Many clinical psychology PhD programs prepare you for life-changing work as a professional in the field of psychology.
Not only will you have the opportunity to work closely with a diverse range of people—both clients and colleagues—but you can also build a strong foundation in research and analysis. Clinical psychologists are often empathetic individuals with excellent active listening and problem-solving skills. They evaluate, diagnose, and treat individuals with a wide range of mental health disorders.
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If you are interested in mental health and improving the well-being of communities and individuals, a career in clinical psychology may be right for you.
Online Clinical Psychology PhD Programs
As a discipline, psychology focuses on the study of the human mind and behavior. Clinical psychology is one of four major areas of study in the field, and it centers around identifying and addressing both behavioral and mental health issues in patients. Other areas of study include cognitive psychology, behavioral psychology, and biopsychology.
Often working with patients and clients of all ages, clinical psychologists assess the needs of patients using standardized psychological tests and data from personality tests. Using this information, they treat patients using a variety of methods, the most common being talk therapy.
Clinical psychologists also consult and collaborate with other health care professionals to ensure that they are able to provide the best and most up-to-date care possible for their patients. Earning a doctorate in psychology is the final educational step on the path toward becoming a licensed clinical psychologist.
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You cannot become a practicing clinical psychologist without a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Clinical Psychology from an accredited school. In PhD programs in clinical psychology, you’ll examine existing research and learn how to conduct your own. You may also take courses on topics such as:
- Adult psychopathology
- Ethics and professional issues
- Advanced statistics
- Behavioral assessment
- Systems and family therapy
- Research design
Most PhD programs also require completion of a supervised internship or practicum as well as a dissertation. At the end of your program, you’ll have the opportunity to present your finalized dissertation to a committee composed of faculty members from the clinical psychology department.
After graduation, many students go on to become licensed and certified psychologists. Here are some related career paths in the field:
- Clinical psychologist
- Industrial-organizational psychologist
- Clinical neuropsychologist
- Postsecondary teacher
- Substance abuse counselor
- Behavioral disorder counselor
- Mental health counselor
- Social worker
- Marriage and family therapist
Because a clinical psychology PhD program focuses on both theoretical and practical knowledge, you could be equipped for work in a variety of professional roles in the field of psychology.
Common Online Clinical Psychology Doctorate Concentrations
Clinical psychology is a broad field, encompassing many sub-disciplines. Here are some examples of possible clinical psychology concentrations:
- Addiction Psychology. This concentration focuses on using psychological principles to diagnose and treat different kinds of addictions, such as drug, alcohol, or emotional addiction.
- Child Psychology. Focusing on children ages infant through adolescent, this area of study explores the ways in which specific contexts impact social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral growth.
- Forensic Psychology. Combining knowledge of psychology and the criminal justice system, forensic psychologists work to evaluate the mental state of victims, police officers, and criminals and to present that data in court.
- Psychoanalysis. An area of psychology focused on changing habits and personality, psychoanalysis sheds light on harmful patterns and centers around healing.
- Sleep Psychology. This concentration examines the psychological factors that create and affect sleep disorders.
The types of concentrations available do vary between clinical psychology PhD programs. Other concentration offerings may include industrial-organizational psychology, health psychology, and cognitive psychology.
Clinical Psychology Careers & Salaries
Clinical psychology can open up a range of professional opportunities, depending on your selected area of study.
Some graduates choose to pursue a career in academia or research, educating the next generation of clinical psychologists or continuing to contribute research in the field. Others choose to obtain their license and begin practicing as a clinical psychologist in their state of residence.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the following career paths are related to advanced studies in clinical psychology.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|General and Operations Managers||$97,970|
|Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists||$79,510|
|Postsecondary Psychology Teachers||$77,860|
|Health Education Specialists||$60,600|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||$49,880|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$48,520|
Earning an advanced degree does not promise a specific job title or median annual salary. Other deciding factors can include your prior work experience, your degree specialization, and your chosen industry.
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Expanding your personal network, tailoring your degree to fit your career aspirations, and developing strong interview skills could all help improve your chances of landing your preferred job after graduation.
Clinical Psychology PhD Curriculum & Courses
The specific courses you take as part of a clinical psychology PhD curriculum will vary based on the college or university you attend and your selected concentration.
While there will be some variance, here are examples of some courses you may come across:
- Adult Psychopathology: In this course, you’ll explore the origins, diagnoses, and treatment of various mental disorders commonly found in adults, such as anxiety, personality, and eating disorders.
- Ethics and Professional Issues: This course provides information regarding ethical guidelines and professional standards in the field of psychology.
- Psychobiology: You’ll study the nervous system, common disorders, and the ways in which biological processes impact cognition and behavior.
- Advanced Statistics: Building on foundational statistical knowledge, this course covers topics such as randomized designs, repeated measure designs, and association indices.
- Behavioral Assessment: In this course, you’ll learn about different methods of behavioral assessment, spanning topics like naturalistic observation, self-report, and physiological measurement.
- Psychopharmacology: An exploration of current research and theories in psychopharmacology, this course also covers the impact of various drugs on the body.
