Clinical Neuropsychology Degree and Career Guide
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines neuropsychology as a branch of psychology “that studies the physiological processes of the nervous system and relates them to behavior and cognition.”1 In other words, neuropsychologists study how biological processes in the brain and other parts of the nervous system are reflected in people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Clinical neuropsychology, which has been recognized as an APA specialty since 1996, involves the application of neuropsychological knowledge to clinical practice. Individuals who practice clinical neuropsychology can also become Board-certified through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) to show that they have developed expertise in this area.
One of the most common services provided by clinical neuropsychologists is the assessment of cognitive and psychological functioning in the context of medical, neurological, or psychiatric disorders. For this, clinical neuropsychologists administer batteries of tests and interpret the results, make diagnoses, and provide feedback to patients and their families. Clinical neuropsychologists may also consult with other providers or provide direct intervention services to help patients improve their cognitive functioning, mood, or behaviors. Some clinical neuropsychologists conduct research to inform and improve clinical practice.
Clinical neuropsychologists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals and other medical settings, psychology clinics, and universities. To become a clinical neuropsychologist, you must earn a doctoral degree in psychology from a program that provides broad training in the professional practice of psychology as well as specialized coursework and practica in neuropsychology. These programs offer either Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degrees. To earn a license to practice in most states, you will need to earn this degree from a program that is APA-accredited.
Degree Requirements and Coursework
The Society for Clinical Neuropsychology (SCN) provides a database of doctoral programs that include training in clinical neuropsychology; as of April 2019, all APA-accredited programs on this list offer degrees in clinical psychology. Most programs that include clinical neuropsychology training require a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, but you will likely need a higher GPA to be offered admission. Some people opt to earn a stand-alone master’s degree before entering a doctoral program, but this is not required; most students in doctoral psychology programs earn a master’s degree after completing a thesis project.
Students usually take between four and seven years to complete doctoral programs in clinical psychology. This includes the required year-long internship that is generally completed during the final year of the program. Students complete coursework in psychological theory and the foundations of clinical practice, conduct research (including their own thesis and dissertation projects), and gain experience in clinical settings. In programs that include specialized training in clinical neuropsychology, students can also expect to complete coursework in neuroanatomy and biopsychology, become proficient in a variety of neuropsychological tests, and accumulate hands-on experience practicing clinical neuropsychology with patients. Below are examples of courses that may be required of students studying clinical neuropsychology:
- Neuropsychological Assessment
- Personality Assessment
- Introduction to Clinical Practice
- Research Methods
- Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental Psychology
- Theories of Psychotherapy
- Ethics in Psychology
- Clinical Practicum
- Predoctoral Internship
By the time they have reached graduation, students can expect to have developed proficiency in the general practice of psychology as well as the more specialized assessment and intervention services provided by clinical neuropsychologists. They should also have developed skills that allow them to interpret research findings and incorporate them into clinical practice or pursue their own research studies in clinical neuropsychology.
Some aspiring clinical neuropsychologists will also need to complete a postdoctoral training program after earning a doctoral degree, as many states require a certain number of supervised postdoctoral hours to become licensed. Additionally, a two-year postdoctoral program is required for Board certification in clinical neuropsychology through ABPP. SCN provides a helpful database of postdoctoral clinical neuropsychology programs for individuals seeking this training.
Best Value Schools with On-Campus Clinical Neuropsychology Programs
Below is a table of the best value schools offering doctoral programs that include training in clinical neuropsychology. All of the colleges and universities on the list have net prices of $20,000 or lower, a graduation rate of at least 50%, and are listed in the SCN database of doctoral programs as of April 2019. We’ve also included additional information you may be interested in, such as the applicable degree(s) offered at each school, the percentage of tenured faculty, and US News & World Report national and graduate clinical rankings. You can sort the table by any of the categories listed by clicking the header.
