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The Best Psy.D. Programs in Clinical Psychology

Best Counseling Degrees - Top Clinical Psychology Programs

By Staff
Last Updated: February 2020

This page contains an overview of the doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) degree, including best programs, career options, salary information, and top-paying states. A Psy.D. constitutes one of the pathways to becoming a fully licensed psychologist. Top Psy.D. programs prepare graduates to provide psychological services to individuals, groups, and organizations.

Best Psy.D Clinical Psychology Programs 2020

  1. Northwestern University – Psy. D. Clinical Psychology Program
  2. Columbia University – Psy. D. Clinical Psychology Program
  3. Wheaton College – Psy. D. with specialization in Clinical Psychology
  4. University of Virginia – Psy. D. Clinical Psychology Program
  5. University of Texas at Austin– Psy. D. with specialization in Clinical Psychology

Students should ensure that their chosen program is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Other considerations include class size, graduation rate, internship matching, licensing exam pass rate, and cost. The following section lists the best Psy.D. programs to help you find the right one for your personal and career goals.

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Best Psy.D. Programs in Clinical Psychology 2020


The University of Texas at Austin

Austin, TX

Students interested in becoming professors and researchers can earn a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and specialize in an area of interest.

Specialization areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Science
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Individual Difference and Evolutionary Psychology
  • Perceptual Systems
  • Social Psychology


The curriculum requires all students to complete two advanced statistics courses and three core courses in two of three content groups: physiology and learning; perception, cognition, and cognitive development; and abnormal, social, personality, developmental, and individual differences. Enrollees also take an ethics class and complete specialization area requirements, which may include research projects or papers.

Each applicant must submit a graduate form online, a statement of purpose, three references, transcripts, GRE scores, and a CV.

Unique features

  • Cost: Admitted students obtain fellowships or half-time research or teaching assistantships that pay partial tuition and provide medical insurance
  • Program Length: 4-6 years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association


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University of Virginia - Main Campus

Charlottesville, VA

The University of Virginia houses one of the best Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology. Students can opt for a school psychology track focusing on school-age youth mental health and development. Graduates pursue leadership positions in academia, K-12 schools, medical centers, and mental health agencies. The curriculum includes advanced coursework, applied research training in a faculty member's lab, and supervised clinical training in schools and clinics.

Courses include

  • Educational Research Methods
  • Physiological/Biological/Neurological Basis of Behavior
  • Personality Assessment
  • Psychological intervention and Consultation in Schools


A competitive admissions process selects 5-7 students per year and takes a holistic approach by balancing applicants' strengths and weaknesses. Submission requirements include transcripts, GRE scores, two letters of recommendation, and a statement of professional goals. Selected applicants take part in interviews in Charlottesville.

Unique features

  • Cost: Admitted students receive financial aid that covers tuition, medical insurance, and living expenses
  • Program Length: Five years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association


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Wheaton College

Wheaton, IL

The Psy.D. in clinical psychology from Wheaton College prepares students for careers as applied clinical psychologists in hospitals, medical facilities, and private practice. The Psy.D. program follows a practitioner-scholar training model grounded in Christian beliefs.

From 2009-2019, nearly half of the program's graduates earned their degrees in five years, completing coursework, a clinical dissertation, clinical experience, a comprehensive programmatic exam, and a professional qualifying exam. Nearly 30% graduated in six years.

Courses include

  • Advanced Couple and Family Therapy
  • Advanced Integration of Psychology and Christian Theology
  • Geropsychology
  • Practicum Seminar


Prospective students apply with a graduate application form. Admission requires an on-campus interview and a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA and core courses, along with GRE scores, three recommendations, and a research paper. All admitted students receive scholarships of $6,000-$10,000.

Unique features

  • Cost: $43,510 annually
  • Credits Required: 120
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association


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Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY

The clinical psychology program at Columbia University in New York leads to a Ph.D. and provides rigorous training in clinical assessment and intervention and clinical science. Graduates pursue careers as tenure-track professors, researchers, or independent clinical practitioners.

The mentor-based program includes core coursework, a clinical internship, research papers and presentations, a research certification exam, and a dissertation.

Courses include

  • Brain and Behavior
  • Clinical Work with Diverse Populations
  • Cognition, Emotion, and Culture
  • History and Systems of Psychology


Each candidate can apply to Columbia's Teachers College by providing transcripts demonstrating a bachelor's degree, a statement of purpose, a resume, two letters of recommendation, and GRE scores. Select applicants may receive an invitation to interview.

