Best PhD’s in Clinical Psychology

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We all know that classic scene where someone is talking to their therapist while lying on a sofa.

Best Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Badge

While therapy, in general, takes many forms other than the classic scene we always envision, that person the main character was most likely talking to was a psychologist. Psychology is the study of one’s mind and behavior. Clinical psychology is a branch that specifically deals with behavior and mental illness. Those who wish to become a licensed clinical psychologist will most likely have to get their Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

College Choice has compiled a huge ranking of the 55 best PhDs of this field in the nation. These rigorous programs are ideal for future leading researchers and practitioners of psychology. Many of these programs have received national recognition for outstanding research and alumni. Keep reading to see which one may be right for you.

Top 10 Best PhD’s in Clinical Psychology

Rank School Location
1 American University Washington, DC
2 Biola University La Mirada, CA
3 Bowling Green State University Bowling Green, OH
4 California Lutheran University Thousand Oaks, CA
5 Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH
6 Catholic University of America Washington, DC
7 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
8 Duke University Durham, NC
9 East Tennessee State University Johnson City, TN
10 Eastern Michigan University Ypsilanti, MI
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What kind of PhD in clinical psychology should you get?

There are two main advanced degrees you will see out there for Clinical Psychology: a doctor of philosophy (PhD) or a doctor of psychology (PsyD). Although this ranking primarily covers PhD programs, it is important to know the difference as this will impact your future career. While both PhD and PsyD programs require several hours of experience directly in the field, PhD programs heavily emphasize research. Therefore, those who are only interested in direct clinical practice may not wish to get a PhD.

PhD programs are also considered to be more competitive than a PsyD. They tend to require more time, as students generally complete a master’s thesis and a doctoral dissertation. Which one is right for you? Students should discuss with a faculty member or a career advisor before jumping into this challenging program.

Not ready for a PhD program yet? Check out these online master’s in clinical psychology instead.

How much does a PhD in clinical psychology make?

As of May 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary of clinical counseling and school psychologists was $76,990, regardless if they have a PhD or not (it should be noted that the majority of clinical psychologists are required to have one). The top ten percent of these people had a median wage of $129,310. Those with a PhD do significantly make more than those with just a Master’s alone.

However, those just starting out in the field should not expect to be immediately making six figures. It is normal to only have a starting salary of about $55,000. Salary is determined by area, type of institution, and years of experience. For example, those in research and expect to earn a little bit more than those just working for a small clinic. The good news is that the demand for psychologists is on the rise and those with an advanced degree have a number of jobs that they qualify for.

What can you do with a PhD in clinical psychology?

The most common career upon completion of this PhD program is to become a clinical psychologist. These licensed psychologists diagnose and treat various emotional and mental issues. Psychologists will work with patients typically in a hospital, clinic, or another similar health facility. Candidates for this position must be passionate, empathetic, and good listeners.

Clinical psychologists who are research-focused will also work with patients but may do so less personally or less often. These psychologists design studies that may focus on an individual or group more generally for the purpose of understanding people’s behavior and emotions, and to develop new treatments. Thus, while they will definitely work with patients, it may be for the purpose of research. Both types of psychologists are equally important to the field today.

What are the requirements for a PhD in clinical psychology?

A PhD in clinical psychology is a full-time program that will take five to seven years to complete, depending on the school’s requirements. For the first few years, students enroll in coursework that goes over the fundamentals of the field and specialization if applicable. During the coursework, students will undergo a supervised practicum either on-campus or at a local health facility. Practicums generally last a couple of years. Around this time students may also be required to submit a master’s thesis, which can help with the doctoral thesis that must be completed at the end of the program. To graduate, students will participate in a year-long internship at the end.

Although master’s students are welcome to apply, generally applicants enter into the program right after undergraduate studies. Schools look for candidates who have a BA or BS in psychology, with a strong GPA and other outside extracurriculars. Applicants should also submit their Graduate Record Examination test scores and any other supplemental items.

  • American University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in Washington D.C., American University offers more than 160 programs. AU is a student-centered institution that prides itself on community outreach and rigorous academic programs. It is also historically affiliated with the Methodist church. AU’s psychology programs are offered through the College of Arts & Sciences. The Clinical Psychology program is great for those hoping to get experience in a diverse, active city.

