APA Accredited Clinical Psychology Programs

Written by: Psych Degree Starter Editorial Team   •  Jun 10, 2024

APA Accredited Clinical Psychology Programs

Pursuing a career in clinical psychology is a significant decision that can lead to a rewarding and impactful profession. Clinical psychologists play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating mental health disorders, providing therapy, and conducting research. If you are considering this path, enrolling in an APA accredited clinical psychology program is essential. These programs offer rigorous academic and practical training, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared for professional practice.

Understanding Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on diagnosing and treating mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. This field encompasses a wide range of practices, from providing individual therapy to conducting research on mental health issues. Clinical psychologists work with individuals across the lifespan, from children to older adults, addressing conditions such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and more.

Clinical psychology is distinct from other psychology specialties due to its emphasis on integrating scientific research with clinical practice. Practitioners use evidence-based approaches to develop treatment plans tailored to the unique needs of each client. This specialization often overlaps with counseling psychology, but clinical psychology typically deals with more severe psychological disorders.

Why Choose Clinical Psychology?

Many individuals choose to pursue a career in clinical psychology for various reasons:

  • Helping Others: Clinical psychologists play a vital role in improving mental health and well-being. They help individuals cope with and overcome various psychological challenges, making a significant positive impact on their lives.
  • Diverse Career Opportunities: Clinical psychology offers a wide range of career paths, including private practice, hospital settings, academic roles, and research positions. This diversity allows professionals to find niches that match their interests and skills.
  • Continuous Learning: The field of clinical psychology is constantly evolving, with new research and therapeutic techniques emerging regularly. This dynamic environment provides opportunities for continuous learning and professional growth.
  • Job Satisfaction: Many clinical psychologists find their work fulfilling due to the direct impact they have on their clients’ lives. The ability to help others achieve better mental health can be incredibly rewarding.

Understanding these motivations can help prospective students determine if a career in clinical psychology aligns with their personal and professional goals. Choosing an APA accredited clinical psychology program ensures that students receive high-quality education and training, preparing them for successful careers in this impactful field.

Typical Curriculum in Clinical Psychology Programs

Core Courses and Training

APA accredited clinical psychology programs provide a rigorous and comprehensive curriculum designed to equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills for professional practice. Here are some of the core courses typically included:


This course covers the study of psychological disorders, including their symptoms, causes, and treatments. Students learn to diagnose mental health conditions using criteria from the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

Psychological Assessment

Students are trained in the administration, scoring, and interpretation of various psychological tests and assessments. This includes intelligence tests, personality inventories, and neuropsychological assessments.

Therapeutic Techniques

This course provides an overview of different therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and humanistic therapy. Students learn to apply these techniques in clinical settings to treat a range of psychological issues.

Ethics and Professional Issues

Ethics is a critical component of clinical psychology. This course covers the ethical standards and professional guidelines that govern the practice of psychology. Topics include confidentiality, informed consent, and professional conduct.

Research and Dissertation

For those pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology, research is a central component of the curriculum. PhD students are required to engage in significant research projects and complete a dissertation. Key aspects include:

Research Methods

Students learn advanced research methodologies, including experimental design, data collection, and statistical analysis. This course prepares students to conduct empirical research and contribute to the scientific literature in psychology.


The dissertation is a substantial research project that PhD students undertake to contribute original knowledge to the field. This process involves developing a research question, conducting a literature review, collecting and analyzing data, and presenting the findings in a written dissertation. The dissertation process is typically guided by a faculty advisor and committee.

Clinical Training and Practicum

Both PhD and PsyD programs emphasize practical clinical training. These experiences are crucial for developing the skills needed for effective clinical practice. Key components include:


Students participate in supervised clinical practicums where they gain hands-on experience working with clients. Practicum placements can occur in various settings, such as university counseling centers, community mental health clinics, and hospitals.


An internship is a more intensive, year-long clinical training experience typically completed towards the end of the program. Interns work full-time in clinical settings, providing psychological services under supervision. This experience is essential for developing advanced clinical skills and meeting licensure requirements.

