How to Become a Clinical Psychologist

Written by: Psych Degree Starter Editorial Team   •  Jan 12, 2024

Clinical Psychologist Pds

Clinical psychology is a vital profession dedicated to understanding and treating mental health disorders and psychological challenges.

Clinical psychologists play an essential role in healthcare, providing diagnoses, conducting therapy, and contributing to the overall mental well-being of individuals and communities.

This article will explore the journey to becoming a clinical psychologist, detailing the educational path, necessary experience, and additional steps required to succeed in this impactful and rewarding career.

Steps to Become a Clinical Psychologist

Step 1: Research the Profession

  • Understanding the Role: Clinical psychologists assess and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Their work often involves psychotherapy, psychological testing, and research.
  • Importance of Research: Gaining a thorough understanding of the job is essential to ensure it aligns with your personal and professional aspirations.

Step 2: Meet Educational Requirements

  • Bachelor’s Degree: Begin with a traditional or online bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field.
  • Advanced Degrees: A doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in clinical psychology is typically required.
  • Relevant Coursework: Courses usually include abnormal psychology, psychotherapy techniques, psychopathology, and ethics in psychology.

Step 3: Gain Relevant Experience

  • Practicums and Internships: These offer hands-on experience in clinical settings and are often part of graduate programs.
  • Postdoctoral Training: Additional specialized training may be required after earning a doctoral degree.

Step 4: Obtain Certifications (if applicable)

  • State Licensure: All clinical psychologists must be licensed to practice, which generally requires passing a state-specific examination.
  • Board Certification: While not mandatory, certification from organizations like the American Board of Professional Psychology can enhance professional credentials.

Step 5: Build a Portfolio (if applicable)

  • Documenting Experience: Include case studies, research, therapies employed, and outcomes achieved.
  • Professional Development: Highlight continuing education courses, workshops, and seminars attended.

Additional Steps

  • Specializations: Consider specializing in areas like child psychology, neuropsychology, or health psychology.
  • Ongoing Education: Stay current with new research, treatment methods, and best practices in the field.

Why Become a Clinical Psychologist


  • Meaningful Impact: Ability to make a significant difference in people’s lives by improving their mental health.
  • Diverse Opportunities: Wide range of work settings and specializations available.
  • Intellectual Challenge: The field is continually evolving, offering ongoing learning and intellectual stimulation.


  • Emotionally Demanding: Working with individuals in distress can be emotionally taxing.
  • Long Educational Path: Requires several years of education and training.
  • Regulatory Challenges: Navigating insurance and healthcare regulations can be complex.

Where do Clinical Psychologists Work?

Corporate Settings:

  • Employee assistance programs or in-house counseling services in corporations.

Freelance Opportunities:

  • Private practice, offering individual or group therapy sessions.

Government Organizations:

  • Working in public health settings, schools, military, or correctional facilities.

Other Venues:

  • Hospitals and Clinics: Providing patient care in medical settings.
  • Academic Institutions: Engaging in teaching and research.
  • Non-Profit Organizations: Offering services in community centers or NGOs.

Specialized Workplaces:

  • Telehealth Services: Remote counseling and therapy services.
  • Specialized Clinics: Focusing on specific disorders or patient populations, such as addiction centers or child and adolescent facilities.

The career of a clinical psychologist is diverse and fulfilling, offering opportunities to work in various environments and positively impact individuals’ mental health and well-being.

Clinical Psychologist Salary

Average Salary:

The average salary for clinical psychologists typically ranges from $70,000 to $100,000 annually.

This salary range varies based on experience, location, and the type of setting in which they work. Compared to other psychology professions, clinical psychologists often earn more due to their specialized training and the complexity of the work they perform.

Highest Clinical Psychologist Salary:

Experienced clinical psychologists, especially those in private practice or occupying senior positions in healthcare facilities, can earn upwards of $120,000 to $150,000 annually.

High earning potential is often associated with specializations in areas like neuropsychology or health psychology.

Highest Paying States:

States like California, New York, and Massachusetts typically offer higher salaries for clinical psychologists. These areas often have a higher cost of living and a greater demand for mental health services.

Clinical Psychologist Career and Job Growth

The demand for clinical psychologists is expected to grow steadily. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth rate of about 14% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

This growth is driven by a greater recognition of mental health issues and the need for mental health services in various settings.

Clinical Psychologist Degrees

Bachelor’s Degree:

Essential for entry into graduate programs. Common courses include general psychology, developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, and statistics. Typically a four-year program.

Master’s Degree:

Some clinical psychologists hold a master’s degree in clinical psychology, but a doctoral degree is often required for clinical practice. Master’s programs offer specializations in various aspects of clinical psychology and usually take two to three years to complete.

Further Studies:

Doctoral Degree: A Ph.D. or Psy.D. in clinical psychology is necessary for independent clinical practice. These programs, which include both coursework and practical experience, can take 4-6 years to complete.

Postdoctoral Training and Certifications: Additional specialized training and certifications can enhance skills and employment prospects.

Clinical Psychologist FAQ

What degree do I need to become a Clinical Psychologist?

To become a clinical psychologist, you typically need a doctoral degree, either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D., in clinical psychology. The journey starts with a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field, followed by a master’s degree, and then the doctoral degree.

What do Clinical Psychologists do?

Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. They conduct therapy, psychological testing, and research, and may specialize in specific areas like child psychology or neuropsychology.

How long does it take to become a Clinical Psychologist?

The educational path includes:

  • Bachelor’s Degree: 4 years.
  • Master’s Degree: 2-3 years (optional, as some doctoral programs accept bachelor’s graduates).
  • Doctoral Degree: 4-6 years.
  • Postdoctoral Training: 1-2 years (if required).

The total duration can range from 10 to 12 years, including education and required experience.

How much do Clinical Psychologists make?

The average salary ranges from $70,000 to $100,000 annually, with potential earnings exceeding $120,000 for those in senior roles or private practice.

What Skills do I need to be a Clinical Psychologist?

Soft Skills: Empathy, communication, patience, problem-solving, and resilience.

Hard Skills: Expertise in psychological assessment and therapy, research skills, knowledge of mental health disorders, and proficiency in clinical tools and techniques.

Are there internship opportunities for Clinical Psychologists?

Yes, internships are crucial for gaining practical experience. Opportunities are available in:

  • Hospitals and clinics.
  • Mental health centers.
  • University counseling centers.
  • Private practices under licensed psychologists.

Internships typically occur during or after graduate studies, offering hands-on experience in diagnosing and treating patients, which is essential for developing the skills required for a successful career in clinical psychology.

Becoming a clinical psychologist requires a significant educational commitment, hands-on experience, and a dedication to ongoing learning and professional development. This career offers the opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of individuals struggling with mental health issues, contributing to a healthier and more resilient society.

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