- Systems and Family Therapy: In this course, you’ll explore systems and family therapy, including relevant theories, techniques, and methods.
- Research Design: This course covers research methodology in areas including single subject experiments, program evaluation, and basic experimental design.
- Diagnostic Interviewing: Covering the clinical assessment interview process, this course explores concepts such as motivational interviewing, diagnostic formulation, and suicide risk assessment.
- Dissertation: This course is designed to provide support and tools as you design an original research project in an area of your choosing.
Included in your program will also be supervised practicum and internship hours, giving you an opportunity to apply some of the theories and methods covered in your courses.
Clinical Psychologist Degree Admissions Requirements
The admissions requirements for a doctoral program in clinical psychology will vary between colleges and universities.
Most schools, though, require the following materials:
- GRE or GMAT scores (only if required)
- Statement of intent
- Official transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Resume or CV
Most clinical psych PhD programs do require you to have a graduate degree in a related field in order to apply. There are some exceptions, but you can typically expect admissions teams to look for applicants from clinical psychology graduate programs with a minimum of a cumulative 3.0 GPA.
Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Programs Accreditation
When a school becomes accredited, it signifies that it has passed a series of inspections for quality by a team of external and internal assessors.
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Attending a regionally accredited institution can heavily impact your education and future job prospects. Because accreditors review curricula, teaching staff, and facilities, you can be assured that your education can properly prepare you for your field of study. Additionally, most companies and organizations will not consider candidates from unaccredited institutions.
Clinical Psychology Doctorate Programs APA Accreditation
In addition to institutions receiving regional accreditation, individual programs within a school can also be accredited. The top accrediting agency for psychology programs is the American Psychological Association (APA).
Attending an APA accredited clinical psychology program helps your degree be recognized by future employers and other colleges and universities. If you would like to check the APA accreditation status of a specific school, you can do so on their website.
Clinical Psychology Licensure and Certifications
While clinical psychology licensure and certification requirements tend to vary between states, there are often some common expectations.
Most states require you to earn a doctorate degree, either a PhD or a PsyD, in clinical psychology. These degrees are just part of the schooling for clinical psychologist, typically preceded by a bachelors and masters degree. After earning your doctorate, you can apply for a license. This process varies by state but involves passing the Exam for Professional Practice in Psychology, or the EPPP.
You may also choose to obtain professional certifications to demonstrate commitment to continuing education in the field of psychology.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
You can begin the process of applying for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Using the information you provide, this form outlines the amount of federal financial aid you are qualified to receive. This aid may come in several different forms, such as work-study programs, student loans, or federal grants.
Many students also apply for scholarships to help alleviate the financial burdens of college. Scholarship opportunities can be found through your specific school or outside parties, such as companies or organizations.
What Can You Do with a PhD in Clinical Psychology?
A PhD in Clinical Psychology can prepare you for a variety of professional opportunities. Graduates tend to go on to work in clinics, treatment facilities, schools, research labs, and private practices.
Many professionals become licensed clinical psychologists and work in a wide range of areas, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and pain clinics. Your degree specialization may help determine what psychology specialty areas you are qualified to work in.
PhD graduates can also pursue positions as postsecondary teachers, using their skills and knowledge to educate aspiring clinical psychologists.
How Long Is a Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program Online?
A PhD typically takes between 3 to 5 years to complete depending on the number of credit hours required, so it’s not one of the fastest online psychology degrees. This timeline can also be impacted by the amount of time it takes you to complete your dissertation.
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If no dissertation is required, a doctoral program can generally be completed in 3 years with full-time study. It is helpful to note that different programs offer varying timelines. Researching time expectations and commitments can help you find a program that aligns with your long-term schedule.
Is a Clinical Psychologist a Doctor?
A clinical psychologist who holds a doctoral degree is a doctor but not a medical doctor (MD). Clinical psychology and medicine differ in scope of study and duties performed.
A clinical psychologist can provide counseling or psychotherapy services, while a medical doctor often treats patients by providing examinations and medication. Becoming a medical doctor may also take a little longer. Those who wish to become an MD must first go to and complete medical school.
What’s the Difference Between a Clinical Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist?
Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists differ in the ways in which they diagnose and treat mental health disorders.
The path that is right for you will ultimately depend on your career goals and your preferred method of helping others.
What’s the Difference Between PsyD vs. PhD in Clinical Psychology Programs?
While there will be some overlap in coursework between a PhD and a PsyD in Clinical Psychology, there are some significant differences as well.
In addition to the emphasis of each degree, it can also be helpful to consider your available timeline. PsyD programs tend to be shorter since they do not generally require a dissertation.
Is a PhD in Clinical Psychology Worth It?
Yes, a PhD in Clinical Psychology is worth it for many students. Work as a clinical psychologist comes with a certain amount of flexibility.
