The Top Clinical Psychology Master's Programs in 2021
There are many options available for students who want to pursue a master’s degree in clinical psychology. Many students who follow this path are passionate about helping other people, including children and families. Graduates of clinical psychology programs work in agencies, healthcare, and government institutions.
We evaluated over 200 Master’s in Clinical Psychology programs across the US and used our rigorous six-point metric system to rank what we believe are the TOP 20 CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY PROGRAMS in the country.
What is Clinical Psychology?
Clinical psychology is a psychology specialty that addresses the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals with psychological problems. Professionals in this field work in a wide variety of settings, including individual practices, schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, and mental health centers.
Clinical psychologists must possess good interpersonal communication skills and have a natural curiosity about how the human brain works. Human behavior is their specialty and they utilize their knowledge, understanding, and empathy to help others overcome what are often deep-seated personal difficulties. Through specialized treatment they are able to help the patient or client with self-realization and personal growth.
What are the Best Clinical Psychology Programs of 2021?
Here is our snapshot of the top ten best programs for clinical psychology master’s degrees. Scroll down for more details and a list of more schools…
|1||Northwestern University||Chicago, IL|
|2||University of Central Florida||Orlando, FL|
|3||University of Tulsa||Tulsa, OK|
|4||Wheaton College||Wheaton, IL|
|5||Pepperdine University||Malibu, CA|
|6||LeTourneau University||Longview, TX|
|7||Vanguard University of Southern California||Costa Mesa, CA|
|8||Clayton State University||Morrow, GA|
|9||University of Northern Iowa||Cedar Falls, IA|
|10||Eastern Illinois University||Charleston, IL|
Featured Psychology Schools
# 1Northwestern University
Location: Chicago, IL Cost/Term: $54,120 Acceptance Rate: 8.47% Graduation Rate: 94%
Northwestern University offers a Clinical Psychology MA Program for those students pursuing academic clinical psychology as a career. The program’s primary objective is to help students become proficient in research design, analytics, and ethics. While learning these core skills, students will be able to explore various disciplines within clinical psychology. The program is challenging to get accepted into, but the rewards are great.
The school designed the program to be completed within 15 months (five quarters). Students must earn at least 17 units to graduate. Core coursework includes study in statistics, research methods, and ethics. Other electives are available such as cognitive psychology, child psychopathology, behavioral neuroscience, and more.
Students will learn from and receive mentoring from over 90 faculty members. These faculty will assist in teaching, research labs, and reviewing papers. A low teacher-to-student ratio provides more hands-on learning from qualified professionals.
# 2University of Central Florida
Location: Orlando, FL Cost/Term: $6,916 Acceptance Rate: 42.53% Graduation Rate: 69%
The University of Central Florida offers two tracks for students seeking a Master of Arts Clinical Psychology Program. Both programs are available at the beautiful UCF Sanford/Lake Mary campus.
One path is the Applied Pre-Licensure/Non-Thesis Track. This program is for psychology students who would like to eventually become Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) and practice in Florida. This program requires 49 credit hours of graduate coursework after the Bachelor’s degree. Sample courses include multicultural psychotherapy, developmental psychology, and group psychotherapy. In addition to those required classes, students must complete 12 credit hours of an internship.
The other track is the Research/Thesis track, designed for students who want to focus on research or an eventual doctoral program. This program does not lead to LMHC eligibility. This track requires nine credit hours of required psychology courses, 15 credit hours of general clinical elective classes, and 14 additional credit hours of research coursework.
# 3University of Tulsa
Location: Tulsa, OK Cost/Term: $22,230 Acceptance Rate: 40.77% Graduation Rate: 71%
The University of Tulsa offers a 45-credit hour Master of Arts (M.A.) program in clinical psychology. The program’s focus is to teach students the foundational skills of intervention, evaluation, and consultation. Students who graduate with this degree become equipped to seek entry-level clinical positions in organizational settings, agencies, and healthcare.
