Best Online Master’s in Clinical Psychology Degrees 2021

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Clinical psychology online master’s programs teach students to assess and treat behavioral health problems, psychological distress, and mental illness. Covering the major principles of psychology, master’s in clinical psychology courses delve into topics such as group therapy, psychopathology, and cognitive and behavioral therapy.

Graduates can find employment in school psychology, mental health counseling, and marriage and family therapy. Many careers in these fields offer robust employment prospects. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 22% job growth for marriage and family therapists from 2019 to 2029, significantly faster than the 4% national average.

We ranked the top clinical psychology online master’s programs for 2021. We also cover what to expect from a master’s in clinical psychology program, how to choose the right school, and the benefits of earning this degree.

What Is a Master’s in Clinical Psychology Degree?

Clinical psychology traces back to the 1890s when psychologist Lightner Witmer established the first psychology clinic at the University of Pennsylvania. Although psychologists before him had treated patients in mental hospitals, Witmer advocated for the use of clinical psychology to treat behavioral problems and learning difficulties in children.

Today’s clinical psychology field attracts individuals interested in working directly with people to address mental health and behavioral issues. To succeed in this profession, individuals must have compassion, patience, and interpersonal communication skills.

Earning a master of clinical psychology online qualifies graduates for occupations in diverse settings, such as schools, workplaces, prisons, hospitals, and private practices. Individuals with a master’s in clinical psychology often begin working under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist. Specializations for these professionals may include child psychology, attachment theory, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Learn More About Psychology Programs

Why Get a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology?

Pursuing a master’s in clinical psychology offers several benefits, including higher wages, sought-after skills, and the opportunity to help people. Individuals with a bachelor’s in psychology or social work can also experience these benefits. However, professionals need a master’s degree to work in clinical psychology.

We discuss these three key benefits of earning a clinical psychology online master’s.

  • Salary Potential: Pursuing a master’s in clinical psychology can substantially impact earning potential. As of 2018, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported 19% higher median annual earnings for full-time employees aged 25-34 with at least a master’s degree compared to those with only a bachelor’s degree.
  • In-Demand Skills: Clinical psychology online master’s programs help students refine their problem-solving abilities and interpersonal skills as they prepare for roles in counseling, therapy, and psychology.
  • Helping Others: Graduates from a master’s in clinical psychology program work primarily with people to help address behavioral, stress-related, or mental health issues.

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What to Expect From a Clinical Psychology Online Master’s

Clinical psychology online master’s programs teach students about personality assessment, clinical best practices, and therapeutic approaches. Enrollees learn to apply these skills to assess and treat mental health issues, relationship problems, and emotional difficulties.

Master’s in clinical psychology online degrees usually require 36-54 credits and take 1-2 years to complete. Typical classes include psychological assessment, psychopathology, and developmental psychology. While tuition costs vary by program, in-state public schools usually offer the lowest rates.

Some psychology degree master’s programs provide concentrations in psychodynamic therapy, school psychology, and marriage and relationship counseling.

Admission Requirements

Top clinical psychology online master’s programs often require applicants to hold a bachelor’s in psychology, social work, or related fields from an accredited school. However, some programs may accept candidates with a bachelor’s in other disciplines if they hold relevant professional experience.

Applicants typically submit a resume, a statement of purpose, 2-3 letter recommendations, GRE scores, and an application fee. Some schools waive testing requirements for distance learners.

While schools do not usually maintain minimum GRE requirements, most universities require a 3.0 GPA or higher. GRE scores in the 90th percentile and a 3.5 GPA or higher can improve admission chances.

Concentration Options

Some clinical psychology online master’s programs offer concentrations in a particular subfield, such as child psychology, family counseling, and behavior therapy. Other programs allow students to specialize through a combination of electives. Common focus areas in clinical psychology include:

  • Child Psychology

    This focus area trains learners to assess and treat behavioral problems and mental health issues in children. Topics include early childhood development, behavioral regulation, and childhood abandonment.