|School||Grad Degree(s)||US News National Rank1||US News Graduate Clinical Rank2||Grad Rate3||% Tenured Faculty4||Net Price1|
|University of North Texas||PhD Clinical Psychology: Clinical Neuropsychology Practice Area||#250-301||#143 tie||54%||55.6%||$12,053|
|University of Utah||PhD Clinical Psychology: Clinical Neuropsychology Specialization||#119 tie||#57 tie||67%||44.0%||$12,363|
|Brigham Young University-Provo||PhD Clinical Psychology: Clinical Neuropsychology Emphasis Area||#66 tie||#113 tie||83%||45.6%||$12,979|
|East Carolina University||PhD Clinical Health Psychology||#194 tie||#143 tie||62%||43.3%||$13,327|
|San Diego State University||PhD Clinical Psychology: Neuropsychology Major Area||#127 tie||#25 tie||74%||33.4%||$13,363|
|University of California-San Diego||PhD Clinical Psychology: Neuropsychology Major Area||#41 tie||#25 tie||85%||55.5%||$14,616|
|University of Florida||PhD Clinical Psychology: Neuropsychology, Neurorehabilitation, and Clinical Neuroscience Major Area||#35 tie||#31 tie||88%||51.8%||$15,283|
|Georgia State University||PhD Clinical Psychology: Clinical-Neuropsychology Concentration||#187 tie||#62 tie||53%||34.1%||$15,350|
|University of Houston||PhD Clinical Psychology: Clinical Neuropsychology Major Area||#171 tie||#87 tie||54%||49.5%||$15,664|
|University of Georgia||PhD Clinical Psychology||#46 tie||#36 tie||85%||53.9%||$15,934|
|University of Alabama at Birmingham||PhD Medical/Clinical Psychology||#157 tie||#74 tie||53%||37.4%||$17,016|
|Washington State University||PhD Clinical Psychology: Neuropsychology Interest Area||#140 tie||#74 tie||62%||37.6%||$17,885|
|Kent State University at Kent||PhD Clinical Psychology: Neuropsychology Concentration||#191 tie||#87 tie||58%||24.0%||$18,156|
|University of Connecticut||PhD Clinical Psychology: Neuropsychology Concentration||#63 tie||#62 tie||83%||38.8%||$18,699|
|Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College||PhD Clinical Psychology: Neuropsychology Track||#140 tie||#74 tie||67%||47.1%||$19,224|
|University of Kentucky||PhD Clinical Psychology: Neuropsychology Concentration||#147 tie||#50 tie||65%||51.0%||$19,361|
*See Table Notes and References at the bottom of the page.
Profiles of Clinical Neuropsychology Programs
To practice as a clinical neuropsychologist, you must hold a doctoral degree from a program that offers training in clinical neuropsychology. Most states will require that you earn this degree from an APA-accredited program to become licensed. Because the doctoral programs providing clinical neuropsychology training require you to complete multiple years of clinical experience as well as research projects, there are not currently any online programs that will fulfill the requirements necessary for a career as a clinical neuropsychologist. Earning a stand-alone master’s degree in neuropsychology will not allow you to practice as a clinical neuropsychologist, but may be a good step for those seeking additional experience prior to doctoral programs.
If you are interested in earning a stand-alone master’s degree prior to a doctoral degree in clinical neuropsychology, programs that will provide foundational training in neuroscience will be particularly relevant. Some schools will offer master’s programs in general psychology that include courses in neuroscience, while others offer specialized training in neuropsychology and related fields.
University of Illinois: The Master of Science in Psychological Science (MSPS) program at the University of Illinois would be an excellent choice for an aspiring clinical neuropsychologist. The program provides broad training in psychological science that can also be tailored to fit a student’s specific interests. The MSPS program offers a number of courses that would be relevant to future study in clinical neuropsychology, including Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychopharmacology, Neuroscience of Eating and Drinking, and Cognitive Psychophysiology. Students also conduct research under faculty mentors, providing additional opportunities for training in neuropsychology that will be relevant to later doctoral-level work. The University of Illinois is well-known for its graduate training in psychology and has been ranked #7 in US News & World Report’s Best Psychology Schools category.
University of Pittsburgh: The Neuroscience Master’s Degree program at the University of Pittsburgh is not technically a psychology program (it is offered through the Department of Neuroscience rather than the Department of Psychology), but would provide excellent training for students planning to continue on to doctoral programs in clinical neuropsychology. Students in this program take multiple courses covering brain structures, functions, and processes, and are required to conduct research in a faculty member’s lab. Much of the research is conducted through the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Neuroscience, where multiple faculty members conduct research on neuroscientific factors relevant to psychological disorders.
Georgia State University (GSU): GSU offers a Clinical-Neuropsychology concentration that is provided through joint training from their Clinical Psychology PhD and Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience PhD programs. Faculty advisors for students in this concentration hold appointments in both programs, so students are able to conduct clinical research in the area of neuropsychology. Students pursuing GSU’s Clinical-Neuropsychology concentration are required to complete all of the core coursework for the Clinical Psychology program as well as multiple courses specific to neuropsychology. The track is designed to prepare graduates for psychology licensure and eventual ABPP certification after additional postdoctoral training. GSU’s Clinical Psychology PhD program has been APA-accredited since 1973 and students are involved in multiple national clinical neuropsychology organizations. The program has been ranked #62 in the US News & World Report Doctoral Clinical Psychology Programs category.
University of Connecticut: The Clinical Psychology PhD program at the University of Connecticut has been APA-accredited since 1951 and has been ranked #62 in US News & World Report’s Doctoral Clinical Psychology Programs category. Students in this program are able to complete an elective Neuropsychology concentration by completing additional courses and clinical training in neuroscience, neuroanatomy, neuropsychological testing, and other relevant topics. Some of the courses may be completed at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and there are also multiple opportunities for neuropsychological research and clinical placements in the community. The program aims to prepare students in the Neuropsychology concentration for internships and postdoctoral fellowships in clinical neuropsychology as well as future ABPP certification.