The university’s small, private setting ensures high-quality education with a low student-to-teacher ratio. The school emphasizes individual and cultural diversity and the ability to adapt clinical activities accordingly.
Students in the program will take 18 credit hours of clinical psychology classes. Courses include psychopathology, assessment, and the scientist-practitioner-based approach. The program also requires three hours of research methods, seven hours of practicum, 12 hours of general psychology, and nine credit hours of electives. The school believes practical experience is vital to the training. Therefore, the practicum assignments are an essential part of the program.
# 4Wheaton College
Location: Wheaton, IL Cost/Term: $20,400 Acceptance Rate: 82.65% Graduation Rate: 91%
Wheaton College offers an M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This program’s focus is to develop qualified Christian mental health counselors. As a Christian school, the integration of faith and counseling is essential. Faculty come alongside students to explore the impact of a Christian worldview on becoming a counselor.
Students who seek this degree program must complete 60 credit hours. Sample courses include counseling skills, family system theory, ethics, and trauma. Students also must complete six credits of theological studies.
The acceptance rate for Wheaton is relatively high, so most students have a good chance of getting in. The school boasts that its graduates are now serving in 25 countries around the world. For those students wanting a clinical psychology education from a Christian worldview, Wheaton is an excellent choice.
# 5Pepperdine University
Location: Malibu, CA Cost/Term: $33,700 Acceptance Rate: 35.65% Graduation Rate: 87%
Pepperdine University offers multiple tracks for their Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology program for students pursuing clinical psychology careers. There are both on-campus and online options available, allowing students to complete graduate degrees without worrying about relocating. All of the school’s faculty are active clinicians and experts in their fields.
One track is the M.A. Clinical Psychology MFT program, which trains students in marriage and family therapy. This program prepares students to become a state-licensed provider as either a therapist or clinical counselor.
The coursework focuses on applied methods of psychotherapy. In this program, students will become equipped to diagnose and treat mental health disorders, perform assessments, and counsel in multicultural situations. Students must also complete a clinical practicum at an approved clinical site. The exact amount of time depends on the state in which you want to become licensed.
For students who want the campus experience, there are multiple campuses from which to choose.
# 6LeTourneau University
Location: Longview, TX Cost/Term: $19,170 Acceptance Rate: 45.53% Graduation Rate: 53%
LeTourneau University offers a highly sought online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The program equips students to be able to perform counseling, clinical assessment, testing, and intervention. Graduates will be able to work with individuals, couples, and families.
The program is 100% online, giving students the flexibility of completing their coursework from anywhere. Students that complete the program successfully will be fully prepared to take their state licensure exams.
The degree requires 45 hours of core coursework, including psychopathology, research, counseling, and ethics. The core requirements also include practicum and two internships. Students must also take six hours of clinical theology classes and 15 hours of specialization courses. These additional courses include human sexuality, addictions, couples therapy, and family assessment.
For students who want to integrate counseling with a Christian worldview, LeTournaue is a good option.
# 7Vanguard University of Southern California
Location: Costa Mesa, CA Cost/Term: $15,039 Acceptance Rate: 40.17% Graduation Rate: 56%
The Vanguard University of Southern California offers a Master’s of Science in Clinical Psychology program. The program prepares students to become licensed therapists or clinical counselors in California. The school provides several schedule options to accommodate busy schedules. Students can elect full-time, part-time, or evening-only tracks.
Students in the program will take courses like clinical foundations, cognitive-behavioral theory, and psychotherapy of family, children, and adolescents. The program takes between two and four years to complete and requires 60-65 credit hours.
The school emphasizes the integration of Christian theology and psychology. The faculty are also licensed clinical professionals who also commit to developing students. For students planning to practice in California who want an education from a Christian worldview, this is a great program to consider.
# 8Clayton State University
Location: Morrow, GA Cost/Term: $5,512 Acceptance Rate: 54.36% Graduation Rate: 33%
Clayton State University offers a Master’s program in Clinical/Counseling Psychology. This program prepares students to provide psychological services for the community. Students will learn to ethically perform psychological assessments and provide individual, family, and group therapies.