  • School Psychology

    This specialization prepares enrollees for counseling roles in K-12 schools. Coursework includes motivational psychology, counseling theory and practice, and behavioral psychology.

  • Family Therapy

    A concentration in family therapy covers family and relationship dynamics. Classes in this specialization include attachment theory, couples’ therapy, and grief counseling.

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

    A cognitive-behavioral therapy track delves into therapeutic approaches for altering people’s thinking or behavioral patterns. Students learn about exposure therapy, token economy, and emotional regulation.

  • Psychodynamic Therapy

    This concentration prepares students for entry-level jobs in hospitals and clinical practice under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist. Coursework focuses on developmental psychology, avoidance behavior, and psychoanalytical principles and practice.

Read About the Branches of Psychology

Popular Clinical Psychology Courses

Clinical psychology online master’s curricula feature courses in social psychology, personality psychology, and advanced clinical counseling. Popular electives include behavioral psychology, early childhood development, and grief counseling.

Most psychology degree master’s programs also require a practicum or clinical fieldwork component. Below, we cover four common courses in a clinical psychology degree program.

  • Proseminar in Clinical Psychology

    This survey course typically occurs in the first semester of study. Students develop core proficiencies in clinical assessment and therapeutic approaches.

  • Personality Psychology

    The first part of this required class examines major theories in personality psychology and analyzes how hereditary factors, experience, emotions, and aging shape personality. The second part focuses on the methodology for designing personality assessment tools.

  • Behavioral Psychology

    An elective in behavioral psychology explores how life experiences and coping strategies shape human behavior. Learners analyze the psychological processes behind behavioral therapeutic techniques, such as exposure and response prevention, token economy, systematic desensitization, and modeling.

  • Attachment Theory

    This elective focuses on how early attachment processes and past emotional bonds impact future relationship behavior. Topics include attachment processes in infancy, the Strange situation method, and adult attachment styles.

How Much Will a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology Online Cost?

Several factors can influence tuition costs, including school type, state residency, and program format. According to NCES, public universities charged an average of $12,171 in graduate tuition and fees in 2018-2019, compared to $25,929 per year for private institutions.

However, many schools offer distance learning courses at a discounted rate — for example, some public institutions offer in-state tuition for all learners, regardless of state residency. Remote students can also save on commuting and relocation costs.

Some schools offer a tuition waiver and a graduate stipend to learners qualified for a teaching or research assistantship. However, these institutions may require on-campus attendance for stipend recipients. Other financial aid options include scholarships, fellowships, grants, and loans.

Most Affordable Online Master's in Psychology Degrees

Jobs for Clinical Psychologist Degree Graduates

A master’s in clinical psychology can lead to high-paying, in-demand careers in mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, school counseling, and industrial-organizational psychology. The BLS projects a median annual salary of $51,340 for marriage and family therapists and $82,180 for industrial-organizational psychologists as of 2020.

Clinical psychologists generally need a doctoral degree. However, a master’s degree in clinical psychology suffices for some psychology careers in coaching, therapy, and counseling. Unsupervised psychologists, counselors, and therapists will also need a license.

Below, we describe potential careers for graduates with clinical psychology degree:

Mental Health Counselor


Mental health counselors advise people with mental and behavioral issues. Frequent responsibilities include assessing clients’ mental health, developing treatment goals, and helping clients develop strategies for coping with problems. All states require licensure for mental health counselors.


Required Education: Master’s degree
Job Outlook (2019-29): +25%
Median Annual Salary: $47,660


School Counselor


School counselors help students cultivate skills for academic success and address behavioral problems. Typical job duties include helping students develop academic and career goals, addressing academic or behavioral problems, and collaborating with teachers to maximize student success. Some states require licensure for school counselors.


Required Education: Master’s degree
Job Outlook (2019-29): +8%
Median Annual Salary: $58,120

Marriage and Family Therapist


Marriage and family therapists help people overcome family and relationship problems. Typical job duties focus on counseling groups of clients experiencing difficulties in their romantic and familial relationships. All states require licensure for marriage and family therapists.


