The best graduate degrees in clinical psychology

HomePsychologyThe best graduate degrees in clinical psychology

Looking for the best opportunities to further your education in clinical psychology? Within this page, you’ll discover the top ten universities across the U.S. that we recommend for master’s programs in clinical psychology.

Why choose a graduate degree in clinical psychology?

Earning an advanced degree in clinical psychology can open up many avenues for employment. It can take between 2.5-3 years to secure this master’s degree, yet is regarded as a valuable opportunity to develop a strong foundation in the skills and knowledge needed to move into a specialized area of psychology at a later date.

There are multiple career opportunities open to graduates completing clinical psychology master’s programs, including:

Clinical psychologist

Child psychologists, work in schools, outpatient facilities, juvenile detention centers, and mental health hospitals. This role can be hugely rewarding by designing bespoke treatment plans for youngsters based on psychological methods.

Average salary in 2021 is $67,873 (Payscale)

Clinical case manager

Clinical Case Managers will handle an ongoing caseload of clients with a broad spectrum of clinical requirements. Case managers will maintain regular contact with each client, touching base and providing face-to-face and over-the-phone support for clinical needs.

Average salary in 2021 is $41,534 (Payscale)

Behavioral health psychologist

These Psychologists work closely with clients on a one-to-one and group basis, motivating and educating them to overcome behavioral issues including addiction and eating disorders. This diverse role involves helping clients pinpoint triggers for their behavior and developing new, sustainable coping mechanisms.

Average salary in 2021 is $33,496 (Payscale)

Mental health social worker

The primary objectives of a mental health social worker are to offer on-demand counseling support to patients, often under the supervision of a psychiatrist or psychologist. Social workers may be required to assist clients with re-entering the community safely, including seeking accommodation and rebuilding relationships with family and friends. Average salary in 2021 is $43,518 (Payscale)


The top 10 graduate degrees in clinical psychology

  • Binghamton University

    Binghamton University Binghamton, New York
    Binghamton University

    The State University of New York in Binghamton is one of 4 popular institutions within New York’s State University system. It’s one of the newer institutions, having been established as recently as 1946. As of Fall 2020, Binghamton was home to 3,821 postgraduates.

    The Binghamton University clinical psychology master’s program trains graduates to advance their theory and practical knowledge. Led by Professor Steven Jay Lynn, Binghamton’s program has been in operation since 1972, and has secured accreditation from the American Psychological Association in 1981.

    More recently, Binghamton was awarded the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Outstanding Training Program. The university states that its program is “best suited” to anyone considering pursuing academic and research-related careers in clinical science and practice.

    To study on this course, you must have achieved an average 3.0 GPA across your previous 60 semester credits, or 90 quarter credits from your qualifying undergraduate program.

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  • Texas A & M University

    Texas A & M University Corpus Christi, Texas
    Texas A & M University

    Texas A&M – Corpus Christi is a facet of the overall Texas A&M University System. This public research college is classified as an “R2” doctoral university, famed for its “high research activity”. The university boasts a stunning island campus and operates 33 undergraduate, 25 graduate, and six doctoral programs across its six colleges. An average student acceptance rate of 80% means that most applicants have a strong chance of being approved for their master’s program in clinical psychology.

    The university’s College of Liberal Arts operates a master’s in clinical psychology, which is a 60-credit program containing the scientific principles and methods of psychology, along with their application to clinical scenarios. Graduates completing the program can advance to take the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists exam, to seek certification as a Licensed Psychological Associate (LPA).

    Application costs for this program are $50 for US citizens and $70 for international students. Applicants require a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, followed by GRE scores within the last five years, and two formal Letters of Recommendation.

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  • James Madison University

    James Madison University Harrisonburg, Virginia
    James Madison University

    The James Madison University (JMU) is in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Established in 1908, it was named in honor of former President James Madison in 1938, and again in 1977. It has a relatively small cohort of postgraduates, with just 1,888 of its 22,667-strong student population.

    The combined clinical and school psychology program is James Madison’s oldest doctoral program, with a proud history of educating and nurturing professional psychologists trained in the practice and science of psychology. The program covers 4,000 hours of supervised residency work, while an impressive 93% of individuals are awarded APA/CPA-accredited internships at the end of the program.

    Only a limited number of full-time students are accepted into the program annually. All students admitted will receive a teaching or graduate assistantship that covers tuition too. A minimum of 59 credit hours of doctoral core courses must have been previously completed at JMU.

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  • Boston University

    Boston University Boston, Massachussets
    Boston University

    Boston University is a leading private research university with roots in Massachusetts dating back as far as 1839. With more than 4,000 academic staff, it’s no surprise that Boston is home to over 34,000 students, boasting a healthy 50/50 split between undergraduate and postgraduate academics. Less than one-in-five (19%) are accepted onto courses here, underlining the caliber of tuition on offer here.

    Boston University’s clinical psychology PH.D. program has been accredited by the APA since 1948. This program is a key facet of the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, with a view to equipping graduates with career opportunities across a broad spectrum of medical, applied, and academic environments. More recently, it secured accreditation with the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS) in 2017.

    On average, seven students are accepted into the program each year. Successful applicants have an undergraduate GPA average of 3.6 and a Verbal and Quantitative score totaling 324. This is useful as a benchmark of what to aim for if you are interested in studying in Massachusetts.

