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Best Graduate Programs In Clinical Psychology

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Clinical Psychology Graduate Programs

Written by: Staff Writer

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Graduate programs in clinical psychology prepare students to understand, assess, and treat individuals struggling with psychological issues. In these programs, students learn about psychological theories, cognitive function and behavior, developmental processes throughout the lifespan, and treatment strategies and techniques.

Becoming a licensed clinical psychologist requires the completion of a master’s and doctoral degree. Master’s in psychology programs typically require 36-60 credits and take 2-3 years to complete. Doctoral programs in psychology require 90 credits and take 4-7 years to complete. Some doctoral programs are structured so students may earn a master’s degree during the course of the doctorate, while others may require students to possess a master’s before enrolling. Graduate students in clinical psychology complete coursework, clinical practicums or internships, and theses and dissertations that prepare them for state licensure.

If you are seeking the most affordable master’s degree in psychology, read on. This guide outlines the clinical psychology field, the most affordable psychology degrees, school rankings of clinical psychology graduate programs, and typical courses and degree curricula. Use this guide to decide whether obtaining a degree in clinical psychology is right for you and which programs align with your career goals and interests.

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Top 10 Graduate Programs in Clinical Psychology

Graduate Degree in Clinical Psychology Overview

Clinical psychologists study, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. After a diagnosis, clinical psychologists treat and help patients manage chronic conditions or personal difficulties. They also conduct research on behavioral or emotional patterns, brain function and neurological conditions, mental health disorders, and best practices in the field.

Clinical psychologists typically work in research or clinical settings, but they may also work in forensic or industry sectors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists earned an annual median salary of $80,370 in 2019. The BLS projects jobs for psychologists to grow 14% between 2018 and 2028, a faster rate than average.

To become a clinical psychologist, individuals typically must complete a doctorate and supervised clinical experience hours, and they must pass a licensing examination. It is possible to find employment as a master’s-level psychologist in certain mental health facilities, public service organizations, and other institutions and positions that do not require state licensure. However, to practice independently, work in a clinical setting, or conduct research, clinical psychologists must obtain a doctorate and meet licensure requirements.

In most states, clinical psychology students must complete 1-2 years of supervised clinical experience, such as an internship during a graduate program or a postdoctoral position. For example, in Texas, clinical psychologists must complete 3,500 clinical hours, 1,750 of which must be completed as part of a graduate program and 1,750 after the doctorate has been conferred. Several graduate programs included in this guide are based in Texas, but students should research the state licensure requirements for the state in which they intend to practice.

Common Clinical Psychology Courses

Human Growth and Development

This course covers the fundamental principles and theories of developmental psychology, including infancy, early childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and aging. It covers physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth and development throughout the lifespan. Students also learn social frameworks and theories that explore and explain characteristics of individuals, groups, communities, and cultures.


This course introduces students to psychological disorders, including models and definitions, conceptualizations and theories about each disorder, and contemporary treatment approaches. Students explore the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ categories (e.g., anxiety, obsessive compulsive, bipolar) and learn to apply it as a basis for the diagnosis and classification of psychopathology. Students also learn about cultural, social, and ethical issues related to the field of psychopathology.

Counseling Theories

This course provides an overview of theoretical approaches and best practices related to counseling and psychotherapy. Topics covered include client and counselor roles, assessment and evaluation, intervention strategies and techniques, and fundamental counseling response skills. Students learn about contemporary psychotherapy types, such as psychoanalytical, humanistic, existential, and behavioral. Some counseling theory courses may also cover issues related to counseling practice, including confidentiality, working with minority clients, and conducting group therapy.


This course introduces students to the branch of psychology focused on the relationship between brain injury or disease and psychological disorders. Students learn how the brain affects cognition and behavior. Topics covered may include brain function in relation to memory, judgment, reasoning, language, intelligence, and emotions. Learners study various brain disorders, their diagnoses and categorizations, their effects on cognitive and behavioral functioning, and effective treatments. The course provides an overview of conditions commonly dealt with in the field of neuropsychology, such as autism, learning and attention disorders, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, stroke, and dementia.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This course introduces students to cognitive behavioral therapy, a treatment that centers on changing patterns of behavior or thinking in order to help patients overcome personal struggles and difficulties. Students learn to apply cognitive and behavioral techniques to treat depression, anxiety, addiction problems, marital issues, and eating disorders. The goal of CBT is to teach clients skills to change their thinking and behavior to create lasting improvement in their mental well-being.

