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10 Best PhD Programs in Clinical Psychology

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by Successful Student Writing Staff / published 10.31.2019 / updated 7.10.2020

This is a ranking of the 10 Best PhD Programs in Clinical Psychology in the US. A clinical psychology degree intensely prepares students already along their education journey for several highly-skilled positions. While an undergraduate degree in psychology is not required to enter into most of these PhD programs, exposure to psychology courses and an intense passion for the field definitely are.

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Most of these prestigious and highly competitive programs prepare students to prosper as clinical researchers and academics, securing positions in labs and academia, rather than working strictly in clinical practice.

Clinical psychology and clinical science programs adhere to several different ways of teaching, including a scientist-practitioner model and a mentor model, so it’s important to know your career goals before applying to programs.

All of them require a one-year clinical internship approved by the APA, but some of them focus more on independent research or on pairing students with faculty research labs.

Future clinical psychologists will benefit from an intensive five to seven years spent acquiring a working knowledge of the field.

Clinical psychologists work as mental health professionals specializing in diagnosing and treating mental, behavioral, and emotional illness and disorders. When they’re not practicing, they’re publishing research and revising the ways we treat vulnerable populations.

The programs gathered below are PhD programs, usually lasting five to seven years including a dissertation.

10 Best PhD Programs in Clinical Psychology Ranking Guidelines

Clinical Psychologist Career Information


10 Best PhD Programs in Clinical Psychology


1

Harvard University
Department of Psychology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

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School Type:
Private

Number of Online Programs:
None

Types of Online Programs:
None

Degree Information:
PhD in Clinical Psychology

Harvard’s PhD in Clinical Psychology adheres to a research based training model in clinical science. Housed in Harvard’s Department of Psychology, this particular program aims to equip clinical psychologists to apply evidence-based methods for assessment and treatment options. The five year program focuses on severe psychopathology research. In students’ second and third years, they undergo assessment and treatment practica. They receive consultations and guidance in their learning and attend twice monthly speaker series to broaden their understanding. In their fifth year, students undergo a clinical internship after completing and defending their thesis.

Selection of required courses:

  • Psychotherapy Research
  • Cultural, Racial, and Ethnic Bases of Behavior
  • Contemporary Topics in Psychopathology
  • Diagnostic Interviewing
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Psychological Disorders

Learning enrollment options: Full time. Two years in residence required, but most students in residence for full program duration.

Program length: 5 years

Start dates: Fall

Admissions and  transfer credit information: Highly selective program. The program recommends candidates have excellent GRE scores, grades, recommendations, and research interests that align with faculty research. An undergraduate degree in psychology is not required, but they recommend some social science experience, especially research experience.

Accreditation: Harvard receives accreditation from the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS) and by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Accreditation:
Harvard University receives accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.


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2

University of Pennsylvania
Department of Psychology, School of Arts and Sciences
Philadelphia, PA

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School Type:
Private

Number of Online Programs:
3

Types of Online Programs:
Master's

Degree Information:
 PhD in Clinical Psychology

The University of Pennsylvania’s Clinical Training Program gives graduates extensive knowledge of researched approaches to the field with the intent that graduates will work primarily in research as research investigators, not practicing clinicians. The program leans toward cognitive-behavioral approaches to treatment and teaches an intertwined approach to clinical practice and research. The University does not have an in-house clinical psychology clinic so students complete residencies at local hospitals and clinics. Some of those opportunities include studying and treating behavioral therapy, anxiety and OCD related disorders, autism research, and clinicals at the local VA or Children’s Hospital. 

Selection of required courses:

  • Theories and Methods of Assessment and Diagnosis
  • Psychological Measurement
  • Theories and Methods of Effective Intervention

Learning enrollment options: Full time

Program length: 6 years on average.

Start dates: Fall 

Admissions and transfer credit information: Note that the program is not accepting applicants to this program for Fall 2020 due to an unexpectedly high yield the past year. Admissions resume for Fall 2021. The Psychology Subject Test is not required for non-clinical applicants, but applicants who are admitted to the clinical program must take the Psychology Subject Test. The program can accommodate around 10 new students a year.

Accreditation: The clinical training program is accredited by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System and the American Psychological Association.


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3

University of California, Santa Barbara
Department of Counseling, Clinical, & School Psychology in the Gevirtz School
Santa Barbara, CA

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School Type:
Public

Number of Online Programs:
0

Types of Online Programs:
None

Degree Information:
PhD in Clinical Psychology

The Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology at UCSB adheres to a scientist-practitioner model to best equip academic and research positions. The primarily course load focuses therefore on research, academic and practitioner knowledge in a cross-specialization training environment. Students graduate with an appreciation for the diversity of training in applied psychology (across all three areas of study) alongside an intensive knowledge. 

Selection of required courses:

  • Neuroanatomy and Psychopharmacology 
  • Ethical and Legal Standards in Professional Psychology
  • Personality and Emotional Assessment
  • Counseling Children and Families

Learning enrollment options: Full time

Program length: Average of 6 years (with one year in a clinical internship)

Start dates: Fall

Admissions and transfer credit information: Transferring credit from a different graduate program will be decided on a case by case basis by the student’s advisor or professor of the course in question after detailed petition with past course syllabi and papers. Admission is competitive. For 2016-2017 admissions, only 12 of 126 clinical applicants were accepted. 

