Best Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology Programs

Best Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology Programs

| Staff Writers

Best Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology Programs
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The practice of clinical psychology focuses on mental and behavioral healthcare for patients of all ages and backgrounds addressing a broad scope of mental health issues, including severe pathopsychology. Clinical psychologists might provide treatment, consulting, training, supervision, or conduct research.

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Earning a Ph.D. in clinical psychology prepares graduates for clinical careers, private practice, and research and educational roles. Clinical psychology programs provide rigorous training in specific practice areas, such as neuropsychology or developmental psychology, or in a specific population focus, such as children or the elderly. Depending on program requirements, completing a doctorate in clinical psychology may take up to seven years, including coursework, clinical practicums, and dissertation research.

The time and effort required to earn a doctorate generally leads to a rewarding career with meaningful work and lucrative pay. A professional with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology can anticipate a promising job outlook from 2019-29. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median annual salary of $80,370 for all psychologists, including those with a doctorate. The top 10% in the profession make well over six figures.

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Top Ph.D. Programs in Clinical Psychology

Rank School Location
1 American University Washington, DC
2 Auburn University Auburn, AL
3 Brigham Young University-Provo Provo, UT
4 Catholic University of America Washington, DC
5 Columbia University in the City of New York New York, NY
6 CUNY Graduate School and University Center New York, NY
7 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
8 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA
9 Gallaudet University Washington, DC
10 Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL
  • American University

    Washington, DC

    The clinical psychology Ph.D. program at American University has held American Psychological Association accreditation since 1972 and, like other distinguished programs, employs the scientist-practitioner model of training. This 72-credit program offers graduate learners rigorous coursework, progressive research opportunities, and hands-on clinical options.

    This doctorate in clinical psychology takes approximately six years to complete. Beginning with a succession of semesters dedicated to foundational academic coursework, students tackle courses such as advanced memory and cognition; principles of neuropsychological assessment; and stress, coping, and emotion. Following the completion of the requisite master's coursework, each Ph.D. candidate completes a dissertation, a one-year externship, and a degree-culminating internship outside the university.

    Each prospective student must submit an application with transcripts, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, a resume, and a statement of purpose. The program admits five students each fall semester, who traditionally receive both tuition remission and a stipend for the first four years.

  • Auburn University

    Auburn, AL

    Accredited by the American Psychological Association since 1981, Auburn's doctorate in clinical psychology focuses on research training, clinical practice, and teaching. Research training continues throughout the program and allows students to develop the empirical research methods needed to address problems in the field. The clinical practice concentration introduces learners to the conceptual foundations of psychology, while also offering a host of practicum opportunities. Auburn views the teaching of psychology as an integral part of doctoral training.

    The core curriculum for this Ph.D. in clinical psychology includes introduction to clinical ethics, cognitive behavior therapy, and diversity in clinical psychology. The bulk of graduate coursework occurs during the first three years of the program. Before their Ph.D. candidacy, learners must undertake the oral and written segments of the general doctoral exam. Once completed, each Ph.D. candidate writes and defends a dissertation and begins a one-year internship.

    Auburn Ph.D. students can pursue funding through teaching and research assistantships, fellowships, grants, and awards.

  • Brigham Young University-Provo

    Provo, UT

    BYU's clinical psychology program has held accreditation from the American Psychological Association since 1971 and provides students with the theoretical and practical experience needed to excel in the field. Based on the scientist-practitioner model, BYU offers students ample resources to become effective clinical practitioners or pursue careers in academia.

    This psychology Ph.D. program takes five years to complete and begins clinical skills training in year one, along with a healthy complement of theoretical classes. Rigorous coursework employs the scientist-practitioner ethos with ample training in research design, statistics, and methodology. Before beginning the degree-culminating, one-year internship, students must complete all academic coursework. The fourth year focuses on a dissertation, including a defense.

    Each candidate must submit an online application, along with transcripts, test scores, and a statement of intent. Admission also requires undergraduate prerequisite psychology courses.

