Clinical and Counseling Psychology

For many, the true value of the field of psychology is in translating research-based knowledge into interventions for people facing struggles of everyday life. Clinicians and counselors work in private practice, in hospitals, and in academic settings. Some agencies employ clinicians as support staff for persons working in high-stress positions, such as police officers. In order to provide clinical or counseling services, one must generally hold an advanced degree. While a master’s degree may be suitable in some settings, there are several limitations, and the general rule is that in order to practice with a MA, there must be a supervisor with a Ph.D. or Psy. D.

At A Glance: Ph.D. vs. Psy.D.

  Ph. D. Psy.D.

General Purpose

Research and Academia or Clinical and Counseling

Primarily clinically or counseling based, with little emphasis on research

Program Length

About 7 years with internship

About 5 years with internship


$17,300- $40,000


Available funding

Tuition waivers are common (70 – 80% of students), along with opportunities for stipends, research grants, and assistantships (median debt $22,000)

Less financial aid is generally available in these programs, with tuition waivers available to roughly 30% of students. (median debt $53,000- $60,000)

Acceptance rates

Approximately 10%

Approximately 40%


Other differences between Ph.D. vs. Psy. D.


  • Students are more likely to gain acceptance to their preferred internship site (Tartakovsky, 2013).
  • Number of programs out number PsyD
  • General student body- 70% women, 20% ethnic and racial minorities, and 20% hold master’s degree
  • Longer training- PhD students take significantly longer (approximately 1 to 1.5 years longer) to complete their degrees (PhD training is more comprehensive and rigorous)
  • Score higher on EPPP (national licensing examination) because of the smaller class size, traditional rigorous PhD curricula, and larger number of faculty (Norcross & Castle, 2002).


  • Prepares students to practice psychology; the goal is to train consumers of research rather than pursue heavy research focused careers, although many programs do offer research opportunities.
  • Requires completion of an empirical dissertation.
  • Typically has larger class sizes- three times the number of incoming doctoral candidates  per school (Tartakovsky, 2013).
  • Slightly more clinical courses and experience but less research experience
  • Freestanding programs enroll more students per year than university professional schools and university departmental programs
  • Student body- more likely to have a master’s degree (35%) & are a little older in age
  • Takes less time to complete degree than Ph.D. (1 to 1.5 years less)                
  • Graduates do not perform as well on the national licensing examination for psychologists (lower scores on EPPP) (Norcross & Castle, 2002)

Master’s Degree in Clinical or Counseling Psychology

  • 2-3 years to complete
  • More expensive tuition, with less available financial aid.
  • Program focus is generally on working with clients rather than research
  • In NJ one cannot gain licensure without a doctorate degree.

If you struggle to gain acceptance into a choice Ph.D. or Psy.D. program, consider institutions with Master’s degree programs that transition into the more advanced degree options. While admission to Ph.D. or Psy.D. programs upon completion of an MA is not guaranteed, beginning the coursework and aligning yourself with faculty will not count against you.

What to consider when applying to Ph.D. or Psy.D. programs

  • Students must ensure that the program they enroll in is APA -accredited. This is necessary in order to gain an internship, which is required to complete a degree.
  • Specific factors to consider when evaluating a Ph.D. or Psy.D. program’s quality:
    • Class size (student-teacher ratio): This is significant especially because it determines the quality of training and clinical supervision and the ability to receive an internship
    • Graduation rate
    • The number of students successfully matched for an internship.   
    • Students’ EPPP scores- Individuals must pass the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP) and have the required     number of clinical hours to get licensed and practice independently.
    • The status of faculty (full-time vs. part-time/adjunct): A high percentage of part-time faculty reduces the opportunity for individualized attention and mentoring.
    • How long has the program existed? What have past graduates accomplished?
    • Feedback from current students: Strive to gain honest feedback, pros and cons, on the program from the individuals that are currently involved with the program to decide whether it is truly the right fit for you and your future goals. (Tartakovsky, 2013)

When considering a graduate program:

  1. Contact the program and ask to speak to a recent graduate. Remember they will most likely put you in touch with their star student. Try if possible to contact anyone else that you know who may have graduated from that program to get information too. Ask the student the following and urge students to give their frank, honest opinion:
    1. What did you like most about this program?
    2. What did you like least about this program?
    3. Would you choose to attend this program again?
    4. Do you feel competitive for jobs?
    5. Were you able to secure an APA accredited internship?
    6. Did you feel your program prepared you to successfully obtain licensure?
    7. Do you have any advice for me as I choose a graduate program?
    8. How much do you own in student loans?
    9. What is your starting salary after you finished your training?
  2. Ask the programs the following:
    1. What is the average amount of debt your students acquire while obtaining their degree?
    2. What percent of your students secure APA accredited internships?
    3. How many of your students pass the national EPPP on the first go? Or ever?
    4. How many of your graduates obtain licensure?
    5. What is the average salary of a student graduating from your program in their first job after completing their training? (Does not require a citation, recommended by Dr. Cavanaugh)