Accreditation: The doctoral program is accredited by the Committee on Accreditation of the American Psychological Association as a combined psychology program.


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4

Yale University
Department of Psychology
New Haven, Connecticut

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School Type:
Private

Number of Online Programs:
0

Types of Online Programs:
None

Degree Information:
PhD in Clinical Psychology

Yale’s PhD in Clinical Psychology program’s main goal is to expose students to a rich, interdisciplinary array of research and scholarly opportunities across fields, both within psychology and outside it. Students are expected to develop an independent line of research while supervised by core faculty to emerge as leaders of the psychopathology field. Most students publish regularly in academic journals during their study. The program isn’t suited for those wanting to practice clinically, but most students do secure placements at top internship sites to help inform scientific inquiry and application.

Selection of required courses:

  • Theories and Methods of Assessment and Diagnosis
  • Techniques of Data Analysis
  • Social Bases of Behavior

Learning enrollment options: Full time

Program length: 6 years on average, with 4 years required in residence

Start dates: Fall

Admissions and transfer credit information: The Yale doctoral program is highly competitive. Only 2 applicants out of 280 were offered admission in the fall of 2019. The mean GRE scores for those applicants were 167.5 on the verbal portion, 158.5 on the quantitative reasoning portion, and 5.75 on the writing portion.

Accreditation: The Clinical Psychology Doctoral Training Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the American Psychological Association and has been admitted to membership in The Academy of Psychological Clinical Science.

Accreditation:
Yale University receives accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.


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5

University of Wisconsin-Madison
Department of Psychology
Madison, WI

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School Type:
Public University

Number of Online Programs:
16

Types of Online Programs:
Master's, Certificates

Degree Information:
PhD in Clinical Psychology

The clinical program at UW-Madison provides its students with not only a significant understanding of new scientific research in the field but with the opportunity to generate it themselves. They’ll cultivate alongside new research around methods for treating mental illness. The program operates with a mentor model, admitting students based on how closely their research interests align with current faculty.

Selection of required courses:

  • Affective Neuroscience
  • Clinical Supervision, Consultation, & Community Psychology
  • Assessment of Psychopathology and Personality

Learning enrollment options: Full time

Program length: 3 years to complete coursework. 6 years or more to complete all the training (thesis, internships).

Start dates: Fall

Admissions and transfer credit information: Admissions recommends an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher and a GRE verbal and quantitative reasoning combined score of over 310.

Accreditation: The doctoral program in clinical psychology has been accredited by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System since 2014. The program has also been continuously accredited by the American Psychological Association accreditation since 1948.

Admission Requirements for Graduate Students:Applicants should submit official transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Accreditation:
The University of Wisconsin at Madison receives accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.


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6

Columbia University In The City Of New York
Teachers College
New York, NY

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School Type:
Private

Number of Online Programs:
54

Types of Online Programs:
Master's, Doctorates

Degree Information:
PhD in Clinical Psychology

This program adheres to a scientist-practitioner model, expecting students to integrate informed clinical work with practical means of providing health services to diverse populations. Most of the training comes from in-lab partnering with a specific faculty member. In the lab, they learn professional practice and begin to present at conferences and publish their work. Their graduates have earned positions as tenure-track professors, clinical lab researchers, and at independent practices, often for vulnerable populations. The program has an in-house clinic where, after their first year, students become staff and have a regular load of clients.

Selection of required courses:

  • Cognition, Emotion, and Culture
  • Clinical Work with Diverse Populations
  • Empirical Bases of Psychotherapy

Learning enrollment options: Full time

Program length: 5 to 7 years

Start dates: Fall

Admissions and transfer credit information: Undergraduate transcripts must include a statistics course and at least nine additional credits in the field of personality, social psychology, developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, physiological psychology, learning theory, psychology of perception, and experimental psychology. 

Accreditation: The program has been accredited by the APA since 1948 and is accredited until 2021. 

Accreditation:
Columbia University receives accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


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7

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
LSA Department of Psychology
Ann Arbor, MI

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School Type:
Public

Number of Online Programs:
33

Types of Online Programs:
Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorates

Degree Information:
MA and PhD in Clinical Science

The PhD in Clinical Science recognizes that clinical training is key to creating informed clinical scientists who are able to empirical research to effective aiding diverse groups of people. The program utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to training, meaning that its faculty’s research exists within the program, across the program and across different campus institutes and centers. In their first two years, students focus on courses across the department and participate in a teaching institute to assist undergraduate courses. Their second year begins their master’s level research project and their part-time practicum, before submitting a preliminary portfolio to earn their Masters and advance to the PhD program. 

Learning enrollment options: Full time

Program length: 5 to 6 years

Start dates: Fall

Admissions and transfer credit information: Competitive applicants usually have exceptionally high GPA and GRE scores, significant research experience, and research interests that align with the faculty seeking students for matriculation that year. For the 2018-2019 cycle, 7 out of 289 candidates were offered admission.