Unique features

  • Cost: A doctoral fellowship fully funds tuition for three years and provides a $25,000 stipend for the fourth year; in exchange, students serve as research or teaching assistants
  • Program Length: Five years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association


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Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

The clinical psychology Ph.D. program at Chicago's Northwestern University integrates clinical practice with science. The program trains ethical, productive, and competent psychologists planning careers in academia.

Northwestern's highly competitive program admits just 4-8 new students each fall. A faculty member mentors each student, and applicants must identify at least one professor they want to work with on their applications for admission. The admissions process considers each candidate's undergraduate coursework and GPA, GRE scores, and recommendation letters, along with any prior research and clinical preparation.

Courses include

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Lifespan Developmental Psychology
  • Psychopathology
  • Research Methods


Students also take electives in their areas of emphasis and log teaching, lab work, and internship hours. Graduation requires a dissertation and practicum research.

Unique features

  • Cost: Admitted students receive a research assistant scholarship, tuition remission, health insurance, and a monthly stipend of $2,643
  • Program Length: 5-6 years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association


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Careers for Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology Graduates

The tables below offer guidance on potential careers for Psy.D. graduates. Job growth projections average 10-14%, coming in higher than the 5% national average for all occupations. The salaries, while not guaranteed, represent what you might earn, with the top-paying states highlighted in the second table.

Career Options and Salaries

This table lists five potential career paths for Psy.D.-holders, along with growth projections and average pay.

  • Clinical Psychologist

    Median Annual Salary: $85,340
    Job Growth (2016-2026): 14.2%
    Job Description: These professionals work directly with clients to evaluate and diagnose behavioral, emotional and mental disorders, including those arising from family issues, stress, and substance abuse. They help clients manage disorders with treatment, which may include behavioral modification, hypnosis, psychotherapy, and other types of therapy. They work in clinics, hospitals, and private practice.

  • Counseling Psychologist

    Median Annual Salary: $85,340
    Job Growth (2016-2026): 14.2%
    Job Description: These psychologists help clients with educational, personal, social, and vocational problems. They use interviews, observation, and case histories to understand and assist individuals and groups with defining goals, resolving crises, and formulating action plans. They often work in private practice or as part of a healthcare team.

  • Forensic Psychologist

    Median Annual Salary: $79,010
    Job Growth (2016-2026): 10.3%
    Job Description: Forensic psychology blends psychological principles with the legal and criminal justice systems. These professionals assist attorneys and judges with understanding a case's psychological components and often serve as expert witnesses in court. Forensic psychologists may focus on civil cases, criminal proceedings, or family law disputes. They may hold law degrees or have a background in legal studies.

  • Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

    Median Annual Salary: $109,030
    Job Growth (2016-2026): 10.3%
    Job Description: Focusing on the workplace, these professionals use their psychological training to help organizations with problems involving administration, human resources, management, marketing, and sales. They may assist with analysis, development, and training in such contexts as policy, productivity, and staff selection. They may also be called as expert witnesses in employment disputes.

  • Sports Psychologist

    Median Annual Salary: $79,010
    Job Growth (2016-2026): 10.3%
    Job Description: These psychologists work with amateur and professional athletes experiencing performance issues related to their mental states. These issues might stem from the pressures of competition, injuries, or performance anxiety. Treatment strategies include cognitive restructuring, relaxation techniques, and visualization. They work with athletes and coaches at schools, colleges, community centers, and at the pro and elite levels.

Sources: APA, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Onet Online, Projections Central

5 Top-Paying States for Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists

The table below lists the five highest-paying U.S. states for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists and includes each state's employment levels and annual mean wage. The national employment level totals 108,060 clinical, counseling, and school psychologists, with an average mean salary of $81,330.

Top-Paying States for Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists
State Employment Annual Mean Wage
New Jersey 3,500 $97,790
Alaska 280 $96,350
Hawaii 470 $95,500
California 18,250 $94,910
Oregon 1,030 $93,070

Source: BLS

Related Rankings

The doctoral degree pages listed below focus on specific programs, including counseling, education, school psychology, along with other degree possibilities, such as the Ph.D. and Ed.D.