Clinical Psychologist Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

A Clinical Psychologist, or Licensed Clinical Psychologist, is responsible for using psychological treatment options to help those with mental health disorders. Their duties include meeting with patients to discuss their concerns about their mental health, assessing their symptoms to diagnose their condition and applying scientific treatment methods to help their patients cope with or overcome their mental health conditions.

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Clinical Psychologist duties and responsibilities

The setting a Clinical Psychologist works in will affect their daily duties and responsibilities. In most organizations, a Clinical Psychologist’s responsibilities can include performing any of the following tasks:

  • Conducting scientific studies of behavior patterns and cognitive function
  • Observing and interviewing individuals, recording the interactions
  • Researching psychological, emotional, behavioral or organizational patterns and identifying issues
  • Diagnosing potential disorders
  • Discussing possible methods of treatment with patients
  • Researching and writing papers on clinical psychology issues and disorders
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What does a Clinical Psychologist do?

Clinical Psychologists typically work for mental health clinics, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, schools and prisons to assess and treat patients with various mental health conditions. They work closely with other mental health professionals to provide optimal support to their patients. Their job is to refer to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) to compare their patient’s symptoms and behaviors and helping their patients understand their condition, its causes and treatment options. They may also conduct research studies with other Clinical Psychologists to learn more about conditions like OCD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or anxiety disorders.

Clinical Psychologist skills and qualifications

There are several qualifications, especially concerning communication and interpersonal skills, that will help a Clinical Psychologist  succeed in their duties, including:

  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to maintain confidentiality
  • Analytical skills
  • Integrity
  • Observational skills
  • Patience

Clinical Psychologist salary expectations

The average salary of a Clinical Psychologist is $96,630 per year. This can vary depending on the type of clinical work they perform, their geographical location, experience level and whether they work in the public or private sector. Some common benefits for Clinical Psychologists include a flexible schedule, loan repayment programs and paid time off.

Clinical Psychologist education and training requirements

People who want to work as a Clinical Psychologist should either get a Ph.D. in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology degree, also known as a Psy.D., though organizations hiring Clinical Psychologists usually prefer the latter. Doctor of Psychology degrees require practical work and exams, as well as a one-year internship for some programs. A Ph.D. in Psychology includes coursework in statistics, experimental procedures and psychological research. The Ph.D. is a research degree, so students have to complete a dissertation in addition to taking a comprehensive exam. Depending on where the Clinical Psychologist is employed, they will probably need a license to practice, which requires some practical experience.

Clinical Psychologist experience requirements

Experience in clinical settings or specific experience in the type of clinical psychology a prospective employer needs is always a plus. An ideal candidate will have doctoral and postdoctoral interning experience in an organization and will have demonstrated their interpersonal skills, communication skills and integrity through previous work experience and associated referrals. Previous experience can vary from private practice to work for a large private or public organization.

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Frequently asked questions about Clinical Psychologists


What is the difference between a Clinical Psychologist and a General Psychologist?

Clinical Psychologists and General Psychologists both seek to use their expertise to help others with their mental health. Still, they differ in their qualifications and the types of mental health cases they cover. For example, General Psychologists typically help diagnose people with more minor cases of anxiety, depression or OCD.  In contrast, Clinical Psychologists have more in-depth training to work with those suffering from severe eating disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or manic-depressive disorder. 

Further, Clinical Psychologists typically hold a doctorate degree that qualifies them to treat their patients using various methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, psychoanalytic treatment or cognitive adaptation training (CAT). In contrast, General Psychologists typically hold a master’s degree and therefore don’t have the qualifications to administer treatment or operate at the clinical level.


What are the daily duties of a Clinical Psychologist?

On a typical day, a Clinical Psychologist arrives at their workplace and checks their email or phone messages. They talk with the Front Desk Assistant to review their appointment schedule for the day and start looking through case files accordingly. Throughout their day, they greet patients and ask them about any new symptoms or changes since they last spoke. They give their patients the opportunity to speak about their conditions and discuss accomplishments or setbacks. 

Depending on how many sessions they’ve had with their patients, they also use their time with them to apply psychological treatment methods and offer them advice about tactics they can use in their daily life. After each session, Clinical Psychologists take detailed notes to add to their patients’ files and refer to the DSM to determine a potential diagnosis for new patients.


What qualities make a good Clinical Psychologist?

A good Clinical Psychologist has a calm nature, which helps their patients relax and feel comfortable speaking with them. They have a variety of previous work experience that enables them to engage with people who have severe mental illnesses. Further, a good Clinical Psychologist knows how to maintain professional boundaries while still demonstrating compassion and empathy for their patients. They participate in continued education initiatives to hone their expertise to help their patients cope with their mental health disorders.


Who does a Clinical Psychologist report to?

A Clinical Psychologist typically reports to the Clinical Supervisor or Clinical Director of a healthcare facility. These professionals implement policies and procedures for Clinical Psychologists to follow. If a Clinical Psychologist runs their own private practice, they may report to their state’s Board of Psychology.

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