In general, clinical psychologists help people with both short-term and chronic issues and use their knowledge to assess and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.
If you want to train for a clinical psychology career, it can help to know just what might be expected of you once you hit the working world. These are the responsibilities you're likely to have after becoming a clinical psychologist:
- Interacting with clients to help them achieve effective social, vocational or personal development
- Counseling individuals and groups with problems like stress, substance abuse or family issues
- Determining potential emotional, behavioral or psychological issues and diagnosing disorders
- Selecting from a variety of therapeutic methods to develop and implement treatment plans
- Referring clients to support services and other specialists if necessary
Where do clinical psychologists work?
Once you become a clinical psychologist, you'll have to choose the manner in which you'll ply your trade. Many clinical psychologists become self-employed in a private practice, but they might also work in settings like these:
- Ambulatory health care services
- Government agencies
- State, local and private hospitals
- Outpatient clinics
- Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals
- Community and family services centers
How to become a clinical psychologist
Clinical psychologists must typically earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree before they're able to officially practice. A general psychology bachelor's degree is a common starting point on the road to a clinical psychology career, but some institutions may offer clinical psychology degrees to undergraduates. Read about the top schools for psychology degree programs.
Degree programs in the field often make online courses available for students who need extra flexibility.
Exams and licensing
After your clinical psychologist degree requirements are complete, you'll need to earn a license before you can set up shop. All 50 states and Washington, D.C., require clinical psychologists to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), a qualifying exam developed by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
Each jurisdiction has its own set of education and experience requirements that you'll have to satisfy before beginning your clinical psychologist career. Practitioners may also choose to pursue additional specialized certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology.
Important skills and abilities
- Active listening, or the ability to pay close and encouraging attention to clients when they speak, is an essential skill in clinical psychology
- Complex problem solving skills can help you synthesize information gleaned from client interactions and move effectively toward solutions
- Social perceptiveness gives you the confidence to understand and appropriately react to clients' communicative reflexes and non-verbal cues
- Problem sensitivity allows you to recognize when something might be wrong and begin to direct your energies toward addressing the problem
- Deductive reasoning is the process by which general rules are applied to specific problems to help make sense of complex situations
Clinical psychologist salary and career outlook
In general, to due a number of reasons ranging from increased awareness about living healthy lifestyles to improved medical technology, health care jobs in general are expected to grow faster than the national average, per the BLS. Here's an idea of the salary and job outlook clinical psychologists might expect to look forward to in the coming years:
|Career||Annual Median Wage||Projected Number of New Jobs||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists||$76,990||20,900||14.2|
- American Psychological Association: APA is a large and long-standing organization that counts researchers, clinicians, educators, consultants and students among its members
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Works to provide resources and support to enhance the practice of youth psychiatry in the U.S. and worldwide
- Association for Behavior Analysts International: Features job placement services, scholarly journals and professional events for scholars and practitioners of behavior analysis
For more insight into the career, here's a useful visual aid depicting how to become a clinical psychologist.
More about how to become a clinical psychologist
Training for some of these specialized practice areas may overlap with your clinical psychologist degree or career requirements, while others may require you to earn a specific graduate certificate or other qualifying credential before you're cleared to practice.
Here are a few of the directions you might choose to go with your clinical psychology career:
- Clinical psychologists make up the largest portion of professionals with clinical psychology degrees and focus on courses in clinical assessment, psychosocial intervention, cognitive psychology, neuropsychology and social psychology, among others
- Health psychologists study the intersections between behavior and physical health, studying subjects like stress and coping, culture and psychology, changing health behavior and research design
- Developmental and child psychologists take courses in the psychology of aging, cognitive neuroscience, advanced personality theory, psycholinguistics and behavioral ecology and either work privately or as school psychologists within an education system
- Psychoanalysts take a schedule of detailed clinical and counseling courses that includes psychoanalytic theory, oedipal development, biology of behavior, psychopathology and cultural issues in counseling
Depending on the institution where you choose to pursue your degree program, you may be able to earn some of the required credits through online courses. This approach can be particularly helpful to students seeking a career change or studying while gaining experience in an entry-level psychology job, because of the scheduling flexibility available in classes that don't meet at a set time each day.