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What Is a Psy.D.?

FAQ About the Psy.D.

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PsyD

Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology)

Photo by Mary Gober

Earning a doctorate degree in psychology is a great way to improve your opportunities for career growth. While you might immediately assume that the Ph.D. degree is your only option, the Psy.D. degree is a doctoral-level degree that you should definitely consider. Learn more about the Psy.D. including how it differs from the Ph.D.

What Is a Psy.D.?

The Psy.D., or Doctor of Psychology, is a applied clinical doctorate degree that is one of the highest-level degrees available in the field of psychology. Until the late 1960s, the Ph.D. in Psychology was the degree option available for professional psychologists. However, there was some concern that the Doctor of Philosophy degree did not provide adequate preparation for those interested in clinical work. As a result, the Psy.D. degree was developed in the early 1970s as a professional program to train psychologists as practitioners.

What Can You Do With a Psy.D.?

After earning a Psy.D. in clinical or counseling psychology and then passing the required licensing exams, an individual can diagnose and treat mental disorders including administering evaluations, conducting psychological tests and providing psychotherapy services.

Individuals with a Psy.D. can work in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, mental health clinics, government offices and schools. Some professionals choose to open their own psychotherapy practices or work as consultants for private corporations.

How Do You Earn a Psy.D.?

The educational requirements for the Psy.D. are designed to train psychologists to utilize their understanding of the science of the mind and behavior to treat and diagnose mental illnesses. Most Psy.D. program take approximately four to seven years to complete, during which students study and practice a wide variety of topics including psychological assessment, diagnosis and clinical interventions.

As with the Ph.D. in Psychology degree, Psy.D. students must also participate in a supervised practicum as well as a supervised internship in a clinical setting. During the practicum, students usually work part-time under the supervision of a licensed psychologist in a variety of different clinical settings. The internship is a full-time position and usually lasts at least one year. After completing an internship, students are then able to take state and national exams in order to become licensed psychologists.

The American Psychological Association accredits both Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs. No matter what type of program you are considering, you should definitely check to see if the program is APA accredited. Most state licensing boards require applicants to have completed their degree and supervised internship at an APA accredited institution.

What Are the Similarities Between a Psy.D. and a Ph.D.?

  • Both programs require between four to seven years to complete.

  • Both programs require an internship.

  • Nearly all Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs require a doctoral dissertation.

What Are the Differences Between a Psy.D. and a Ph.D.?

  • While the Ph.D. is generally more research oriented, the Psy.D. tends to focus more on professional practice and clinical work.

  • Psy.D. students usually spend more time learning to administer psychological tests than Ph.D. students do.

  • The Psy.D. degree prepares students to work as clinicians, while the Ph.D. also prepares graduates to work in teaching and research. Psy.D. graduates can also teach at the university level.

What Are Some Alternatives to the Psy.D. Degree?

Before you decide if the Psy.D. is the right degree for you, it is important to spend some time considering your options. The Psy.D. can be an excellent choice if you want to focus your energy on being a practitioner of psychology. If you are also interested in conducting research, then you might want to consider the Ph.D. option.

If you know that you want to work in the field of mental health, but aren’t sure if you want to spend the time and money on a doctorate degree, then there are still plenty of other options to consider. Social work, counseling, school psychology, education and health sciences are other academic options that might also appeal to you.

References:

American Psychological Association. (2002). Graduate study in psychology (2003 ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Norcross, J.C. & Castle, P.H. (2002). Appreciating the PsyD: The facts. Eye on Psi Chi, 7(1), 22-26.

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