The Best Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology Programs

The Best Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology Programs

| Staff Writers

The Best Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology Programs
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Pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology gives graduates the credentials, skills, and knowledge to work on the frontlines of psychological health. Whether acting as a researcher, clinician, or in private practice, these medical professionals help the public address behavioral, emotional, and mental health concerns.

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Clinical psychologists work with patients across the lifespan, with many specializing their services to a specific population, such as children, college students, or the elderly. Aspiring professions should only pursue accredited clinical psychology Ph.D. programs to ensure access to licensure and board certification. Read on to explore our ranking of clinical psychology doctoral programs for 2020 and view our ranking methodology to learn how we selected each school.


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Top 10 Best Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology Programs

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
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What to Expect From a Ph.D. Program in Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology doctoral programs immerse students in clinical studies related to how the brain functions and why it causes individuals to behave or react in certain ways. The coursework increases their knowledge of psychological principles while also building research skills needed to advance the field. Some programs allow students to focus their studies on specific areas of treatment, including substance abuse, eating disorders, or learning disabilities.

These programs typically take 5-7 years to complete, including coursework, practica, comprehensive examinations, and a dissertation. After graduating, individuals must apply for state licensure. Requirements vary by state, so learners should contact their state’s board of psychology to learn about specifics. Common requirements include a 2,000-hour supervised internship, certification exams, and licensure exams. Some positions may also mandate board certification.

Career Outlook for Clinical Psychologists

After meeting all Ph.D. in clinical psychology degree requirements, along with any steps for state licensing, newly minted clinical psychologists can apply for many different jobs. Some individuals apply to research labs to better understand brain chemistry, while others decide to pursue roles in hospitals, mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, the pharmaceutical industry, or private practice.

Salaries for clinical psychologists vary based on level of experience, location, and type of employer. Median pay for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists reached $76,990 for 2018, with those in the highest 10% of earners commanding salaries around $129,250. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment for all psychologists to grow by 14% from 2018-28, much faster than the national average for all occupations.

Top Ph.D. Programs in Clinical Psychology 2020

  • 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.

  • Marquette University

    Milwaukee, WI

    Marquette's graduate school offers a Ph.D. in clinical psychology that typically takes six years. This 81-credit degree's curriculum delves into the historical foundations of psychology, scientific and research methods, and professional practice skills. Accredited by the American Psychological Association, Marquette collaborates with agencies around the greater Milwaukee area to provide practicum experiences for graduate students.

    Enrollees complete the first five years at Marquette and begin with intensive coursework. In-class work shifts over time into a more pragmatic, experiential approach. As the degree nears its end, each Ph.D. candidate takes on a one-year clinical internship and completes a dissertation.

    Through teaching and research assistantships, along with scholarships and fellowships, Ph.D. students can secure monthly stipends and tuition remission. While not required as a prerequisite, the admissions department prefers candidates with research experience and undergraduate degrees in psychology.

  • Northwestern University

    Evanston, IL

    NU's Feinberg School of Medicine offers a fully funded Ph.D. in clinical psychology through the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. This degree takes approximately six years to complete, and the program admits 4-6 students each fall. One of the best clinical psychology Ph.D. programs, this program educates academics through the scientist-practitioner model, resulting in ethical, competent, and productive graduates in the field.

    The department dedicates the first three years of the program to academic coursework that builds foundational knowledge, becomes progressively advanced, and introduces research and clinical practicum work. Courses include scientific and professional ethics in psychology and cognitive behavior therapy. Enrollees dedicate the latter three years to research, dissertation and defense, and a full-time clinical internship.

    The admissions department reviews prospective student applications through a holistic process that considers the unique skills, qualities, and experiences that each applicant brings to NU and the field.

  • Saint Louis University

    Saint Louis, MO

    SLU's doctorate in clinical psychology is a nationally regarded program that provides training and education. The degree integrates science and practice while emphasizing an understanding of cultural differences and diversity.

    After completing their master's coursework, each Ph.D. student undertakes 54 credits of additional doctoral coursework. Along with 12 hours of dissertation research, learners explore the history of psychology, human diversity, and cognitive bases of behavior. As the degree comes to an end, students write and publicly defend their dissertations. They also complete an American Psychological Association-approved internship in clinical psychology.

    Accepted candidates typically possess undergraduate GPAs of at least 3.7 and GRE scores above the 50th percentile. Each applicant must have at least 21 credits of undergraduate psychology coursework.

  • Southern Methodist University

    Dallas, TX

    Founded in 2004, SMU's clinical psychology program has held accreditation from the American Psychological Association since 2009. SMU creates effective clinical scientists through research-focused doctoral training. In recognizing the reciprocal relationship between research and application, this psychology doctoral program employs the clinical science model and expects enrollees to participate in publication, conference presentations, and grant applications.

