Why Earn a Clinical Psychology Master’s Degree Online?
Choosing the next step in your career is a major decision. If you’re currently working in a mental health or social services setting, an online clinical psychology master’s program may be a great fit for you. Here are some benefits to consider as you explore your degree options:
- Career options: A bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field won’t qualify you to practice as a clinical psychologist. But earning a master’s degree can open up new career opportunities as you prepare to work as a clinical counselor, mental health social worker, or related profession.
- Preparation for doctoral studies: A doctoral degree may be required for your chosen career. While you may be able to work with patients with a master’s degree and the required licensure, a doctoral degree is required in many states for full licensure and to open up your own practice.
- Competitive career change: You don’t have to actively work in the field to enroll in a master’s degree in clinical psychology. As long as you meet the application requirements, you can use this learning opportunity to move into a new position in your field or change career fields.
- Enhanced skills: Master’s degree programs in clinical psychology can equip you with invaluable knowledge and skills. The coursework can help you learn more about diagnosing and treating key psychological disorders to change lives.
- Flexible studies: Studying online typically offers the flexibility you may not find in an on-campus degree program. Many programs allow you to take classes at your own pace. Consider a program with asynchronous classes, which allow you to complete assignments and watch lectures at the most convenient time.
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 was $81,040 for all types of psychologists, and clinical psychologists' salaries ranged from $47,010 to $167,460. Mental health counselor is another career option for graduates with a clinical psychology degree. According to BLS, this profession had a 2021 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, some positions, like mental health counselor, only require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions. However, 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.
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, and their own professional offices.
Salaries range depending on the location and type of work psychologists perform. For example, clinical psychologists in psychiatric hospitals and substance abuse treatment centers earned an annual median wage of $98,270 in 2021, according to BLS. In addition, psychologists working in health practitioner offices in 2021 earned a median wage of $106,870.
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 and related facilities, according to BLS.
The median wage for mental health social workers in 2021 was $57,800. The lowest 10% of social workers earned about $31,010, while the highest 10% earned over $97,300 annually.
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, and investigate related issues. From evaluating mental health competency to reviewing reports of child abuse, forensic psychologists apply their knowledge to real-world issues to help the justice system gather and interpret evidence.
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. You may oversee a team of clinical social workers or an entire building, depending on the role. Clinical case managers are often responsible for ensuring patients' needs are met, paperwork is filed properly, and 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
- How to Become a Psychologist: A Step-By-Step Guide
- Counselor or Psychologist: Which Career is Right for You?
- Therapist vs Psychiatrist vs Psychologist: What's the Difference?
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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.
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 applying for scholarships, grants, assistantships and other financial aid opportunities. Teaching and research assistantships can cover partial or full tuition rates. These positions may be more common for on-campus students, although some universities also offer them to online students.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Clinical Psychology Master’s Online?
Like most master's degree programs, clinical psychology programs take two to three years to complete. The time needed depends on the number of credits required and other factors. Consider an accelerated psychology degree online if you wish to complete the program in two years or less. Part-time online clinical psychology master’s program options allow you to continue to work or take on other responsibilities as a student. 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 your top college choices' required and elective coursework 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: You’ll need to understand evaluation and assessment strategies to accurately diagnose mental health issues and treatment options.
- Abnormal psychology: Study the 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: Consider a course in health psychology to learn about positive ways to prevent illness by improving both mental and physical health.
- Ethics: Helps 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: Social and emotional needs change throughout a person’s lifetime. Clinical psychologists must 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 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.
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:
- Enroll in a doctoral degree program
- Complete state-required clinical hours
- Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)
- Obtain clinical psychology licensure
- Become board certified
Learn More About State Specific Requirements to Become a Psychologist
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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