Top Online Clinical Psychology Master’s Programs

If you’re passionate about identifying solutions for individuals with mental health disorders, a career in clinical psychology may be right for you. Explore the top reasons to choose an online clinical psychology master’s program, and learn about typical courses, salary expectations, and steps to become a licensed clinical psychologist today. Find a career pathway that helps improve the lives of those around you!

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Why Earn a Clinical Psychology Master’s Degree Online?

Choosing the next step in your career is a significant decision. If you’re working in mental health or social services, an online clinical psychology master’s program could be ideal for you. Here are some benefits to consider:

  • Expanded Career Options: A bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field doesn’t qualify you to practice as a clinical psychologist. However, a master’s degree opens up career opportunities as a clinical counselor, mental health social worker, and more.
  • Pathway to Doctoral Studies: While you can work with patients with a master’s degree and the required licensure, many states require a doctoral degree for full licensure and the ability to open a private practice.
  • Career Transition Opportunities: You don’t need to be currently working in the field to enroll in a master’s program. Meeting the application requirements allows you to shift into a new career in clinical psychology.
  • Enhanced Professional Skills: Clinical psychology master’s programs provide essential knowledge and skills for diagnosing and treating psychological disorders, equipping you to make a meaningful impact in your clients' lives.
  • Flexible Learning Options: Online programs offer the flexibility that on-campus programs may lack. Many online courses are asynchronous, allowing you to complete assignments and watch lectures at times that fit your schedule.

Clinical Psychology Master’s Salary - Average

The salary expectations of a clinical psychology master’s degree graduate can vary depending on location, years of experience, and job title. In 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that:

  • The median salary for all types of psychologists was $81,040.
  • Clinical psychologists' salaries ranged from $47,010 to $167,460.
  • Mental health counselors had a median salary of $48,520.

Psychology positions are expected to grow about as fast as the average job growth between 2021 and 2031. Mental health counselor positions, however, are expected to grow by about 22%, which is faster than the average job growth.

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Clinical Psychology?

An online clinical psychology master’s program can prepare you for a wide range of career options. According to BLS:

  • Mental health counselor positions only require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level roles.
  • Becoming a clinical psychologist requires licensure and may require a doctoral degree.

Explore these top career options to see if a master’s degree can improve your abilities in your current position or enhance your application to a new role. Be sure to check the requirements for each position as you search for highly rated online degree programs.

Clinical Psychologist

As a licensed clinical psychologist, you'll observe, diagnose, and treat patients with mental health disorders. You may see patients with a range of major and comparatively minor mental health issues, or you may specialize in certain mental health disorders. According to BLS data, clinical psychologists typically work in:

  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Government offices
  • Private practices

Salaries vary depending on location and type of work performed. For example:

  • Clinical psychologists in psychiatric hospitals and substance abuse treatment centers earned an annual median wage of $98,270 in 2021.
  • Psychologists working in health practitioner offices earned a median wage of $106,870 in 2021.

Mental Health Social Worker

Mental health social workers advocate for patients, educate communities, and perform other related duties. While this role may have you working with similar patients, the specific duties and requirements vary between mental health social workers and clinical psychologists. Some mental health social worker positions don’t require licensure. These professionals typically work in:

  • Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Related facilities

The median wage for mental health social workers in 2021 was $57,800. The salary range was:

  • Lowest 10%: About $31,010
  • Highest 10%: Over $97,300 annually

Forensic Psychologist

Clinical psychology has many of the same classes and areas of focus as forensic psychology, so this master’s degree may prepare you for a career as a forensic psychologist. These professionals work within the criminal justice system to:

  • Explore criminal behaviors
  • Diagnose mental health issues
  • Investigate related issues
  • Evaluate mental health competency
  • Review reports of child abuse

While BLS doesn’t distinguish forensic psychologist data, it reports that a broad range of psychologists earned a median wage of $102,900 in 2021. Wages ranged from less than $39,760 to over $133,200.

