- PhD in Clinical Psychology: Often when people think about being a clinician, they think that this degree is the one they need. With a PhD in clinical psychology, you can become a licensed psychologist, and during graduate school you get many hours toward licensing. Clinical psychology PhD programs tend to be very research focused. They are based on the scientist-practitioner model. You need to be involved in research throughout your time in grad school, you need to complete a research-based master’s thesis, and a research-based dissertation. You complete a one-year full time clinical internship as part of your degree, as well as other clinical training and clinical hours throughout your program. With a PhD in clinical psychology, you can also move into a research or academic career, including a position as a professor. An advantage of these programs over others is that you can often get a stipend and tuition coverage to support your time in graduate school. A disadvantage is that these programs tend to be some of the most competitive (I know of programs that receive 600 applications for 10 slots). If you are not interested in research and having your career involve research, you should seriously consider a different type of program.
- PsyD in Clinical Psychology: A PsyD is also a doctorate, but is less focused on research, following a practitioner-scholar model. These programs tend to take a bit less time than PhD programs, and focus more heavily on clinical training. You also complete a one-year full time clinical internship. For students not interested in research, PsyD programs are a more efficient way to get a doctorate. These programs are generally less competitive than PhD programs, and therefore easier to get into. However, there are few opportunities for fellowships/funding, so if you have to take out loans, you could end up graduating with a lot of debt.
- MSW (Masters of Social work). There are a number of different types of MSW degrees. If you want to be a clinician, you need to make sure you attend the correct program (I'll discuss this issue in more detail in a subsequent post). MSW degrees can lead to a number of different careers. With a clinical MSW you can become a therapist, but other MSW degrees include medical social work, psychiatric social work, school social work, or jobs in hospitals, criminal settings, administrative positions, etc. MSWs generally take 2 years, and require some supervision hours after graduation. There is some variation by state in how to become licensed with an MSW. These obviously take less time than doctorates. Because they are professional degrees, funding is generally not available.
- Masters or PhD in Counseling Psychology: Most counseling psychology programs are through colleges of education. Often, degrees in counseling psychology lead to school-based work, such as becoming a guidance counselor. However, some counseling psychology programs can lead to family counseling. PhD programs often have opportunities for funding, though perhaps not at the same rate as clinical psychology programs. There is a lot of variation between programs. Like a clinical psychology doctorate, if you go for a PhD, there will be much more research focus.
- Masters or PhD in Counselor Education: These programs often train you to be a professional counselor in a school or community based setting, and like counseling psychology, often are within a college of education. Training can lead to a number of different foci, including being a school counselor, a career counselor in higher education, a clinical and mental health counselor, or rehabilitation counseling. These programs often have somewhat less focus on research than counseling psychology.
- Masters or PhD in MFT/CFT (Marriage/Couple and family therapy): A masters in family therapy can lead to a career as a therapist, generally at the family level. MFT's can work in many different settings, including social services, mental health centers, schools, and private practice. There is more variability with MFT degrees across states than with some other degrees, so you want to be clear on where you are training, and where you want to be afterward (to some extent, this is true with any of the degrees listed here). As with other degrees, the focus on research will be higher at the PhD than at the master’s level.
There are obviously a lot of other subtler differences between different types of programs. There is also great variability across universities in different programs for the same degree. I'll address this issue more in the future.
Trying to figure out future plans can be both exciting and intimidating. Make sure you give yourself enough time so that it's more the former and less the latter.
“Graduate programs in clinical work first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on October 9, 2018.”