Sample courses from the program include advanced human development, cultural issues, advanced research methods, and group therapy. As part of the requirements, students will also complete 600 hours of supervised clinical hours for real-life experience.
The program requires nine hours of core coursework and 47 credit hours of clinical counseling courses. To complete the degree, students will complete a capstone project including four additional credit hours. Elective courses are also available for topics of interest.
This program is an excellent choice for students who want the skills to assess mental health issues and implement interventions using various techniques.
# 9University of Northern Iowa
Location: Cedar Falls, IA Cost/Term: $9,159 Acceptance Rate: 80.74% Graduation Rate: 65%
The University of Northern Iowa offers a Master of Arts degree with an emphasis in Clinical Science. This emphasis combines clinical research and practice, giving students a unique blend in the scientist/practitioner model.
The program requires 43 credit hours and includes courses like cognitive assessment, research, statistics, ethics, and evidence-based treatment. Students learn research design and child/adolescent and adult psychopathology. Through supervised practice in the community, students also gain valuable professional skill development.
This program is an excellent choice for students who want to pursue doctoral programs in research or science. Students interested in ADHD, multicultural issues, and mental illness stigma will find the program attractive because the school’s clinical faculty specifically research these topics.
# 10Eastern Illinois University
Location: Charleston, IL Cost/Term: $7,176 Acceptance Rate: 55.31% Graduation Rate: 57%
Eastern Illinois University offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology. This program excels in preparing students for clinical practice or pursuit of doctoral programs. Following the scientist/practitioner model, the curriculum trains students in both theoretical knowledge and ethical practice.
As part of the program, students also complete 100 hours of practicum with an additional 600 hours of internship. This supervised experience enables students to practice what they have learned.
All of the faculty hold doctoral degrees from renowned universities across the country. The student-to-teacher ratio in the clinical program is remarkably low, providing high-quality instruction from highly-qualified faculty. Students will complete courses such as psychological assessment, advanced psychopathology, and a variety of therapy modalities.
For students wanting to progress quickly, the school offers a full-time, two-year program.
# 11Montclair State University
Location: Montclair, NJ Cost/Term: $12,188 Acceptance Rate: 71% Graduation Rate: 65%
Montclair State University offers an M.A. in Clinical Psychology degree. The program teaches the scientist-practitioner model. It emphasizes theory, practical experience, and scientific research. Many students who complete this program often go on to further doctoral studies. Others begin their careers practicing clinical psychology.
The degree program requires students to complete 36 credit hours of coursework. There are two potential concentrations for the degree, depending on students’ interests. Child / Adolescent Psychology and Forensic Psychology are the two possible tracks. Both paths require core courses like cognitive assessment, development psychology, and ethics. Depending on the specialization, students will take classes geared toward either children or criminal proceedings.
Students that wish to pursue training in evidence-based practice and get experience in research will find Montclair an excellent choice.
# 12Mercer University
Location: Atlanta, GA Cost/Term: $14,374 Acceptance Rate: 72% Graduation Rate: 66%
Mercer University offers an M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling for busy working adults. This program boasts instruction from award-winning faculty who also have clinical experience. Students become prepared to serve their communities facing emotional, mental, or behavioral issues.
The program prepares students for several licensure exams throughout the program. As part of the degree study, students prepare for the following:
- Associate Professional Counselor (APC)
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- National Counselor Examination (NCE)
- National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE).
This program is especially beneficial for students that are busy or that work during the day. Students only have to attend classes one night per week during each 16-week semester. Full-time and part-time paths are available.
# 13Rowan University
Location: Glassboro, NJ Cost/Term: $13,518 Acceptance Rate: 73% Graduation Rate: 71%
Rowan University offers a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The program emphasizes differential diagnosis, evidence-based practice, ethics, and multicultural sensitivity. Students that earn this degree become well-prepared for the state licensure exam.
