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Psy.D. vs. Ph.D.

What is the Psy.D.?

The Psy.D. stands for Doctor of Psychology and is similar to the Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) and the Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) in academic standing. The Psy.D. was developed in the late 1960s in reaction to what some psychologists saw as the limitations of the scientist-practitioner model of the Clinical Ph.D. The Psy.D. is designed primarily to train psychologists to be clinicians able to work in a wide range of clinical settings. Generally the emphasis is on clinical work and focuses less heavily on research than Ph.D. programs. The degree is rapidly growing in both numbers and respectability, thus making it an important option to consider.

What are the similarities between a Psy.D. and a Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology?

All Clinical psychology doctoral programs are highly competitive (many are harder to get into than medical school) and the admission process is rigorous. Both Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs require internship placements. All Ph.D. programs and most Psy.D. programs require a doctoral dissertation. Both programs take about 4-7 years of full-time study to complete. All states license Psychologists with a Psy.D. or Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist with Ph.D. or Psy.D. have comparable pay scales. Depending on intended career goals, both Psy.D. and Ph.D. graduates work with individuals, groups, and families, in institutions, hospitals, and schools, and in the corporate, public, educational, and religious sectors as consultants. Graduates can also find work in applied research, academia, administration, and as psychotherapists.

What are the differences between a Psy.D. and a Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology?

First of all, it is important to understand that Psy.D. graduates receive a Doctorate of Psychology upon graduating, while Ph.D. graduates receive a Doctorate of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology. On one hand, Psy.D. programs tend to emphasize the practitioner-scholar model, while on the other hand, Ph.D. programs tend to emphasize the scientist-practitioner model. However, the most important difference between the two degrees is that the Ph.D. program focuses more on research, whereas the Psy.D. focuses more on clinical training. In addition, most Psy.D. graduate students receive more training in psychological testing than do Ph.D. students. A Psy.D. prepares the student to work in a variety of clinical settings, ranging from family therapy to working with severely disturbed patients in mental institutions. A Ph.D. prepares the student to work as a researcher, teacher, and practitioner.

Another important difference is between the kinds of money that a Psy.D. and Ph.D. program can offer. As a Ph.D. graduate student, part of your required coursework includes conducting research, which can be equated to working for the university. As a result, Ph.D. programs tend to be able to distribute a greater amount of financial aid than Psy.D. programs. However, Psy.D. programs do offer opportunities to conduct research; however, these opportunities have fewer connections to faculty grant money and stipends. This being said, many Psy.D. programs find other ways to financially support their students.

Can you teach and/or work in the academic world with a Psy.D.?

Absolutely, however, there is one caveat. Although you WILL have the opportunity to be a professor at a college or university, graduates of Ph.D. programs tend to have an easier time finding and securing jobs in academia. Nonetheless, many Psy.D. degree-holders find jobs in both colleges and universities.

Do Psy.D. students have a more difficult time landing Internship positions than Ph.D. students?

The answer to this question is a resounding NO. Many internship sites are looking for students who are capable of handling a wide range of clinical responsibilities. As part of a Psy.D. program, you will gain extensive knowledge and experience in the areas of clinical assessment and treatment. This is the type of expertise and diversity that many internship sites seek in a candidate.

Where are the Psy.D. programs located?

Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs that are APA-approved are located throughout the country in a variety of academic institutions. A number of APA accredited Psy.D. programs are housed in free standing institutions. APA approval makes licensing easier to attain and helps with job and internship placement following degree completion.

What is APA accreditation?

The APA (American Psychological Association) offers accreditation to those doctoral programs (both Ph.D. and Psy.D.) that are practice-oriented (clinical, counseling, school) provided that they meet and maintain certain APA developed standards. Many internship sites and employers require or prefer that the psychologist they hire come from APA approved programs. When considering which programs to apply to, one should pay special attention to APA accreditation status. Note that just because one program within a department is accredited, it does not necessarily mean that all the programs offered within that department are accredited.

What are the different admission emphases?

Psy.D. Programs Ph.D. Programs
  • Work experience, research experience
  • Clinically related service
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Interview
  • Academic Credentials
  • Research experience, presentations, publications
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Interview
  • Academic Credentials

Where can I get additional information about these degrees?

  • American Psychological Association Annual Report Summary (ARO). Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation Education Directorate, American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/about/research/2011-doctoral-summary.pdf
  • American Psychological Association. (1997). Getting In: A Step by Step by Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology, APA: Washington DC.
  • American Psychological Association. (2002). Graduate Study in Psychology. APA: Washington DC.
  • Dornfeld, M.D., Green-Hennessy, S., Lating, J., and Kirkhart, M. (2012). Student Ratings of Selection Factors for PsyD Programs. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68(3), 279-291. DOI: 10.1002/jclp.20864
  • Mayne, T.J., Norcross, J.C. and Sayette, M.A. (1994). Admission Requirements, Acceptance Rates and Financial Assistance in Clinical Psychology Programs. American Psychologist, 45 (9), 806-811
  • McIlvried, E.J., Wall, J.R., Kohout, J., Keyes, S., and Goreczy, A. (2010). Graduate Training in Clinical Psychology: Student Perspectives on Selecting a Program. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 4(2), 105-115. DOI: 10.1037/a0016156
  • Norcross, J. C., Kohout, J. L., & Wichershi, M. (2006). Graduate admissions in psychology: I. The application process. Eye on Psi Chi, 10, 28–29, 42–43.
  • Norcross, J.C., Castle, P.H., Sayette, M.A.,, and Mayne, T.J. (2004). The PsyD Heterogeneity in Practitioner Training. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 35(4), 412-419. DOI: 10.1037/0735-7028.35.4.412
  • Norcross, J.C., Ellis, J.L., and Sayette, M.A. (2010). Getting In and Getting Money: A Comparative Analysis of Admission Standards, Acceptance Rates, and Financial Assistance Across the Research-Practice Continuum in Clinical Psychology Programs. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 4(2), 99-104. DOI: 10.1037/a0014880
  • Norcross, J.C., Evans, K.L. and Ellis, J.L. (2010). The Model Does Matter II: Admissions and Training in APA-Accredited Counseling Psychology Programs. The Counseling Psychologist, 38(2), 257-268. DOI: 10.1177/0011000009339342

How does the C.W. Post Psy.D. compare to other Psy.D. programs?

For a detailed analysis of Psy.D. programs around the country click here for an excellent article.