Clinical Psychology Concentrations

Concentrations in a psychology graduate program allow students to narrow their focus and prepare for a subfield within clinical psychology. Clinical psychology graduate programs offer concentrations in forensic psychology, neuropsychology, developmental psychology, childhood and adolescent development, substance abuse and addictions, and other specialties related to a practice area or working with specific populations.

Concentrations require 9-12 credits in addition to core coursework. Even when a program does not offer official concentrations, students can tailor their electives to acquire expertise in a particular specialty. If a graduate program requires a clinical internship or practicum, students can choose to work in a setting or with an organization that does work related to their area of concentration.

Concentrations can be appealing to employers who are looking for candidates with expertise in a certain area. For instance, schools or foster and adoption agencies may be more likely to hire clinical psychologists with a concentration in developmental psychology or childhood and adolescent development since their organizations work primarily with students and children.

Other psychology concentrations similarly prepare students to enter certain settings or fields. A concentration in forensic psychology, for example, provides students with an understanding of the justice system and the role of psychology in family, civil, and criminal court cases. Forensic psychologists often serve as expert witnesses during a trial to help the jury and judge understand the psychological elements of a case. They may also provide counseling or psychological services to justice-involved populations.

Most clinical psychologists work in research or clinical practice settings. Students should choose a concentration based on the types of psychological issues and clients they want to work with. For instance, students who want to diagnose and treat cognitive disorders related to brain injury may choose a concentration in neuropsychology.

Clinical Psychology Requirements

Admissions criteria to graduate programs in psychology include a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related discipline, a minimum GPA requirement, satisfactory GRE scores, and the completion of prerequisite courses. Some programs require candidates who completed their undergraduate degree in a discipline other than psychology to take prerequisite courses in psychological statistics, research methods, and abnormal psychology before progressing to graduate-level coursework.

GPA and GRE requirements vary by program. Most graduate programs require at least a 2.5 or 3.0 GPA. Some institutions admit students who do not meet the minimum GPA requirement under a probationary status. Other programs do not have a minimum GPA requirement but allow for other elements of an application to offset a low GPA, such as a high GRE score, strong recommendation letters, and personal statement. Not all schools require GRE scores for admission.

To complete a graduate program in clinical psychology, students must meet all degree requirements, which include coursework, clinical experience, and a thesis or dissertation. Students are generally required to earn at least a grade of C or B in each course for the class to count toward their degree and maintain a certain overall GPA in order to graduate.

Master’s-level students take a comprehensive exam and write a thesis. Doctoral students work with faculty advisors on a research project, complete a clinical internship, and write a dissertation. Completing these requirements prepares graduates to apply for licensure from the state board. Students seeking licensure should make sure their chosen graduate programs satisfy licensure requirements in the state in which they wish to practice.

