Careers and Education in Clinical Psychology
The field of clinical psychology can be highly rewarding, but it is also highly competitive. Similarly, PhD programs in clinical psychology are often highly competitive and extremely challenging. We have all heard it said that anything worth doing takes effort, but before you expend that effort take the time to truly consider which of the many clinical psychology graduate programs is right for you.
Advanced Degrees in Clinical Psychology
For those interested in working directly in counseling and helping others there are a variety of potential degrees to consider. The Master of Social Work (MSW) allows a graduate to test for a license in social work, allowing the successful applicant to work in a variety of counseling and social work settings. While careers in social work are not particularly lucrative, one can make a living in this area and programs are plentiful. Similarly, a Masters Degree in counseling or psychology can open doors to self-practice in counseling and a variety of counseling positions in hospitals, schools and more. However, for those who truly want to excel in their field, conducting and publishing research or having access to the most sought after positions, a PhD or PsyD is the best choice. Choosing between the two is a matter of wanting more research experience (PhD) or more clinical experience (PsyD). Both types of programs are highly competitive and require much time, research and dedication to both the process of application and getting accepted, as well as the program itself.
Comparing Clinical Psychology Graduate Programs
One necessary choice in today's modern world is whether to attend an online university or a traditional "brick and mortar" school. Brick and mortar psychology programs, those where students actually attend class on campus, are often a good choice for students who have little previous psychology experience and have not worked in the field of psychology yet. Online universities can be the obvious choice for working professionals who have some experience working in the field, and have family and career obligations which make attending traditional classes difficult. For such people online education offers a flexible way to achieve their educational goals. Whether you choose traditional or online, be sure to choose a school that has regional accreditation.
Prominent Traditional Schools to Consider
Choosing a traditional, land-based school often has to do with geography as much as research goals and interests. A first step is to decide how far you are willing to travel for your education and if proximity to home is more important than program content and your own research interests. Geography aside, the United States has some excellent on-campus clinical psychology programs. Loyola University in Chicago has a well known, extremely competitive PhD in counseling psychology program. LaSalle University in Pennsylvania has a PhD in clinical psychology which follows a practitioner-scholar model, emphasizing professional practice. Similarly, the Florida Institute of Technology offers a practitioner based PsyD. The University of California Los Angeles offers a full time, immersive PhD in counseling psychology.
Prominent Online Schools to Consider
If online education suits your life better, you have a variety of options there as well. One prominent online University that offers a PhD in counseling psychology is Capella University. This school offers full federal financial aid and all of your coursework is done online. There are some required residencies that you must attend, and these are held around the country. Another prominent online program is Fielding Graduate University; this school requires a minimum 3.0 GPA from an undergraduate or graduate program. Union Institute and University is another excellent online school, which uses a cohort model to help students feel engaged. All three of these schools are regionally accredited.
Applying to a Graduate Program
Once you have decided to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology it is time to start preparing to apply to graduate schools. There are many top name schools that offer this degree, and in some of these schools entrance is highly competitive. For example, the aforementioned Loyola University in Chicago has a well respected Clinical Psychology program. Each year they receive around 300 applications into their program and they accept about 10 new students. Obviously, the competition is stiff. Do your research and be sure you understand how to complete the application process in a way that gives you the best advantage, helping you stand out among the hundreds of other applicants so that you can attend one of the schools that you would most like to go to.
Remember that you are unlikely to get into every school you apply to. So, choose a few clinical psychology graduate programs to apply to, ensuring that you only apply to institutions that you truly would want to attend if you got into them. Also, choose mostly schools that you honestly believe you have a chance of getting into. This means looking at the minimum requirements of the school (GRE scores and grades) and ensuring that you meet those requirements. Assuming you meet the minimum requirements required, you can feel free to apply to one or two high end schools that you feel may be a bit out of your reach, if you have some research experience or a really good pitch to sell them in your personal statement and interview. This means doing your research and giving great attention to the application process.