What is a clinical psychology degree? Clinical psychology is the broadest area of psychology degrees and involves the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of mental and behavioral disorders. Clinical psychologists aren’t authorized to prescribe medication in most states, instead focusing on prevention and therapy. It is a diverse career path that helps individuals, families, couples, and groups in settings such as private practices, mental health organizations, non-profit agencies, hospitals, businesses, and schools.
In general, admission into clinical psychology graduate programs are based on your grade point average (this is an average of overall GPA, psychology GPA, and GPA in the last two years); standardized test scores (GRE and MAT); and classes taken (number of hours, subject area, and level). Clinical psychology degree requirements can differ between states. Subjective areas of consideration are letters of recommendation, internships, research experience, related volunteer work, interview performance, and extracurricular activities.
Online clinical psychology programs can be further broken down into several unique specialties including child, adolescent, adult, and geriatric mental health; learning disabilities; substance abuse; and health psychology. The first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Most jobs in the field require a doctorate’s degree which takes between five to seven years to complete. In many cases, students choose to train in their specialty while working toward a higher degree in clinical psychology.
There are two types of clinical psychology doctoral degrees available so students should have their career goals in mind when looking into psychology degree graduate programs. A PhD focuses on subjects such as quantitative method and research design, and requires completion of a dissertation based on the student’s original research. Ultimately, a PhD leads to a career in research and although it takes a longer to complete, PhD work generally receives more funding. A PsyD takes a little less time to complete and prepares student for clinical and practitioner work. Psychology programs can also vary in approach, focusing on behavioral, cognitive, biological, or psychoanalytic psychology.
Each state has unique requirements for licensing or certification. Clinical psychologists must either pursue a state-specific license or choose to practice in 1 of 31 states that recognizes the transferrable certification granted by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). In states that allow clinical psychologists to prescribe medication, a post-doctoral master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology must be completed. The State Board of Examiners of Psychology also requires passing a national test to ensure proper clinical psychology training.
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