Clinical Psychologist

This article acts as an extensive career guide that elaborates on the career path of clinical psychologist, the job outlook, salaries, qualifications required and much more.

Updated by Rakshitha.N on 15th November 2021

What do they do: Clinical psychologists work as medical professionals who analyze the cognitive, emotional, behavior, and mental abilities of the patient to understand and interpret the mental health and the issues concerning the patients. 

Working environment: They work indoors in clinical settings and in laboratories. Most employed at hospitals, research centers, schools, counseling centers and others to address the clients with mental issues.

How to become: To become a clinical psychologist, one must earn a doctorate degree in psychology and gain experience in residency or other professional experiences. Earning a license will help you become board certified and establish yourself well. 

Salary offered: The salaries offered to clinical psychologists are about and can range anywhere between on a yearly basis. 

Career Outlook: The job growth as estimated by BLS is about 15% which is faster than the average growth of jobs. 

Similar careers: Completing education to become a psychologist will also help you pursue related career paths by considering them as an alternative. 

Top Clinical Psychology Jobs


Psychiatrists are health doctors who are responsible for diagnosing and treating patients with mental illness and disorders. To become a psychiatrist one must earn a bachelor's degree and then join a medical school to specialize and get sufficient training. The average salary offered is about $216,090 annually.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Industrial-organizational psychologists use the principles of psychology to make important decisions to increase productivity levels, hiring, conducting market research that are essential for the companies and corporations. The average salary is $102,530 where the education required is a doctorate or a master's degree. 


Neuropsychologists are professionals who are experts in researching the behavior, cognition, and emotion, and also functioning of the brain. The analysis includes understanding the brain scans, conducting cognitive tests, and the effect of drugs on the nervous system. A Neuropsychologist works at mental health clinics, hospitals, or research centers where the average salary earned is about $93,440. 

What do Clinical Psychologists Do?

The duties of a clinical psychologist include studying the emotional, cognitive, behavioral and social processes responsible for interpreting one’s mental condition through treatment plans. Their day-to-day tasks depend on the specialties, work settings and other factors such as,

  • Examine the psychological, emotional or behavioral issues of the patient

  • Approach the patients with questions to analyze their mental status

  • Assessing the patient's abilities using psychological testing

  • Developing modification programs based on the assessment of the client’s problems

  • Also designing a specific therapy or treatment plan for each client

  • Overseeing the client’s progress through regular sessions

  • Observing, counseling, and testing which therapy is working effectively

  • Including the psychometric methods to improve patient’s condition

  • Comforting the patient by connecting with their emotions 

  • Maintain patient’s record and mark their progress  regularly

  • Collaborate with Occupational therapists, psychiatrists, social workers and also work with nurses and other staff. 

  • Create awareness about mental health by teaching, researching, publishing journals and their findings

Also, Clinical Psychologists collect detailed information to assess the patients through experimentation, laboratory testing,  psychoanalysis, or psychotherapy.

Working Conditions of Clinical Psychologists

Clinical Psychologists hold a total of 162,000 jobs and most of them work indoors in clinical settings and in laboratories. Among the fields of psychology, clinical and school psychology are in the majority. Usually, they work independently or with healthcare teams. They are usually employed in fields like,

  • Research at a university

  • School psychology

  • Health service psychology

  • Physical health psychology

  • Work with the elderly

  • Work with children and university students

The largest employers of a clinical psychologist and the percentage is detailed below,

  • Self-employed workers: 29%

  • Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private: 24%

  • Ambulatory healthcare services: 18%

  • Government: 10%

  • Hospitals; state, local, and private: 6%

The working conditions of clinical psychologist are,

  • Highly interact with clients, doctors, nurses and physicians

  • Attend calls, also meet clients in-person and communicate through emails.

  • Often work in teams and part of the medical team.

  • Closely work with patients through therapy, treatment and counseling sessions.

  • Work accurately as the slightest error could cause severe health and mental conditions.

  • Perform similar activities on a routine

  • Can work part-time or full-time 

  • Work on shifts and work even during weekends, holidays and evenings to meet the deadlines. 

How to Become a Clinical Psychologist?

Clinical psychologists require a doctoral degree in psychology however a master’s degree is also valid to attain a job in school and industrial organizational positions. 

Becoming a clinical psychologist also has certain simple steps that you must follow along with completing education. 

  • PhD in Psychology, or a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

  • PsyD, or Doctor of Psychology 

These degrees are most commonly pursued by students who want to complete education in this profile. Also based on the state requirements, one must complete an approved training program or residency followed by a fellowship program. This gives you the qualification to obtain a state license to practice legally and in public sectors. Also, continuing education for specifies hours is necessary. 

Educational requirements for Clinical Psychologists

Now you know that a doctorate degree is necessary to become a clinical psychologist. The Educational requirements for a clinical psychologist are important to become qualified, although here is a description of the education journey through this career path.

An undergraduate degree like Bachelor's Degree in psychology or other healthcare-related major is the first level. The course takes up to 4 years where you learn the general and core courses as a necessary prerequisite for further education. The coursework includes General psychology, abnormal psychology, theories of personality and others. 

A master’s degree is a 2 years program which is preferred by many employers if you're interested in work for schools or industries. The course includes Applied Behavior Analysis, Child and Adolescent Development, Clinical Psychology, Counseling Psychology, Educational Psychology and practice on research design and measurements. 

A doctorate degree is necessary for clinical, counseling, and research psychologists where you must complete a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) accredited by the American Psychological Association-APA. The degree can take about 3-5 years researching mental health and development. 

