What is Difference PhD vs PsyD of Psychology?

The Psy.D – Doctor of Psychology – . and Ph.D. – Doctor of Philosophy – degrees in psychology, while similar, have some important differences. As you are considering a doctoral degree in psychology, it is important for you to understand which degree is the best choice for you.

The major differences between the degrees are as follows:

Research Versus Practice

The Psy.D degree first came to being in the 1970s. The purpose of the new degree was to provide better training for applied clinical therapy work. The idea behind the new degree was that the Ph.D. is focused mostly on research, but many students earn their doctorate to practice psychology, not conduct research. The Psy.D degree is designed to ready graduates for careers as clinical psychologists.

The Psy.D. degree soared in popularity by 170% from 1988-2001. The number of Ph.Ds awarded in the field remained flat.

A Psy.D. provides much training in advanced training techniques and many types of supervised experiences. But there is not as much stress on research. If you graduate with your Psy.D, you should excel in knowledge and experience related to practicing psychology. You also will have great familiarity with various research methodologies, learning about new research findings, and be able to apply new research discoveries to your clinical work.

A Ph.D. program in psychology is set up to produce psychologists who can both understand/apply research and also do it. Ph.D. holders are highly trained to create new knowledge based upon unique research. These programs stress strong research and practice, and some programs also stress creating new scientists in the field.

In a Ph.D. program, students will spend a great deal of time doing research and a great deal less on clinical practice.

Generally, if you wish to focus mostly on research or teaching, consider a Ph.D. in psychology. The research training you receive will make your career options more flexible. But if you want to primarily practice psychology, the Psy.D. degree may be a better fit.

Time to Earn Degree

Usually a Psy.D. degree will take less time to complete than a Ph.D. A Psy.D degree will mandate a certain amount of practice and coursework, and also a dissertation. This will require you to apply research to a certain psychological issue or to perform analysis of research literature on that subject. This degree can usually be finished in about three years.

The Ph.D. will require a certain amount of years of classes and practice. However, the dissertation is usually more involved. You will need to devise and defend a full research study that makes a new contribution to literature in the field. This means getting your Ph.D. can take an additional 1-2 years.

Funding and Other Factors

A Ph.D. program is usually harder to get into, with an acceptance rate of about 15%. There also are better options for funding, including fellowships and assistantships for Ph.D. candidates.

Psy.D. programs have an acceptance rate of about 40%, but on the down side, students usually receive little in terms of fellowship or assistantships.


Which degree to choose depends upon your career focus. If you are interested in research and teaching, a Ph.D. is probably the best fit. If you want to work as a clinician, the Psy.D. is probably the best option.