Best Clinical Psychology Programs in Illinois [2023]

Study Clinical Psychology in Illinois

When people think of Illinois, they likely think of its largest city, Chicago. And while the Windy City is the state’s economic and cultural center, it isn’t the only city in the state with a top-tier psychology program.

In fact, Illinois is chock-full of well-regarded psychology graduate programs, including those that offer Master of Arts, Master of Science, Ph.D., and PsyD options. Students come from far and wide to study at the state’s premier institutions, including those listed below.

Listed below are the top 5 clinical psychology programs in Illinois based on the U.S. News (Best Graduate Clinical Psychology Programs) rankings.

Top Clinical Psychology Programs in Illinois

University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign

One of the most well-known universities in the nation, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is also one of the largest schools, with more than 56,000 students at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. The university offers hundreds of study options, including undergraduate majors and minors, certificates, and graduate programs. This includes the clinical psychology program outlined below.

Urbana-Champaign is a mid-sized city, yet it offers an abundance of advantages thanks to the university’s presence. The city boasts a vibrant arts scene, extensive cultural opportunities, and an incredible diversity of people from all walks of life. In fact, Urbana-Champaign ranks as one of the best college towns in the country year in and year out.

Clinical Psychology Program Information

The psychology department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a long-standing tradition of academic excellence. The clinical psychology PhD program was established in 1904, and in the nearly 120 years since, it has been recognized time and again as one of the top psychology graduate programs in the country.

There are multiple areas of concentration to choose from, including a Clinical-Community track that focuses on clinical science training to prepare Ph.D. candidates for scientific research and scholarly work. Additionally, the program meets the licensure requirements to practice as a psychologist in Illinois.

This program is guided by several principles that help you integrate psychological science and practice. This includes to:

  • Prepare you for independent scholarship in clinical-community psychology
  • Prepare you to connect psychological science and practice
  • Prepare you to conduct research and apply your work in an ethical manner to meet the needs of individuals and communities
  • Prepare you to become skilled instructors in higher education

Your degree program is likely to span at least five years. Initially, you will complete general coursework in advanced psychology topics. As you progress through the curriculum, you will explore more advanced topics and have greater opportunities for independent learning. The Department of Psychology evaluates your progress after each semester to ensure you remain on track to complete your doctoral studies.

The application requirements for this program are as follows:

  • Submit a University of Illinois graduate school application
  • Submit a statement of purpose (maximum 750 words)
  • Submit a 250-word personal statement
  • Submit a CV or resume, along with transcripts from all colleges you’ve attended
  • Submit three letters of recommendation
  • Submit GRE scores
  • Pay a $90 application fee

Northwestern University

Northwestern is a prestigious private research university in Evanston, Illinois. The university was founded in 1851 to serve the Northwest Territory, thus the university’s name. Its standing as a highly-regarded institution was almost immediate, and it quickly became one of the largest universities in the United States. In 1917, Northwestern became one of the earliest members of the American Association of Universities, which is a collection of prestigious schools.

Today, Northwestern has 12 schools and colleges, many of which are recognized worldwide for their academic rigor. This focus on creativity, research, and scholarship has won the university many accolades over the years. This includes rankings in the top ten among National Universities, the top 25 among Global Universities, and multiple programs with rankings in the top 20 in the nation.

Clinical Psychology Program Information

The clinical psychology Ph.D. program at Northwestern University is unique for a couple of reasons. First, the degree is housed in the psychiatry department, not a department of psychology. Second, it’s one of only a few programs in the country based in an academic medical facility.

The program’s emphasis on the science of psychology is also due to its focus on the scientist-practitioner model. As a student in this program, you will learn about the science of psychology as the primary component of your studies, with instruction in the practice of psychology as a secondary component.

The curriculum reflects this focus on science and practice. For example, you will begin your training with core psychology coursework and seminars. You will add rigorous research and  mentorship to your studies as well. Various clinically-based practicum experiences round out this unique program of study.

As you progress through the program, you will not only complete coursework and research opportunities, but you will also take a clinical qualifying exam, write a major research qualifying paper, and complete a doctoral dissertation. An APA-accredited clinical internship rounds out your training.

This is a highly competitive program. Typically, just four to seven students are admitted each year. To apply, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Submit a graduate application
  • Have at least one year of post-baccalaureate research (the duration, type, quality, and productivity of your research are also considered)
  • Have a satisfactory undergraduate GPA with a high level of quality coursework
  • Have exposure to working with clinical populations
  • Your experiences should align with the mission and aims of the program as well as those of faculty members and their labs
  • Submit a personal statement
  • Submit letters of reference

University of Illinois – Chicago

Though perhaps not as large as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois at Chicago is nonetheless a prestigious public research university. Its location in Chicago means that students have immense social, cultural, and recreational opportunities at their doorstep. If you choose to study at Illinois-Chicago, you can take advantage of the benefits of city life as well.

Illinois-Chicago is a Level 1 Carnegie Research Institution, which means it hosts a “very high” level of academic research. As a prospective clinical psychology student, this is good news, as you will have state-of-the-art facilities to conduct research in your areas of interest.

You can also specialize your studies – Illinois-Chicago has sixteen colleges with more than 160 graduate and doctoral programs. This includes four graduate-level specialties in psychology, including the clinical track discussed next.

Clinical Psychology Program Information

The University of Illinois at Chicago’s doctoral training program in clinical psychology is a traditional five-year residential program. The first two years focus on foundational work, research, and completing a master’s thesis. By the end of the third year in the program, you will take the qualifying exam that’s required for Ph.D. candidacy. From there, you will spend two years in advanced studies, research, and training at the Ph.D. level.