The degree program requires 60 credit hours of graduate courses. Some classes students must take include psychopathology, assessment, counseling theory, and research methodology. During the program, students must also complete 600 hours of supervised clinical practice. This requirement ensures students receive a hands-on learning approach in a real-world environment.
The Rowan program provides a foundational clinical psychology degree that equips students for many paths. Some students pursue further doctoral studies. Others become professional counselors. Other students pursue teaching and research. Rowan is an excellent foundation no matter what students choose to do next.
# 14Ball State University
Location: Muncie, IN Cost/Term: $8,730 Acceptance Rate: 65% Graduation Rate: 62%
Ball State University offers a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. This two-year program equips students to pursue doctoral programs or become professionals in the field. The rigorous program emphasizes both research and classroom experiences.
To receive the degree, students must complete 36 total credit hours of psychology coursework. Some example classes include the science of psychopathology, psychological assessment, and research methods. Students will also choose electives including cognition, personality, or advanced psychopathology.
Ball State’s low student-to-teacher ratio is an excellent choice for students who want an intimate college experience. The unique curriculum also boasts flexibility for students who want a double Master’s degree. Options include either quantitative psychology or counseling. No matter what, the program prepares students for their desired post-graduate path in clinical psychology.
# 15University of Dayton
Location: Dayton, OH Cost/Term: $16,650 Acceptance Rate: 72% Graduation Rate: 75%
The University of Dayton offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology. This small, selective program is a highly sought-after degree. The degree program’s ultimate goal is to prepare students for entry into doctoral programs in psychology. To do that, faculty equips students with the foundations of research methods, statistics, and both group and individual research projects.
This program requires students to complete 42 hours of graduate coursework, including a thesis and four hours of practicum. Core courses include experimental design and statistics. Clinical courses include assessment, psychotherapy, ethics, family, and developmental psychology. Students will learn to apply therapy in both individual and group settings for children and adults.
For students that wish to pursue doctoral studies in clinical psychology, the University of Dayton’s program is an excellent fit.
# 16Minnesota State University-Mankato
Location: Mankato, MN Cost/Term: $7,404 Acceptance Rate: 61% Graduation Rate: 50%
Minnesota State University-Mankato offers a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology. This two-year, full-time program prepares students to pursue further doctoral studies in psychology. Faculty applies a rigorous, scientist-practitioner model to students’ training.
The program requires students to complete 50 credit hours of graduate psychology coursework. Students must complete a thesis and off-campus practicum. Required coursework includes psychopathology, behavior assessments, research, and clinical practicum. Students also become well-equipped in research design and multivariate analysis.
This master’s degree program is an excellent option for those students wanting a rigorous and academic program to prepare them to pursue doctoral work. Students will participate in clinical research with faculty and other students.
# 17Evangel University
Location: Springfield, MO Cost/Term: $8,694 Acceptance Rate: 79% Graduation Rate: 54%
Evangel University offers a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This program integrates a faith-based approach to counseling with clinical psychology. Students learn how to address client’s holistic mental health.
To graduate, students must complete 60 hours of graduate coursework. Students will learn the foundations of psychodiagnostics, human growth and development, research methods, and cultural diversity. Graduate students must also complete internships and a variety of hands-on practical learning.
Because of the faith-based approach to counseling, this program is an excellent choice for students who want to study clinical psychology from a Christian perspective. Students will receive preparation to take the National Counselor Exam (NCE) and take it right there on campus.
# 18Missouri State University-Springfield
Location: Springfield, MO Cost/Term: $5,022 Acceptance Rate: 85% Graduation Rate: 55%
Missouri State University-Springfield offers a Clinical Psychology Graduate Program. The program boasts a cohort model structure as recommended by the American Psychological Association. Students who complete the program become prepared for the state licensure exam.