Clinical Case Manager

Another popular career option for students with a master’s degree in clinical psychology is becoming a clinical case manager. As a case manager, you may handle patient care on a broad level. Responsibilities often include:

  • Overseeing a team of clinical social workers or an entire facility
  • Ensuring patients' needs are met
  • Filing paperwork properly
  • Ensuring mental health professionals are working efficiently

According to BLS data, the median salary for all medical and health services managers in 2021 was $101,340. The number of medical and health services managers in the United States is expected to increase by about 28% between 2021 and 2031.

Learn More About Potential Careers in Psychology

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How Much Does a Master’s in Clinical Psychology Cost?

The tuition and other fees can vary from school to school. According to data collected by College Tuition Compare, master’s degree programs in clinical psychology cost an average of $49,358 for the entire program. It’s important to compare tuition rates, available scholarships, and other factors before choosing the best online clinical psychology program for you.

How to Find an Affordable Online Psychology Degree

There are many ways to reduce the cost of an online master’s degree. If you’re looking for a more affordable option to study clinical psychology, consider these financial aid opportunities:

  • Scholarships and Grants: Apply for scholarships and grants offered by universities, private organizations, and government programs.
  • Assistantships: Teaching and research assistantships can cover partial or full tuition rates. These positions may be more common for on-campus students, but some universities also offer them to online students.
  • Financial Aid: Explore federal and state financial aid options, including loans and work-study programs.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Clinical Psychology Master’s Online?

Clinical psychology master’s programs typically take two to three years to complete. The time needed depends on the number of credits required and other factors. Consider these options to fit your schedule:

  • Accelerated Programs: Accelerated psychology degree programs allow you to complete your degree in two years or less.
  • Part-Time Programs: Part-time online clinical psychology master’s programs allow you to continue to work or take on other responsibilities. It can take up to six years to earn your degree as a part-time student.

Clinical Psychology Master’s Curriculum

The coursework of your chosen degree program can help prepare you for a specific career in the mental healthcare field. Be sure to compare the required and elective coursework of your top college choices to see if the curriculum fits your career goals. Here are some topics you’ll likely study in your online master's in clinical psychology:

  • Theories of Counseling: Learn more about the various counseling strategies used to diagnose and treat a range of mental health disorders.
  • Physiological Psychology: This course explores the physiological systems that interact with mental health.
  • Evaluation and Assessment: Understand evaluation and assessment strategies to accurately diagnose mental health issues and treatment options.
  • Abnormal Psychology: Study various severe mental illnesses to understand best practices in diagnosing and treating them.
  • Multiculturalism: Recognize the many ways culture affects behavior and ethics in a multicultural environment.
  • Health Psychology: Learn about positive ways to prevent illness by improving both mental and physical health.
  • Ethics: Prepare a foundation of best practices and respectful conduct as you interact with patients. Explore ethical concerns related to patient rights and other issues.
  • Human Development: Understand the unique mental health needs of children, adolescents, and adults throughout their lifetime.

Are Clinical Psychology Master’s Programs APA Accredited?

There are no American Psychological Association (APA) accreditation standards for an online clinical psychology master’s program. Because the APA doesn’t offer master’s or bachelor’s accreditation, you don’t have to search for an APA-accredited program.

However, the APA Commission on Accreditation provides accreditation for participating doctoral programs. This voluntary process helps show that a particular college degree program meets the Standards of Accreditation in Health Service Psychology. While you aren’t required to choose an accredited program, this feature may help you verify that a program follows the standards of accreditation. These standards are based on current research and best practice in clinical psychology.

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Counseling vs. Clinical Psychology - What’s the Difference?

As you search for an online clinical psychology master’s program, you may find many related degree programs. A counseling psychology master’s degree can also prepare you for one of the above careers, so it may be difficult to determine the next step in your career.

Many counseling psychology programs focus on daily life stresses and difficult or traumatic life events. The patients of a counseling psychologist are likely to be individuals undergoing specific crises, experiencing depression, or living with severe anxiety. Clinical psychologists, however, tend to focus more on patients with major mental health disorders, such as bipolar and personality disorders.