Clinical Supervision

Throughout their training, students receive ongoing supervision from experienced clinicians. Supervision provides opportunities for feedback, skill development, and professional growth, ensuring that students are prepared for independent practice.

The curriculum of APA accredited clinical psychology programs is designed to provide a balanced education that integrates theoretical knowledge, research, and practical experience. This comprehensive training prepares graduates for successful careers in various settings, including clinical practice, academia, and research.

Accreditation of Psychology Programs

Importance of APA Accreditation

When selecting a clinical psychology program, ensuring that it is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) is crucial. APA accreditation signifies that a program meets rigorous standards of quality and effectiveness, providing assurance that the education and training you receive will prepare you for professional practice. Here are some key reasons why APA accreditation is important:

  • Quality Assurance: APA accredited programs are regularly reviewed and must adhere to high standards in terms of curriculum, faculty qualifications, and student support services. This ensures that the education provided is comprehensive and up-to-date with current professional practices.
  • Licensure Requirements: Graduating from an APA accredited program is often a prerequisite for obtaining licensure as a psychologist. Many states require candidates to have completed an accredited program to be eligible for licensure exams.
  • Professional Recognition: An APA accredited degree is recognized and respected within the field of psychology, enhancing your credibility and career prospects. Employers, licensing boards, and professional organizations acknowledge the value of APA accreditation.

How Programs Earn APA Accreditation

The process for earning APA accreditation involves several detailed steps to ensure that a program meets the association’s high standards:


Programs seeking APA accreditation must first conduct a comprehensive self-study, evaluating their curriculum, faculty, resources, and student outcomes. This self-study report is submitted to the APA for initial review.

Site Visit

An APA-appointed site visit team, comprising experienced psychologists, visits the program to assess its facilities, interview faculty and students, and verify the information provided in the self-study report. The site visit is an integral part of the accreditation process, providing an on-the-ground evaluation of the program’s quality.

Review and Decision

Following the site visit, the APA Commission on Accreditation reviews the self-study and site visit report to determine if the program meets the standards for accreditation. If the program meets these standards, it is granted accreditation, which is subject to periodic renewal through continued self-assessment and subsequent site visits.

Benefits of Attending an APA Accredited Program

Choosing an APA accredited clinical psychology program offers several advantages:

  • Comprehensive Training: Accredited programs provide a balanced education that integrates theoretical knowledge, research, and practical experience. This ensures you are well-prepared for various professional roles in psychology.
  • Enhanced Career Opportunities: Graduates of APA accredited programs are highly sought after by employers and are eligible for licensure in all states, broadening your career prospects.
  • Access to Financial Aid: Accredited programs are often eligible for federal financial aid, scholarships, and grants, making education more affordable.
  • Professional Development: APA accredited programs often offer opportunities for networking, professional development, and involvement in the broader psychological community.

Attending an APA accredited clinical psychology program ensures that you receive a high-quality education that meets the rigorous standards of the field. This accreditation is essential for ensuring that you are well-prepared for licensure and professional success.

Job Roles for Clinical Psychology Graduates

Career Opportunities

Graduates of APA accredited clinical psychology programs have a wide array of career opportunities available to them. These roles utilize the comprehensive training received during their education and allow them to apply their skills in various settings. Here are some of the primary career paths:

Clinical Psychologist

Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose, and treat mental health disorders. They use various therapeutic techniques to help clients manage psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, and trauma. Clinical psychologists often work in private practice, hospitals, mental health clinics, and community health centers. They may also provide therapy to individuals, couples, families, and groups​.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors provide emotional support and counseling services to individuals dealing with mental health issues. They work in diverse settings, including schools, private practice, and community agencies. Mental health counselors focus on promoting mental wellness and helping clients develop coping strategies for life’s challenges.

Academic Roles

Graduates with a PhD in clinical psychology often pursue careers in academia. They work as professors or researchers at universities and colleges, teaching courses in psychology, conducting research, and publishing their findings. Academic roles allow them to mentor students and contribute to the scientific knowledge base of psychology .

