This page tackles the questions – “what is clinical psychology” and “how is it different to counseling psychology?” – and provides advice on clinical psychology degree programs to take in order to qualify in this field.
Clinical psychology is the analysis, research and treatment of severe mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This can be contrasted with counseling psychology, which deals with everyday stresses, including career planning, learning difficulties, marriage guidance and family difficulties.
This page provides information on clinical psychology online and on campus programs, where the programs can be studied, what the career prospects are for graduates, and more. If you want to broaden your study of psychology, click here to find out more about general psychology.
What do you study in the programs?
Clinical psychology began in 1896 with the work of Lightner Witmer on learning disabilities. Witner established a clinic where learning disorders and other educational difficulties could be assessed and treated. Other psychologists followed with their own theories and treatments of educational and other psychological disturbances, e.g., Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Alfred Adler.
There are now many theories and approaches to clinical psychology, and degree programs may vary slightly as to the content and specializations offered, depending on the research interests of the faculty.
Clinical psychology study is possible at the bachelor level, but is mainly taken at master’s and doctoral levels. Graduate programs focus on the assessment and treatment of mental health disorders, abnormal behavior and psychiatric problem. A typical masters program may include the following:
- Biological Basis of Behaviour
- Human Motivation
- Contemporary Issues
- Research Design
- Tests and Measurement
- Psychological Testing
- Principles of Psychopathology
- The Cognitive Approach
- Clinical Psych
- Theories of Psychotherapy
- The Developmental Approach
- Culture and Psychology
A thesis may be required in addition or in place of some of the courses.
Make sure the program you take is accredited by an appropriate accrediting body, such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), or the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE).
What are the career prospects with a clinical psychology degree?
Accredited online psychology degrees provide many career opportunities in private sector (e.g., marketing, personnel management), public sector (e.g., teaching, social/community work, mental health care in hospitals, clinics and schools). The American Psychological Association says that psychology is the third fastest-growing field in America requiring a college degree.
With a masters in clinical psychology (MA), you can become a guidance counselor, educator, clinical psychologist, social worker, research psychologist and more. With a suitable bachelors degree, but without a masters or a PhD, you would be qualified to work as a clinical psychology assistant. But for the best jobs you really need a PsyD or PhD.
Salaries are high for top jobs clinical psychology. To a great extent your salary depends on your specialization in your clinical doctorate. In the US, the average salary in forensic clinical psychology is about US$71,000 (PayScales.com).
List of schools and programs
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median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma.*