Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology: Time Requirement, Job Options and Pursing a PhD

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After pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology, many students wonder about getting an advanced degree in the field. Clinical psychology, one of the specialties of psychology, focuses on research and the different disorders that require psychological intervention. One graduate degree option is a master’s degree in clinical psychology, which opens doors for graduates to do some psychological practice. A master’s degree also allows a person to work in psychology-related careers. While a master’s degree does have its benefits, there are some downsides to the degree.

Time Requirement for a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology

The University of Texas at Austin notes that a master’s degree takes about two years to complete. In comparison, a PhD (doctor of philosophy) in clinical psychology or PsyD (doctor of psychology) takes about four years, plus the student must do a year of internship. The Bureau of Labor states that as part of the graduation requirement for the master’s, students need “practical experience in an applied setting and a master’s thesis based on an ongoing research project.” Students should note that master’s degrees in psychology are not accredited by the American Psychological Association—only doctoral degrees, internships and postdoctoral residences.

Pursing a Doctorate Degree After a Master’s Degree

Some students who pursue a master’s degree in clinical psychology may choose to get a doctorate degree later. The University of Texas at Austin notes that if a student gets a master’s at one university, and then applies for a PhD at another university, those credits do not transfer. If a student stays at the same university for both the master’s and PhD, she would need to consult her school about the number of credits she can transfer.

The University of Texas at Austin adds that students do not need a master’s degree to be accepted into a PhD program in clinical psychology. The American Psychological Association notes that students can earn their master’s degree while working on their doctoral degree.

Career Choices with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology

The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards states that people with a master’s degree in psychology can apply for licensure as a Psychological Associate, or supervised practice of psychology. For example, a person with a master’s degree can practice psychology under the guidance of a professional with a PhD or MD. To practice psychology independently, a person needs a doctorate degree in psychology. Other job opportunities include research and analysis, which are done at private companies, government organizations or universities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics adds that job competition is high for these jobs, due to the limited number of positions that require just a master’s degree.


American Psychological Association: About APA Accreditation (

American Psychological Association: Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate School (

Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards: Requirements to Practice Psychology (

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Psychologists (

University of Texas at Austin: Degrees and Areas of Psychology (