Exploring the Best PsyD Programs in California: Traditional & Online

Discover top-ranked PsyD programs in California and see how they can expand your skillset and prepare you for licensure as a psychologist.

Last Updated: 09/09/2021

A Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is one of the highest psychology degrees available and a necessary credential for professional clinical psychology practice in California. There are dozens of accredited PsyD programs in California that can prepare you for work as a skilled practitioner, opening a range of opportunities in a state employing more clinical psychologists than any other state.

This guide has everything you need to get started on your search for a quality PsyD program in California. You’ll find a list of the best programs, learn about accreditation and programs with convenient online coursework, get answers to your key questions, and see how much can potentially earn as a psychologist in California after graduation.

Best APA-Accredited PsyD Programs in California for 2021

The following profiles highlight some of the top-ranked APA-accredited PsyD programs in California for 2021. Each school administers a robust, comprehensive curriculum designed to deepen your expertise and ready you for licensure as a practicing clinician. Explore these program offerings and check back for our full ranking later this year.

1

Pepperdine University

Malibu-based Pepperdine University offers a PsyD in clinical psychology that prepares students for work as licensed professionals in their local communities. The program requires 82 credits, including an internship and dissertation project, and typically lasts four years. Pepperdine delivers curriculum from its affiliate campus in West Los Angeles and uses a practitioner-scholar model that integrates academic research with clinical practice. The program boasts a 97% internship placement rate and a 100% licensure rate with the California Board of Psychology.

A standout among APA accredited California PsyD programs, Pepperdine’s program extends scholarship and grant opportunities sponsored by its Graduate School of Education and Psychology. Qualified applicants with a relevant master’s degree begin the program each fall and complete courses in psychometrics and cognitive assessment, clinical psychopathology, advanced treatment and intervention, and professional ethics. Following coursework, students complete internships and hands-on training experiences at approved locations throughout Southern California. In addition to providing standard application material, prospective students must also interview with the admissions committee.

Program Delivery

  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Specialization/Concentration Tracks

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology

2

Biola University

Biola University’s Rosemead School of Psychology administers a PsyD in clinical psychology that blends empirical science with spirituality and ministry. It holds APA accreditation and requires 133 credits that most students complete in 5-6 years. This campus-based program maintains a low student to faculty ratio and includes psychotherapy labs and integration seminars along with standard coursework. Biola’s program stands out among other California PsyD programs by extending the option to earn a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology along the way. Following successful completion of at least 75% of coursework, students must pass several qualifying examinations.

Aspiring professionals receive core instruction in key knowledge areas like advanced statistics, program evaluation, and research design. Theory-based courses in systems psychology, psychoanalysis, and developmental psychology build competency in prominent approaches to clinical practice. Students also take courses in religion and theology and complete practicum components before moving to doctoral research. That research results in a peer-reviewed paper meant to enhance professional practice in therapy-based settings.

Delivery:

  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Specialization/Concentration Tracks:

  • Clinical Psychology

3

Loma Linda University

Students at Loma Linda University typically complete their Doctor of Psychology in 5 years and land employment as skilled clinicians and researchers. Like other APA-accredited PsyD programs in California, this program takes about 5 years to complete and readies aspiring professionals for licensure. The school administers an embedded curriculum that qualifies students for practice with a range of populations in a variety of settings, from children and couples in private practice to veterans or adults in hospitals and community health centers. Students also receive practicum placements and complete one-on-one academic research alongside a clinical mentor who shares their interests and professional aims.

Housed within Loma Linda’s School of Behavioral Health, this program requires 168 credits that include coursework, hands-on training and clinical practice, and doctoral research. Its sequence of courses looks at core areas of competency in psychological science, quantitative research methods, clinical assessment, and wholeness and health. Students can also draw from a range of electives that look at drug addiction, human sexuality, cultural psychology, and psychology of religion.

Delivery:

  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Specialization/Concentration Tracks:

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • Clinical Child Psychology
  • Neuropsychology

How Important APA Accreditation Is for PsyD Programs in California

APA Accreditation is an industry-wide indicator of quality and excellence. A leading scientific organization in the U.S., the APA establishes key guidelines in psychology and works to advance its knowledge horizons and professional applications. Its credentials carry a lot of influence and are considered the gold standard for education in psychology.

Though most states require a degree from an APA-accredited program for licensure as a psychologist, this is not the case in California. State regulators only require attendance at a school with institutional accreditation. Students should also complete course prerequisites in key knowledge areas outlined by the CA Board of Psychology.

If you plan to use your PsyD in roles other than as a licensed psychologist, the same general accreditation rules and best practices apply. Potential schools should hold institutional accreditation from an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

What to Know About Online PsyD Programs in California

Online delivery is available in California, but it’s not prominent. Among schools with these options, only a few provide 100% online delivery while several have online/hybrid formats to provide a convenient, accommodating, and balanced course of study tailored to students’ needs.

Online programs typically include intensive courses administered in 7-week terms using both synchronous and asynchronous technologies (e.g., videoconferencing, discussion boards, etc.). Some schools augment online courses with in-person instruction for certain content areas. Others offer face-to-face networking opportunities and other learning-based events. Many use face-to-face delivery for internship and practicum placements.

Licensure requirements in California make it easy for aspiring professionals to look further afield for online programming. For example, a school like Capella University that focuses primarily on distance education delivers online PsyD programming that meets all the approval and accreditation requirements for practicing psychology in California.

Top online California PsyD programs are highlighted below. See our guide to online psychology programs for more information on how virtual learning works.

Online California PsyD Program Spotlight

1

Meridian University

Meridian University in Petaluma, CA offers an online/hybrid PsyD in clinical psychology ideal for busy learners and working professionals looking for flexible study. The program holds regional accreditation and requires 133 total credits, including core courses, fieldwork, and clinical intensives. It accepts students with a relevant graduate degree and those with only a bachelor’s, though extra coursework requirements apply. Most students graduate within 3-4 years fully eligible for licensure as marriage and family therapists, psychologists, and professional clinical counselors.

Admitted students can opt for hybrid or online delivery formats. Under the hybrid model, the school delivers all coursework online and supplements remote learning with in-person intensives on campus. The online format replaces those face-to-face components with virtual experiences that fit students’ circumstances and career goals. Students receive the same high-quality instruction in either case and can specialize in areas like depth psychology, social artistry, developmental coaching, organizational development, somatic psychology, health coaching, and transformative leadership.

Other Quality Examples of Online PsyD Programs in California

FAQs About PsyD Programs in California

Do I need a master’s degree to get into a PsyD program in California?

Requirements vary by school, but most California PsyD programs do not require a master’s degree. There are notable exceptions to this rule, like the program at Touro University Worldwide, but a majority of programs only call for a bachelor’s degree and, in some cases, certain course prerequisites in psychology. The programs at Azusa Pacific University and Alliant International University, for example, both call for either a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree for admittance.

Do PsyD programs in California require the GRE?

Some PsyD programs in California, like the University of La Verne and the University of San Francisco,require GRE scores for admission. However, many schools forgo this component to make programming more accessible. For example, Pepperdine University officially dropped its GRE component in 2019, and Touro University Worldwide doesn’t require it either. Others, like Palo Alto University and Loma Linda University, currently waive GRE requirements due to COVID-19 restrictions.

How long do PsyD programs in California take to finish?

Individual factors like professional employment, transfer credit, and enrollment status (i.e., full-time vs. part-time) can impact your time for completion. Depending on the circumstances, average timelines may not always reflect the pacing determined by you and your school.

That said, most CaliforniaPsyD programs last around 3-5 years. Some programs, like the one at Reiss-Davis Graduate School, run on the shorter side even if you plan to work full-time while you study. In contrast, Fuller Theological Seminary’s program takes a full 5 years to complete.

How much do PsyD programs in California cost?

As the data below indicates, most CaliforniaPsyD programs fall within the same general price range for tuition. However, several factors can impact overall cost. If you bring a significant number of transfer credits, for example, you may not need to take as many courses. This results in less tuition. Enrollment status also plays a role. For example, if you’re a working professional and need to study part-time, you’ll need to spend more time in school and may pay more as a result.

University of La Verne

Doctorate in Clinical Psychology

Total Credits: 120

$1,200/credit

Azusa Pacific University

Clinical Psychology Doctorate, Psy.D.

Total Credits: 133

$1,155/credit

California Lutheran University

PsyD in Clinical Psychology

Total Credits: 114

$1,050/credit

Financial Aid and Scholarships for PsyD Students in California

Scholarships and financial aid can significantly reduce the cost of your education. Several of the best PsyD programs in California offer scholarships and other awards to new and returning students. La Verne, Cal Lutheran, and Azusa Pacific, for example, each extend psychology or PsyD-specific scholarships to qualified applicants.

Professional organizations like the APA also sometimes offer opportunities and provide tips for students looking for ways to fund their education. If you already work in the industry, check with your employer about aid possibilities. For more information on financial aid and scholarships, see our main financial aid page and our detailed scholarships guide.

