For a career as a licensed psychologist, you can take a look at clinical psychology PhD programs for the necessary training.
Getting a doctorate is an essential step in becoming a clinical psychologist who treats mental health disorders, joins the faculty of a university, or conducts psychology research.
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Many clinical psychology schools offer online coursework so that you can complete some of the requirements for your doctoral program from afar. Through online classes, you could develop your skills as a competent, knowledgeable psychology professional.
Clinical Psychology PhD Programs Online
Psychology is an interesting and important field of study. Professional psychologists help people through mental illnesses, life stresses, and major decisions.
Whether a psychologist works as a practitioner or researcher, they can contribute to the well-being of other people. If your goal is to become a clinical psychologist, then you’ll first be required to earn a doctoral degree, such as a PhD.
The requirements for a psychology PhD may include:
- Doctoral-level coursework
- Writing and defending a dissertation
The classes for this degree might cover advanced topics in various branches of psychology, such as social and behavioral psychology. You might also study ethics, assessment techniques, and pharmacology.
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Research classes can be important for doctoral students as well. They can help prepare you for conducting your own original research and writing your dissertation. Clinical psychologists’ work often focuses on people with mental illnesses. Within this field, you can choose to specialize in a particular area. Examples include treating adolescent patients or working in the criminal justice system.
During your program, you will spend time working in real-world psychology settings. You can gain quite a lot of experience through these practicums and internships. Accredited psychology doctorates may balance online and in-person learning. Taking some classes online could help you fit schooling into a busy schedule. Industry-accredited colleges also have students come to campus for a portion of their studies.
Earning a PhD from a program accredited by the American Psychology Association (APA) will qualify you to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. A passing score is required for state psychology licensure.
With licensure, you could become a practicing psychologist who treats patients. Some psychology professionals also join a college faculty, lead a mental health organization, conduct research, or work as a consultant.
Common Online PhD in Clinical Psychology Concentrations
Most psychology PhD students specialize in a particular area of psychology. Doing so can increase your expertise in that area and tailor your education to your professional goals.
- Child Psychology. For a career spent working with children and their families, you may want a doctoral program that focuses on the psychological needs of young people. You can learn about human development, child-onset disorders, and treatment options for kids and adolescents.
- Forensic Psychology. After completing this specialization, you’ll know more about mental health law, the role of expert witnesses, criminal profiling, and juvenile justice. The courses will help prepare you for a job in the criminal justice system.
- Healthcare Psychology. Professionals in health psychology study the relationship between the mind and the body. They use psychological principles to influence people’s health behaviors and outcomes.
- Industrial-Organizational Psychology. The field of I-O psychology addresses psychological factors—such as conflict, group culture, and change management—in workplace settings. Choosing this track might prepare you to work as a consultant.
- Teaching and Instruction. If you have an academic career in mind, then you might want to choose a teaching specialization that will prepare you for the role. You may learn how to design curriculum, deliver instruction, conduct evaluations, and supervise psychology students.
Your concentration track will probably influence the setting that you choose for your psychology PhD internship. It should play a role in selecting the topic for your dissertation as well.
Clinical Psychology Careers and Salaries
The goal of many students is to earn a clinical psychology PhD so they can become licensed and work as practicing psychologists.
Clinical psychologists may see patients in private clinics, hospitals, and mental health facilities. Although clinical psychology will be your overarching field of practice, your work might overlap with other branches of psychology as well. Depending on your previous training and your professional interests, you might be involved with industrial-organizational, forensic, or school psychology, for example.
You could also work as a counselor or a therapist by a different name. For instance, you might be considered a substance abuse counselor, a mental health counselor, a marriage and family therapist, or a behavioral disorder counselor.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychologists earn a median annual salary of $81,040.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Psychologists (All Other)||$102,900|
|Medical and Health Services Managers||$101,340|
|Social Scientists and Related Workers (All Other)||$84,430|
|Clinical and Counseling Psychologists||$82,510|
|Postsecondary Psychology Teachers||$77,860|
|Social and Community Service Managers||$74,000|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||$49,880|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$48,520|
Job titles and qualifications for some counseling and therapy roles vary from one state to the next. Earning a doctorate might advance your qualifications for leadership roles.
Some professionals lead other psychologists and counselors as the head of a nonprofit or community agency. Others might manage a healthcare organization, especially one that specializes in the field of mental health. People with PhDs sometimes teach college classes. As a professor, you might work with undergraduate or graduate students. Also, part of that job might involve research.
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Being a researcher is a career path that you could pursue outside of an academic setting as well. Social scientists may work for the government or organizations that focus on education, marketing, healthcare, or human services.
