Clinical psychologists help people address drug addiction, depression, and other mental disorders. Their work saves lives and leaves a lasting positive impact on their patients and the greater community. Not only do clinical psychologists help the neediest people, they also earn a competitive salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, experienced clinical psychologists make more than $123,000 per year.
In order to work as a clinical psychologist, you must first earn your bachelor's degree in clinical psychology. A bachelor's opens up numerous job opportunities in business, healthcare, and social services. However, to make the most significant impact on people's lives, you will need to earn a master's or doctoral degree. Most states require licensed clinical psychologists to hold an advanced degree.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Clinical Psychology?
Clinical psychology degree programs appeal to students interested in psychology and helping others. Recent high school graduates without family or career responsibilities should look into on-campus degree programs. Compared to online programs, on-campus programs provide a greater degree of structure, a boon for younger students who may lack strong time management and organizational skills. Many on-campus programs offer nearby internship opportunities. These experiences allow students to gain practical experience and develop professional networks. Field experiences also boost students' resumes and make them more competitive candidates for graduate school. By contrast, online clinical psychology degrees offer greater flexibility and accessibility to working professionals and other busy learners.
Clinical psychology bachelor's programs examine the history of psychology and the many afflictions that clinical psychologists treat. Students also learn the interpersonal skills necessary to work with clients. Clinical psychologists at all career levels must know how to interpret and perform research. Master's programs expect applicants to possess strong research skills, as well. As students near the end of their undergraduate education, they can use their schools' job placement resources to explore potential careers. A career center can also assist students considering graduate programs in clinical psychology.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Clinical Psychology?
With a clinical psychology degree, graduates can obtain entry-level positions in several different fields. Many jobs involve assisting licensed clinical psychologists. These positions provide graduates with valuable experience. Other graduates choose to work in a related field such as school counseling. Many students choose to work while earning their master's degree. Additionally, many graduate programs allow students to complete required practicum experiences at their job sites.
- Psychiatric Technician and Aid
Psychiatric technicians and aides work alongside psychiatrists to provide patient care. Much of this job involves issuing care as prescribed by a licensed psychiatrist. Other responsibilities include recordkeeping and ensuring that patients at care facilities live in a safe environment. A bachelor's degree provides essential interpersonal skills for working with patients.
Median Annual Salary: $29,330*
- School and Career Counselor
School and career counselors identify and remedy problems that affect students' academic, emotional, and social development. They work with students at all grade levels. Counselors consult with students individually and in groups to explore potential career options after graduation. A clinical psychology degree helps school and career counselors discover students' underlying psychological issues.
Median Annual Salary: $55,410*
- Social and Community Service Manager
Social and community service managers improve their community's access to social service programs. They interview clients individually and in small groups to learn more about problems their communities face. Other responsibilities include hiring new staff and recruiting volunteers. A background in psychology helps these managers connect with their communities and identify which clients require psychological services.
Median Annual Salary: $64,100*
- Probation Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialist
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists help parolees reintegrate back into society after their release from prison. They provide job training resources and other social services. Psychology plays a significant role in this job, as professionals must recognize psychological barriers preventing parolees from successfully transitioning back into society.
Median Annual Salary: $51,410*
- Medical and Health Services Manager
Medical and health services managers oversee healthcare services at clinics, hospitals, and other treatment centers. Job duties include hiring and training new staff, organizing work schedules, and recordkeeping. A bachelor's degree in clinical psychology prepares graduates for work in psychiatric clinics and institutions.
Median Annual Salary: $98,350*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Clinical Psychology Program
When researching clinical psychology degrees, consider both the merits of the school and your personal preferences. First, determine how much time you can commit to your education. Although most undergraduate programs require four years, accelerated programs may let you earn your degree in less time. However, accelerated options often require heavier courseloads and more intense schedules. You should also consider each program's curriculum and course offerings. Ask yourself if a program's courses interest you and if the program includes specializations that align with your career goals. Check if the programs on your shortlist require a written thesis or final project, and decide which option best suits your goals. Lastly, thoroughly research the price of each school, including hidden costs not apparent at first glance.
You should also decide whether you want to attend an on-campus or online program. Online clinical psychology degree programs offer the same quality of education as their on-campus counterparts. Online students are able complete practicums and other hands-on experiences in their communities. Furthermore, online programs typically cost less than on-campus programs.
Finally, research if your location might negatively or positively impact your education. If you decide to attend an on-campus program in an expensive city, your cost of living might rise. On the other hand, certain colleges and universities have strong relationships with local employers. Expect colleges and universities in large, fast-growing cities to maintain these important networks.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Clinical Psychology Programs
Every college and university on your shortlist should possess regional accreditation. Most states require students to attend a regionally accredited institution in order to obtain a psychology license. Many employers and graduate schools only recognize regionally accredited degrees.
Programmatic accreditation agencies review certain degrees or departments within a school. For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS) grant accreditation to doctoral psychology programs. While bachelor's level programs are not accredited, psychology departments that boast APA or PCSAS accreditation should offer an excellent undergraduate education.
