Clinical Psychology Master’s Programs in California 

Many students who majored in psychology for their undergraduate degrees or took psychology courses to obtain related degrees decide to pursue graduate degrees in psychology.

Clinical psychology master’s degree programs attract candidates who wish to continue their education to the doctorate level and become clinical psychologists, as well as those who want to use their master's degrees to broaden their career options and increase their earning potential.

Consider an online counseling program: Bachelor's holders can prepare to become a licensed professional counselor online. With no GRE scores required to apply, the 24 month online MA in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine allows you to advance your career and be a catalyst of change. Learn more.
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Types of Clinical Psychology Master’s Degrees in California 

A Master of Clinical Psychology Degree earned in California prepares students to continue their education so they can become licensed psychologists or advance their careers in mental health or related fields.

The Master of Clinical Psychology program uses coursework, research practices, and hands-on learning, such as practicum and internships, to teach students how to treat, prevent, and diagnose mental health issues.

Broadly, clinical psychology refers to the branch of psychology that deals with diagnosing and treating mental illness and disabilities. Many specialties fall under the umbrella of clinical psychology. Students may choose to focus on areas such as child psychology, marriage, family therapy, or neuropsychology.

Those wishing to enroll in a Clinical Psychology Master’s Program in California must hold bachelor’s degrees from an accredited university or college. You might possess a BA or BS in psychology or a related field. Those with degrees in something other than psychology might need to take additional core courses.

Additionally, most universities require a minimum 3.0 GPA in the bachelor’s degree program. Recommendations, essays, and personal statements are also common parts of the application process.

Those pursuing a Clinical Psychology Master’s in California may choose a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA). The core courses of the two programs are very similar, although the research methodology may differ.

Depending on the courses the student completed in their undergraduate psychology program, completing a Master of Clinical Psychology Degree may take one to three years.

Clinical Psychology Master’s Programs in California 

Pepperdine University 

Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology offers online programs to earn your Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology. The rigorous online coursework prepares you to take the licensure exam for either the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) or the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).

You may also pursue your MA in Clinical Psychology at Pepperdine GSEP on the physical campus. The main campus of Pepperdine University sits in the center of Malibu, California.

The online and in-person programs have separate applications. It’s important to note that the online California Grad School in Psychology program provides students with the same curriculum, clinical placement opportunities, and attention from the highly regarded faculty as those taking classes in person. Once a student moves into the practicum part of the program, GSEP offers over 130 sites throughout the country in the night or daytime formats. The online program’s flexibility allows students to pursue their Master of Clinical Psychology Degree while working and handling other responsibilities.

The attention to academic excellence and the mission to stress the importance of community and service continue to earn Pepperdine University national recognition.

University of Southern California 

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences California Grad School of Psychology offers an online Master of Science Degree in Applied Psychology. This program represents an excellent option for busy adults who want to advance their careers in business or psychology.

The curriculum of this program combines psychological theory with research and organizational practices. The program features small classes that take a real-life problem-solving approach. You will learn from experts in their field who also strongly understand the psychological approach. Graduates of this program may immediately implement their new knowledge in a professional setting.

Though the coursework portion of the program takes place online, the internship must involve in-person work. Students may choose any industry to satisfy their internship requirements, but the duties involved must differ from their current position. Students must complete 240 work hours to meet the internship requirements.

The Master of Science in Applied Psychology Program (MAPP) prepares students or helps them advance their careers in human resources, talent acquisition, market research, organizational development and training, and user and consumer research.

Although the MAPP program does not prepare you to take a licensure exam for clinical psychology or counseling credentials, it will be a prerequisite for applying for a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

Alliant International University (AIU)

AIU offers a Master’s Degree in Clinical Counseling and a Master’s Degree in Couple and Family Therapy. These two programs will also prepare you to apply for the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.

The CACREP-accredited Master’s in Clinical Counseling Degree at Alliant’s California School of Professional Psychology provides you with the coursework, research methodologies, hands-on experience, and guidance of faculty experts. This program helps build careers for professionals interested in working with people struggling with mental health issues such as grief, anxiety, depression, and anger.

This accredited master’s degree also includes a cultural competence component that trains you to relate to and work with diverse populations and people with special needs in various communities.

The program provides the student with 700 hours of clinical experience in individual, group, and family counseling. Inclusive in the 700 hours are 280 hours supervised by a qualified professional.

This master’s program also prepares you to earn your California Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor credentials.

The Master in Couples and Family Therapy program continues to evolve as the definition of family changes in society. It includes at least 800 hours of clinical experience, with 250 of those hours supervised by an industry expert. The hours earned during your program also work toward achieving licensure. The program provides COAMFTE accreditation, allowing you to pursue a Family and Marriage Therapist licensure.