There is, however, a lot of overlap between the two fields of study. According to the American Psychological Association, there are many similarities between these degree programs. It’s important to review specific programs to determine the focus of your chosen degree.

Do All Clinical Psychology Programs Require the GRE?

Enrolling in a clinical psychology program requires you to complete an application. There may also be GPA requirements. In most cases, you’ll need to have earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field before your application will be considered.

Some schools require you to take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). This important standardized test uses multiple-choice questions and provides you with a score between 130 and 170. There are many programs, both online and on-campus, that don’t require you to take the GRE.

Clinical Psychology Programs That Don’t Require the GRE

Explore highly rated online clinical psychology master’s program options to find those that don’t require you to take the GRE or other standardized tests. Many programs don’t require the test at all. Some allow you to apply without submitting a score if you have a competitive GPA.

How To Become a Clinical Psychologist

The specific steps to become a clinical psychologist vary by state. Be sure to review the requirements in your state as you start your career journey. In many cases, however, an online clinical psychology master’s program alone won’t qualify you to practice clinical psychology. Here are some other steps you may have to take before you can see patients and practice as a clinical psychologist:

  1. Enroll in a doctoral degree program
  2. Complete state-required clinical hours
  3. Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)
  4. Obtain clinical psychology licensure
  5. Become board certified

Learn More About State Specific Requirements to Become a Psychologist

Doctoral Programs

A Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology degree is required in many states to operate your own practice as a clinical psychologist. Consider an APA accredited psychology doctoral program that offers the coursework you need to reach your career goals.

Clinical Hours

State boards determine a specific number of hours that clinical psychologists must complete before they can practice independently. These hours must be completed under the direct supervision of a licensed professional. You may start completing these hours during your doctoral degree, depending on the program you choose.

Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology

The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards oversees the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). This exam is a requirement to become a licensed clinical psychologist.

Clinical Psychology Licensure

At this stage, it’s time to apply for your clinical psychology licensure. The specific process depends on the state you live in, though most require a passing score on the examination and a specific number of clinical hours before you apply.

Board Certification

The American Board of Professional Psychology is divided into a number of specialty boards that offer certification to psychologists. You’ll need certification from the American Board of Clinical Psychology as the final step to becoming a fully licensed, certified clinical psychologist.

Scholarships and Grants for Psychology Students

Is the cost of a graduate degree holding you back? Explore financial aid opportunities to see if you qualify for assistance in paying for your degree. Some offer a few hundred or a few thousand dollars toward your tuition cost, while others can cover the entire cost of your online program.

Scholarships

Psychology scholarships are available from colleges, psychological associations, nonprofit organizations, and government institutions. This type of award is typically based on achievement, so be prepared to discuss your academic and extracurricular success. Some scholarships require you to complete an essay or interview. Check for scholarships available from the APA, American Psychological Foundation and other organizations.

Grants

Grants are generally based on financial need. Just like scholarships, you won’t need to repay any grants you receive for your master’s degree. One major way to search for graduate grants is through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

Assistantships

Assistantships are academic teaching or research positions that allow you to train in your field to help pay for your degree. Many assistantships cover half or all of the tuition of your degree. These competitive positions are offered directly through the college, so speak to the admissions staff to learn more about your possibilities. Typically, assistantships are merit-based and offered to on-campus students, though you may be able to find online programs offering these positions.

Loans and Other Financial Aid

Another way to help cover the cost of your clinical psychology degree is through student loans. Loans can come from a variety of sources and can have varying interest rates. You’ll need to repay your loan, but many programs don’t require you to start making monthly payments until after you graduate. Most students use a variety of financial aid sources to help cover the investment of a graduate degree.

Explore Other Psychology and Counseling Degrees

 

Sources:

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Psychologists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, Clinical and Counseling Psychologists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics: Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Social Workers

American Psychological Association, Counseling vs. Clinical Programs

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, All Other Psychologists,

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical and Health Services Managers

College Tuition Compare, Clinical Psychology Program 2022 Tuition

American Psychological Association Accreditation, Choosing a Program

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