Do You Need a PhD for Clinical Psychology?


Martha Robinson

If you’re considering a career in clinical psychology, you may be wondering if obtaining a PhD is necessary for success. The answer is not a simple yes or no, as the decision ultimately depends on your career goals and personal preferences.

What is Clinical Psychology?

Clinical psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on diagnosing and treating mental illness and emotional disturbances. A clinical psychologist typically works with patients who have a wide range of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and personality disorders.

Do You Need a PhD for Clinical Psychology?

The short answer is no, you don’t necessarily need a PhD to become a clinical psychologist. However, there are certain requirements you must meet to become licensed to practice.

In the United States, for example, all states require that clinical psychologists hold at least a master’s degree in psychology or a related field. In addition, most states require candidates to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and complete supervised clinical hours before becoming licensed.

However, many clinical psychologists do choose to pursue advanced degrees beyond the master’s level. This is because having a PhD can lead to more job opportunities, higher salaries, and greater professional recognition.

Advantages of Having a PhD

One advantage of having a PhD in clinical psychology is that it opens up opportunities for teaching at the university level. Many universities require their professors to hold doctoral degrees in their fields.

Another advantage is that having a PhD can make it easier to obtain research grants and funding. Clinical psychologists who conduct research often rely on grants from government agencies or private foundations to fund their work.

Finally, having a PhD can lead to greater job security and higher salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for clinical psychologists was $78,200 as of May 2020. However, those with advanced degrees may earn significantly more.

Alternatives to a PhD

If you’re not interested in pursuing a PhD, there are other options available for those who wish to work in clinical psychology.

One alternative is to obtain a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree. Like the PhD, the PsyD is a doctoral-level degree that prepares students for careers in clinical psychology. However, the focus of the PsyD program is on clinical practice rather than research.

Another option is to become licensed as a counseling psychologist. Counseling psychologists are trained to help patients with everyday life issues such as stress management, relationship problems, and career guidance. To become licensed as a counseling psychologist, you must hold at least a master’s degree in psychology or counseling and complete supervised clinical hours.


In summary, obtaining a PhD in clinical psychology is not necessary for everyone who wishes to pursue this career path. However, having an advanced degree can lead to greater job opportunities, higher salaries, and more professional recognition. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to pursue a PhD depends on your personal goals and preferences.