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  • Michigan State University

    Michigan State University East Lansing, Michigan
    Michigan State University

    The pioneering land-grant research university of Michigan State is one of the largest universities in the US today. It is said to have over 634,000 living alumni across the globe, with a shade under 50,000 active students as of Fall 2019. The college has been classified as an “R1” doctoral university, famed for its “very high research activity”.

    MSU’s College of Social Science operates a popular master’s degree in clinical science exposing graduates to the key components of clinical science. In terms of application requirements, students are required to have GRE general test results within the last five years.

    It’s also worth noting that MSU launched their own online distance learning program, which includes their Psychology programs.

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  • University of South Carolina

    University of South Carolina Columbia, South Carolina
    University of South Carolina

    Boasting over two centuries of education heritage, the University of South Carolina has grown from a single building in 1805 to a main campus spanning 359 acres in downtown Columbia. This public research university is home to over 35,000 students in Columbia alone, with 52,000-plus students across the entire system.

    There are multiple choices of programs as a student at University of South Carolina. Although there are PH.D. programs for experimental psychology and school psychology, the most relevant program is the clinical-community psychology, which is APA-accredited. The program covers a host of subfields within clinical and community psychology, at individual, family, and community levels.

    Typical funding for this program begins at $16,250 in the first year’s nine-month-long assistantship. It can also increase to a maximum of $22,000 per annum. Tuition grants can also be awarded to individuals in “good standing”, which covers at least 90% of in-state tuition costs.

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  • University of Virginia

    University of Virginia Charlottesville, Virginia
    University of Virginia

    The University of Virginia was founded by the author of the US Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. It remains the flagship institution of Virginia’s academic system and is the home of Jefferson’s Academical Village, which was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Less than one-in-four (24%) of students are approved onto programs in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    The University of Virginia’s Department of Psychology operates a PH.D. program in clinical psychology, with a clear focus on the scientific elements of training. This program lasts a minimum of five years full-time, equating to four years and a full year’s internship. The program is designed to educate graduates to become both scientists and practitioners – without having to decide to be one or the other.

    The program is also accredited by the American Psychological Association and the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS). The program is also a member of the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science – an alliance of programs with a common goal of applying science to assessing, understanding, and treating human issues.

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  • Indiana University

    Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana
    Indiana University

    Indiana University Bloomington is the flagship institution of Indiana’s university system, boasting more than 40,000 active students. More than half (55%) of students are citizens of Indiana. As a member of the Association of American Universities, Indiana University Bloomington is also considered a “Public Ivy” institution.

    Indiana University Bloomington’s College of Arts & Sciences operates the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Its Clinical Science PH.D. program is designed to equip graduates with the ability to work as clinical psychological scientists. Only three-to-five students are typically admitted onto the program annually. This is to ensure individualized training focused on each academic’s needs.

    The university grades its APA-accredited clinical program as one of the most research-oriented in the US, whereas others may be more clinically oriented. Applicants with a preference for working as clinical scientists will get the most out of Indiana’s program.

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  • Pennsylvania State University

    Pennsylvania State University Middletown, Pennsylvania
    Pennsylvania State University

    Pennsylvania State University remains the state’s only land-grant university. With over 166 years of heritage, this flagship research university is home to over 47,000 students, making it one of the biggest in the country. The U.S. News & World Report ranks PennState as joint 23rd among all public universities across the States in 2021.

    PennState offers a master of arts in applied clinical psychology, which is a research-focused program with practical applications that gives graduates total flexibility over the future career paths they wish to take. Master’s graduates can also choose to prepare for the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) certification at the end of the program.

    Students are required to have a GPA of 3.0 or above in the last 60 credits of their coursework. Applicants must also have a minimum of 18 credits to their name in psychology during the undergraduate studies.

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Career path and average salary

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of psychologists is forecast to rise by 3% between 2019 and 2029, which the BLS says is in line with most other occupations. It is said there are over 147,500 active clinical psychologists in the US today. The BLS claims that the employment prospects for clinical psychology graduates are best for those completing master’s and doctoral degrees.

If you are wondering what salary you can expect when completing a master’s program in clinical psychology, you’ll be pleased to read that it’s significantly higher than the national average salary. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for clinical psychologists is $70,580.

It noted that the top ten percentile of earners were taking home over $120,000 a year, with salaries fluctuating significantly due to years of experience. It’s said that those with five or more years of field experience can command salaries closer to the top ten percentile.

Financial aid opportunities

There are several avenues that prospective graduates should consider to cover the costs of their clinical psychology master’s degree. First and foremost, there’s the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA), which lends over $120bn a year for college fees. It’s easy and free to apply. Many colleges will also offer scholarships for students, which are often supported by the APA, as well as private organizations seeking to maintain a conveyor belt of psychologist talent.

Government grants are also an option. The Federal Pell Grant is a prime example of a government-backed grant aimed at graduate psychology students. Typically, these are awarded to students that require more fiscal support than the rest of their cohort.

Student loans are also an option. The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program gives eligible graduates the option to borrow up to $20,500 per year, while the Federal Perkins Loan Program enables students to borrow another $8,000 a year. These are typically reserved for full-time clinical psychology master’s students only.