The degree program requires 47 credit hours of psychology coursework. Full-time students can earn the degree in just two years. Required classes include statistics, research design, ethics, psychotherapy, and psychopathology. Students in the program become equipped in diagnostics, test administration, and basic counseling.
This program is an excellent choice for students wanting a mixture of practicum and research experiences from highly-qualified faculty. Upon completion, students can pursue licensure as a professional or additional doctoral work.
# 19Emporia State University
Location: Emporia, KS Cost/Term: $6,238 Acceptance Rate: 85% Graduation Rate: 44%
Emporia State University offers an MS in Clinical Psychology. This graduate program in clinical psychology prepares students to pursue a professional career to help others. The general training provides a foundation to build upon based on desired research interests.
To be eligible for admission, students must have 24 hours of undergraduate psychology. Required coursework for the master’s degree program includes 60 total hours. Students become well-versed in assessment, treatment, scientific foundations, and research. In the second year, students complete a clinical internship that gives them experience in a real-world clinical setting.
Emporia State University offers an excellent choice for students who want a broad-brush foundational degree in clinical psychology. This program equips students to pursue a career or further doctoral studies.
# 20The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Location: Edinburg, TX Cost/Term: $5,720 Acceptance Rate: 81% Graduation Rate: 41%
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley offers a Clinical Psychology (MA) graduate degree. The school designed the program to equip students to assess, diagnose, and treat mental health problems. Students with this degree can also teach at the post-secondary level if they so choose.
This program requires 48 credit hours of clinical psychology coursework. Required classes include statistics, psychopathology, personality theory, research design, and more. Students will receive instruction in clinical applications and will participate in supervised clinical practice. Both individual and group therapy courses give students confidence in various situations.
This degree is an excellent choice for students that want a license to be a professional mental health counselor in the state of Texas. The school also offers a thesis option for those that wish to pursue doctoral studies in the future.
What Does a Clinical Psychologist Do?
On the Surface
In David Clark-Carter’s book Quantitative Psychological Research: The Complete Student’s Companion, the author describes the purpose of psychological research in four key capacities, or “stages,” which include describing what is going on; understanding the implications; predicting causes and effects that result from behaviors; and controlling outcomes.
He adds: “In the case of research in psychology, the final stage is better seen as trying to intervene to improve human life.”
While these words pertain directly to research, this is also a reasonably accurate view of what clinical psychologists attempt to do in their patient/client practices.
Clinical psychologists help their subjects describe what is going on; they attempt to understand where those issues are coming from; and they try to help their subjects predict outcomes about certain behaviors. Finally, all this occurs in an attempt to get the subject to control unwanted behaviors or incorporate more edifying ones.
Most clinical psychologists will tell you that it can be rather difficult to describe the typical working day. That’s because the work they do occurs in numerous settings — prisons, crisis centers, hospitals and universities, to name a few.
You’ve heard it said that no two people are alike? That is the reality that a clinical psychologist may face on a daily basis as they work with young children, adolescents, young adults, older adults and the mentally or physically impaired.
The best places to turn for an in-depth understanding of what they do are to the clinical psychologists themselves. One clinical psychologist employed by a crisis center, while speaking to the website Bright Knowledge, said that for her, a typical workday would consist of a team meeting, including discussion of both existing and emerging cases. There might be several appointments with clients, after which she would write out her notes with observations about how to proceed with the subject in future meetings.
Additional responsibilities might include networking with other colleagues, discussing roadblocks with a supervisor, coordinating with non-psychologist team members to help with their individual cases, and writing reports.
Perks of the job include seeing progress in the subjects that one helps, while the downside is often stress-related from the sheer number of psychological issues seen in a given day.
6 Steps to Becoming a Clinical Psychologist
Becoming a clinical psychologist is similar to working in other fields such as school psychology. It starts with undergraduate work and obtaining a four-year bachelor’s degree in psychology or clinical psychology. It is possible to get accepted into a master’s degree program with a four-year degree in other disciplines, but that will ultimately depend on the specific program. To ensure your applications have the widest appeal, it’s generally best to stick with a psychology-related discipline.