UC San Diego School of Medicine 

Psychology students with excellent academic records who seek an accelerated track to achieving a PhD in Clinical Psychology may want to explore the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

This California grad school’s Joint Doctorate Program shares resources with faculty from the University of California Department of Psychiatry, the UC School of Medicine in San Diego, and several other relevant departments, including neurosciences, cognitive sciences, family medicine, and public health.

The program focuses on research, practical experience, and training. The program includes five years of a rigorous curriculum followed by a one-year internship.

For consideration, you need to demonstrate a high level of success in your coursework with your completed bachelor’s or master’s degree. You must also demonstrate an understanding of research methodology. Those with degrees in something other than psychology can apply for the program. Still, they must have completed several high-level psychology courses such as Life Span Development Psychology, Social Psychology, and Testing and Measurements. Applicants must also have presented at a National Conference.

This accelerated program to the PhD in Clinical Psychology gets hundreds of applications yearly, but only five percent receive acceptance into this esteemed program.

The stringent guidelines for admission into this program result in superior students who go on to give their patients and clients the best possible care. The program’s quality also earned it accreditation from the American Psychological Association.

California Lutheran University 

California Lutheran University offers a Clinical Psychology Master’s Degree in California for the primary purpose of qualifying to continue your education at the doctorate level. The MS in Clinical Psychology from California Lutheran University does not prepare or qualify a student to sit for licensure exams at the master’s level.

However, the MS in Clinical Psychology from California Lutheran University may assist you in gaining employment in a health setting that focuses on program evaluations and the measurement of clinical outcomes.

California Lutheran University provides students with a focused learning experience in small classes of 12 to 15 students. The program balances comprehensive coursework, research methods, and practical service experience to prepare students for employment advancement or taking the next step in their academic careers at the PhD level.

After completing the core part of the program, the second year provides elective opportunities that educate students in advanced psychotherapies. Examples of elective classes include Principles and Techniques of Child/Adolescent Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy/Methods in Suicide Assessment and Risk Management.  

California Lutheran University takes pride in its diverse student body, particularly focusing on the Hispanic community. The school also offers flexible options to complete the program in two to three years depending on the time available to commit to the studies.

San Diego State University 

The clinical psychology master from California, San Diego State University offers a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology embedded in the Joint Doctorate Program. Students must inform the SDSU Program Coordinator when they intend to apply for graduation for the Master of Clinical Psychology Degree. Once a student successfully finishes the 36 required units to fulfill the MS of Clinical Psychology degree, they should complete and submit their graduation application.

The SDSU Program Coordinator completes the graduation paperwork and presents it to Graduation Affairs. Once everything is approved, the student receives the Master of Clinical Science Degree recorded in their academic record as they continue their doctorate program.

San Diego State University also offers an MA in Psychology and an MS in Applied Psychology. These programs do not qualify you to sit for a licensure exam, but they do meet the requirements to apply for a PhD in Clinical Psychology and other doctorate programs.

Students who complete the research-focused Master of Arts in Psychology program and do not move on to a doctorate program may obtain employment as researchers in medical or academic fields.

The Master of Applied Science Degree also includes a track to Industrial or Organizational Psychology. This degree may open employment opportunities in research labs, consulting firms, and corporations. In addition to the coursework, the student must complete a research thesis and 300 internship hours.

Common Courses in a Clinical Psychology Master’s Program in California

Students enrolling in a Clinical Psychology Master’s Program in California should expect rigorous coursework. Not all California grad schools share the same curriculum, but master’s level psychology program consistencies exist.

The Clinical Psychology Master’s programs in California cover research methodologies, foundation theories, research method assessment strategies, professional ethics, and a contemporary approach to cultural diversity. Listed below are examples of courses you may find in a Clinical Psychology Master’s program in California:

  1. Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy

This course gives the student a theoretical foundation of the approaches and methods used in counseling and psychotherapy. Most courses on theory will cover the history of theoretical approaches and how they evolved into modern-day usage.

  1. Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology involves coursework and discussion surrounding common psychiatric disorders, including symptoms, characteristics, and viable treatments. An introductory course will also provide a general understanding of the history and development of clinical psychology.

  1. Psychopathology

In a psychopathology course, students explore the literature of “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” This manual gives instructions on classifying symptoms, diagnosing conditions, and creating long-term treatment plans.

