The exciting and rewarding career field of clinical psychology may only be a few years of school away. Check out this quick rundown of what it takes to become a clinical psychologist.

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

Clinical Psychologist Specializations

  • 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.

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 for psychologists

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 Sutlook

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:

CareerAnnual Median Wage
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists$78,200
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Professional Organizations

To find more helpful information on specializations, psychologist careers, psychology programs, and other useful information for those interested in the field, you can use these resources:

For more insight into the career, here's a useful visual aid depicting how to become a clinical psychologist.

Article Sources

How to become a clinical psychologist

Article Sources
  • Psychologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed July 26, 2018,
  • Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed July 26, 2018,
  • Clinical Psychologists, Occupational Information Network, accessed July 26, 2018,
  • Learn About Specialty Boards, American Board of Professional Psychology, accessed July 26, 2018,
  • School pages, accessed July 26, 2018: Clinical Psychology Curriculum, University of Arizona, clinical psychology curriculum; Health Psychology, Walden University,; Program Catalog, Curriculum, Developmental Psychology Program, University of Kansas,; Master of Arts in Psychoanalysis, Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis,;
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