Research Positions

Clinical psychologists can work in research institutions, government agencies, or private organizations conducting psychological research. These roles involve designing studies, collecting and analyzing data, and publishing results in academic journals. Research positions are ideal for those interested in advancing the field through empirical investigation .

Work Settings

Clinical psychologists can work in a variety of settings, each offering unique opportunities and challenges:

Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

In hospitals, clinical psychologists collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care to patients with mental health needs. They may work in psychiatric units, general hospitals, or specialized treatment centers, offering assessment, therapy, and crisis intervention services​.

Private Practice

Many clinical psychologists establish private practices, providing therapy to clients on a one-on-one basis. Private practice offers greater autonomy and the ability to specialize in specific areas of interest, such as family therapy, trauma counseling, or cognitive-behavioral therapy .

Community Mental Health Centers

In community mental health centers, clinical psychologists work with underserved populations, providing essential mental health services to those who may not have access to care otherwise. These roles often involve outreach, crisis intervention, and community education initiatives .

Schools and Educational Institutions

Clinical psychologists in schools provide support to students, helping them manage emotional, social, and academic challenges. They work closely with teachers, parents, and administrators to create a supportive environment that promotes mental health and academic success.

Job Outlook and Salary for Psychologists

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for psychologists is projected to grow by 6% from 2022 to 2032, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by increased demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social service agencies .

The median annual wage for psychologists was $92,740 in May 2023, according to the BLS . However, salaries can vary widely based on factors such as specialization, location, and experience. For example, clinical psychologists working in private practice or urban areas may earn higher salaries compared to those in rural settings or public sector roles .

Graduates of APA accredited clinical psychology programs are well-positioned to enter a field with robust job opportunities and competitive salaries. The comprehensive training provided by these programs ensures that they are prepared to meet the diverse needs of their clients and contribute effectively to their chosen work settings.

Cost of Degree and Tips for Paying for Degree

Tuition and Fees for Clinical Psychology Programs

The cost of obtaining a clinical psychology degree can vary significantly based on factors such as the institution, program length, and whether the school is public or private. Here are some general estimates:

  • Public Universities: Tuition for in-state students at public universities typically ranges from $10,000 to $20,000 per year. Out-of-state students may pay between $20,000 and $35,000 per year.
  • Private Universities: Tuition at private universities can range from $30,000 to $50,000 per year, with some prestigious programs exceeding these amounts.
  • Additional Fees: Beyond tuition, students should budget for additional fees, including books, supplies, technology fees, and living expenses. These costs can add several thousand dollars per year to the total cost.

Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Grants

Several financial aid options are available to help offset the cost of clinical psychology programs:

Federal Financial Aid

  • FAFSA: Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in determining eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study programs. Many institutions also use FAFSA information to award institutional aid.

Scholarships and Fellowships

  • Scholarships and Fellowships: The American Psychological Association and other organizations sponsor various scholarships and fellowships for graduate students in psychology. These awards are often based on academic achievement, research interests, and financial need.
  • Institutional Scholarships: Many universities offer scholarships specifically for graduate students in clinical psychology. These can be merit-based or need-based and may cover partial or full tuition.


  • Federal and State Grants: Programs like the Federal Pell Grant and state-specific grants provide funding based on financial need. Graduate students may also be eligible for grants that support research and educational projects.
  • Private Grants: Organizations and foundations may offer grants to support students pursuing advanced degrees in psychology. Websites like Fastweb and Scholarships.com can help students find relevant grant opportunities.

Work-Study and Assistantships

Graduate students can also explore work-study programs and assistantships to help finance their education:

Graduate Assistantships

  • Teaching Assistantships (TAs): Many universities offer TA positions, where students assist with teaching undergraduate courses in exchange for a stipend and tuition remission.
  • Research Assistantships (RAs): RAs work on faculty-led research projects, gaining valuable experience while receiving financial support.

Federal Work-Study

  • On-Campus Jobs: The federal work-study program provides part-time jobs for students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay for education expenses.