How to Become a Clinical Psychologist

  • COMPLETE A MASTER’S DEGREETo complete a master’s degree, students must complete coursework, clinical experience, and a comprehensive exam or thesis. Most master’s degrees in clinical psychology require 36-60 credits and can be completed in 2-3 years. Students can choose a master of arts or master of science degree in clinical psychology, both of which provide students with a background in the theory and practice of clinical psychology.
  • ENROLL IN A PH.D. PROGRAMStudents can complete either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. The latter prepares students to provide psychological services to patients; the former teaches students psychological theories, best practices, and research methods to prepare them to conduct their own original research and advance science in the field. A Ph.D. in clinical psychology takes 4-7 years to complete and results in a dissertation. Students may also have to complete comprehensive and qualifying exams as a part of the doctoral program.
  • COMPLETE CLINICAL TRAININGMost states require a certain number of clinical training hours for licensure as a clinical psychologist. This can include two years of postdoctoral supervised clinical experience, roughly 3,000 hours of clinical experience, or a related requirement. In some states, clinical experience obtained during master’s and doctoral programs may be sufficient to meet the requirement, while other states require postdoctoral clinical training. These clinical hours should be completed in a mental health setting related to the candidate’s career goals.
  • BECOME LICENSEDState licensure requirements for clinical psychologists typically include the completion of a doctoral degree, a number of supervised clinical experience hours, and satisfactory scores on a licensing exam. Prospective psychologists should check with their state’s licensing board to ensure their graduate programs and clinical training satisfy the state’s requirements. After completing the necessary education and training requirements, eligible candidates must take and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Licensed psychologists must also maintain their license by regularly completing approved continuing education courses.

Best Graduate Programs in Clinical Psychology

  • Binghamton University

    Vestal, NY



    Established in 1946 as Triple Cities College, Binghamton University started out as a branch of Syracuse University. Today, Binghamton University enrolls more than 17,500 students and offers over 200 programs across six schools.

    Binghamton's Harpur College of Arts and Sciences offers a Ph.D. in clinical psychology that gives students the opportunity to earn a master of science by the end of their second year. The curriculum includes coursework in the social aspects of behavior, human neuropsychology, multicultural psychology, and cognitive and affective bases of behavior.

    Doctoral students typically receive a tuition scholarship, health insurance, and an annual stipend. Funding remains in place as long as students maintain a good standing and make steady progress through their program.

    Binghamton University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Columbia University in the City of New York

    New York, NY



    Starting out as King's College in 1754, Columbia University's initial enrollment included eight students. Today, the university enrolls more than 26,000 students and operates 20 academic schools.

    The Teachers College at Columbia offers one of few research-focused clinical psychology doctoral programs that uses a mentorship model. Applicants must identify a faculty member whose area of research and expertise resonates with their own academic and professional goals. Students earn a master of science and master of philosophy as they complete the requirements for the Ph.D. The university funds doctoral students (tuition and a $25,000 stipend) through their fourth year of enrollment.

    Columbia University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • CUNY Graduate School and University Center

    New York, NY



    Established in 1961, the City University of New York's Graduate Center currently enrolls over 3,500 students pursuing master's and doctoral degrees and serves as the administrative home for five CUNY schools.

    Students can pursue the Ph.D. in clinical psychology at John Jay College (90 credits) or Queens College (91 credits). The curriculum includes coursework in core clinical psychology subjects such as neuropsychological assessment, ethical and legal issues for psychology, cognitive and affective aspects of behavior, and psychometric methods.

    The clinical psychology degree requires students to pass two doctoral examinations. Most students complete an empirical project and defend their work before a faculty panel to meet the first doctoral examination requirement. Students with a master's degree can meet this requirement by defending their master's thesis before a doctoral committee. The second doctoral exam typically consists of a comprehensive written test.

    The GC is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

    Indianapolis, IN



    The 1969 merger of Indiana University and Purdue University resulted in the creation of IUPUI. The university now enrolls close to 30,000 students and offers over 450 programs across 17 schools.

    IUPUI offers a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in three areas: clinical health psychology, severe mental illness/psychiatric rehabilitation, and substance abuse. The program requires 90 credits of graduate coursework, which include an 800-hour clinical practicum with hands-on training in assessment and intervention. Students also complete a post-dissertation internship of at least 2,000 hours at an approved site.

    The university provides five years of financial assistance to doctoral students pursuing the clinical psychology degree. Students receive a $19,000 living stipend and a full tuition scholarship.

    IUPUI is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  • John F. Kennedy University

    Pleasant Hill, CA



    John F. Kennedy University offers educational opportunities to working professionals, a mission it has upheld since its founding in 1964. The university offers an APA-accredited clinical psychology degree that requires 126 coursework credits and 36 internship credits. Students can choose a concentration in integrated health, neuropsychology, or clinical sport psychology.