Required Education: Master’s degree
Job Outlook (2019-29): +22%
Median Annual Salary: $51,340

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist


Industrial-organizational psychologists help improve the quality of worklife. Frequent responsibilities include addressing workplace conflicts, improving employee morale, and working with managers to adjust leadership tactics.


Required Education: Master’s degree
Job Outlook (2019-29): +3%
Median Annual Salary: $82,180


What Are the Requirements for a Career in Psychology?

Choosing the Right Clinical Psychology Degree Master’s Program

Our rankings are a great place to begin the search for a clinical psychology degree program. However, students should consider several other factors, including accreditation, cost, and career services.

Accreditation
Schools obtain regional accreditation through a third-party evaluation that assesses academics, faculty credentials, student services, and campus facilities. Attending a regionally accredited university increases job and financial aid opportunities. Some fields, including psychology, also have programmatic accreditation bodies that certify whether a program meets certain educational standards. Most licenses in clinical psychology require a degree from a program with industry accreditation from the American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation.
Cost/Financial Aid
In-state public schools tend to be more affordable than out-of-state public schools or private institutions. Online programs at public schools may offer in-state tuition to all enrollees. Prospective students should also seek financial aid, such as scholarships, grants, and loans, which can also reduce program costs.
Career Services
The best clinical psychology online master’s programs offer a variety of career services, such as networking events, resume and letter-writing services, and career workshops.

What Is Accreditation and Why Does It Matter?

Why You Should Get Your Degree Online

Most clinical psychology online master’s programs require some on-campus presence for practicums or clinical fieldwork. However, many schools offer distance learning options where students complete coursework remotely. These online programs provide convenience and flexibility, allowing learners to attend top schools without relocating.

With the recent rise in telehealth appointments, clinical psychologists may need computer skills to succeed in their careers. Developing these skills while earning a master’s degree can make online students more employable.

Course delivery varies by school. Synchronous courses provide an immersive online environment with real-time lectures and peer discussion. By contrast, students in asynchronous classes listen to lectures and contribute to virtual discussion boards with more scheduling flexibility.

Each format comes with unique advantages. While the synchronous layout mirrors the on-campus experience, the asynchronous format allows attendees to balance school with other commitments. Students should note that meeting course deadlines in asynchronous programs requires self-discipline and time management.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do clinical psychologists do?

    Clinical psychologists apply psychological principles and best practices to assess and treat behavioral problems, work-related stress, and mental health issues in schools, workplaces, prisons, hospitals, and private practices.

  • Is getting a clinical psychology degree worth it?

    Yes. Earning a master’s in clinical psychology online prepares students for high-paying, in-demand careers in mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, and school psychology.

  • Can you get a master's in clinical psychology online?

    Yes. Many top schools offer a master’s in clinical psychology online. In-state public institutions offer more affordable tuition rates than private universities. However, schools increasingly offer distance education at a reduced rate.

  • How long are clinical psychology online master's programs?

    Clinical psychology online master’s programs usually require 36-54 credits and take 1-2 years of full-time study to complete. Schools may offer accelerated options that allow students to complete their degree in less than a year.

  • What can I do with a master's degree in clinical psychology?

    Clinical psychology online master’s graduates can apply to a doctoral program in clinical psychology or find work in fields like mental health counseling, school psychology, and marriage and family therapy.

Best Online Master’s in Clinical Psychology Degrees 2021

  1. Palo Alto University
    Location

    Palo Alto, CA

    Tuition

    $542

    Palo Alto University offers a online Master’s Degree in Counseling with emphasis on Clinical Mental Health. This program is CACREP accredited and ensures students are prepared to support their communities mental health needs. The University’s goal is to develop highly effective mental health counselors that can pave an innovative path in the profession. This is achieved by providing excellent education and clinical practice for students in a diverse and nurturing online learning community. Completion of this program will take students approximately 2 years and 9 months.

