How to Become a Clinical Psychologist: Salary, Education Requirements, and Job Growth

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VSLinear psychologists help people struggling with a variety of mental health issues, whether it’s going through a difficult time in life or battling debilitating mental health issues.

These professionals aim to positively impact the lives of their clients by addressing mental health issues that would otherwise impede their well-being. If you’re wondering how to become a clinical psychologist, you’ve come to the right place.

Clinical Psychologist Job Outlook

According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of clinical psychologists is expected to increase by 10% between 2020 and 2030. This growth rate exceeds the outlook for all psychologist jobs, which are expected to increase by 8% during this period.

The high demand for clinical psychologists will continue as more people choose to seek help for their mental health care needs.

What does a clinical psychologist do?

Clinical psychologists work directly with patients who have psychological challenges that may interfere with their mental well-being. These challenges can arise due to mental health issues, stressful environments, traumatic events, or other difficult situations.

Here are some tasks that clinical psychologists often handle on a daily basis.

  • Diagnose and treat many types of emotional, behavioral and mental disorders, including depression, anxietybipolar disorder and PTSD.
  • Evaluate patients through interviews, psychological tests, and observations to better understand their background, history, and mental health issues.
  • Develop and implement individualized treatment plans that may include counseling or behavior modification.
  • Working with patients who have cognitive or physical disabilities.
  • Work with individuals, couples, families and larger groups.
  • Refer their patients to other health care providers if necessary.

How much does a clinical psychologist earn?

According to the BLSthe median annual salary for clinical psychologists was $82,510 in May 2021. Salaries range from $47,010 for the bottom 10% to $167,460 for those in the 90th percentile of earners.

Industry also helps determine salary. For example, clinical psychologists in health practitioner offices earn an average of $106,870 per year, according to the BLS. Those who work in residential care facilities earn an average annual salary of $77,730.

Steps to becoming a clinical psychologist

If you want to become a clinical psychologist, be prepared for a long series of steps. Requirements for clinical psychologists vary by state, research your state’s requirements before beginning the process to become a clinical psychologist.

Earn a bachelor’s degree

You must obtain a bachelor’s degree before pursuing graduate studies. Your bachelor’s degree must be in psychology or a related field. This is especially important if you plan on not getting a master’s degree.

Many clinical psychologists hold a master’s degree, but it is not necessary to become a clinical psychologist. However, a doctorate is required. If your bachelor’s degree is in psychology or a related field, you may be able to go directly to a doctoral program, depending on your school’s admission requirements.

If your bachelor’s degree is in an unrelated subject, however, a master’s degree in psychology may be required to qualify for doctoral programs.

Complete a Psy.D. or doctorate

You must obtain a doctorate to become a clinical psychologist. A doctorate can be a doctorate or a Psy.D., both of which provide an in-depth understanding of the principles of psychology. Although similar in some ways, the two degrees have different goals, objectives, and requirements.

A Ph.D. focuses on advanced research methods and is a good option for those planning to work in academia, scientific research, forensic psychology, patient care, or clinical practice. This path can also help you become a researcher in the field of psychology.

Courses for a doctorate. the program may include research design, advanced statistics, ethical and legal issues, and behavioral assessment methods.

A Psy.D. focuses on working with patients in a clinical setting. You may prefer this degree if your goal is to work in a practical, patient-focused role rather than engage in ongoing psychology research. This option also has fewer requirements, so you can complete it faster than a PhD.

Course for a Psy.D. the curriculum may include advanced psychopathology, theories of psychotherapy, clinical supervision strategies, psychological testing, and evidence-based practice.

Gain pre-professional experience

Before becoming a clinical psychologist, you must complete pre-professional experience. This usually includes a pre-doctoral fellowship and a a postdoctoral fellowship with supervised hours in a clinical setting.

Hours and other requirements vary by state. The Association of Postdoctoral and Internship Centers in Psychology offers a national matching program to help match doctoral psychology students with internship opportunities.

Get licensed in your state

Before applying for your license, you must pass the Psychology Professional Practice Examination. All states have this requirement. Some also require a jurisprudence test, which covers state-specific laws and rules.

The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) provides a directory of licensing boards for psychologists across the United States and Canada. Since each state sets its own licensing requirements, you should check with yours for more information. You can find more information in ASPPB’s online directory.

Obtain board certification

The American Board of Professional Psychology manages board certification for licensed psychologists. You can choose from 15 specialty areas and you must have a PhD from an accredited program to become board certified.

Frequently Asked Questions About Clinical Psychologists

What is the difference between a psychologist and a clinical psychologist?

Clinical psychology is a type of psychology. Clinical psychologists work directly with clients in clinical settings, such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, and inpatient treatment centers. Psychologists who are not clinical psychologists tend to work in research, academia, business, government, or consulting.

What do clinical psychologists do on a daily basis?

Clinical psychologists help clients manage their emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues and improve their well-being. They work in a clinical setting to assess, diagnose, and provide treatment to their clients.

How long does it take to become a clinical psychologist?

You should expect to spend at least eight and up to 12 years completing the educational requirements to become a clinical psychologist. After that, you will spend one or two years completing your postdoctoral fellowship before applying for licensure.

How do clinical psychologists maintain their own mental health?

As a clinical psychologist, you work with people who have serious mental health issues, which in turn can affect your own mental health. It is important to realize that all psychologists can be vulnerable to trauma and that you should seek help if you need it.

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