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Clinical Masters vs. Clinical PhD vs. PsyD


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Hi all,

 

I am an undergraduate psychology student and have been researching graduate programs in clinical psychology and need some help. My end goal is to do applied work, either working at the systems level or in private practice.

 

According to what I have researched already, it seems that clinical PhD programs train you for a career in academia only (working as a tenured professor/doing research), a masters program is very expensive and may not qualify you to be a licensed therapist in some states, and a psyD is more practice oriented but ends up being very expensive as well (I really don't want to be in over my head in debt).

 

I am willing to put in my blood, sweat and tears to earn a PhD in clinical psychology, but will it really prepare me to do applied work? Would a masters/PsyD suit my career goals better?

 

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

 

 

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Clinical PhD programs range from almost completely clinical focus to almost completely research focus. So they do not just train you for academia only. Which program you go to depends what career path (clinical vs research vs both) you're most prepared for, but in theory, you could go any way you wanted.

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As for a clinical masters, I've been out in the world with that for the last 5ish years. If your interest is in forensic psych (esp. prison treatment), most people have only a Masters degree, the same goes for many licensed mental health counselors.

 

I currently am in Vermont, which actually does have a Masters level licensed psychologist option, and I think it's one of two states that does (I think the other one is Hawaii).

 

Keep in mind, that there are many sub-psychologist jobs out there that require only a Masters degree. Two issues with that though:

1) They only require a Masters, today. Credentialling constantly gets tougher.

2) Every state will have differences in their Masters level license/certificate options.

 

If you are as desperate to be out in the world working as I was several years ago, getting a Masters now will allow you to do so. This has the benefit of giving you a chance to get a general training and an opportunity to know what you want to specialize in more. My conundrum is that there's a definite ceiling to what you can do with a Masters degree, which is why I'm now pursuing a PhD (which I finally got accepted to this afternoon WOOT!!!).

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PhD programs do not train you to be academics only; most clinical psych PhD programs are scientist-practitioner programs, and train students to practice clinical psych as a licensed psychologist.  There are only a few clinical science programs that focus primarily on research.  All clinical PhD programs will require you to do some research, but the amount and the focus will vary by school.

 

If you want to do systems level or private practice, why don't you consider an MSW and pursue clinical social work?  Otherwise, I think the PhD in clinical psych is the way to go.

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Most PhD programs are clinical research oriented. Sure they train people to be academics but as long as it's clinical psychology or counseling psychology you can usually get licensed with that education. As a bonus many PhD programs offer partial or full funding for tuition and stipends. Compared to a Psy.D they are similar in terms of practice oriented jobs you might do after graduating and becoming licensed. Psy.D's may offer some funding in terms of assistantships but often do not come with full funding/stipends. Ph.D. programs tend to be extremely competitive , you're talking hundreds of applications for maybe 6-8 slots. Psy.D. programs tend to be slightly less competitive due to somewhat larger class sizes and an assumption Psy.D.s will go into work outside academia and thus possibly earn more. 

 

Now looking at Master's programs vs Psy.D. and Ph.D. and what you can do with each after graduation/licensure the biggest difference is testing and assessment which licensed psychologists can do . Masters level licensed clinicians can not do the full array of testing/assessment items. I'm somewhat interested in testing/assessement and I have experience in the field with a  Masters doing intakes and therapy so I chose a Psy.D. program that fit those interests. 

 

Basically if you have no intention of doing testing and assessment and don't see yourself ever wanting to supervise doctoral students in your field than a master's may be sufficient for your needs. 

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I highly recommend getting "The Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology". If you are thinking the practice-oriented PhD route, they have each school's program ranked on a scale of 1 to 7 which reflects how practice or research oriented it is. It's also very helpful for the application process.

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  • 4 months later...

In Oregon, one can be licensed as an Independent Psychologist Associate (masters degreed) with all the practice privileges of a Licensed Psychologist (doctoral degreed). Reimbursement by insurance companies are the same and higher that other masters level clinicians. If you are interested, Google "OBPE Oregon." or you can contact me directly at criticalinking@gmail.com

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