10 Career Paths in Clinical Psychology

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 13, 2022 | Published February 22, 2021

Updated July 13, 2022

Published February 22, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you enjoy working with people and are interested in pursuing a career that positively impacts the lives of many, you may want to consider the field of clinical psychology. Clinical psychologists received advanced training in cognitive and behavioral sciences. They can specialize in many clinical areas, such as behavioral health and child psychology. The type of specialization they choose can have an impact on the job they pursue.

In this article, we discuss what a clinical psychologist is, what they do, the educational and training requirements for this field and the career paths both within and outside of the traditional psychology setting.

What is clinical psychology?

Clinical psychology is a specialized field that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of mental health illnesses. Examples of illnesses this field encompasses include behavioral and emotional conditions.

Those who work in this area often perform assessments and diagnoses and oversee the maintenance of a patient’s mental health statute. The scope of clinical psychology covers various systems, diversities and ages and requires that professionals in this field possess a comprehensive knowledge of a variety of psychological disciplines.

Related: What Is Clinical Psychology? With Job Details

What does a clinical psychologist do?

A clinical psychologist has various responsibilities based on their specific job position. In most clinical psychology positions, these professionals work directly with patients to provide individualized care based on their specific needs. Other common duties for clinical psychologists include:

  • Identify behavioral, emotional or mental conditions in a client

  • Perform assessments to further analyze a client’s condition

  • Diagnose conditions based on analysis and assessments

  • Educate a client’s family members on their condition and how to best cope with it

  • Create individualized treatment plans related to the client’s specific condition

  • Oversee a client’s progress and make adjustments to the treatment plan when needed

 Related: How To Become a Clinical Psychologist

5 educational and training requirements for clinical psychologists

To practice, clinical psychologists must complete extensive education and training. It's worth noting that clinical psychology encompasses many career paths and that the education and training requirements will vary depending on which path and specialization you choose. These are the five steps you can take to become a clinical psychologist:

1. Earn your bachelor's degree

The first step to pursuing a career as a clinical psychologist is to receive your bachelor’s degree. While a bachelor's degree in psychology is often the most common choice, related programs such as sociology or pre-med are also options. Most programs take four years to complete.

2. Pursue a master's degree

Aspiring clinical psychologists require a master’s degree before applying for a doctoral program. These programs often take up to three years to complete if you attend full-time. Some schools offer integrated doctoral degree programs, allowing you to earn a master's degree while also pursuing a doctorate.

3. Obtain a doctoral degree

There are two doctoral degrees for aspiring clinical psychologists to choose from, with these including a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). A Psy.D. is often the preferred choice for clinical psychologists who want to work directly with patients. Both programs can take five to seven years to complete and require accreditation from the American Psychological Association.

4. Complete clinical training

The next step in pursuing a clinical psychology career is to complete clinical training. Clinical psychologists work under the supervision of a licensed professional in a clinical setting to gain essential clinical experience. The required training can last up to two years before a clinical psychologist can obtain licensure.

5. Apply for licensure

To practice independently as a clinical psychologist, it's mandatory to obtain licensure. Each state has its own board with varying requirements, with sitting for and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology being one of these. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards oversees these examinations.

Related: FAQ: What Degree Does a Clinical Psychologist Need?

Clinical psychology jobs

As a clinical psychologist, there are numerous employment opportunities and work settings to choose from. You have the option to specialize in an area that aligns with your personal interests and career goals. While the national average salary for clinical psychologists is $99,399 per year, your earnings will vary depending on geographic location, experience and specialization. Here are some clinical psychology specializations worth considering:

1. Substance abuse counselor

National average salary: $59,007 per year

Primary duties: Substance abuse counselors help patients overcome alcohol, drug, substance and behavioral addictions and manage withdrawal symptoms. They identify and address possible triggers or behavioral patterns that may have led to addiction and devise an appropriate treatment plan. Often, substance abuse counselors collaborate with social workers, doctors and other mental health care professionals to help individuals achieve a successful recovery.

2. Clinical social worker

National average salary: $59,794 per year

Primary duties: A clinical social worker works with individuals and families to improve their overall quality of life. They help clients adjust and cope with changes and challenges such as divorce, illness or unemployment. Unlike a social worker, a clinical social worker has the capacity to diagnose and treat mental, emotional and behavioral issues. Clinical social workers also respond to crisis situations and mental health emergencies.

Related: Learn About Being a Clinical Social Worker

3. Family and marriage therapist

National average salary: $61,185 per year

Primary duties: Family and marriage therapists provide guidance to couples, families and groups experiencing any issues, conflict or crisis. They diagnose and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders within the context of couples or families and devise plans that help their clients manage and overcome conflicts and adjust to difficult changes.

4. Learning specialist

National average salary: $62,719 per year

Primary duties: A learning specialist works closely with students, educators and parents to diagnose and treat children with learning disabilities and disorders. Schools and universities often employ a learning specialist to support students with disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD and visual or auditory processing disorders. Learning disability specialists ensure that students with disabilities excel academically.

5. Psychotherapist

National average salary: $73,878 per year

Primary duties: A psychotherapist typically works one-on-one with clients in a clinical setting. They may provide talk therapy or other therapeutic services depending on the client’s needs. Common duties include developing individualized treatment plans and monitoring the progress of clients throughout their treatment.

Related: Learn About Being a Psychotherapist

6. Sports psychologist

National average salary: $86,030 per year

Primary duties: Sports psychologists examine the impact of psychological and physical factors on athletic performance. They assist with maintaining the skills and protecting the overall health and well-being of athletes. Sports psychologists also work with athletes who may feel a loss of identity after exiting their athletic career due to a sports injury, graduation or termination and assist them with that transition.

7. Child psychologist

National average salary: $96,886 per year

Primary duties: Child psychologists evaluate and treat the mental health needs of children and adolescents. They help children cope with a variety of diagnoses and stressors by teaching them techniques and coping mechanisms. Other duties may include working with children in a therapeutic setting and creating and implementing individualized treatment plans.

8. Forensic psychologist

National average salary: $97,537 per year

Primary duties: Forensic psychologists combine the practice of psychology with the law. They actively work alongside the legal and criminal justice systems, conducting psychological evaluations of offenders to determine if they're fit to stand trial and providing expert testimony in court. They may provide attorneys and the court with client documentation and review their evaluations with necessary parties.

9. Neuropsychologist

National average salary: $105,800 per year

Primary duties: Neuropsychologists examine the function of the brain and central nervous system in relation to a patient's physical behavior. Common issues they treat include brain injuries, developmental disorders, strokes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and learning disabilities. They develop treatment plans for patients, which can include therapy, rehabilitation, medication and surgery.

Related: Learn About Being a Neuropsychologist

10. Health psychologist

National average salary: $113,790 per year

Primary duties: Health psychologists assess the impact that biological, social and psychological factors have on an individual's overall physical health and well-being. They apply psychological science to promote a healthy and balanced lifestyle and help prevent illnesses. They may create individualized treatment plans based on a client’s needs and goals.

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link(s) provided.

Explore more articles