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How Long Does It Take to Get a Ph.D. In Psychology?

Typical Timelines for Doctorate-Degree Options

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Ph.D. in Psychology

How long will it take to get a Ph.D. in Psychology? Learn more about typical requirements as well as other degree options you might want to consider.

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A doctorate-level degree in psychology is required to work in many job areas, including as a licensed clinical psychologist or counseling psychologist. A doctorate degree is also often required in fields such as school psychology or health psychology.

So how long does it take to get a Ph.D. in Psychology? First, it is important to realize that the degree requirements can vary depending upon the field that you decide to pursue. A Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, degree is not necessarily your only option. In some cases, you might want to also consider the Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) or the Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) degree options.

Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.?

How do these degree options differ? A Ph.D. in Psychology tends to focus on a research-based model of eduction. People with a Ph.D. in Psychology are qualified for a wide range of teaching, research and clinical positions in colleges, universities, hospitals, government offices and private mental health practices.

The Psy.D. degree option generally focuses on a practitioner-based model of education. Individuals with a Psy.D. degree can also teach or conduct psychology research, but they frequently work in applied settings to provide direct mental health services.

Finally, there is also a third doctorate degree option that you might also want to consider depending on your career goals. If you are interested in working as a school psychologist or in a related educational field, the Ed.D., or Doctor of Education, is a possible option.

How Long Will It Take to Get a Doctorate Degree?

The length of time required to earn your degree depends upon a variety of factors, including the type of degree you have selected, your educational background and the individual doctorate program in which you have enrolled. Generally, if you have a strong background in psychology and have completed all of the necessary prerequisites, you will be able to finish your doctorate degree sooner than students who have not taken the prerequisite courses.

  • For a Ph.D. in Psychology: Most Ph.D. programs require at least 5 to 7 years to complete. In addition to regular coursework, you may also be expected to complete an internship or supervised residency. The program usually culminates in the completion of an original research project or dissertation.

  • For a Psy.D. Degree: Most Psy.D. programs require between 4 to 6 years to complete. According to an article by John C. Norcross and Patricia H. Castle in Eye on Psi Chi, it takes approximately 1 to 1.5 years longer to complete a Ph.D. than it does to complete a Psy.D.

  • For an Ed.D.: Degree: Most Ed.D. programs require between 3 to 5 years to complete. It is important to note that many applicants to Ed.D. programs already hold a master's degree in a related field, while applicants to Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs often begin their program of study with a bachelor's degree.

References: Norcross, J.C. & Castle, P.H. (2002) Appreciating the PsyD: The facts. Eye on Psi Chi Found online at http://www.psichi.org/pubs/articles/article_171.aspx

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