Clinical Psychology Doctorate Curriculum & Courses
During your PhD in Psychology program, you can advance your knowledge with classes that provide new information, challenge your thinking, and encourage you to be a curious researcher.
- Advanced Social Psychology: The subfield of social psychology focuses on interactions between individuals and groups and addresses topics like prejudice, conformity, and social pressure.
- Biopsychology: As you study neuroscience, you’ll explore its relationship to psychology and consider the interplay between brain activity and behavior.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Studying CBT and related therapies may require both classroom instruction time and experiential learning in a practice setting.
- Development Across the Lifespan: This class will go beyond your undergrad studies in lifespan development and dig into the roles that genetics and environment play in people’s growth.
- History of Psychology: You’ll look into the history and development of psychological study and schools of thought.
- Mental Health and the Legal System: Through studies in mental health law, this class can prepare you to work in the criminal justice system.
- Psychological Tests: This course will teach you to give assessments and tests to patients and accurately interpret the results.
- Psychopathology of Young People: You’ll look at mental and behavioral disorders that begin in childhood, consider their medical classifications, and discuss treatment options.
- Research in Psychology: During one or more courses, you’ll learn about quantitative and qualitative research methods used in the field of psychology.
- Supervising in Psychology: You can learn how to effectively supervise and guide psychology students who are training to become independent practitioners.
In addition, completing your program will likely require an internship that’s worth several credit hours. You may also be required to write a dissertation.
Doctoral programs are rigorous, so you’re often required to submit application materials that show you’re up to the challenge. Common requirements include:
- College transcripts that show courses taken, GPA, and degrees earned
- GRE scores, including the GRE Psychology subject test (often optional or not required)
- Letters of reference
- A resume that shows relevant experience in research or clinical practice
- Sample of your writing
Many schools accept applicants who have only a bachelor’s degree. While a master’s degree may not be a requirement, it could potentially reduce the number of doctoral classes that you’re required to take. A growing number of universities now offer a masters in clinical psychology online.
Clinical Psychology Doctorate Programs Accreditation
Regional accreditation serves as a testament to a school’s reliability. Colleges apply for accreditation and are evaluated by one of the nation’s seven regional accrediting agencies.
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After showing that they meet the organization’s standards, they are approved as regionally accredited institutions. Accreditation can make a difference in your educational experience and your career. Choosing a regionally accredited school is essential for using financial aid, transferring credits, qualifying for licensure, and being hired as a psychologist.
PhD in Clinical Psychology Programs APA Accreditation
In addition to regional accreditation, it’s also advisable to look for programmatic accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA). This industry organization evaluates doctorate in clinical psychology programs to make sure that they properly prepare students to work as professional psychologists.
Becoming licensed may depend on attending an APA accredited school. State regulations can vary, but accreditation is a common requirement. The APA does not accredit online-only programs, so at least a portion of your studies would need to be done in person.
Clinical Psychology Licensure and Certifications
To work as a professional clinical psychologist who sees patients independently, it’s necessary to become licensed by your state after graduating with your doctorate.
The application packet that you send to your state may include:
- Fee (often several hundred dollars)
- Transcripts showing completion of an APA-accredited psychology doctorate
- Records detailing your practicum and internship hours
- Passing score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology
In addition, the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) offers board certification in various specialty areas. Examples of specialty areas include forensic psychology, clinical neuropsychology, serious mental illness, police and public safety, and clinical child and adolescent.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
There may be funding opportunities available to you to help you cover the cost of your doctoral studies. State or federal government loans could help with upfront tuition payments. Some students might also receive grants. The first step is to see if you qualify by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
You could explore scholarship or fellowship opportunities from various organizations as well. Examples include national psychology groups or membership associations. Some colleges offer stipends to PhD students, but they may be reserved for those in on-campus programs. If you’re an online student with a full-time job, your workplace might contribute.
What Can You Do with a Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology?
Having a doctorate in clinical psychology can help qualify you to become licensed in your state as a professional psychologist.
Licensed clinical psychologists work with people who have mental illnesses or other mood or behavioral concerns. Psychologists often see patients in hospitals, mental health clinics, or educational settings. Teaching college classes could be another line of work to consider.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time professors often engage in research in addition to teaching. Some PhD graduates are managers. They may lead teams of healthcare staff or employees of nonprofit mental health organizations.
How Long Is an Online Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program?
You might be able to earn your online doctorate in clinical psychology within 3 to 5 years. It will depend on the program’s requirements and how much time you can commit to your studies. Part-time enrollment usually takes longer than full-time.
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Online programs without dissertation requirements may take just 3 years. PhDs that include a dissertation often last longer. The exact length will depend on how quickly your project comes together, but many students spend about 5 years on their PhD studies. Schools often allow up to 7 or 8 years for finishing the program.
