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What Degree is Needed to Become a Clinical Psychologist?

Clinical psychology is a subfield of the psychology field that deals with the emotional and mental health of individuals. While some psychologists may practice with a master’s degree, one must have a doctoral degree to become a clinical psychologist. Clinical psychologists’ duties are well-suited for candidates who have a desire to help others and can display empathy for those suffering from mental or emotional health issues. As more people today are seeking help for their problems, clinical psychologists continue to be in demand. Here is an overview of what becoming a clinical psychologist involves and the path one might choose.

Bachelor’s Degree

There are no clinical psychology programs at the bachelor’s degree level, but students will need to complete a baccalaureate degree before they go to the graduate degree level. They can also use these four years to get in as many prerequisite courses as they can because the advanced degrees have many course requirements. Clinical psychology programs are very competitive, and admission into graduate programs is often based on GPA, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, research experience and extracurricular activities the student may have completed.

Graduate Degree

There are many clinical psychology master degree programs available but they’re not sufficient for licensure. Clinical psychologists must have a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. The master’s degree program usually takes two to three years to complete, and the doctoral degree takes a few more years. Some colleges offer combined programs that result in a doctoral degree in less time than it would take to complete the master’s degree and then the doctoral degree.

Clinical psychology students can choose between the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree or the Ph.D. in Psychology degree. The Psy.D program is a clinical degree that requires students to complete practical work and pass examinations while the Ph.D. is a research degree that requires passing comprehensive examinations and doing a research-based dissertation. The Psy.D. program is more aimed at those who want to work in a clinical setting. Students must also complete a 1 to 2-year internship to earn a doctoral degree.

Certification/Licensure

Before the graduate can work as a clinical psychologist, he or she must obtain licensure, and this cannot be done until the individual has completed a specific number of hours of clinical work under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that licensure requirements may vary from state to state, but most programs require the candidate to complete at least 3,000 hours or two years.

Students should check with their state health board to determine the requirements for that particular state. This is also a good time for the student to focus on any area of specialization they may wish to pursue. When all the requirements have been met, the student can sit for the certification exam. Continuing education is required to maintain certification.

Related Resource: Top 6 Most Affordable Online PhD/PsD Programs in Clinical Psychology

Despite the number of years required to earn a degree in clinical psychology, most clinical psychologists feel that the rewards they get by helping others more than make up for the hard work and dedication. Earning a graduate degree in clinical psychology can be the start of a lucrative, rewarding and challenging career.

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