Psychology Doctoral Degrees

Updated July 12, 2023 · 5 Min Read

Explore online and in-person doctoral programs in psychology and learn what it will take to earn your doctorate. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Is a Psy.D. Program Right For You?

Psy.D. programs provide an alternative to Ph.D. in psychology programs that heavily emphasize research methods. Psy.D. candidates focus more on clinical practice and pragmatic aspects of psychology. This means learners explore coursework in human development, psychological assessment, and methods of behavior more than in a Ph.D. program.

The Psy.D. program places more emphasis on the culminating internship and practicum elements than the dissertation. The program benefits learners looking to transition quickly from the doctoral degree into clinical work.

A Psy.D. program prepares you for work as a clinical psychologist in many different environments. Some psychology specialties, such as pain and pediatric psychology, call for a Psy.D., where you complete an internship relating to these specialized areas of practice.

Psy.D. vs a Ph.D. in Psychology

Though both the Psy.D. and Ph.D. require APA accreditation for licensure and employment, some important differences exist between these two degrees. The typical Psy.D. program features less competitive admissions standards and less research-related coursework than a Ph.D. A Psy.D. often takes less time, 4-6 years, to complete than a Ph.D., 5-7 years.

Differences Between a Psy.D. and Ph.D. in Psychology
Psy.D. Program Ph.D. in Psychology Program
More specialized career options in clinical practice, including family and couples therapy and pediatric psychology Opens more career options to areas purely related to research, which graduates can apply to careers in organizational psychology
Sometimes allows students to replace their dissertation with a doctoral project Learning experience strongly emphasizes the major thesis work that culminates the program
Covers more course topics relating to intervention techniques and assessment strategies in different cultural and economic contexts Covers statistics and qualitative and quantitative research methods in greater detail
Takes less time to complete, usually five years or less Features more strict admissions standards for minimum GPA and standardized test scores and prerequisite coursework
Created to provide an alternative to Ph.D. programs for students less interested in research and more in practical psychology application Commonly featured at most four-year universities

Online Psychology Doctoral Degree Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Can I Expect From a Psy.D. Program?

Typically, you can anticipate spending between four and six years completing your Psy.D. program, depending on whether you take classes part- or full-time. Most Psy.D. degrees comprise 60 credits. Completing your Psy.D. at a part-time pace can lead to your program taking closer to six years and costing slightly more than if you took classes full-time.

A Psy.D. program concludes with clinical hours and a dissertation. For the dissertation, learners complete a long-form essay or doctoral project, keeping up with American Psychological Association (APA) requirements.

The Psy.D. learning experience concentrates more on the clinical requirements. Learners complete their clinical hours in two parts: a practicum precedes an internship within the last two semesters. Most programs require degree candidates to spend around 2,000-3,000 hours in clinical practice. Psy.D. degrees more heavily emphasize practical skills to prepare learners for lucrative and high-responsibility careers in clinical settings.

Psy.D. Curriculum

The curriculum for a Psy.D. program covers the essential skills that clinical psychologists need to assess, diagnose, and treat mental health problems and illnesses in both one-on-one and group settings. They study the fundamentals of human development and neuropsychological assessment practice to inform career-specific skills, such as group work intervention and family therapy.

  • Lifespan Development: To understand the scientific foundations of psychology, learners take coursework in the different cognitive, behavioral, and emotional stages of development in human life.
  • Professional Issues: Degree candidates take coursework on the legal, ethical, and professional issues entailed within contemporary psychology and how they influence practice in the context of multidisciplinary managed care.
  • Group Interventions: Students get an overview of intervention techniques for group therapy work that encompass psychotherapy, relaxation techniques, and education, often in the context of substance abuse issues and mood disorders.
  • Family Therapy: This course explores the theoretical underpinnings of assessment strategies and intervention techniques for family and couples therapy, often also addressing multicultural influences on practice.
  • Neuropsychological Assessment: Learners survey the anatomical, empirical, and clinical fundamentals of neuropsychological assessment, including techniques for interpreting and documenting assessments. The course often incorporates a practice lab component.

What Are the Admissions Requirements for a Psy.D.?

  • Palo Alto University

    • Minimum Education Level: Bachelor's
    • Minimum Undergraduate GPA: 3.3
    • Required Standardized Tests GRE
  • Indiana State University

    • Minimum Education Level: Bachelor's
    • Minimum Undergraduate GPA: 3.0
    • Required Standardized Tests GRE

What Kinds of Psychology Careers Can I Pursue With a Psy.D.?

Graduates who hold a Psy.D. may work in a variety of lucrative clinical careers relating to psychology, sociology, and education. Psychologists typically make around $79,010 annually. Marriage and family therapist or school and career counselor careers offer comfortable salary expectations at $50,090 and $56,310, respectively.

Psy.D. Careers and Average Pay

Check out Some of the Top Ph.D. in Psychology Programs

If it seems likely that a doctoral psychology program with a more intensive research component would better suit your interests as a learner, you should give strong consideration to pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology rather than a Psy.D.Follow this link for a primer on criteria to consider for choosing the right Ph.D. in psychology program.

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