What Degree Do I Need to Practice Clinical Psychology?

If you are interested in pursuing a career in clinical psychology, you may be wondering what degree is required to practice in this field. Clinical psychology is a specialized branch of psychology that focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illnesses and psychological disorders.

Undergraduate Degree:

Before embarking on the journey to become a clinical psychologist, it is essential to complete an undergraduate degree. While specific requirements may vary from one program to another, most universities and colleges offer a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in psychology as a starting point.

During your undergraduate studies, you will gain a foundational understanding of various psychological theories and concepts. You will also have the opportunity to explore different areas within psychology, such as developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, and cognitive psychology.

Graduate Degree:

To practice as a clinical psychologist, you will need to earn a graduate degree in clinical psychology. The most common graduate degrees in this field are the Master of Arts (M.)

and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy. ).

The Master’s Degree:

A Master’s degree in clinical psychology typically takes around two years to complete. During this program, students receive advanced training in areas such as psychopathology, assessment techniques, therapeutic interventions, and research methods.

The Doctoral Degree:

While a Master’s degree in clinical psychology can open up opportunities for practice, most clinical psychologists hold a doctoral degree. There are two main types of doctoral degrees in this field: the Ph. and the Psy.

The Ph. Degree:

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.) in clinical psychology is research-focused and typically takes around five to seven years to complete. Ph. programs emphasize both research and clinical training, with students conducting original research studies and completing practicum experiences.

The Psy. Degree:

A Doctor of Psychology (Psy.) degree is more clinically focused and typically takes around four to six years to complete.

Psy. programs prioritize hands-on clinical training, focusing on developing practical skills for assessment, diagnosis, and therapy.


In addition to earning the appropriate degree, aspiring clinical psychologists must also obtain licensure to practice independently. Licensure requirements vary by state or country but typically include completing supervised professional experience hours and passing a licensing examination.

In conclusion, becoming a practicing clinical psychologist requires dedication and several years of education and training. Starting with an undergraduate degree in psychology, individuals progress to a graduate degree in clinical psychology, with many opting for a doctoral degree such as a Ph. or Psy. After completing the necessary education and obtaining licensure, clinical psychologists can work in various settings, including private practice, hospitals, research institutions, and academic settings.