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You can choose to work in an industry that aligns with your interests, such as healthcare or education. Many psychology professionals also find fulfillment in helping others. Employment of psychologists is also projected to grow 8% over the next ten years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Universities Offering Online Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Degree Program
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Alaska Pacific University offers a Doctor of Psychology. The program seeks to graduate psychologists with empathy, exceptional training, and cultural competence that will aid them in their professional endeavors. It combines synchronous virtual courses with weekend campus intensives to help ensure flexibility, active class engagement, community building, and networking opportunities.
Alaska Pacific University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Students in the Doctor of Behavioral Health program at Arizona State University can select the Clinical emphasis, which provides advanced learning opportunities.
The online program requires the completion of 84 credits which are completed in courses that are 18 weeks long. The curriculum seeks to help students develop their professional personas, increase their medical literacy, and give them opportunities to practice behavioral interventions.
Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
California Southern University offers a Doctor of Psychology program. It boasts expert instructors, faculty-developed curriculum, and a variety of elective and clinical courses that allow students to pursue their professional niches and gain hands-on experience. Students can transfer in up to 30 qualifying credits toward the programs 66 required credits. The program can typically be completed in 4 to 5 years of full-time study.
California Southern University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Capella University offers a Doctor of Psychology designed for individuals hoping to gain practice in theoretical and methodological psychology essentials as they prepare for licensure. The program utilizes a blend of in-person and online learning formats, including virtual classes, internships, clinical hours in the field, and on-campus residencies.
Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Felician University offers a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology. The program aims to graduate students who want to harness their drive for peace, justice, and equity and serve others in the clinical psychology field. Its curriculum seeks to help students gain competency in research, ethical and legal standards, diversity, professionalism, interpersonal skills, assessment, intervention, and consultation.
Felician University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Fielding Graduate University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology. The program offers concentrations in Forensic Psychology, Neuropsychology, Social Justice and Diversity, and Health Psychology. Students can attend classes online, but there are some required on-campus intensives as well as meetings with faculty and other students in their region.
Fielding Graduate University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Lesley University’s Doctor of Philosophy in Expressive Therapies program utilizes a low-residency model, combining primarily virtual work with 2 week summer residencies on campus.
It requires the completion of 45 credits, which can typically be finished in 4 to 7 years, depending on the course load. The curriculum is designed to equip graduates for careers in mental health, music, art, drama, creative arts, dance, and expressive arts.
Lesley University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
In the Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology program at Liberty University, biblical worldviews, peer-reviewed research, and rigorous field-based training are at the center of the curriculum. Each course in this 60 credit program usually spans 8 weeks of fully online study. The program can typically be completed in 3 years of full-time attendance.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
With 12 concentrations available, Meridian University’s Clinical Psychology Doctorate may be an excellent option for students hoping to tailor their education to their interests. The program is open to bachelor’s prepared students. It accepts new students each quarter, offers hybrid and online learning options, and can potentially be completed in just 33 months of full-time attendance.
Meridian University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Students interested in supervisory and educational roles in the counseling profession may find an excellent fit in the Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling program at Oregon State University. This program seeks to promote leadership and advocacy among its graduates. It uses a hybrid learning model that combines online courses with quarterly meetings on campus.
Oregon State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
At Regent University, students can take advantage of a fully online, highly flexible curriculum to pursue their educational and professional goals. The clinical psychology program requires the completion of 51 credits.
It offers concentrations such as Life Coaching, Student Affairs, and Industrial-Organizational Psychology. It also offers concentrations in Trauma, Pastoral, International, Addiction, Biblical, Human Services, and Grief Counseling.
Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Saybrook University offers a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. The program strives to educate the next generation of skilled therapists who will be essential in addressing the growing need for mental healthcare professionals. Most students attending full-time complete the program’s 108 required credits in 5 years, though the course load can be adjusted according to students’ schedules.
Saybrook University is accredited by the Senior Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s Doctor of Philosophy in International Psychology program offers a concentration in Trauma Services. It seeks to equip students with the skills needed to understand, prevent, and treat complex trauma in their future careers. The program is offered with full-time, online learning options and can typically be completed in 3 to 4 years.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is accredited by the
Trevecca Nazarene University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Counseling. The program’s Teaching and Supervision concentration seeks to educate students to become counselor educators, supervisors, researchers, and leaders in the mental health field. Students can typically complete the program’s 66 required credit hours in around 3 years of full-time attendance.
Trevecca Nazarene University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Individuals interested in becoming better practitioners, educators, researchers, and consultants may find an ideal fit in the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology program at Walden University. The program requires students to have a previously completed bachelor’s degree. It uses an online and in-person hybrid attendance model and allows the transfer of up to 45 qualifying credit hours from outside institutions.
Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Getting Your Clinical Psychology PhD Online
Much like when deciding to pursue your online masters in clinical psychology, making the choice to obtain your clinical psychology PhD online could have a positive impact on your personal and professional growth.
Earning an advanced degree can help you learn valuable research skills in the field of clinical psychology. In addition to strong research abilities, you can also develop your presentation skills, analysis skills, and practical psychology skills. A doctorate is also required for most types of psychology licensure.
The sooner you start researching online clinical psychology doctoral programs from accredited schools, the sooner you can begin this next step in your educational and professional journey.