Important considerations regarding Clinical or Counseling Psychology:

  • Internship: This past year 30% of students did not get matched initially, leaving them to seek alternative, local internships that are not necessarily APA accredited.
  • Different states have varying requirements for licensure, but in order to gain Licensure as a Clinical or Counseling Psychologist in New Jersey:       

Since 2004, more than 1 in 5 students who applied for APA internships, through the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers, did not receive an internship. An unaccredited internship can limit students’ licensure and employment opportunities. APA accredited internships have gone through rigorous testing by an external review board to prove their quality. In order to work at the Department of Veteran Affairs, a student MUST have an APA accredited internship. (Munsey, 2010)

The following is a link to the APA website, where there is a listing of all the APA accredited programs throughout the nation. The website also notes when the school will be reevaluated for accreditation.

Steps to gaining Licensure in NJ

An earned doctorate (Ph.D., Psy.D. or Ed.D.) in psychology or a field allied to psychology from an institution accredited by a regional accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education. The doctoral program must be accredited by the American Psychological Association or the Canadian Psychological Association or listed by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards/National Register Joint Designation or have a full-time faculty who are doctorally prepared in psychology, require full-time students to physically attend classes on campus for at least one academic year and require part-time students to physically attend classes on campus for at least two academic years.

  • No more than one-third of the doctoral credits shall have been transferred from another regionally accredited graduate school.
  • The doctoral degree must be based on at least 40 credit hours within the field of psychology, 36 of which must be in the following areas:
    1. Six credits in Personality Theory and Human Development Theory
    2. Six credits in Learning Theory and/or Physiological Psychology
    3. Six credits in Psychological Measurement and Psychological Assessment
    4. Six credits in Psychopathology
    5. Six credits in Psychological therapy/counseling or Industrial/Organizational Psychology; and
    6. Six credits in Research and Statistical Design.
  • An additional 20 credit hours specifically in the field of psychology, but which were not necessarily obtained as part of the doctoral program. They may have been granted at a pre-doctoral or post-doctoral graduate level and must have been obtained as part of a program at a regionally accredited institution.
  • Six credits may be recognized for a dissertation which is psychological in nature, at the discretion of the Board.
  • At its discretion, the Board may accept up to nine credits earned at a graduate level at a regionally accredited school or university to remediate a deficiency in the above requirements.

Submission of the following documentation:

  • Official transcripts;
  • An abstract of the dissertation as published in Dissertation Abstracts International;
  • Two certificates of good moral character;
  • Authorization to conduct a Criminal History Record Background Check; and
  • Certification of compliance with the child-support enforcement law.

Two years of full-time (3,500 hours) supervised practice, at least one year of which (1,750 hours) is acquired subsequent to receiving the doctorate with the following breakdown:

  • 1,000 client contact hours;
  • 200 hours of supervision (at least 100 of which must be individual supervision, the remainder may be group or individual supervision); and
  • 550 hours in work-related activities such as recordkeeping, consultations, report writing, etc.

Supervision must be by a psychologist licensed for at least two years in the state in which the supervision is received. All supervision received in New Jersey must be by a Board-approved supervisor and under permit issued by the Board.

  •  The candidate must pass the written Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
  • EPPP is a 225 question multiple choice exam covering all areas of psychology
  • Costs $600 + $79.58 test fee (that increases every odd year) for a total of approximately $680. (Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP) Information, 2013)

The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards reveals the percentage of a school’s students who passed the EPPP. Also listed is the average percentage of correct answers by content area.

After passing the written examination, the candidate must pass an oral examination in which the psychologist defends a clinical case in front of peers.

Perspective Clinical or Counseling Psychologists in New Jersey then apply for a license, which costs approximately $650. (State Board of Psychological Examiners Frequently Asked Questions, 2011)


Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP) Information. (2013). Retrieved from Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards:

Munsey, C. (2010). What would an unaccredited internship mean for your future? Retrieved from American Psychological Association :

Norcross, J. C., & Castle, P. H. (2002). Appreciating the Psy.D.: The Facts. Retrieved from Psi Chi:

State Board of Psychological Examiners Frequently Asked Questions. (2011). Retrieved from The State of New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety Division of Consumer Affairs:

Tartakovsky, M. (2013). Choosing Between the Psy.D. and Ph.D. Psychology Graduate Degrees. Retrieved from PsychCentral: