How Can I Earn a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

To earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology, you will typically have to meet the prerequisites of the program in which you want to enroll, which often involves earning an undergraduate degree and taking at least some psychology classes as an undergraduate. You will then have to take a range of rigorous psychology-related classes, participate in research, prepare a thesis, and gain hands-on experience before graduating with this degree. Often, such a course of study can be completed in a couple of years, but you may need additional time if you choose to study psychology on a part-time basis.

Doctor taking notes
Doctor taking notes

This type of master's degree program is intended to help you better understand psychology principles and theories and prepare to apply them. To this end, a clinical psychology program will usually require you to take courses that cover such subjects as social and developmental psychology, learning, and neuroscience. Often, a master’s degree in clinical psychology program will also require you to learn about psychotherapy, group therapy, and counseling. You will likely also study methods of assessing patients, behavior, and ethics. Additionally, a clinical psychology program will likely provide the opportunity to select electives.

Research training is often part of a graduate degree program in this field. With the guidance and approval of professors, you may perform research in fields like health and child psychology. Often, these programs include research in the neuropsychology field as well. The research projects in which you participate may require a good deal of independent work and analysis and help improve your knowledge of proper research techniques and the application of statistics.

Most degree programs in this field also include a hands-on component that is referred to as a practicum or clinical training. Through a practicum, you will have in-person interaction with psychology clients under the supervision of professors and licensed psychologists. The facilities in which you will get this hands-on experience can vary but might include crisis centers for abused individuals and community mental health organizations.

Before you can graduate with a master’s degree in clinical psychology, you will usually have to prepare a thesis as well. This document is typically used to show that you have a firm grasp of psychology theories, techniques, and principles and is often based on research you have performed. For example, you might choose research regarding the risk of depression as a topic or write your thesis on how gender affects emotional expression. Additionally, you will usually have to pass an oral examination based on your thesis to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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