    With a curriculum designed to ensure a broad familiarity with the field of psychology, courses include foundations of psychology, ethics and history, research methods, and psychometrics. While in residence, degree-seekers must complete 70 hours of coursework to graduate. During years 2-4, students take part in clinical practicums. All learners must complete a predoctoral internship before submitting and successfully defending a dissertation.

    Enrollees can pursue funding through fellowships, scholarships, and teaching assistantships, along with travel grants and other outside funding.

  • Syracuse University

    Syracuse, NY

    Dedicated to training ethical and innovative clinical psychologists, Syracuse offers a Ph.D. in clinical psychology informed by the scientist-practitioner model. This program requires at least 90 credits to complete the degree, including both a master's thesis and dissertation.

    Coursework in the first two years is structured to build a foundation in statistics and research design that dives into the theoretical scope of clinical psychology. Courses pull from core degree requirements such as clinical assessment and intro to psychotherapy while also addressing American Psychological Association academic requirements. The latter half of the program focuses on elective courses, dissertation writing and defense, and a one-year internship.

    Interested applicants must submit an online application no later than Dec. 1 and include GRE test scores, three letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a personal statement. Promising applicants interview with the admissions committee and receive notification of decisions by Apr. 15.

  • Texas Tech University

    Lubbock, TX

    Adhering to the scientist-practitioner training model, TTU offers a doctorate in clinical psychology in which students gain clinical and research experience. Graduate students can easily access hands-on clinical training as the department also houses the university's psychology clinic.

    With intensive coursework in the beginning of the program, students enroll in classes such as lifespan development, social psychology and emotion, and biological bases of psychological function. By the end of the second year, learners complete their master's theses. Following the completion of the master's portion of the program, enrollees engage in advanced academic and practicum work. Each student dedicates their final year of the program to a year-long internship and a dissertation.

    Students admitted into the Ph.D. program receive guaranteed financial support through a 20-hour assistantship each semester. The graduate school also offers competitive scholarships and fellowships.

  • The University of Texas at Austin

    Austin, TX

    UT offers a clinical psychology doctoral program that prepares graduates to take on careers in teaching, research, and other scientific endeavors in the field. Broadly based on a clinical science training model, the clinical psychology training program at UT similarly prepares students for work in academia or practicing clinical psychology professionally.

    In this 5-6-year program, students begin with foundational coursework, such as research methods in clinical psychology and ethical issues in the field. Throughout the program, the focus emphasizes hands-on clinical practicums, culminating with a one-year internship and a dissertation. Before applying for the internship, degree-seekers must defend their dissertation proposals.

    The clinical psychology program at UT offers many opportunities for funding by way of grants, fellowships, and assistantships. Each candidate must submit their application, along with a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and official transcripts.

  • University at Buffalo

    Buffalo, NY

    Offered through UB's College of Arts and Sciences, this Ph.D. in clinical psychology adheres to the clinical science model. UB students contribute scientific research while bolstering their clinical work with theory and empirical knowledge. With research expertise in substance abuse, anxiety and mood disorders, and psychopathology, enrollees secure competitive internships to prepare for careers in the field.

    With a minimum of 72 credits of coursework, students explore research methods in clinical psychology, along with clinical- and intervention-focused courses. While enrollees dedicate their first year to foundational coursework, second-year students each undertake a year-long practicum training. After completing the required coursework in the first three years, the remaining three years focus on dissertation work and a degree-culminating clinical internship.

    Along with tuition remission and stipends, UB also offers additional funding for Ph.D. students through fellowships, research grants, and supplemental scholarships.

  • University of California-San Diego

    La Jolla, CA

    In collaboration with San Diego State University (SDSU), UC San Diego offers a doctorate in clinical psychology. This degree provides several concentrations, including behavioral medicine, experimental psychopathology, and neuropsychology. With an eye toward ethics and serving diverse populations, UC San Diego provides students with the scientific, evidence-based skills necessary to provide the field with groundbreaking research.

    The first three years include classes such as clinical interventions, history and ethics, cultural psychology, and multivariate statistics. During the second year, students begin clinical practicums in preparation for a one-year, full-time internship. After completing the fourth year of studies, most degree-seekers advance to Ph.D. candidacy and work to complete and defend their dissertations.

    Each candidate must submit a statement of purpose, resume, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation. SDSU and UC San Diego interview prospective graduate students.

  • University of Houston

    Houston, TX

    Defined in part by the department's explicit commitment to combating social problems, UH's Department of Psychology provides a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. UH offers three major areas under the umbrella of clinical psychology: adult clinical psychology, clinical child psychology, and clinical neuropsychology. This program has held continuous accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA) since 1959 and prepares students for careers as clinical scientists and health service practitioners.