  1. Human Development

This course looks at lifespan development and its related theories and concepts. Students explore the relationship of the psychoanalytical theory with the origination of the cognitive processes and use it to identify behavioral approaches. The course covers language development, social attachment, separation and individuation, and identity development.

  1. Statistics

Most graduate-level programs require statistics, including a thesis or paper involving data collection and a research methodology.

  1. Research Methodologies or Tests and Measurements

An introduction to research methodologies uses theory and case studies to compare various methodologies, such as quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods.

  1. Individual Research

Individual research courses will concentrate on one research method. Often, these courses start with an overview of all methods and give the student a choice to do a project with one method. The student may work with the method they intend to use for their thesis or final paper.

  1. Clinical Assessment

A clinical assessment course reviews the principles and methods used in clinical reviews, including the assessment’s intellectual, socio-emotional, neuropsychological, and personality aspects. The course may include reviewing literature and text and hands-on instruction with clients.

  1. Professional Development in Clinical Psychology

This course reviews and discusses the professional aspects of a career in clinical psychology, including consultations, policies and procedures, ethical standards, supervision, and professional boundaries and behavior.

  1. Diversity and Inclusion

An overview course in working with minority and marginalized communities may touch on the concept of the differently abled as opposed to the disabled. Students will often take more detailed courses after such an introductory course, especially if they plan to work with a particular population.

  1. Electives

Electives help students determine what aspect of clinical psychology to focus their attention on for the practicum part of their program, thesis, or, ultimately, their specific vocation.

Potential Career Options With a Clinical Psychology Master’s Degree

One of the options an MA or MS in Clinical Psychology affords you involves applying for a PhD in Clinical Psychology or another psychology discipline. With an accredited doctorate, you may seek employment in vocations such as research, academics, or as a Licensed Clinical Psychologist.

A Clinical Psychology Master’s Degree will also provide individuals with a variety of vocation options with and without licensure:

Rehabilitation Counselor

A rehabilitation counselor helps those with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities live more independently. They may work at community centers, senior residences, or youth organizations. The median national salary in 2021 was $38,600. The above-average growth rate comes in at 11% over the next decade.

Probation Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialist

A probation officer assists with the rehabilitation of offenders both in custody and on probation. The national median salary in 2021 was $60,300, with little change expected in job growth over the next decade.

Academic Advisor or Career Counselor

These counselors work with students to develop academic and social skills and help them choose a career path. The national median salary in 2021 was $60,500. This vocation is expected to enjoy a growth rate of about 10% over the next ten years.

Human Resources Manager

The human resources manager plans, coordinates, and directs the administrative functions of an organization. The national median national salary in 2021 was $126,200. The growth outlook for this position is expected to measure about 7% over the next decade.

Family and Marriage Therapist

A family and marriage therapist counsels families and individuals regarding relationship problems. In addition to a family and marriage therapist master’s degree, this position requires a license which qualifies individuals to become a licensed family and marriage therapist (LMFT).

Additional Clinical Psychology Graduate Programs in California 

UC Berkeley 

The University of California Berkeley offers a graduate clinical science program in coalition with the doctoral training programs. As a member of the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science, the UC Berkeley program focuses on producing and applying scientific knowledge to access, understand, and deal with human problems.

The psychology graduate programs at Berkeley aim to produce graduates with the knowledge and understanding of the discipline to conduct meaningful research independently. Some of the basic requirements of the graduate programs include STEM-based coursework, seminars, and supervised independent research.

The graduate programs are full-time and don’t accept part-time applicants or those intending to embed an MA degree into the program. The program’s core may take four to six years, and the final year includes a year at a Clinical Internship site.

At the program’s onset, the university matches the student with a mentor or faculty advisor. The student may elect to seek a new advisor after the first year or keep the same faculty member throughout the program, including the internship.

The UC Berkeley Clinical Science Program offers approximately 20 top PhD students the opportunity to train in its acclaimed Psychology Clinic. The clinic provides excellent services to underserved populations in the Bay area and excellent hands-on training for the students.

University of San Francisco

The University of San Francisco does not offer an independent Clinical Psychology Master’s from California. The MS in Clinical Psychology is available to Clinical Psychology PsyD students. The master’s program requirements are embedded in the PsyD program, and students may apply for the MS in Clinical Psychology once they meet those requirements.

The practice-based PsyD program is located within the School of Nursing and Health Professions. Focusing on scientific research and practicing in actual clinical settings gives USF students an advantage in implementing their knowledge throughout their careers.

Admission takes place during the fall semester only. This rigorous program involves four years of coursework, three years or approximately 1500 to 2000 hours of practicum training, a clinical dissertation, and an internship in the fifth year, in which the hours apply to licensure.

