PsyD vs PhD – Differences Explained

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Synopsis

When it comes to pursuing doctoral degree programs in psychology, two of the most common degrees that students consider are the PsyD and PhD.

PsyD is the Doctor of Psychology degree, while PhD stands for Doctor of Philosophy. The primary distinctions between the two are that PsyD emphasizes on application of knowledge and aims to educate students in clinical psychology, whereas a PhD in psychology focuses on research and the accumulation of new knowledge, which frequently leads to a career as a researcher or academic rather than clinical work.

Introduction

Many psychology graduates seek to improve their professional prospects by pursuing postgraduate education. Aspiring psychologists are particularly interested in obtaining a doctoral degree. The PsyD and the PhD are the two most common paths for these psychological students to follow.

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Meaning of PsyD & PhD

Let’s look at the meaning of PsyD and PhD in depth.

What is a PsyD?

The PsyD, or Doctor of Psychology, is a professional doctorate. The degree is designed to prepare students for careers in clinical psychology, counselling, and other applied psychological fields.

According to American Psychological Association,

“The focus of PsyD programs is to train students to engage in careers that apply scientific knowledge of psychology and deliver empirically-based service to individuals, groups and organizations”.

What is a PhD?

A PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, is an academic doctorate. The degree is designed to prepare students for careers in research and academia.

According to American Psychological Association,

“PhD degrees are intended for students interested in generating new knowledge through scientific research (i.e., setting up experiments, collecting data, applying statistical and analytical techniques) and/or gaining teaching experience”.

What is the Difference Between PsyD and PhD?

Now that we have looked at the definitions of PsyD and PhD, it’s time to compare the two degrees side by side.

PsyD

PhD

Clinical focusAcademic focus
Prepares students for careers in applied psychologyPrepares students for careers in research and academia
Coursework + practicum + internship Coursework + practicum + internship 
4-6 years to complete8 years to complete
APA-accredited No specific accreditation
Pass written and oral examsPass comprehensive exams + thesis defence
100+ doctoral programs in the US Over 200 PhD programs in the US

Is it Okay to Call a PsyD a Doctor?

A person who has received any of the degrees (PsyD or PhD)  may use “Doctor” before their name (e-g., Dr Surname). However, this does not make him or her equivalent to someone specializing solely as a medical practitioner unless he holds another qualification such as MD in the United States and MBBS in the UK.

Although both doctorates are valuable, PsyDs are less well-known abroad and more frequent in the United States.

PsyD vs PhD: Which one is better?

Neither PsyD nor PhD degrees are better than the other – they both represent highly respected levels of academic achievement in the field of psychology. However, one degree may be more suitable for you depending on your career goals and interests.

The PsyD degree focuses on clinical practice, while the PhD degree focuses on research and teaching. If you’re interested in working as a clinician or therapist, then the PsyD would be a better fit for you. If you’re interested in conducting research or teaching at the university level, then the PhD would be a better fit for you.

This does not indicate that those with a PsyD degree cannot work in research or academia, nor does it imply that people with a PhD can’t practice clinical psychology.

How long does it take to complete PsyD?

“How many years does a PsyD last?” we’re frequently asked. The length of a PsyD varies by institution, but it is typically 4 to 6 years long. This generally entails a year-long clinical internship at the conclusion of the program.

Whereas, a PhD generally takes around 8 years to finish.

The two degrees also differ in terms of cost. A PsyD is typically less expensive than a PhD because it requires fewer credits and a shorter time commitment. Funding for PhD is also more readily available,  as many institutions prioritize funding for research-oriented programs.

Is there a dissertation required for a PsyD degree?

Most PsyD programs do not require the submission of dissertations or theses. Instead, they have internship requirements which include carrying out clinical work at the end of your doctorate degree program in order to gain professional experience and evaluate skills for possible employment as a psychologist with these qualifications.

On the other hand, a PhD in psychology requires the submission of a research-based dissertation.

What Kinds of Jobs Can a PsyD Prepare You For?

A PsyD can prepare you for a career as a clinical psychologist, counsellor, or other applied psychological field.

Some examples of positions that may be available to those with a PsyD degree include:

  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Counsellor
  • Psychotherapy Researcher
  • Psychological Consultant
  • Community Mental Health Worker
  • School Psychologist
  • Industrial/Organizational Psychologist

What Kinds of Jobs Can a PhD Prepare You For?

A PhD can prepare you for a career in academia or research. Some examples of positions that may be available to those with a PhD degree include

  • University Professor
  • Psychology Researcher
  • Psychology Consultant
  • Government Psychologist

There are many different careers that can be achieved with a doctorate in psychology. Some examples include forensics, health care and counselling fields all of which have their own unique research areas to specialize in like social sciences or applied study of cognitive behaviour therapy.

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