Online degrees in psychology are also a good option for those who have other commitments to manage. These are affordable and offer diverse courses while the clinical training isn't provided. 

Licenses and Certifications for Clinical Psychologists

Becoming board certified is a necessary step, where the overall time taken to become a clinical psychologist is worthwhile and after breaking it down, it takes about 13 years or more. 

Every state has its own licensure requirements and you must be aware about it when you decide which state you want to work. The requirements to earn the license is,

  • Complete a  Psy.D. or Ph.D. program accredited by APA

  • Gain professional experience for 1-2 years under the supervision of experts. 

  • Clear the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology

  • Continue education for specific hours to keep the license active.

To learn about the state requirements in detail from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. 

Certification: The American Board of Professional Psychology recommends prospective students to complete certification in 15 specialty fields such as clinical health psychology, couple and family psychology, and rehabilitation psychology. 

The American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology also offers certification in neuropsychology.

Psychologist Training and Experience: Prospective Clinical psychologists can have an upper hand when completing the pre- or postdoctoral supervised experience.

The pre-doctoral experience includes the Internships, workshops, practicums where you apply your theoretical knowledge to gain hand-on experience in an applied setting.

The postdoctoral experience includes a Residency and fellowship where you practice in a clinical setting under guidance of professional doctors in your field of speciality. Fellowship programs are pursued for sub-specialties. 

Stand Out Skills for Clinical Psychologists

Communication skills: Psychologists must be strong in oral and written communication skills as most of their work is to listen to what the patient says, put forward the questions to evaluate mental conditions and also note down their findings. Hence communicating clearly helps in better counseling, creating awareness and connecting with them.

Interpersonal skills: Developing interpersonal skills like leadership, time management, organized confidence and other skills come with time and helps in working with clients, nurses, medical staff and other professionals effectively. 

Observational skills: paying attention to the detail such as attitude and behavior helps in understanding the meanings of facial expressions, body positions, actions, and interactions. This information can accelerate and determine the findings and evaluate one’s conditions.

Patience: Clinical psychologists must be calm and composed, demonstrate patience while examining and conducting research to treat a patient. Making them comfortable and assessing them at their own pace is a good quality,

Problem-solving skills: Psychologists must think critically and use logic to analyze the problem and bring an effective solution as a treatment plan. It begins with an effective collection of data, evaluating them based on several factors, researching and planning treatment is necessary. 

Top University Programs for Clinical Psychology

  • University of California-Los Angeles.

  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

  • Stony Brook University-SUNY.

  • University of California-Berkeley.

  • University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

  • University of Washington.

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison.

  • University of Pennsylvania.

Clinical Psychologists Salary

As of 2020, the average salary offered to clinical psychologists in the United States is about $111,920 and can range anywhere between $53,807 and $170,033. The salary offered depends on skills, education, certifications, experience in the field and other factors. 

Clinical psychologists with entry-level positions can expect to be paid about $80,370 where the lowest 10 percent with $45,380 and highest 10 percent with $132,070.

The average salaries offered to a clinical psychologist while employed in different industries are, 

  • Government: $96,870

  • Hospitals; state, local, and private: $88,480

  • Ambulatory healthcare services: $82,250

  • Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private: $76,960

Clinical psychologist annual base salary based on the designation is,

  • Psychologist-M.A. : $90,200

  • Psychologist-Ph.D: $103,571

  • Clinical Research Associate : $70,847

  • Counselling Psychologist- Higher.Ed : $69,867

  • Organizational Psychologist: $123,588

  • Clinical Educators: $81,489

  • Clinical Research Manager: $106,048

Job Growth of Clinical Psychologists

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Job Outlook of clinical psychologists is projected to increase to about 15 percent during the period of 2018 to 2028 which is faster than the average growth of all other employments. However, the growth can vary based on the field or sector you work in.

Today, the overall employments held by the clinical psychologist is about 162,000 and it is expected to grow about 185,800 by the end of 2028 which means there will be 23,800 more opportunities being created for the future psychologist. 

Faster growth is due to the increased demand in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social service agencies should drive employment growth. The aging population, mental stress faced by teenagers, veterans suffering from war trauma, children facing mental health disorders in learning, behavioral issues causes need for counseling and need for a psychologist.

Related Careers for Clinical Psychologists

Market Research Analyst

Median salary: $59,429

Market research analysts examine the consumers and competitors with a detailed analysis of demand, supply and value. Also they study the potential sales of a product or service, people's needs and the price they will pay. 

Marriage and Family Therapist

Median salary: $35,010

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are concerned about the mental health of couples, family systems and problems of marriages. MFTs counsel, examine, advice and solve problems existing between the relationships

Physicians and Surgeons

Median salary: $243,000

Physicians and surgeons are healthcare professionals who examine the health conditions of the patients, check their medical history, conduct tests, evaluate the condition, prescribe medicine and create a treatment plan. They also advise, educate, counsel, create awareness on diet and hygiene. 

Surgeons are also expertise in operation procedures and curing cancerous tumors, deformities, fractures and other.

Postsecondary Teachers

Median salary: $33,425

Postsecondary teachers educate students beyond high school level with a wide variety of academic and technical subjects. They mentor them about the areas of education as well as a variety of career paths. Also they research and publish scholarly books and papers.

School and Career Counselor

Median salary: $56,310

School counselors guide students with the development of interests towards a prosperous career and instruct about the social skills needed to succeed.  With the right way of orientation, students can decide on the right career path to choose.