Accreditation: The clinical science program is accredited by the APA. The Department of Psychology’s Program in Clinical Psychology also received the Suinn Achievement Award (2005) from the American Psychological Association (APA). The award is given to university psychology departments that have demonstrated excellence in the recruitment, retention and graduation of ethnic minority students.

Accreditation:
The University of Michigan - Ann Harbor receives accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission


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8

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts
Twin Cities, MN

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School Type:
Public University

Number of Online Programs:
102

Types of Online Programs:
Undergraduate Certificates, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorates, Graduate Certificates, Licensing Programs

Degree Information:
PhD in Psychology, with a focus in Clinical Science and Psychopathology Research

This program is designed for students aiming for academia and research positions in the field, although students still get a firm grounding in the clinical practice of assessment and intervention. The faculty are especially strong in psychopathology, personality, and behavioral genetic research, providing both experimental and large-scale approaches to understanding abnormal behavior. A strength of the program includes its ties to psychologists, psychiatrists, and other scientists in affiliated departments within the University, local area hospitals, and mental health centers, which diversify the learning opportunities available to its students. 

Selection of required courses:

  • Readings in Behavioral Genetics and Individual Differences Psychology
  • Theories and Methods of Effective Intervention
  • Multicultural Psychology

Learning enrollment options: full time

Program length: 5 years

Start dates: Fall

Admissions and transfer credit information: A bachelor’s degree, at least 12 credit hours in college-level psychology beyond an introductory course, and GRE scores are required for admission. In 2018, 21 of 428 applicants were accepted with an average GPA of 3.7.

Accreditation: The American Psychological Association (APA) has accredited our internationally recognized clinical psychology program since 1948. We are also accredited by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS).

 

Admission Requirements for Undergraduate Students:SAT or ACT requirement: Yes
Admission Requirements for Graduate Students:GRE or GMAT requirement: Yes, for most programs


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9

University of California, Los Angeles
Department of Psychology
Los Angeles, CA

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School Type:
Public, Research

Number of Online Programs:
3

Types of Online Programs:
Master's

Degree Information:
PhD in Clinical Psychology

The PhD in Clinical Pscyhology program at UCLA emphasizes a multitude of approaches to training. Students regularly work with faculty members on cutting edge research to better understand the clinical approach to research techniques and topics. Training includes instruction from the David Geffen School of Medicine, the Psychology Clinic, and the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Students are individually supervised allowing for great flexibility of study within the program, meaning students can specialize in a variety of popular research areas in clinical psychology.

Learning enrollment options: Full time

Program length: 6 years, at least 4 years in residence

Start dates: Fall

Admissions and transfer credit information: For the 2017-2018 cycle, 14 of 314 applicants were admitted with an average GPA of 3.83 and GRE

Accreditation: The graduate program is accreddited by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS) and the American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA CoA).

Accreditation:
The University of California, Los Angeles receives accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.


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10

Ohio State University
Department of Psychology
Columbus, OH

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School Type:
Public University

Number of Online Programs:
20+

Types of Online Programs:
Certificate, Associate, Bachelor, Master, Doctorate

Degree Information:
PhD in Clinical Psychology

The PhD in Clinical Psychology Training program at Ohio State University is aimed at preparing research-ready, clinical scientist psychologist who will go on to hold research, teaching, and other academic titles in psychology departments across the country. Students begin conducting research in their first term and continue throughout their coursework. The first 3 years are dedicated to coursework, the master’s thesis, and candidacy exams. Students are engaged in clinical practice beginning in their second years and, after completing an introductory CBT practicum, are eligible to be placed in practica at specialty clinics (including clinics for anxiety, depression, personality disorders, substance abuse disorders, and several health psychology placements, such as Women’s Behavioral Health, Cardiology, and Lung Transplant). Most students complete their APA-approved internships in their 6th years.

Learning enrollment options: Full time

Program length: 6 years

Start dates: Fall

Admissions: Applicants are encouraged to clearly state their research interests and research experience in that specific field on their application. In 2019, 21 out of 206 applicants were accepted to the program.

Accreditation: The clinical pyschology training program is accredited by the APA and PCSAS.

Admission Requirements for Undergraduate Students:SAT or ACT requirement: Yes
Minimum GPA of transfer credit: 2.0

Admission Requirements for Graduate Students:Graduate applicants must hold a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0.


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10 Best PhD Programs in Clinical Psychology


10 Best PhD Programs in Clinical Psychology Ranking Guidelines:

Successful Student ranks schools for the benefit of students looking for guidance in education. For this ranking, we looked at AcademicInfluence.com’s ranking of the most influential colleges in the field of Clinical Psychology. AcademicInfluence.com has a proprietary and objective method of ranking schools based on the influence that faculty and alumni have had in the field of Clinical Psychology in academic publications and citations. We then ranked programs that focus primarily on PhD programs in Clinical Psychology, and took into consideration academic reputation and the particulars of the course offerings within the programs.


Clinical Psychologist Career Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Psychologists earned $80,370 per year (or $38.64 per hour) in 2019. The field is expected to grow 14%, creating another 26,100 career positions by 2028.


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