What is the Difference Between Clinical and Non Clinical Psychology Programs?

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Updated August 4, 2020

The academic requirements for clinical and non-clinical psychologists may not diverge all that much, but careers in clinical psychology require direct patient interaction while non clinical professionals will be involved in research and other aspects that do not require one-on-one interaction. As such, certain personalities and individual motivations may be more suited for a client-focused career while other psychologists may thrive in policy studies.

Resource: Top 25 Doctoral Programs in Psychology

Academic and Career Focus for Non-clinical Specialists

The career track for non clinical psychologists is research and academia-oriented. This means that core courses will include research design, statistical methods and science-based writing. Non-clinical psychologists may find productive employment with a master's degree as this field of specialization does not require licensure. However, a doctorate in philosophy will boost your career options especially in the highly competitive field of applied or organizational research.

In this field, you can expect to find work in various administrative positions in elementary, middle and secondary schools. Teaching positions in post-secondary schools are always open to along with behavioral and social research fellowships. Another career niche for these graduates would be applied research for targeted behavioral studies. These are key positions in market research firms and in-house corporate research teams involved in advertising, marketing and sales companies. There may also be limited opportunities in social policy analysis and development, which are positions found in the government sector or with nonprofit organizations.

Academic and Career Track for Clinical Psychologists

Licensure is a key component of a client-focused psychologist's resume. In most states, a psychologist may not see patients for individual consultation without having complied with the licensing requirements first. These professionals evaluate, diagnose and prepare treatment plans for patients with emotional, mental and behavioral issues. The assessment phase will include interviews with patients, families and caregivers to establish baseline facts. Different kinds of tests will be used to evaluate a patient's mental health and their ability to understand their personal challenges.

Psychotherapy and medical intervention may be required to stabilize clients who have demonstrated a tendency toward self-harm or homicidal ideation. In dealing with clients with deep-seated psychopathologies, professional psychologists are given the leeway to tap various options for getting patients to a normal functioning state. A counseling psychologist is one that is trained to deal with clients directly although the issues that these clients face are limited to normal lifetime challenges such as dealing with death and divorce.

Common Goals

In both specializations, academic credentials are crucial to achieving your career goals. Human behavior and the ways that the environment and groups can influence behavior has been the subject of studies in psychology, but interest in this field has escalated as access to information has increased.

Whether you intend to work directly with clients or you plan to focus on the non-clinical aspect of this field, be aware that these careers require critical thinking skills as well as an objective approach to highly charged situations that may make it difficult to retain your objectivity. Whichever track you choose for your own career, fact-based writing is a key competency. It is important for psychologists, non-clinical or otherwise, to make sure that the results of demographic studies or client-centered observations can be shared and reviewed by your peers to add to the world's knowledge base about human behavior and the human mind.

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