  2. Bellevue University
    Location

    Bellevue, NE

    Tuition

    $410

    Located in Bellevue, Nebraska and founded in 1966, Bellevue University is a private school offering over 70 degrees to 10,000 students. Focused mostly on adult education, the University delivers education on their beautiful 46-acre main campus in Bellevue but also through a developed and respected online platform.

    Bellevue offers a Master of Science in Clinical Counseling (MSCC) degree. The 60-credit program (transfer credits are accepted) is intensive, moving from foundational classes such as Introduction to Counseling, Theories of Psychotherapy, and Ethical and Legal Issues, to the robust 100 hours of practicum and 600 hours of clinical internship. Through this excellent preparation, graduates will be ready on day one of their new career or position. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s, minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5, letters of recommendation, and six hours in the behavioral sciences. BU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission through the U.S. Department of Education, something employers appreciate. Though the program is almost entirely online and very flexible, there are two residency requirements: one visit after admission and one before the clinical internship. All in all, Bellevue’s program features the convenience, flexibility, quality and affordability ($410 per credit) that a #4 school should have.

  3. Wake Forest University
    Location

    Winston-Salem, NC

    Tuition

    $1340

    With a motto like “Pro Humanitate” (For Humanity) Wake Forest was destined to become a premier university. Founded in 1844 and located to their present site in 1956, the liberal arts school has a total enrollment of approximately 8,000 offering 40 majors and 57 interdisciplinary minors across various fields of study.

    In step with the motto, Wake Forest University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is “committed to the preparation of qualified professionals for compassionate service to humanity.” The online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is 60 credits that progresses through Core Courses such as human growth and development, social and cultural foundations, research and program evaluation, Clinical Courses, courses in a Program Specialty Area such as Mental and Emotional Disorders, internships, and culminates in a Professional Identity Capstone Project. At WFU, online classes are taught by experienced faculty and the program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Admission requirements include a bachelor’s, minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and interview. Reassuring to know, WFU has a 100 percent pass rate for graduates taking the National Counselor exam.

  4. Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion
    Location

    Marion, IN

    Tuition

    $325

    Indiana Wesleyan University is a private, Christian university associated with the Wesleyan Church. IWU is the largest private college in Indiana with approximately 15,000 total students. It should be noted that of those, about 3000 reside at the beautiful 350-acre campus in Marion, Indiana, and about 10,000 are enrolled as adult learners.

    IWU offers four Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology: Clinical Addictions Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Community Counseling, and Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy. All programs are taught through a Christian worldview by faculty members who have earned doctorates and licenses and are active in the counseling profession. The MA in Clinical Addictions is 48 credit-hours and is designed to lead to becoming a Master Clinical Addiction Counselor through the NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals. The MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and the MA in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy are 60 credits and can lead to licensure or to PhD programs. The programs that lead to licensure in Indiana may or may not apply in your state. Examination for suitability to each program is suggested. Lastly, there is the MA in Community Counseling a non-licensure 36-credit program preparing personal coaches, helpers in private practices, community agencies, and organizational settings. Cost per credit is one of the most inexpensive at $325.

  5. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $615

    Liberty University was founded in 1971 as Lynchburg Baptist College by Jerry Falwell. Since then, the School has seen incredible growth. Today it is the largest Christian University in the world with a total enrollment of 110,000, with 94,000 enrolling online.

    Liberty University offers many online options for a Master of Clinical Psychology: MA in Addiction Counseling, MA in Human Services Counseling with several concentrations, MA in Marriage & Family Therapy, and MA in Professional Counseling. All programs are taught through a Christian worldview with the intention of a providing holistic training. Just to examine a couple options: the MA in Professional Counseling is a 60-hour graduate level program designed to prepare you for licensure as a Professional Counselor (LPC). It is important to note the program cannot be completed entirely online, but requires three on-campus visits (reasonable accommodations are available). The MA in Addiction Counseling is online, with three “intensives”, is 48 credits, and prepares you for certification and/or licensure as a substance abuse or addiction counselor. Important to note, only the residential MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is accredited by CACREP. The cost per credit at LU is $615.

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