The clinical psychology track is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) and follows the Boulder Model/scientist-practitioner model. As such, your studies will focus on integrating psychological research and clinical work. Combining these areas of emphasis helps prepare you for academic, research-based, and clinical work.

You will benefit from Illinois-Chicago’s commitment to the mentorship model throughout your studies. You will work closely with a faculty member to conduct research and complete clinical hours in a specialty of clinical psychology that interests you. For example, you might specialize in eye movement studies, psychophysiological assessments, or longitudinal designs, to name three options.

Additionally, you can benefit from the university’s outpatient clinic – the Office of Applied Psychological Services. The clinic functions as a training and research facility for Ph.D. candidates, yet also provides crucial clinical psychology services to those in need. The real-world experience you get in practice at the clinic is invaluable for your future as a clinical psychologist.

Admission to this program is highly competitive. Admissions decisions are based on the following factors:

  • Your potential as a research-oriented psychologist and your commitment to building a career in this field
  • A strong record of achievement in college as evidenced by the undergraduate GPA and GRE scores
  • Interest in research areas represented by current faculty
  • An in-person interview

Loyola University Chicago

School Information

Founded in 1870, Loyola University Chicago is a private Roman Catholic-affiliated university. The school sits on a beautiful campus on Chicago’s north side, with frontage along the shores of Lake Michigan. Not only is the location beautiful, but it gives you easy access to all the amenities of Chicago and the recreational opportunities of Lake Michigan.

Loyola-Chicago is among the largest Jesuit universities in the United States. Yet, it offers a student-to-teacher ratio of just 14:1, so you can enjoy individualized instruction as you pursue your degree. Furthermore, Loyola-Chicago’s faculty is highly regarded, in part because 90 percent of faculty members have a terminal degree in their field.

Clinical Psychology Program Information

The five-year residential clinical psychology Ph.D. program at Loyola University Chicago takes a multimodal approach to your training. You will take formal classes, engage in advanced psychology seminars, and conduct supervised research. Likewise, you will participate in supervised clinical practice and have the chance to conduct independent studies in specialized areas of psychology.

The core training encompasses the following courses, each of which is taken in the first few years of your residency:

  • Developmental Aspects of Behavior
  • Cognitive Aspects of Behavior
  • Affective Aspects of Behavior
  • Social Aspects of Behavior

You will also take a course that integrates two or more of these fields of study, such as a cognitive development class.

The core areas above are just part of your studies, though. You can specialize in advanced training by taking electives focusing on specific psychology areas. For example, you can focus on family therapy, psychopharmacology, or neuropsychological assessment. You might also specialize in child psychopathology, trauma-informed interventions, or health psychology, to name a few.

Another critical component of this program is the practicum-externship experience. You will work in a supervised setting to complete at least 800 hours of clinical work. This work experience begins during the second year of study after you complete a year-long practicum in psychotherapy at Loyola-Chicago’s Wellness Center.

Like other programs on this list, Loyola-Chicago’s program is extremely competitive. For consideration for admission, you must first submit an application to the School of Graduate and Professional Studies. Other criteria for admission – such as undergraduate GPA, relevant test scores, a personal essay, and resume, can be explained in more detail by contacting the Department of Psychology at Loyola-Chicago.

DePaul University

School Information

DePaul is a private university affiliated with the Catholic church. Founded in 1898, the school has since grown to house ten different academic colleges and is one of the largest private schools in the United States. DePaul also has a long-standing reputation for its academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Though DePaul is one of the largest private schools in the country, it still offers a small school feel inside and outside the classroom. For example, the school boasts a 17:1 student-to-teacher ratio, so you can enjoy small class sizes and ample opportunities to get individualized attention from your instructors.

Clinical Psychology Program Information

DePaul’s clinical psychology program includes master’s-level and doctoral-level studies. As such, you will earn a Master of Arts in Psychology on your way to getting a Ph.D. in psychology. The program has a dual emphasis in clinical practice and scientific research as well. Moreover, you can choose from two tracks – a clinical psychology child option or a clinical community psychology option.

The community track includes studies in program development, health promotion, prevention, empowerment, and consultation. Conversely, the child track zeros in on the delivery of clinical psychology services to underserved communities, particularly urban children and low-income youth.

Regardless of the track you choose, you will complete the following requirements over the course of the five-year program:

  • 60 quarter hours of graduate-level work for the Master of Arts, including a thesis and multiple practicum experiences
  • 28 or more quarter hours of Ph.D.-level coursework
  • Ph.D. practicum and internship experiences
  • Ph.D. dissertation
  • Doctoral candidacy examination

This is a residential program, meaning that you have to be on campus at DePaul to complete the requirements outlined above.

The admissions requirements for this program are very straightforward. To be considered, you must submit an online application, official transcripts from all colleges you have attended, and complete a course history form. Likewise, you must submit letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and GRE scores.

Requirements to Become a Clinical Psychologist in Illinois

The process of becoming a licensed clinical psychologist in Illinois starts by meeting the educational requirements. You meet the state’s requirements as a graduate of any APA-accredited psychology doctoral program.

Furthermore, you must fulfill the following criteria for consideration for licensure:

  • Complete the minimum required supervised practice hours (two years of total experience, with at least one year coming after doctoral studies are complete; each year must include at least 1,750 hours of training)
  • Achieve a passing score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)

Once these activities are complete, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will determine your eligibility for licensure and confer a license if appropriate.

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