How to Become a Clinical Psychologist

Graduates of an accredited online psychology degree program can become clinical psychologists. Clinical psychology practitioners work to promote mental health and relieve discomfort and maladjustment by providing psychological assessment and intervention to people of all ages and backgrounds, according to the Society of Clinical Psychology. Assessment entails identifying what is causing the client’s distress, evaluating the effect that distress has on the client’s life, and detecting any underlying psychological factors. By treating the mental illnesses that affect the way their clients think, feel, go about their daily life, and behave towards others, the clinical psychologist promotes the overall health of the whole person and helps improve their client’s or patient’s quality of life. Clinical psychologists provide a broad range of interventions, including psychotherapy, behavior therapy, marriage and family therapy, and more, depending on their specialization and background.

What degree is required to become a clinical psychologist?

To become a clinical psychologist, a person will need to earn a degree in psychology on a doctoral level, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Doctoral paths include the PhD in Psychology (research focus) and the Doctor of Psychology (clinical focus) in an area of clinical psychology. Doctoral programs in clinical psychology are distinct from other psychology programs in that they entail significant course work in personality and psychopathology, according to the Society of Clinical Psychology. Having a doctoral-level degree in psychology is a requirement for state licensure.

While not required for licensure, many clinical psychologists choose to pursue voluntary board certification to demonstrate their proficiency in a specific area. For example, the American Board of Professional Psychology offers board certification in areas like clinical psychology, clinical neuropsychology, clinical child and adolescent psychology, and clinical health psychology, among others. For some careers in hospitals and clinics, board certification in a specialized area may be required, the BLS explains.

How long does it take to become a clinical psychologist?

A doctoral degree in psychology can take anywhere from four to seven years to complete. How long it takes to complete a doctoral program depends on a number of factors, such as whether you enroll in a program full time or part time, how long it takes you to complete your dissertation, and how long it takes to fulfill clinical/internship requirements. Online psychology programs and courses can also help students to fulfill the education requirements for becoming clinical psychologists.

In addition to earning a doctoral degree, clinical psychologists must be licensed or certified in the state in which they wish to practice. While licensure requirements vary by state, most states require an internship, a minimum of 1-2 years of professional experience, and passing an exam after the individual earns his or her doctorate, according to the BLS . Since it can take a considerable amount of time to line up internships and gain experience, this licensure requirement often adds to the number of years it takes to become a clinical psychologist.

What is a clinical psychologist’s salary?

The median annual wage of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists was $68,640 as of May 2010, according to the BLS. The lowest-paid 10% earned less than $39,200, and the highest-paid 10% earned more than $111,810, the BLS explained. The average salary for clinical psychologists alone, drawing from limited data provided to PayScale.com, was approximately $82,314 as of July 2012. A clinical psychologist’s pay depends on many factors, including how much experience he/she has, the region of the country he/she lives in, and the size of his/her employer or client base.