If you decide to continue your education, make sure you choose a master's or doctoral program with programmatic accreditation. Employers may not recognize graduate degrees from programs that lack APA or PCSAS approval.
Bachelor's in Clinical Psychology Program Admissions
Each year, millions of students apply to college. Each of these schools requires different materials and procedures. Students must submit an application portfolio with several supporting documents, including transcripts, essays, and test scores. For schools with a large applicant pool, even students with excellent credentials may not receive acceptance letters. Since online programs attract a higher number of students with professional experience, expect these applications to ask more questions about your personal and professional history.
Once you know what you want out of a clinical psychology bachelor's program, select 3-5 schools that suit your needs and interests. At least one program on your list should boast a high admission rate. At this stage, do not eliminate programs solely based on cost, since these schools may offer you several scholarships or grants.
- Minimum GPA: Prospective students who intend to apply to competitive colleges and universities must possess a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants with less competitive GPAs should look to alternative programs or begin courses at a community college.
- Application: Many on-campus undergraduate programs use Common App, one form that applicants can fill out to apply to multiple schools. Online programs may use different forms. Since most schools require essays, completing applications should take at least one week.
- Transcripts: Undergraduate programs review your high school transcripts and transcripts for any previous college courses. Requesting transcripts may require a small fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: Your college application portfolio should include at least two letters of recommendation, ideally from your high school teachers. If you possess work experience, inquire if letters of recommendation can come from managers.
- Test Scores: The vast majority of undergraduate programs require applicants to submit either ACT or SAT scores. For each school to which you intend to apply, research median ACT and SAT scores.
- Application Fee: Many colleges charge a $30-$65 application fee. Some schools waive fees for students who can prove financial need. Inquire as soon as possible about whether your chosen colleges and universities offer fee waivers to eligible students.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Clinical Psychology Program?
Undergraduate programs in clinical psychology offer a wide variety of courses and concentrations. As you research programs, compare each program's course and concentration offerings against your interests and professional goals.
|Industrial and Organizational Psychology||This concentration focuses on workplace psychology, the study of how employees react to their work settings. Courses in this concentration prepare you to survey employees, create a safer workplace environment, and improve productivity. Professionals in this field possess highly developed interpersonal skills.||Human resources manager, human resources assistant|
|Abnormal Psychology||Abnormal psychology studies thought processes that deviate from what psychologist consider normal. This concentration features courses in mental disorders and treatment methods. Clinical social workers require in-depth knowledge of abnormal psychology, since they often diagnose and treat mental disorders.||Licensed clinical therapist, social worker|
|Childhood Development||Childhood development refers to biological, cognitive, and social growth from infanthood to early adulthood. Students learn about biological and social factors that promote healthy childhood behavior. This concentration also stresses learning disabilities and interventions that can mitigate any negative effects. Students in this field often work in schools after graduation.||School counselor, special education teacher|
|School Psychology||Students concentrating in school psychology must understand how children's biological changes affect their mental development. School psychology students also learn about counseling best practices, mental illness in young people, and behavioral disorders. These counselors help students experiencing abuse from family members or peers at school.||School counselor, school psychologist|
|Social Work||Social workers help vulnerable populations discover resources to better their lives. Students may take courses related to other specializations on this list. Social workers often assist people facing homelessness, disability, low income, and mental illness.||Social worker, probation officer|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Clinical Psychology Program
This section describes five common courses for bachelor's in clinical psychology programs. Not all programs may offer these courses, and in some instances, similar courses might have different names or differently worded course descriptions. If you have questions about a course, contact the college or university to learn more.
- Behavior Modification
As the name implies, behavior modification courses teach students how to analyze and correct patients' negative behaviors and thoughts. Course content stresses different intervention strategies and how they align with mental conditions and illnesses. Some versions of this course include a simulated intervention.
- Personality Theory
In personality theory courses, students learn about the history of personality theory from the late 19th century to the present day. Although these courses include many theories that modern research has disproved, students must learn the history of personality theory in order to understand how modern treatments developed over time. Nearly all psychology students find this course essential for their future careers.
- Therapeutic Communication Skills
Courses in therapeutic communication provide students with the valuable interpersonal skills that clinical psychologists need to succeed at their jobs. Students learn techniques to build trust with patients, diffuse negative situations, and provide advice. The curriculum might involve role-playing so that students can practice these skills in a controlled environment.
- Group Psychotherapy Techniques
This course stresses skills and techniques that clinical psychologists can use when treating groups. Group sessions may include families in crisis, patients with substance abuse issues, and people who experienced similar traumas. Students may observe group therapy sessions to understand how licensed psychologists apply best practices.
- Childhood Behavioral Disorders
This course introduces students to the most common behavioral disorders that afflict children and adolescents. Students examine these disorders' biological and social triggers, along with treatment best practices. This course appeals to clinical psychology students who aspire to help children in school settings or private practice.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Clinical Psychology?
