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Clinical psychologists have played a pivotal role in mental health since the start of the 20th century. But they’ve become increasingly important in recent decades as our understanding of mental health deepens and more and more people seek out professional help for their behavioral and emotional complications.1

If the field of psychology has long called to you—especially in an era where the demand for qualified psychologists has reached unprecedented levels—you may be looking at your educational options and asking, “Can you be a clinical psychologist with a master’s?”2

The short answer is yes, but with limitations.3 Let’s explore the pathway to becoming a clinical psychologist so you can determine the next steps on your educational path and professional practice.

Doctoral Programs in Psychology

What Do Clinical Psychologists Do?

A clinical psychologist’s responsibility is to provide comprehensive mental health care to a wide variety of clients in an equally wide variety of clinical and non-clinical settings.4

Their primary duty is to use their extensive training and informed understanding of the human mind to assess, diagnose, and treat mental health conditions ranging from anxiety to alcohol use disorder (AUD). Specifically, they provide:

  • Behavioral assessments and diagnostic interviews to evaluate an individual’s thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms to determine the nature and scope of their mental and emotional distress
  • Mental health diagnoses to form a thorough treatment plan
  • Clinical interventions based on the individual’s symptoms, diagnosis, wishes, and needs, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help clients identify emotional triggers or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) to diminish the anguish associated with traumatic memories
  • Client monitoring and case management to track an individual’s progress and make changes to their treatment plan as necessary

Clinical psychologists may work one-on-one with clients in private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, mental health clinics, schools, organizations, and outpatient facilities. And yet, they also work outside of patient care in research, consulting, and educational settings.

Educational Requirements for Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychologists must undergo extensive training to receive licensure to start practicing. They’re tasked with dealing with one of the most robust, complex, and important parts of the human body—the brain—and frequently work with a variety of complicated mental health conditions.

Because of this, the educational journey needed for patient care, advanced research, and/or teaching higher education entails obtaining a:

  • Bachelors in psychology, sociology, or related field 
  • Master’s in clinical psychology
  • Doctoral degree, either a doctor of psychology (PsyD) or a doctor of philosophy (PhD) in clinical psychology

Depending on the level of education you choose to pursue, you may also be required to fulfill a set number of supervised clinical hours and/or an internship. If you’re curious about the difference between a PhD and PsyD in clinical psychology, you can work with an admissions officer to determine which graduate program matches your interests and time commitment.

Limitations of a Master’s Degree in Clinical Practice

The question remains: can you be a clinical psychologist with a master’s?

Although the answer is yes, the American Psychological Association (APA) asserts that those who hold a master’s usually must work under the supervision of someone who possesses a doctoral degree. In most states, you must have a doctoral degree and state-specific licensure to work independently.

That said, clinical psychologists who don’t possess a doctoral degree may still work in a range of facilities and capacities, such as:

  • Substance abuse counselor
  • School psychologist
  • Mental health counselor

For others, though, a master’s degree is a fundamental stepping stone to entering a doctoral program for a PsyD or PhD in Clinical Psychology. These are both important degrees that supply candidates with the high level of training and knowledge they need to fulfill their career potential.

Doctoral Programs in Psychology

Bridging the Gap: From Master’s to Doctorate

Earning a master’s in clinical psychology calls for a round of applause, but many graduates choose to continue their education in pursuit of a doctoral degree.5 Why? Mainly for the professional freedom it affords, as well as the potential ability to:

  • Operate a private practice
  • Dive deeper into clinical research
  • Expand their career options
  • Gain a wealth of experience
  • Obtain superior authority and expertise in clinical psychology and/or a specialty

If these possibilities appeal to you, the APA- accredited PsyD and PhD programs at Alliant International University can help prepare you for the path ahead.

The Benefits of Doctoral Training at Alliant

Alliant offers two doctoral programs for psychology: A PsyD and a PhD. The former helps prepare doctoral candidates for working one-on-one with clients; the latter concentrates more on theory, research, and teaching.

Why choose Alliant to pursue your graduate degree?

We offer doctoral candidates many opportunities to grow intellectually through:

  • An experienced faculty who stays on the cutting edge of clinical psychology research, theory, and interventions
  • Online instruction to accommodate a broad range of learning preferences and circumstances
  • A diverse, inviting culture that encourages individuality, discourse, and fresh perspectives

What’s more, Alliant offers a number of specialties, from developmental psychology to counselor education. This allows you to find the niche that resonates with your passions and objectives.

Application Tips for PsyD and PhD Programs

In addition to gathering your basic documents, such as your transcripts, standardized test results, and letters of recommendation, focus on writing a captivating personal statement and on what you can do now to stand out from your competition. For many, this will be found in gaining clinical and other relevant experience (which is often a prerequisite for acceptance into doctoral programs) through:6

  • Internships
  • Research fellowships
  • Working in mental health, such as shadowing a clinical psychologist or volunteering in social services

Doing so can help demonstrate your passion for psychology to admissions boards. It may give you a clearer understanding of what might await in the field—and amplify your excitement for it.

Start Your Career in Psychology with Alliant International University

“Can you be a clinical psychologist with a master’s?” is a valid and crucial question to ask as you carve out your educational path and work towards landing a role that will provide lasting satisfaction. While you can be a clinical psychologist with a master’s with some caveats, you might find that a doctoral degree will give you the autonomy and knowledge you crave.

Request more information today to start paving the way toward a rewarding career as a licensed clinical psychologist.


Sources:

  1. Evolution of clinical psychology. Accessed April 17, 2024. https://us.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-assets/126969_book_item_…;
  2. “Demand for Mental Health Treatment Continues to Increase, Say Psychologists.” American Psychological Association. Accessed April 17, 2024. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2021/10/mental-health-treatment-demand. 
  3. “Pursuing a Career in Clinical or Counseling Psychology.” American Psychological Association. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.apa.org/education-career/guide/subfields/clinical/education-training. 
  4. Kuhfuß, Marie, Tobias Maldei, Andreas Hetmanek, and Nicola Baumann. “Somatic Experiencing - Effectiveness and Key Factors of a Body-Oriented Trauma Therapy: A Scoping Literature Review.” European journal of psychotraumatology, July 12, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8276649/. 
  5. "Moving up, the Smart Way.” American Psychological Association. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2010/01/moving-up. 
  6. 14 ways to get clinical psychology work experience | indeed.com UK. Accessed April 18, 2024. https://uk.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/clinical-psychology-w…;

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