    Program Features

    American’s Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology is a 72 credit-hour program that can be completed in five or six years. Practicums last three years and gives students plenty of experience working with patients. Other features of the program include:

    • Full funding: tuition and stipend
    • Mentorship program with faculty
    • 16-hours per week externship

    Notables

    The required internship before completion of the Ph.D. program can be completed in one or two full calendar years.

  • Biola University
    Location

    La Mirada, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Looking for a faith-based institution to earn your degree? Biola University is a private Christian university located in Southern California. It was founded by Lyman Steward in 1908 originally as a bible college. Over the years, there was a push to broaden the curricula to other areas. The university changed its name to Biola in 1981. They have consistently been ranked among the best Christian universities in the nation. The U.S. News & World Report recognized Biola among the top 10 “up and coming” universities in the nation.

    Program Features

    Earn your Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology through coursework that combines foundations of psychology and research, in addition to Christian faith principles. This program is a total of 133 credit hours and will take at least five to six years to complete.

    • Ability to earn an MA after two years
    • Student-to-faculty ratio of five-to-one
    • Access to the Institute for Research on Psychology and Spirituality

    Notables

    Due to the faith nature of the coursework, it is fairly easy to minor in Theology and Biblical Studies while pursuing Clinical Psychology.

  • Bowling Green State University
    Location

    Bowling Green, OH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Bowling Green State University is a public, primarily residential university that offers students a safe place to pursue their goals. Throughout its 1,338-acre campus lies eight colleges. About 6,000 students currently live on campus, where students are encouraged to participate in activities such as sports and clubs. Even doctorate students are engaged with the campus through meaningful research and local internship opportunities. Business Insider ranks BGSU one of the most affordable universities within the nation.

    Program Features

    BGSU’s Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program offers three areas of concentration: Clinical Child Psychology, Health Psychology, and Clinical-Community Psychology. Students can even specialize in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. They will complete additional electives and specific internships and research experiences.

    • Faculty-student research groups
    • Regular advisor meetings
    • Group practicums with five to seven students

    Notables

    Students will complete the practicum at the Psychological Services Center. Clients come from agencies located in the northwest Ohio area. Patients are served for a variety of issues.

  • California Lutheran University
    Location

    Thousand Oaks, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    California Lutheran University is a private liberal arts school that was founded in the Lutheran tradition. They are one of the 26 schools who are affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Therefore, students are encouraged to practice and apply their faith in their education. However, whether or not students practice faith or not, people from all backgrounds are welcome. Cal Lutheran is located in Thousand Oaks, located between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. This beautiful location allows access to major cities in Southern California.

    Program Features

    Following a practitioner-scholar model, Cal Lutheran’s PsyD in Clinical Psychology helps students develop their research and interpersonal skills. As such, training is a huge focus in this program. Students who hold a Bachelor’s or Master’s in Psychology are eligible to apply.

    • Three years of practicum
    • One year of internship
    • Completion Time: 5 years

    Notables

    Those who do not currently have a Master’s degree will be awarded one after completion of the first two years of the program.

  • Case Western Reserve University
    Location

    Cleveland, OH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Case Western Reserve University is a private university located in Cleveland, Ohio. It was originally founded in 1826 in the city of Hudson but moved after Cleveland experienced major economic growth in the 20th century. As of fall 2018, CWRU has over 6,600 graduate and professional students enrolled. The Center for Measuring University Performance ranks them among the top 28 private research universities in the country for the number of doctorates they award, endowment, and research support.

    Program Features

    The Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology is an accredited program by the American Psychological Association (APA). There are three tracks to choose from: Adult and Gerontology, Child and Family, and Pediatric. Other highlights of the program include:

    • Ability to join professional organizations
    • High rate of authorship among alumni
    • Four years of research and coursework, with one-year long internship

    Notables

    In 2013, this program was ranked No. 4 in over 150 programs in the academic journal Training and Education in the Professional Psychology.

