6 Steps to Becoming a Clinical Psychologist

The field of clinical psychology concerns itself with the emotional and mental health of human beings. Clinical psychologists have extensive skills and knowledge that they use in order to help their clients improve their overall quality of life, by helping them deal with the difficulties they are facing. Being a clinical psychologist is the perfect career for people who are ethical and emphatic, as well as being problem solvers.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

There are no clinical psychology bachelor’s degree levels. However, there are a variety of different degrees you can complete that will enable you to enter this field. Naturally, psychology is the best and most popular option out there, not in the least because you will complete the prerequisite courses that will enable you to enter a more advanced degree. That said, other popular bachelor’s degree options include anthropology, sociology, and pre-med.

Degree programs for clinical psychology are incredibly competitive. This means that it is very important that you choose the right courses at undergraduate level, and that you maintain a very high GPA standard. You should also make sure you take on any research opportunities that you are given, and that you take part in extracurricular activities such as field placements and internships.

Complete a Master’s Degree

There are master’s degrees that focus specifically on clinical psychology. Completing this degree, however, does not allow you to become licensed as a clinical psychologist. If you do want to become licensed, then you also need to complete a doctorate degree. For those who are sure that clinical psychology is the avenue that they wish to travel, there are also combined master’s and doctorate degrees. However, these are usually available only to those who have completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology specifically.

A master’s in clinical psychology generally takes between two and three years to complete. To be accepted, you will have to have a high GPA at undergraduate level, as well as presenting letters of recommendation and a variety of other requirements. To complete the degree, you will have to pass a comprehensive examination.

Complete a Doctorate Degree

At the doctorate degree level, you can choose between the Ph.D., which is a research degree, and the Psy.D., which is a clinical degree. As such, you need to already have a good idea of what you want to do once you graduate. It is incredibly hard to be accepted into these programs. In fact, on average, only 3% of applicants are matriculated into the programs. This is why it is so important to set yourself apart as an extraordinary student at bachelor’s and master’s level.

The Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) in clinical psychology usually takes four to five years to complete. To graduate, you will have to complete an internship, which is generally at least one year in length. You will also have to complete a dissertation and defend it, as well as pass a range of examinations.

The Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) also takes between four and five years to complete. You will be required to complete a dissertation to graduate, as well as pass examinations and complete fieldwork.

Besides having to complete a dissertation and coursework, both the Ph.D. and Psy.D. will require you to work as an intern for around two years. This will enable you to fine tune your clinical skills while being supervised by a more experienced, licensed clinical psychologist. It is vital that your program is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Complete Clinical Training

If you want to work as a clinical psychologist, you have to become licensed. Each state sets its own licensing requirements. However, they all need you to complete clinical training in your personal jurisdiction. Your state board of psychology will have the exact requirements listed. It is also at this point that you should consider whether you want to specialize in a certain area of clinical psychology, such as gerontology or child, because you may need to complete further clinical training.

Become Licensed

Each state has set its own licensure requirements. However, most of them will require you to:

  • Have graduated from an APA-accredited Psy.D. or Ph.D. program
  • Have completed a certain number of supervised clinical work experience
  • Have passed certain examinations

Usually, the number of hours of supervised clinical experience is between 2,000 and 3,000, which equates to approximately two years. However, there are certain states in which supervised experience is not a requirement. What is a national requirement, however, is that you pass the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Board’s Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

Maintain Your License

Once you have obtained your license, you can call yourself a clinical psychologist and start practicing as such. However, you also have to maintain this license. The exact requirements are mandated by your state board of psychology, although all state boards have a requirement for continuous education credits. Exactly how many credits are required will vary so do look into this. You can find a list of approved continuous education courses through the APA.

Upon receiving a license, the most important thing a clinical psychologist must do is maintain that license. Also mandated at the state level, continuing education is a vital component of a clinical psychologist’s career. Hours required vary by state, so CPs will need to keep track of requirements in their jurisdiction once licensed. The APA provides a list of approved courses.

Salary and Career Opportunities for Clinical Psychology

As you can see, becoming a clinical psychologist requires a significant investment of time, and therefore also of money. So much so, in fact, that some people are reluctant to start on this path. Salary is only one benefit of being a clinical psychologist, but one that does demonstrate that the lengthy journey is worth it, and that you will see a significant return on investment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical psychologists can expect to earn around $70,850 per year. The bottom 10% earn $40,920 or less, and the top 10% earn $116,960 or more per year. The more experience and certification you have, the more you are likely to earn. Additionally, there are very significant differences in salary depending on where in the country you work.

Of course, you are never guaranteed to attract these types of salaries. However, according to the BLS, demand for clinical psychologists will rise by 19% from 2014 top 2024. This equates to 32,500 new positions, far exceeding the number of graduates that are produced. As such, while there are never any guarantees in life, you can be pretty sure that you will have an interesting and lucrative career.