PsyD vs. PhD: What’s the Difference?

Learn the differences between PhD programs and PsyD programs in clinical psychology.

psyd-vs-phd-programsIn a nutshell, some psychology schools offer a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree in lieu of the traditional research doctoral degree, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

Students enrolled in typical PhD programs are generally expected to complete a Master’s degree research project as well as their doctoral dissertation, while PsyD students will focus on actual clinical training.

Here is a summary of the two programs with the pros and cons of each.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Programs

  • Perform academic research
  • Longer program than a PsyD
  • Often harder programs to get into
  • More accepted than a PsyD
  • Have financial aid and stipends available
  • Good Internships are available
  • Though research-focused, PhD programs emphasize research training with applied or practice training
  • PhD programs comprise approximately 75 percent of all doctoral degrees in psychology

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) Programs

  • First awarded in the late 1960s
  • Similar to an MD in medicine
  • Perform “in the field” in clinical settings
  • Shorter programs than the PhD
  • Often easier to get into
  • Students get clinical experience earlier in this doctoral program than in a PhD program
  • Internships may be harder to find
  • Graduates should research schools carefully for accreditation and legitimacy
  • Programs awarding the PsyD place strong emphasis on preparing graduates for professional practice as practitioner-scholars

PhD vs. PsyD Programs in Psychology Practice

So, with all of this information, how do you decide which degree is best for you? Well, in the academic world, the PhD programs are preferable to PsyD programs; however, in the world of clinical practice, both degrees have about the same status and functionality. Your decision will largely be decided by whether you want to conduct classic research or would prefer to work in a more hands-on clinical setting.

Source: American Psychological Association (APA)


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