What’s the Difference Between PsyD vs. PhD Programs in Clinical Psychology?
There are two types of doctoral programs available to psychology students. Either can lead to a successful career, but it’s worthwhile to learn the differences between them.
|Clinical Psychology PhD Programs||Clinical Psychology PsyD Programs|
Both types of doctoral programs usually include internships and can be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).
What’s the Difference Between Doctoral Programs in Clinical Psychology vs. Counseling Psychology?
You can prepare for a career as a psychologist by studying either clinical or counseling psychology.
|Clinical Psychology Doctoral Programs||Counseling Psychology Doctoral Programs|
There are distinctions between these two fields, but even still, there is a lot that these two branches of psychology have in common.
Is a Clinical Psychology PhD Worth It?
Yes, a clinical psychology PhD is worth it for many professionals. Clinical psychologists provide treatment for people with mental and emotional health issues, or they offer invaluable research and instruction in that area. This is a career choice that can make a lasting difference in people’s safety, happiness, and well-being.
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Employment for psychologists is steady, and some subfields are experiencing notable growth. Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 6% growth rate for psychology positions over the next decade. In the area of clinical and counseling psychology, a 10% rate of growth is expected.
Universities Offering Online Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
California Southern University offers a Doctor of Psychology. The program requires the completion of 66 credits and a doctoral program. It can typically be finished in 4 to 5 years by full-time students. Potential courses include Advanced Theories of Personality, Advanced Psychopathology, and Statistical Methods and Analysis.
California Southern University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Capella University’s PsyD in Psychology program includes a blend of online learning and in-person experiences. It requires the completion of a dissertation and participation in a clinical practicum and internships.
Potential courses include Advanced Psychopathology, Theory and Evidence-Based Practice in Clinical Psychology, and Neuropsychological Assessment. The program is designed to prepare students for state licensure.
Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Fielding Graduate University offers a PhD in Clinical Psychology program that includes online and in-person learning.
Potential courses include Psychopathology, Multicultural Psychology, and Developmental Bases of Behavior. The program also requires the completion of a dissertation and participation in more than 1500 clock hours of supervised clinical practicum and internship experiences.
Fielding Graduate University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Liberty University offers a PhD in Psychology program that requires the completion of 60 credit hours and a dissertation under faculty mentorship. It usually takes 3 years to finish. Courses can be taken in a 100% online, 8 week format. The curriculum is designed to teach about human thought and behavior from a biblical worldview.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Meridian University offers a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology. The program offers several optional concentrations, including Collective Trauma and Social Healing, Transformative Leadership, Somatic Psychology, and Organizational Development. Courses are offered in hybrid and online formats and follow a quarterly academic calendar.
Meridian University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Regent University’s online PhD in Counseling and Psychological Studies program requires the completion of 51 credit hours. All courses are taught from a Christian worldview. Concentration options include Human Services Counseling, Addictions Counseling, Marriage and Family Ministry, Industrial-Organizational, Trauma and Crisis Counseling and more.
Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Saint Mary’s University offers a Doctor of Psychology in Counseling Psychology. This program requires the completion of 87 credits and two community practicum placements. It can typically be completed in 4 years. Classes meet on Wednesdays and Thursdays and have afternoon or evening time slots. It is possible to continue working while in the program.
Saint Mary’s University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Saybrook University offers a PhD in Clinical Psychology that can be earned online. The program usually takes 5 years of full-time study to finish. It is designed to prepare students for professional licensure in many states. Optional specializations are available in Advanced Psychological Assessment, Complex Trauma and the Healing Process, Existential and Humanistic Psychology, and more.
Saybrook University is accredited by the Senior Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
The University of Colorado—Denver offers a licensure-track School Psychology PsyD program with a 100% job placement rate. It offers an optional Bilingual Spanish-English School Psychologist concentration. The program usually takes 4 years to complete. Potential courses include Introduction Counseling in School Psychology, Biological and Neuropsychological Bases of Behavior, and School-Based Multicultural Interventions.
CU Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Walden University offers a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Much of the program can be completed online, but to gain hands-on experience a supervised practicum, internships, and four 4 day residences are required. The program offers specializations in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Health, Forensic Psychology, and Teaching.
Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Getting Your Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Online
Becoming a practicing clinical psychologist requires earning a doctoral degree, and you can take online classes to help fulfill the requirements for this degree.
Through a distance-learning format, you can learn from experienced professors and engage in meaningful assignments. Getting a doctorate in an online psychology degree program can provide valuable flexibility for working professionals, and you may be able to put some of the lessons into practice right away. After completing your doctorate, you’ll likely be ready to take your career to its next stage.
To find the online opportunity that’s right for you, you can start exploring accredited colleges with PhD in Psychology programs.