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Earning an MS in Clinical Psychopharmacology: Everything You Need to Know

As a physician, having a masters degree in psychopharmacology can provide you with the knowledge required to safely and effectively prescribe medications to your patients as part of their mental health treatment plans. 

However, earning a masters degree, especially in psychopharmacology, is a major commitment. It typically takes two to three years to complete and involves studying complex subjects, like neuroscience and biochemistry. Because of the amount of coursework involved, it can be helpful to make sure you know what to expect before diving into your graduate studies. 

If you’re interested in working in psychiatric pharmacist jobs and earning a master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology, keep reading to learn more about the clinical psychopharmacology program.

What You’ll Study

The masters in psychopharmacology graduate program is meant to prepare you for the work you’ll do with your patients outside of a classroom. Your work as a clinical psychopharmacologist can benefit from a basic understanding of pharmacology, including pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. 

However, an MS clinical psychopharmacology degree program may likely also involve studying other subjects, such as:

  • Psychopharmacology
  • Biochemistry
  • Pathophysiology
  • Neuropathology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Clinical science
  • Neuroscience
  • Diagnosing mental or psychiatric disorders

These types of courses will help you learn about the medications you’ll prescribe to your patients and teach you how to properly diagnose mental or psychiatric disorders. Through this in-depth coursework and study, you’ll learn when it’s appropriate to suggest psychotropic medication as a treatment option. However, it is also important to see what a PsyD vs PhD in psychology can offer you.

Helpful Skills for Clinical Psychopharmacology

What you learn in the classroom can help provide you with the skills, abilities, and behaviors necessary for a successful clinical psychopharmacologist career. 

Outside the classroom, it can also be beneficial to build up some other skills as you pursue your MS clinical psychopharmacology. These skills might include:

  • Communication 
  • Time management 
  • Math and science
  • Critical thinking
  • Active listening
  • Problem-solving 
  • Research 

These skills may be useful when diagnosing patients, offering guidance, and cultivating a safe treatment plan with the most effective medication. 

Degree Benefits

The main appeal of an MS clinical psychopharmacology degree is that, as a mental health physician, you’ll gain the authority to prescribe medications. Psychologists may choose to pursue this degree because they’re denied prescriptive authority without it in several states. However, other care professionals may also benefit from earning this master’s degree. 

What other professionals may be encouraged to pursue this degree?

  • Pharmacists
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Physician’s assistants
  • Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs)
  • Other mental health/patient care professionals

Any physician who studies clinical psychopharmacology and does the necessary training, residencies, and certifications can start off their career as a psychopharmacologist on the right foot.1

Prescribing Psychologists

Psychologists aren’t generally allowed to prescribe any kind of medication to their patients. This is why some may decide to become clinical psychopharmacologists to offer a broader range of treatment. But, depending on where you’re practicing, the laws and educational requirements may be different.

Take a look a some of these state-specific examples provided by the American Psychological Association:2

  • Illinois – For a psychologist to have prescriptive authority, they must have completed specialized training in psychopharmacology, as well as supervised clinical rotations for 14 months. 
  • Louisiana – Psychologists must have a postdoctoral MS in clinical psychopharmacology. 
  • New Mexico – The main requirement is for a psychologist to complete 450 hours of instruction paired with a supervised 400-hour practicum. However, if you live in New Mexico, you may not need to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology to have prescriptive authority. 

Before pursuing your psychopharmacology career, it’s important to check state specific guidelines and  eligibility criteria.

Degree Admissions Requirements

Applying to a master’s degree program can be the first step towards becoming a clinical psychopharmacologist. While degree programs may vary slightly when it comes to their admissions requirements, generally speaking, you’ll likely need:

  • BA/BS in Psychology
  • Official transcripts
  • Recommendation letters
  • Personal essay
  • Current resume or a curriculum vitae (CV)
  • GRE test scores
  • GPA

Some universities may request that you have a certain GPA. Others may want at least two letters of recommendation. Always check specific admissions guidelines beforehand.

How to Find a Program

While you may know what you want to major in, you may not be so sure on where you’ll do so. Here are a few things to consider as you make your decision:

  • How long will the program take to complete?
  • Does it fit your schedule and your lifestyle?
  • Does the tuition fit within your budget?
  • Do you meet the admissions requirements? 

Earn Your Degree in Clinical Psychopharmacology

A masters degree in clinical psychopharmacology can be an excellent option for those looking to pursue a career where they can prescribe well-rounded treatment plans and provide access to other mental health resources to those in need.

At Alliant International University, we’re dedicated to helping you along in your journey with a hands-on training program and online degree programs built to fit into your schedule, whatever it may be.

Check out our MS in Clinical Psychopharmacology program for more information or visit our website to learn more about us. 


  1. “What Is Psychopharmacology.” ASCP American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology.…. Accessed: December 30, 2021.
  2. “About Prescribing Psychologists.”…. Accessed: December 30, 2021.

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