Tips for Managing the Cost of Your Degree

  1. Apply Early: Early application for financial aid, scholarships, and assistantships increases your chances of receiving funding.
  2. Research Financial Aid Opportunities: Thoroughly research all available financial aid options, including those offered by your institution and external organizations.
  3. Budget Wisely: Create a budget to manage your expenses and avoid unnecessary debt. Consider living expenses, transportation, and other costs beyond tuition and fees.
  4. Work Part-Time: If possible, work part-time in a related field to gain experience and offset costs.
  5. Seek Employer Assistance: Some employers offer tuition assistance or reimbursement programs for employees pursuing advanced degrees.

By exploring these financial aid options and managing your expenses wisely, you can reduce the financial burden of obtaining an APA accredited clinical psychology degree and focus on your academic and professional goals.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the difference between clinical psychology and counseling psychology?

Clinical psychology and counseling psychology are closely related fields, but they have distinct differences. Clinical psychology focuses on diagnosing and treating mental health disorders, often dealing with more severe psychological issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression. Clinical psychologists typically work in hospitals, mental health clinics, and private practice.

Counseling psychology, on the other hand, focuses on helping individuals with emotional, social, and developmental issues. Counseling psychologists often work with clients facing life transitions, relationship issues, and stress management. They typically work in schools, colleges, community health centers, and private practice. While both fields involve therapy, clinical psychology has a stronger emphasis on psychopathology and treatment of severe mental health conditions​.

Can I get licensed with an online degree in clinical psychology?

Yes, it is possible to get licensed with an online degree in clinical psychology, provided the program is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Accreditation ensures that the program meets the standards necessary for licensure. Graduates must also fulfill state-specific requirements, which typically include completing a certain number of supervised clinical hours and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) .

How long does it typically take to complete a clinical psychology program?

The duration of a clinical psychology program can vary. Generally, a PhD in clinical psychology takes between 5 to 7 years to complete, including coursework, practicum, internship, and dissertation research. A PsyD program accredited by the APA typically takes about 4 to 6 years, with a greater emphasis on clinical training and internships rather than research .

What are the practicum and internship requirements for clinical psychology programs?

Both PhD and PsyD programs in clinical psychology require extensive practicum and internship experiences. Practicum placements occur early in the program and involve supervised clinical work in settings such as university counseling centers, community mental health clinics, and hospitals. These placements provide hands-on experience in applying therapeutic techniques and conducting psychological assessments.

The internship is a more intensive, year-long clinical training experience usually completed toward the end of the program. Interns work full-time in clinical settings, providing psychological services under supervision. This experience is critical for developing advanced clinical skills and meeting licensure requirements.

What are the career prospects for graduates of APA accredited clinical psychology programs?

Graduates of APA accredited clinical psychology programs have strong career prospects. The demand for clinical psychologists is expected to grow by 6% from 2022 to 2032, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Clinical psychologists can work in various settings, including private practice, hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, and research institutions. The median annual wage for psychologists was $92,740 in May 2023, with higher salaries possible in private practice and specialized medical settings​.

Next Steps for Prospective Students

If you’re ready to take the next step in your clinical psychology career, start by exploring accredited programs that align with your interests and career aspirations. Here are some actions to consider:

  • Research Programs: Look for APA accredited clinical psychology programs that match your career goals. Consider factors such as program curriculum, faculty expertise, clinical training opportunities, and financial aid options.
  • Contact Admissions Offices: Reach out to admissions counselors to get detailed information about the programs, application requirements, and financial aid opportunities. Attend virtual open houses or information sessions to gain more insights.
  • Connect with Current Students and Alumni: Networking with current students and alumni can provide valuable insights into the program experience, faculty support, and career outcomes. They can share firsthand experiences and offer advice on navigating the program.
  • Prepare Your Application: Gather necessary documents, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. Ensure you meet application deadlines and thoroughly review each program’s application requirements.
  • Plan for Financial Aid: Explore all available financial aid options, including federal aid, scholarships, grants, and assistantships. Submit your FAFSA early and apply for scholarships and grants specific to psychology students.

An APA accredited clinical psychology degree can open doors to a wide range of exciting and impactful career opportunities. Explore your options carefully, and choose the program that best suits your personal needs and professional goals.

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