Clinical psychology offers a broad range of options to anyone interested in improving the mental and emotional well being of others. This field requires excellent analytical and communication skills, and a strong commitment to patient care. While this specialization calls for in-depth professional training and ongoing continuing education, it can also reward its practitioners with a great deal of satisfaction. Before choosing to commit to the career path of a clinical psychologist, an individual would be wise to consider a number of important questions, including: How many years will I have to devote to formal education and training? What are the licensing and certification requirements for practice? Do I need to choose an area of specialization, and if so, what are my choices?
The first step to becoming a clinical psychologist is to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology from an accredited college or university
To have the full array of practice options open, however, most state licensing boards require a doctorate. When considering doctoral programs, there are two major options: The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree that requires a doctoral dissertation and clinical research experience or the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) whose focus is on working with patients in a clinical setting and may or may not require research and a dissertation. In either case, aspiring clinical psychologists will find both traditional and online programs to meet their advanced educational needs.
There are two primary doctorate options: the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). Ph.D. programs are geared more toward those students who intend on a career in research, while those planning to go into practice treating clients or patients typically opt for a Psy.D. program. In either case, individuals should expect to invest between four and five years in their courses of study, depending on program requirements and participation in fieldwork.
Most doctoral degree programs in clinical psychology include an internship component that typically lasts one year or more, depending on the area of specialization. Completion of such an internship is almost always a requirement of state licensure. For doctoral, internship and postdoctoral programs, it is vital to verify that a program holds accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA).