, or go to work as psychologists in managed-care groups. Graduates of Ph.D. programs in Clinical Psychology usually choose to devote themselves to teaching and research, while graduates of Psy.D. programs usually go on to become practicing psychologists.

Practicing clinical psychologists might become involved with family therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy, and many other fields. They are committed to diagnosing and treating mental disorders, which involves evaluating patients, developing a psychological treatment plan, and administering that treatment. They can work in hospitals, in clinics, or in private practice. Graduates of a master’s program can also become psychologists, though there are limits on the scope of their practice.

Career/Licensing Requirements

After obtaining a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology, those students wishing to become practicing psychologists must become certified. The certification process and licensing requirements vary by state. After becoming licensed, psychologists can open their own private practice. Laws regarding private practice for psychologists with master’s degrees vary by state as well.

Salary Information

The starting salary for clinical psychologists is generally around $40,000. However, this number can vary widely depending on type of employer, location, type of graduate degree, and years of experience.

Related Links

American Psychological Association
The American Psychological Association offers information on all areas within the field.

American Psychological Society
The American Psychological Society publishes news, research and journals and promotes scientific research within the field of psychology.


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