    The program meets the educational requirements for licensure as a psychologist in California. The curriculum includes coursework in cognitive-behavioral theory, psychopathology, multicultural proficiency, and clinical interviewing skills. Students must pass both a comprehensive written exam and the clinical proficiency exam to graduate. Additionally, the program assigns students to cross-cultural practicum sites to provide psychological services to members of underserved communities.

    John F. Kennedy University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

  • Loma Linda University

    Loma Linda, CA



    Loma Linda University began in 1905 as the Loma Linda Sanitarium. It quickly became a teaching hospital and admitted its first group of nursing students just a few months after opening. Today, LLU enrolls over 4,400 students and offers more than 100 programs across eight schools and colleges.

    LLU's School of Behavioral Health offers two clinical psychology doctoral programs: a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) and a doctor of philosophy in psychology (Ph.D.). Both programs let students choose an optional concentration in health psychology, clinical child psychology, or neuropsychology. The Psy.D. is a five-year program, while the Ph.D. takes six years. Students complete the practicum requirement in multidisciplinary settings affiliated with LLU or approved non-affiliated facilities.

    Loma Linda University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

  • Marshall University

    Huntington, WV



    Now located in Huntington, West Virginia, Marshall University began as a school for local children. Marshall became a teacher training college in 1867 and finally a university in the late 1960s. Today, the university enrolls over 13,200 students and offers almost 70 programs across nine academic colleges.

    MU's College of Liberal Arts offers a doctor of psychology with an emphasis on underserved rural populations. The Psy.D. curriculum includes courses in clinical health psychology, differential diagnosis and treatment planning, intermediate behavioral statistics, and studies in human sexuality. Students complete courses as part of a cohort.

    Applicants with a master's degree in psychology with a clinical emphasis can apply for advanced standing. These advanced standing students enter a practicum in the field as soon as they begin the clinical psychology degree.

    Marshall University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  • Northwestern University

    Evanson, IL



    Established in 1851, Northwestern University began with a two-member faculty and 10 students. Today, Northwestern serves a student population of almost 22,000 across 10 academic colleges.

    Northwestern offers a Ph.D. in clinical psychology that consists of at least 27 courses. Students enroll in core subjects, such as psychopathology, clinical assessment, and psychotherapy. They also complete more focused studies in experimental approaches to personality, the socio-emotional brain, and neurobiology and behavior. The clinical psychology degree requires two research projects during the first three years and a comprehensive qualifying exam prior to advancing to doctoral candidacy.

    Northwestern University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  • Nova Southeastern University

    Fort Lauderdale, FL



    Nova Southeastern University emerged from the 1964 union of Nova University of Advanced Technology and the Southeastern University of Health Sciences. The university currently enrolls 20,435 students and offers an array of degrees and certificates across 18 schools, colleges, and centers.

    Doctoral applicants can pursue either a doctor of clinical psychology (Psy.D.) or a doctor of philosophy in clinical psychology (Ph.D.). Both clinical psychology doctoral programs meet the educational requirements for psychologist licensure in Florida and require at least 118 credits. All students can pursue concentrations, such as psychodynamic psychology, clinical forensic psychology, and clinical neuropsychology. Ph.D. candidates must write a dissertation to graduate from the program, while Psy.D. candidates must complete a directed study.

    Nova Southeastern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • Regent University

    Virginia Beach, VA



    Regent University welcomed an initial class of 77 students in 1978. Today, Regent serves more than 10,400 students at its Virginia Beach, Virginia, campus and online.

    The doctor of psychology at Regent's School of Psychology and Counseling holds accreditation from both the American Psychological Association and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs. The program's curriculum comprises 124 credits and includes coursework in multicultural psychology; intelligence testing and psychometrics; clinical assessment and treatment planning; and ethics, professional orientation, and legal issues.

    Students complete a 1,200-hour practicum during their second and third years of the clinical psychology degree (600 hours each year). The program culminates in a year-long 2,000-hour full-time internship that students can complete at approved sites anywhere in the country.

    Regent University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Ranking Top 25 Doctorate Clinical Psychology Degree Programs

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