How to Become a Psychologist in California

Graduates of CaliforniaPsyD programs interested in work as professional psychologists must first obtain licensure. This means fulfilling certain eligibility requirements and completing the steps outlined by the California Board of Psychology. We’ve detailed each step below to give you a solid idea of what is required for licensure as a psychologist in California.

Step 1

Education and Hands-On Training

The first step for all licensees is completing an approved education and training program. Unlike other states, California does not require completion of an APA-accredited course of study, but your doctoral degree should come from a school with institutional accreditation. Additional requirements include at least 3,000 hours of qualifying supervised professional experience and key course prerequisites. Prerequisites classes can include human sexuality, substance abuse, child abuse, spousal abuse, and aging and long-term care.

Step 2

National Examination

Once you finish an approved education program and complete the other training requirements, you can move to the testing phase. This involves two assessments. The first is the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. A two-part assessment, the EPPP measures competency in key skill and knowledge areas specific to psychological practice. It includes multiple-choice and scenario-based questions that look at treatment, diagnosis, and intervention.

Step 3

State Examination

Once you pass the EPPP, you can prepare for the California Law and Ethics Examination (CPLEE), a state-based test that assesses your knowledge of applicable laws and regulations. While the EPPP evaluates your proficiency in psychology as a broad discipline, the CPLEE evaluates your competency in how psychology is practiced in California. The exam is administered by PSI and looks at compliance issues pertaining to mandated reporting, confidentiality, duty to protect, and cultural competency.

Step 4

Fingerprints, Fees, and Application Submission

Once applicants successfully complete both exams, they move to final steps for initial licensure. At this stage, you need to submit official fingerprints to the Department of Justice in California. The Board of Psychology also requires a comprehensive criminal history and background check. Applicable fees include costs for exams, the application, and the license itself. Once official documents are reviewed and fees settled, candidates submit an application for initial licensure by examination and await official approval.

Step 5

Continuing Education and Renewal

The process is not over once you obtain your license. The California Board of Psychology mandates that practicing professionals renew their licenses every two years. This includes completing professional development and continuing education requirements. To keep their licenses active, psychologists must complete at least 36 hours of continuing education per cycle, and those hours must come through an approved provider and include training in suicide risk assessment. Once completed and certified, you can submit a renewal application.

Job Outlook and Earnings Potential for PsyD Psychologists in California

Job growth potential and salary prospects remain encouraging for graduates of PsyD programs in California.According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), California enjoys the highest levels of employment for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists by a sizable margin. Cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco rank among the top 5 metropolitan areas with the highest levels of employment for those professionals.

In terms of pay, California is the top paying state for PsyD professionals in clinical or school counseling. In fact, 7 of the 10 highest-paying metropolitan areas identified by the BLS are in California. They include Santa Rosa, Los Angeles, San Diego, Oxnard-Thousand Oaks, San Luis, Modesto, and Napa.

Job Outlook and Earnings Potential for PsyD Psychologists in California

Employment
(2018)
New Jobs Created
(2018-2028)
Job Growth Rate
(2018-2028)
Average Annual Openings
(2018-2028)
California17,4002,30013.21,530
United States162,00023,80014.7%14,600

Source: Projections Central

Annual Salaries for Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists in California

10th PercentileMedian90th Percentile
California$57,730$107,470$172,580
United States$46,410$79,820$138,550
Bakersfield, CA$70,530$107,120$140,590
Chico, CA$57,960$91,660$118,050
Fresno, CA$64,050$117,870$159,040
Hanford-Corcoran, CA$92,210$114,940$139,430
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA$58,950$107,470N/A
Madera, CA$68,570$120,730$145,560
Merced, CA$61,970$102,710$140,150
Modesto, CA$61,910$115,360$158,790
Napa, CA$92,800$123,940$141,940
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA$48,860$103,930N/A
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA$60,660$104,220$163,010
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA$51,650$112,920$159,870
Salinas, CA$47,620$104,810$139,040
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA$69,560$102,510$206,920
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA$47,450$101,900$167,110
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$69,660$112,790$159,010
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA$85,510$125,330$143,340
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA$43,090$76,000$145,760
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA$55,730$119,610$158,480
Santa Rosa, CA$88,850$131,740$181,890
Stockton-Lodi, CA$57,620$107,590$145,700
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA$82,560$120,230$153,660
Visalia-Porterville, CA$85,230$118,410$154,740
Yuba City, CA$46,070$79,510$104,770

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020