Master’s programs that qualify as requirements to apply for the PsyD program include the Master of Public Health and the Doctor of Nursing Practice in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner programs. USF does provide many of these classes online.

Graduates of the PsyD program should demonstrate an empirical and theoretical understanding of behavioral health interventions. Additionally, they are sensitive to different communities regarding culture, religion, spirituality, and socioeconomic circumstances.


The UCLA Psychology Department does not offer a separate Master in Clinical Psychology or a PsyD program. The PhD graduate program that makes up UCLA’s academic offerings includes an emphasis on clinical psychology and disciplines such as cognitive, developmental, health psychology, social psychology, and more.

The program’s objective for all the fields involves training students to become researchers with a dedication to increasing the scientific body of knowledge within the science of psychology.

In addition to years of coursework, the program focuses on hands-on training and internship hours. At UCLA, students may take advantage of related departments and schools to fulfill their internship requirements. Some examples include the Brain Research Institute, the Institute for Social Science Research, the Fernald Child Study Center, and the Neuropsychiatric Institute provide extensive research facilities for interested students.

A graduate of the UCLA Department of Psychology Research program may continue with careers in research for business and industrial organizations, government agencies and institutions, or college-level instructors or professors.

UCLA also works closely with local hospitals and the Veteran’s Administration. Access to these medical facilities and one of the best research libraries in the country make UCLA a contender for a graduate degree in psychology.

Saybrook University 

At Saybrook University in Oakland, California, they take the humanistic psychology approach with the master’s degrees offered in psychology. The focus of humanistic psychology involves the theories and teachings of leaders and innovators in the field, such as Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and others. The primary or guiding principle consists of the notion that humankind is inherently good and most personality flaws will lessen with proper therapy.

All the MA programs at Saybrook University use Maslow’s Hierarchy to concentrate on the individual’s needs and motivations to determine how to obtain positive psychology.

The master’s programs that focus on clinical or humanistic psychology include MA Psychology, Consciousness, Spirituality, and Integrative Health Specialization, MA Psychology, Creativity Studies Specialization, and MA Psychology, Existential, Humanistic, and Transpersonal Psychology Specialization.

The holistic and humanistic approach carries through to the PhD in Clinical Psychology program offered at Saybrook University.

Saybrook University offers a hybrid online version of the PhD in Clinical Psychology that meets the coursework part of the program in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

In addition to coursework, internship hours, and research, students in the PhD Psychology programs at Saybrook University must complete two five-day residential conferences.

The successful completion of the PhD in Clinical Psychology at Saybrook University will allow students to apply and test for licensure in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Accreditation for Graduate Clinical Psychology Programs in California 

Institutional Accreditation vs. Programmatic

When reviewing the accreditation of a California graduate school for a clinical psychology master’s, PsyD or PhD program, make sure the accreditation qualifies as programmatic rather than just institutional. Institution accreditation reviews the academic and or organizational structures of the overall institution. Programmatic accreditation does an in-depth association of the individual program.

Learn More About Accreditation for Counseling and Psychology Master’s Programs

WASC Senior College and University Commission 

The WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) represents one of six regional associations in the United States that accredits higher learning institutions, including public and private universities and colleges. The review process ensures the institution meets the Commission’s Core Commitments and Standards of Accreditation and associated Criteria for Review. Additionally, the institution must provide the resources, policies, and practices to achieve its educational goals and evidence about the quality of its educational programs.

Colleges and universities must undergo WSCUC accreditation to participate in federal and state financial aid programs. Accreditation also plays a vital role in receiving the transfer of credit to other universities and fulfilling requirements to enter graduate programs. The WSCUC accreditation process takes place every ten years.

Clinical Psychology Licensure in California 

The California Board of Psychology requires that those wishing to work as a practicing psychologist in the state of California meet the following requirements:

  • Earn a PhD or PsyD from a regionally accredited program
  • Pass the EPPP exam with a score of at least 500 out of 800
  • Pass the California Psychology Law and Ethics exam (CPLEE)
  • Pass a background check
  • Maintain licensure by taking 36 credits of qualified coursework every two years to keep up with the latest developments in the field

Scholarships, Grants, and Financial Aid for Clinical Psychology Students in California 

Below you’ll find suggestions for financial aid and scholarship funds for Californian clinical psychology students:

  • California Psychological Association Foundation CPA-F Scholarship
  • Scholarships through Alliant International University
  • SDCU and UC San Diego psychology students who pursue a teaching career may apply for loan forgiveness

For more information on Clinical Psychology Master’s programs and accelerated psychology degrees online, please visit us here.

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