  • Catholic University of America

    Washington, DC

    The Catholic University of America has offered an American Psychological Association-accredited doctorate in clinical psychology since 1948. The department strives to cultivate graduates who become competent in the science of psychology and possess the highest professional and ethical standards.

    The program begins with rigorous coursework before students engage in hands-on learning in the second semester through multi-semester research apprenticeships. Classes include statistical methods and cultural issues in clinical psychology. The third year sees degree-seekers engaging in an externship while completing examinations and beginning dissertation research. By the fifth year of the program, most students complete their dissertations and begin 12-month internships.

    Each candidate must submit all transcripts, GRE test scores, a CV, three letters of recommendation, and a 2-3 page personal statement. The university's holistic admission requirements work to ensure the program is the right fit for applicants while considering the unique contributions they bring to the program.

  • Columbia University in the City of New York

    New York, NY

    In any ranking of clinical psychology doctoral programs, the clinical psychology program at Columbia rises to the top. The program has held American Psychological Association accreditation since 1948. The program produces graduates who become proficient at providing clinical help. Columbia's Ph.D. students rigorously engage with empirical, science-based work while gaining the practical, collaborative skills needed to be effective in clinical settings.

    Employing the scientist-practitioner model, Columbia students generate and analyze new information in clinical psychology. This program takes 5-7 years to complete, with the first three years of tuition paid through grants, scholarships, and teaching assistantships, as well as a stipend.

    Courses include applied psychology and empirical bases of psychotherapy. The doctoral program culminates with the completion and defense of a dissertation, along with a one-year clinical internship. Upon graduating, 95% of Columbia alumni become licensed psychologists.

  • CUNY Graduate School and University Center

    New York, NY

    The City University of New York Graduate Center's doctorate in clinical psychology offers a multidisciplinary approach that helps bolster the program philosophy: grasping the scientific and theoretical foundations of the field, practically applying the scientific principles of clinical psychology, and understanding how neuroscience relates to psychopathology and neural dysfunction. This 91-credit program tackles the breadth of scientific psychology over six years.

    Coursework for this psychology Ph.D. program includes developmental psychology and psychodiagnostics. Before Ph.D. candidacy, students must take a doctoral exam. By the end of the third year, graduate learners complete the necessary master's coursework and thesis component. Upon securing Ph.D. candidacy, students begin dissertation research and apply for a year-long, degree-culminating internship.

    Each candidate must submit general and psychology-specific GRE scores. The university carefully selects applicants who best fit within the program model and faculty research interests. All incoming learners receive financial support through fellowships and tuition remission.

  • Drexel University

    Philadelphia, PA

    With a balanced approach toward both clinical research and application of scientific principles, Drexel's American Psychological Association-accredited Ph.D. in clinical psychology trains graduate students in the scientist-practitioner model. Enrollees undergo a broad education focused on training in intervention and assessment, along with an introduction to the practice of clinical psychology. Major areas of study include clinical child psychology, clinical neuropsychology, forensic psychology, and health psychology.

    This program only admits full-time students and generally takes five years. In the first four years, degree-seekers explore coursework in principles of psychotherapy and behavioral data mining. By the end of their fourth year, learners have already completed most of their dissertation project before applying for a one-year internship in clinical psychology.

    This competitive degree receives 600-800 applications annually for only a dozen spots in the program. Upon admission, each Ph.D. student receives tuition remission, a stipend, and additional financial aid opportunities.

  • Duquesne University

    Pittsburgh, PA

    The Department of Psychology at Duquesne University offers an 89-credit Ph.D. in clinical psychology that takes 6-7 years to complete. This program, dedicated to community well-being and ethics, produces graduates who appreciate the diverse and complex nature of the cultural, historical, and relational characteristics undergirding human thought and activity.

    Through coursework in phenomenology of human development and experimental research methods, graduate students in this psychology Ph.D. program obtain both the theoretical and practical knowledge necessary to become effective clinicians, academics, or researchers. Students undergo a comprehensive exam as traditional coursework comes to a close. Each enrollee must complete a predoctoral internship lasting one year, along with a dissertation and successful defense.