    Foundational curriculum requirements include courses in developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and foundations of industrial-organizational psychology. Upon completion of the 36-credit master's portion of the degree, each enrollee undertakes another 36 credits of dissertation courses. This degree also includes extensive practicum research and a one-year, APA-approved internship.

    Each interested candidate must submit an application for the Ph.D. in clinical psychology by Dec. 1, along with official transcripts, GRE test scores, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Funding comes from required teaching and research assistantships.

  • University of Rochester

    Rochester, NY

    Patterned after the clinical-scientist model, Rochester's Ph.D. in clinical psychology prepares graduates for careers in professional practice and academia. With faculty interests and expertise in developmental psychopathology, relationships, and quantitative methods, Rochester has held American Psychological Association accreditation since 1948. Through this 4-6-year program, graduates earn an MA and a Ph.D. -- the university does not offer a terminal master's degree.

    Curricula during the first three years covers psychopathology, ethical issues in clinical psychology, history and systems of psychology, and cognitive foundations. After meeting all of the academic requirements after year three, students obtain their master's. The subsequent Ph.D. requirements involve the completion and defense of a dissertation and a one-year internship.

    Rochester's admissions department considers each applicant's research and personal experience, undergraduate grades, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and personal statement of intent.

  • University of South Carolina-Columbia

    Columbia, SC

    UofSC's Ph.D. program in clinical and community psychology supplies learners with training in psychological science and health service psychology. In accessing both subfields of psychology, degree-seekers consider the health of the individual and family within a community context. With a required 81-credits of coursework, students tackle classes such as basics of neuroscience, foundations of community psychology, and principles of human diversity.

    This degree requires the successful completion of Ph.D. qualifying requirements, including a master's thesis, general comprehensive exam, oral exam, and a predoctoral research internship. The program culminates with a dissertation and a full-time internship.

    UofSC selects 6-8 new students each year from a pool of more than 150 applications. Each applicant must submit undergraduate transcripts, GRE scores, resume, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

  • University of Tulsa

    Tulsa, OK

    The University of Tulsa's Ph.D. program in clinical psychology first received accreditation in 1991. The degree provides effective doctoral training by employing the scientist-practitioner model. With a stated goal of training competent, professional clinical psychologists, this private university prepares students to adopt theoretical and practical methods that meet the challenges posed by diverse populations.

    This 90-credit program requires three full-time, in-residence years of study, along with a predoctoral internship. Coursework topics include theory and practice of clinical psychology; psychopathology; and diversity, ethics, law, and clinical practice. Complementing a minimum of 12 hours of practicum experience, all Ph.D. students must complete a one-year internship before submitting and successfully defending a dissertation.

    Along with their application, each prospective student must submit a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, transcripts from all universities attended, GRE scores, and a resume. While the university has historically secured funding for those enrolled, students should search for funding via assistantships, grants, and scholarships.

  • University of Virginia-Main Campus

    Charlottesville, VA

    UVA's Curry Program offers a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and school psychology, making it one of the few schools in the U.S. offering an American Psychological Association-accredited program that integrates training in both school and clinical psychology. This program offers full tuition remission, along with a nine-month stipend for each of the four years of residency at UVA.

    This clinical psychology doctoral program produces graduates with the clinical and school-centered knowledge necessary to obtain licensure in the field. UVA boasts a 97% licensure rate for program graduates.

    The doctorate in clinical psychology at UVA takes five years to complete as a full-time student. In these five years, students take courses in cognitive assessment, family therapy, psychological consultation, and clinical supervision. Learners must also engage in a clinical practicum each semester of residency. The final year comprises a supervised internship in clinical psychology in a major medical setting.

    Those interested in applying must submit an online application, along with unofficial transcripts, statement of professional goals, GRE scores, and two letters of recommendation.

  • University of Washington-Seattle Campus

    Seattle, WA

    UW's clinical psychology program provides degree-seekers with the professional, academic, and scientific training required to become competent clinicians, academics, and researchers. For students interested in research-based careers, UW considers this program an apprenticeship towards making scientific contributions to the field. This program does not serve the needs of aspiring professionals interested solely in clinical practice.

    This apprentice-style clinical psychology program offers a general clinical track and a child clinical track. Areas of research within the general track include analytic psychotherapy and multi-diagnostic disorders. The child clinical track pushes students to make valuable scientific contributions to the field.

    The Ph.D. program at UW requires at least three years of in-residence coursework. Enrollees typically take 5-6 years in total, which includes an internship. Prospective students must possess the academic bona fides and scientific/research competencies to receive admission to this highly competitive program.

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