Once a student graduates (and even beginning before graduation), it is time to start thinking about master’s degree programs. Each graduate school determines its own entrance requirements for its clinical psychology programs. Some doctoral programs require applicants to have a master’s degree in psychology while others may allow you to begin working directly on your doctoral degree with only a bachelor’s in place.
These core differences can greatly affect the overall cost of education, so do your homework before deciding on the final path. Most states require a doctoral degree and a state license before you can practice psychology independently, and it usually takes about five to seven years to complete a doctoral clinical psychology degree program. Some institutions require students to complete doctoral studies within 10 years of admission. Additionally, you may have to pass a comprehensive exam and write/defend a dissertation. Practicing psychologists often must complete a one-year internship as part of a doctoral study program. Institutions may offer a PsyD degree with an emphasis on clinical psychology for students wishing to do clinical work.
Here’s a brief road map for readers aspiring to a career in clinical psychology.
1 Earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or related discipline. Some schools offer a clinical psychology degree at the bachelor’s level.
2Enroll in a master’s clinical psychology degree program unless there is a doctoral program that allows direct access after graduation.
3Earn your doctoral degree in clinical psychology, which usually takes five to seven years depending on program and workload.
4Gather at least one year of clinical training and experience.
5Complete required testing/dissertation.
6Obtain state license.
Skills Required to Become a Clinical Psychologist
Clinical psychologists possess a unique set of skills that assist them in understanding the pain points of their patients and in helping provide a course of treatment or control for mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. If you wish to become a clinical psychologist, these are the “must-have” skills you need to demonstrate.
1the ability to interpret complex data, assimilate and apply it in practice, and use it to solve problems
2the ability to clearly communicate with patients and the patience to work through difficult issues
3the ability to understand principles of research and how to incorporate it into diagnoses and treatments
4the ability to demonstrate ethics in both the handling and treatment of sensitive client information
Clinical Psychology Degree Options
As mentioned above, there are three paths that an under-graduate should take when considering a career in clinical psychology. The first would be a bachelor’s in general psychology, which lays the educational groundwork for an array of subspecialties. A bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology may be the preferred choice of many master’s degree and doctoral pro-grams, so it’s important to research your options ahead of time.
A master’s degree may or may not be required for your final doctoral program. As with bachelor’s degrees, you should check ahead of time with the school of choice. It may be possible to go directly from undergraduate to the doctoral program upon graduation.
Requirements for a doctorate degree in clinical psychology vary from one school to the next, but the University of Florida offers a good example of what one can expect in each year of its five-year programs.
UF emphasizes study in the broad discipline of psychology, research and design, statistics and courses in core clinical psychology which might include assessment, psychopathology and intervention.
Clincal Psychology Salaries: State by State
To understand the earning potential of a clinical psychologist, it is important to first understand the many industries available to them. A look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website shows that clinical psychologists can work in a variety of industries and earn wildly different salaries depending on which path they choose.
For example, the annual mean wage for clinical psychologists working in healthcare and substance abuse facilities crests $80,000 annually compared to those in educational support, who report an annual mean wage of under $70,000.
On average clinical psychology boasts a mean annual wage of $74,030, or approximately $35.59 per hour based on a 40-hour workweek. Those in the 90th percentile of earners report $113,640 in average earnings while those in the lower 10th percentile of earners make as little as $40,080.
Job Growth and Career Trends
Clinical psychology comprises most of the general psychology employment field. According to the BLS, there are more than 173,900 jobs in this field as of 2014 with a 19 percent growth rate expected in the next 10 years, which is “much faster than the average for all occupations,” the agency notes. That is a gross employment change of about 32,500 job additions from 2014 to 2024.
States with the highest employment levels in clinical psychology include California (No. 1), New York (No. 2), Texas (No. 3), Pennsylvania (No. 4), and Massachusetts (No. 5).