How do I Become a Clinical Psychologist?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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A clinical psychologist is a health professional who has studied psychology extensively, and who has usually completed post graduate practicum work. These professionals treat patients, and usually spend the majority of their studies and practicum work preparing to work on their own. In most cases, people who would like to become a clinical psychologist will need to complete doctoral level work in psychology prior to getting a license to practice.

For many people the first step to become a clinical psychologist is to get a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Sometimes graduate schools may accept other majors, but the standard major is psychology. Students can begin preparing for this major at the high school level by getting good all around grades. Topics like math and science are important, since psychology uses statistical information and medical information.

There has also been continuing talk of eventually allowing psychologists the right to prescribe medications, and for these reasons, chemistry, biology and math classes are important. Students will also need to focus on good writing skills, and it wouldn’t hurt to study another language, particularly a second language commonly spoken in the country of residence. Canadians might do well to be fluent in French, and US residents could study Spanish or an Asian language.


There are many schools that offer undergraduate psychology degrees, and students can make their choice on one based on proximity, finances, and where they’re accepted. The only proviso is that students choose an accredited school. This is not difficult if the degree is obtained at any state school and most brick and mortar institutions. If in doubt, students should look up the school with agencies that accredit higher education facilities.

During the junior year of college, students will need to being looking for doctoral programs in psychology. They should look for a couple of things if they want to become a clinical psychologist. One of these is that any program offered ought to be oriented toward the practice of therapy. There are psychology research programs that will not provide as much training in counseling.

Another thing students will need to choose is whether to pursue a Psy.D or a PhD. In generally the Psy.D (doctor of psychology) tends to have a more therapeutic focus, but there are many people who become a clinical psychologist by earning a PhD (doctor of philosophy). Most important is how a program is structured and what its focus is. Some larger schools offer both degrees or offer different focuses, depending on how the student wants to practice. Some schools also offer a master’s degree in psychology, but a person cannot become a clinical psychologist without the doctorate.

Doctorate programs in psychology usually take a minimum of four years to complete, and often longer. Most also require that students undergo therapy. Once finished with school, students are not yet clinical psychologists. In most states, they will need to complete 1500 supervised hours of practice before earning their license to practice independently.

It can take a long time to become a clinical psychologist. Most students will spend about 8-10 years in study and practice before earning licensure. However many find the field very rewarding and worth the time.


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