Typical undergraduate programs last four years. However, many factors can affect the length of your education. For instance, part-time students often take five or six years to complete a degree. If you take accelerated courses and summer sessions, you might graduate in as few as three years.
In addition to graduating earlier, full-time students tend to spend less on their undergraduate education than part-time students. Colleges and universities often charge a flat tuition rate for full-time students, letting them take additional courses at no extra cost. Part-time students, by contrast, pay tuition based on attempted credit hours. Although part-time and full-time students complete the same number of credits, full-time students can save thousands of dollars on their degrees if they take a maximum course load each semester. As a result, prospective students who plan to study part time should focus on programs with low per-credit rates.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Clinical Psychology?
The final price of your clinical psychology degree can vary depending on whether you select an online or on-campus program, your status as a full or part-time student, and indirect costs associated with earning a degree. Typically, in-state students attending a public college pay less than $10,000 per year in undergraduate tuition. Out-of-state students can expect to pay approximately $20,000 per year for the same degree. Private universities charge even more, at roughly $30,000 per year. Of course, many students offset the cost of their tuition with grants and scholarships.
When researching programs, always consider your education's additional costs. If you intend to live on-campus, budget for housing and a meal plan. If you plan to attend an on-campus program but live at home, you should set aside money for transportation and parking. Nearly all on-campus programs charge additional fees. Also, keep in mind that textbooks can costs hundreds of dollars each semester. If you decide to enroll in an online program, you may have to cover technology costs such as a new computer or a faster internet connection. The sooner you start researching these associated costs, the sooner you can start budgeting and applying for financial aid opportunities.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Clinical Psychology Prepares For
- Licensed Clinical Psychologist
To work as a licensed clinical psychologist, students must hold a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, complete supervised work experience, and pass an exam. After earning a license, clinical psychologists may work independently and open a private practice. Licensure renewal requirements vary by state, as do reciprocity agreements.
- National Board Certification
Developed by the American Board of Professional Psychology, national board certification proves that a licensed clinical psychologist has completed internships and at least three years of relevant experience. Earning national board certification not only boosts psychologists' resumes, it also simplifies the process of transferring a license between two states.
- Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
Students with a bachelor's degree in any field can strengthen their psychology expertise and prepare for a graduate program by earning a post-baccalaureate certificate. These programs take place at accredited colleges and universities and typically require students to complete anywhere from 4-24 courses. Most programs require one year to complete. Certificates greatly increase graduates' chances of gaining acceptance into a competitive graduate program.
- Post-Master's Certificate
Like post-baccalaureate certificates, post-master's certificates prepare students for the next step in their education. Over the course of a year, students complete in-depth coursework in a certain concentration. Programs might require students to produce a short dissertation or complete an internship at a local healthcare center.
- Post-Doctoral Certificate
Licensed clinical psychologists who want to work in a different concentration can undertake a post-doctoral certificate program. Unlike other certificate programs, these require 3-5 years to complete, depending on whether psychologists choose to study full time or part time. Licensed psychologists who complete one of these programs can choose to practice in both of their concentrations or focus solely on their respecialization track.
Resources for Clinical Psychology Students
The APA represents over 115,000 licensed psychologists throughout the United States. The APA website offers graduate students excellent resources for starting their professional careers. All website visitors can learn about the latest trends affecting the psychology profession.
ABPP offers much more than national board certification. The organization provides ample information on licensure and other professional psychology associations.
One of the many steps to become a licensed clinical psychologist involves completing a postdoctoral internship. The APPIC website boasts a directory of all approved internship opportunities.
COSPP represents each of the specialties and concentrations that make up modern psychology. Students researching potential psychology programs should compare programs' requirements against COSPP's instructional best practices.
ASPPB provides psychology students with information about the licensing process in each state. The website also contains resources for newly licensed psychologists starting their careers.
Professional Organizations in Clinical Psychology
Clinical psychologists and clinical psychology students often benefit from joining one or more professional organizations. These associations and honor societies can rapidly increase your professional network, professional development resources, and access to job boards. Many organizations offer a limited number of free resources -- such as informational articles -- as a way to attract new members. The professional organizations listed below represent just a few options available to practicing clinical psychologists and students.
A division of the APA, the Society of Clinical Psychology provides clinical psychologists with numerous publications designed to help them improve their skills. Graduate students studying at an APA-accredited institution may join at a reduced rate.
APS strives to advance the study of psychology by pooling the resources and experience of more than 30,000 members. Undergraduate and graduate students studying psychology may apply for membership.
This organization represents licensed psychologists who operate independent practices. Graduate student members may apply for a sponsored postdoctoral internship or fellowship.
Faculty at colleges and universities with Psi Chi chapters can nominate undergraduate and graduate students for membership. Members receive access to exclusive scholarships, grant opportunities, and the society's career center.
ICP encourages collaboration between psychologists from around the world. Membership benefits include invitations to annual conferences and mentoring opportunities for newly licensed counselors. Students may join at a reduced membership fee.