  • Catholic University of America
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in the heart of Washington D.C., Catholic University of America is a proud private university that follows the Catholic tradition. Its special location in the country’s capital allows students access to all of the historical landmarks. Due to its religious background since its founding by the Catholic bishops of the U.S., students are encouraged to learn more about their faith and apply it in their academics. About 2,600 graduate students are currently enrolled.

    Program Features

    CUA’s graduate psychology programs are taught by experienced faculty in small class sizes. Students have access to excellent research centers to prepare for their future careers. The Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology seeks to integrate both science and practice.

    • Focuses: Children, Families, and Cultures
    • Research apprenticeship program alongside faculty
    • Psychotherapy practicum

    Notables

    Internships generally last one year and are about 16 hours per week in a community setting. Internships are especially competitive in cities such as Boston and Washington D.C.

  • Drexel University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Students enrolled at Drexel University will experience a different kind of education. They will find that they come first, regardless of how many research achievements the university may reach. Drexel was founded by Anthony J. Drexel, a philanthropist who wanted to create an institute of higher education for both men and women in a time where education was on the rise. Today Drexel is a global university with meaningful partnerships around the world.

    Program Features

    Drexel’s Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology is a competitive program for those who are equally passionate about research and actual practice. Every year only about 10-12 students are accepted. During the full-time curriculum, a 12-month practicum will take place before their final pre-doctoral internship. Below are the major areas of study:

    • Health Psychology
    • Clinical Child Psychology
    • Forensic Psychology
    • Clinical Neuropsychology

    Notables

    Students are required to participate in teaching activities throughout their time as a Ph.D. student. These activities may be to oversee student seminars, supervise labs, or actually teach as the primary instructor.

  • Duke University
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Duke University is a prominent private research institution located in Durham, North Carolina. Duke’s roots go back to the old Methodist and Quaker traditions of the country when public education was just emerging. Today Duke is a thriving research center with over 15,000 students. Psychology is, in fact, the No. 5 most popular course of study at the university.

    Program Features

    Duke offers a competitive Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology. It has been accredited by the American Psychological Association since 1948. This program is ideal for those who want to practice hands-on learning while pursuing scientific research.

    • About 4-6 applicants accepted annually
    • Main topics: Adult Clinical, Child Clinical, and Health Psychology
    • Mandatory practicum and internship

    Notables

    Past internship sites have included the Duke University Medical Center, Cambridge Hospital, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, as well as the Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

  • East Tennessee State University
    Location

    Johnson City, TN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    East Tennessee State University was founded in 1911 as a normal school, then became a school specifically for future teachers. It gained university status in 1963. There are over 14,500 students at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and 11 colleges. ETSU’s main campus is located in Johnson City, a place with a population of a little over 63,000. The university also operates a few other campuses throughout the state. ETSU values a liberal arts education where people come first.

    Program Features

    ETSU offers a Ph.D. in Psychology with a concentration in Clinical Psychology. This program focuses on rural behavioral health and practice. It emphasizes evidence-based assessment. Other than individual research, students will participate in coursework and field experiences.

    • Opportunity to shadow psychologists
    • 20-hour weekly practicums
    • Affiliation with the Behavioral Health and Wellness Clinic

    Notables

    For those who hold an MA degree from another university, as much as 48 credit-hours can be transferred to go towards the Ph.D. program.

  • Eastern Michigan University
    Location

    Ypsilanti, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    What began as a small teacher’s college in 1849 has grown to a large research institution with over 150 graduate programs. Eastern Michigan University is located in Ypsilanti on a campus about 800-acres. There are over 18,000 students enrolled through its five colleges. For the past 16 years, the Princeton Review has ranked EMich among the “Best of the Midwest.” This is due to its amazing programs that prepare students for their careers, and impressive research.

    Program Features

    EMich’s Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program produces licensed clinical psychologists who are able to treat a number of issues. This is a fully supportive program that offers a stipend for the first four years. It will take a total of six years including the internship to complete. There are a total of five emphases to choose from:

    • Assessment
    • Health Psychology
    • Clinical Adult
    • Applied Behavior Analysis
    • Developmental Psychopathology

    Notables

    There are four practicums: Master’s, doctoral pre-practicum, internal, and external. Several hundred hours must be completed at each stage to get the necessary experience.

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