University of Utah: The Clinical Psychology PhD program at the University of Utah offers a Clinical Neuropsychology Program for students who are interested in specializing in this area. Students pursuing this concentration will take courses and seminars in neuropsychology, conduct relevant research, and participate in the program’s Neuropsychology Vertical Team meetings. They are also expected to complete multiple clinical neuropsychology practicum placements, such as those offered through the department’s Cognitive Concerns Clinic. Students in the Clinical Neuropsychology Program are expected to pursue neuropsychology internships and postdoctoral fellowships. The Clinical Psychology PhD program at the University of Utah has been ranked #57 in US News & World Report’s Doctoral Clinical Psychology Programs category and the program has been APA-accredited since 1954.
Clinical Neuropsychology Job Description
Many clinical neuropsychologists work in medical hospitals, psychology clinics, rehabilitation centers, private practices, and other similar settings. Patients who are referred to clinical neuropsychologists may present with a variety of medical and psychological concerns, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, neurological disorders, academic difficulties, abnormal development, acute personality changes, or general memory problems. Clinical neuropsychologists will administer and interpret neuropsychological test batteries to make diagnoses and offer recommendations to these patients. They may also provide some psychotherapy services, such as those designed to help improve memory or compensate for cognitive difficulties.
Some clinical neuropsychologists dedicate part or all of their time to research, usually in universities or academic medical centers. These psychologists conduct studies that help psychologists better understand how to diagnose and treat neuropsychological disorders. These studies may involve administering neuropsychological test batteries or using brain imaging such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans.
What Jobs Can You Get with This Degree?
Because clinical neuropsychology is a specialized area within the broader field of psychology, there is relatively little variability in the job titles for these types of psychologists. However, there are ample employment opportunities for clinical neuropsychologists, as they are in demand in many different medical and psychological settings. Possible job titles for clinical neuropsychologists include:
- Clinical neuropsychologist
- Clinical child neuropsychologist
- Clinical psychologist
- Research psychologist
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do clinical neuropsychologists work?
Clinical neuropsychologists can work in almost any setting where patients are seen for psychological concerns, including outpatient and inpatient clinics as well as private practices. However, clinical neuropsychologists are particularly well-suited to work in medical settings such as neurology clinics or rehabilitation centers, as much of their work is focused on medical and biological issues that underlie cognitive and psychological problems. Clinical neuropsychologists may also work at universities if they conduct research.
What degree do I need to become a clinical neuropsychologist?
Clinical neuropsychologists must have earned a doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD) from a program that provides training in the professional practice of psychology as well as specialized training in neuropsychology. This degree should be earned from a program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), as this is required by most states for licensure as a psychologist.
How long does it take to become a clinical neuropsychologist?
A doctoral program that meets the criteria for training in clinical neuropsychology generally takes between four and seven years to complete. After this, you will likely need to complete a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in neuropsychology to be eligible for clinical neuropsychology positions. If you choose to earn a stand-alone master’s degree before entering a doctoral program, this will usually take an additional two years; however, this is an optional step. Therefore, the entire process of becoming a clinical neuropsychologist can take around 10 years.
Clinical Neuropsychology Salary and Job Outlook
Clinical neuropsychologists fall under the broader Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) category of counseling, clinical, and school psychologists. BLS data from May 2018 showed that the average annual salary for this category of psychologists was $85,340.2 Of the 110,490 counseling, clinical, and school psychologists, those working in offices of other health practitioners earned the highest average salary ($96,930).2
It is expected that there will be a continued need for counseling, clinical, and school psychologists. The number of positions for these professionals is expected to increase by 14.2% between 2016 and 2026, which is equivalent to approximately 2,100 new jobs each year during this time period.3 Despite the increasing use of technology across many fields, counseling, clinical, and school psychology positions are considered to be particularly stable; they are estimated to have less than a 1% chance of becoming computerized.4
- American Psychological Association (APA) – National organization for psychology students and professionals. Oversees accreditation for doctoral programs and offers a variety of resources including an annual conference.
- Society for Clinical Neuropsychology (SCN) – Division of APA with resources for clinical neuropsychologists and trainees, such as scholarships, job listings, listservs, and a database of training programs providing clinical neuropsychology training.
- American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), Clinical Neuropsychology – Provides Board certification for practicing clinical neuropsychologists who have accrued a certain amount of work experience.
1. APA Dictionary of Psychology, Neuropsychology: https://dictionary.apa.org/neuropsychology
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 Occupational Employment and Wages, Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193031.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
4. Frey, Carl Benedikt, and Michael A. Osborne. “The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, vol. 114, January 2017, pp. 254-280: https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf
Table Notes and References:
All data is based on undergraduate statistics.
*The retention rate is the percentage of first-time, full-time students who continued to a second year of study at the same institution.
**The transfer out rate is the percentage of first-time, full-time students who transferred their credits to another institution within 150% of the normal time to complete their degree.
1. US News & World Report National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
2. US News & World Report Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-health-schools/clinical-psychology-rankings
3. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
4. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/