    Each student admitted into the Ph.D. program receives a tuition waiver and stipend while completing coursework. Degree-seekers can obtain additional funding while completing the required internship and dissertation.

  • Gallaudet University

    Washington, DC

    Gallaudet University is a private university that offers a doctorate in clinical psychology with a specialization in working with deaf and hard of hearing populations. This American Psychological Association-accredited program is based on the scholar-practitioner model. The program provides practical experience working with people in all phases of hearing loss.

    With coursework dedicated to clinical psychology, students explore coursework in foundations of clinical skills and group psychotherapy. Along with classes such as psychology of deafness, enrollees must display American Sign Language proficiency before enrolling in practicum courses. Upon completion of a pre-dissertation project, students engage in dissertation research, externships, and a qualifying examination. Degree-seekers dedicate their fifth year of the program to a dissertation and a clinical psychology internship.

    Each applicant must hold an undergraduate psychology major or minor with courses, including statistics, child development, and experimental psychology.

  • Loyola University Chicago

    Chicago, IL

    Loyola's clinical psychology program first received American Psychological Association accreditation in 1959 and adheres to the scientist-practitioner training model. Dedicated to graduating competent and creative clinical psychologists, Loyola balances training in teaching, research, and clinical work. Students engage with theoretical orientations and psychological methods through a foundational curriculum.

    Coursework includes introduction to clinical psychology, psychopharmacology, and multivariate statistics. By the fourth year, enrollees complete an off-campus practicum and a clinical competence examination. Year six sees learners taking on an internship along with dissertation research and defense.

    Loyola receives an abundance of applications each year and only selects 5-6 full-time candidates. Approximately 40 prospective students participate in on-campus interviews with two faculty members and a current graduate student. Each enrollee receives a yearly stipend and a tuition scholarship.

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Applying to a Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology

Some students apply to psychology Ph.D. programs after completing their master’s degree, although most applicants enter immediately after receiving a BA or BS in psychology, earning their master’s degree while progressing through their doctorate. Students with an undergraduate degree in a field other than psychology may apply but may need to complete prerequisite coursework in statistics, research methods, and core psychology areas.

The top clinical psychology programs adhere to competitive admissions criteria, but specific requirements vary by school. Some schools do not require GRE scores, but all programs look for applicants with high GPAs, 3.0 or above, and strong extracurricular records.

Applicants must forward official transcripts from previous degree programs and submit letters of recommendation. Most applications require a personal statement describing career goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where do clinical psychologists work?

    Clinical psychologists most often work directly with patients in clinical settings, in hospitals, private practices, mental health clinics, and rehabilitation facilities. They also pursue research and teaching roles in higher education or consulting roles in government agencies. Depending on their specialties, clinical psychologists might find employment in criminal justice, the military, and other industries.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    The APA Commission on Accreditation serves as the only accrediting authority for clinical doctoral programs. Accreditation ensures that clinical psychology programs meet established academic standards and that students qualify for federal financial aid. Graduating from an APA accredited program bolsters postsecondary internship and employment opportunities.

  • What's the difference between a Psy.D. and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology?

    The doctor of psychology, or Psy.D., focuses on direct clinical practice, while the doctor of philosophy in psychology, or Ph.D., features a heavier emphasis on research. Ph.D. programs typically require more time to complete than Psy.D. programs. While both degrees require several hours of clinical experience, students in Ph.D. programs also complete both a master’s thesis and a dissertation.

  • What can I do with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology?

    Clinical psychologists find fulfilling careers working directly with patients or conducting research. Those working with patients in healthcare facilities diagnose and treat emotional, behavioral, and mental health conditions. Research-focused clinical psychologists pursue careers in a variety of settings, conducting studies on mental health disorders, developing new treatments, serving as consultants, and holding faculty positions in postsecondary institutions.

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