Can I Get a PsyD After a Bachelor’s Degree?

The Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree is often the most pivotal educational step toward a career in psychology. In every state in the United States, getting such a doctorate is a crucial step in the process of earning state licensure, and completing this type of degree opens up a range of psychology career opportunities.

Many people may be interested in heading straight from college into a Psy.D. program, and the good news is that this is possible in many cases, but students will need to understand all the considerations before making that decision.

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) Degrees

A close cousin to the more traditional Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), the Psy.D. degree was developed in the 1960s. It was designed to provide hands-on training that professional psychologists need to help patients and clients; this type of training was generally not present in Ph.D. programs.

So the Psy.D. is seen as the ideal degree for those who need a doctorate but who don’t have much interest in advancing the study of psychology. Rather, their goal is to simply get the education and training necessary to begin clinical practice in their specialty.

Most Psy.D. programs, including some online versions, include thousands of hours of internship and practicum experience, and these factors distinguish Psy.D. tracks from most Ph.D. programs that focus more on academics and research.

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Getting Into Psy.D. Programs

Many students who have completed their bachelor’s degrees will be attractive admissions candidates for Psy.D. programs, while some others may not.

The admissions officers responsible for making decisions on who gets into Psy.D. programs will take a close look at the previous educational accomplishments of all those who apply. But not every school has the same prerequisites for consideration, and even those that may prefer students to have certain qualifications may be flexible for applicants who check all other boxes.

Many Psy.D. programs across the country do not require applicants to complete a master’s degree before applying, assuming their bachelor’s degree was in psychology or a closely related field.

Others actually include a master’s degree on the way to a Psy.D. For example, Loyola University (Maryland) has a joint M.S./Psy.D. in which students will complete the requirements to earn a master’s degree a couple of years into the Psy.D. track. Some others, such as the Michigan School of Psychology, require all applicants to complete a master’s degree before seeking entry.

Students whose bachelor’s degrees were completed in fields other than psychology may be required to earn a master’s degree in psychology or take remedial coursework before they’ll be considered for admissions.

But every school is different, so students would be well-advised to consult the admissions requirements at all schools they’re considering before they commit to a path.

Possible Undergraduate Majors

A bachelor’s degree in psychology is certainly the easiest and quickest way to earn admissions to a Psy.D. program, but there are other fields that may apply, depending on the school and other aspects of the applicant’s academic and work history.

Here’s a look at some other undergraduate majors that could apply:

  • Biology: All Psy.D. programs include some training in how biology influences human behavior, so a bachelor’s degree in this area would likely cover some of the foundational knowledge required.
  • Social work: Bachelor’s degrees in this area focus heavily on human services and counseling, both of which apply for psychology doctoral training.
  • Sociology/anthropology: The study of patterns of human behavior throughout history provide a window into understanding why people do the things they do.
  • Neuroscience: Similarly to biology, studying the impact of the brain’s functions (or malfunctions) on human behavior is itself a specialty area within psychology.

Remember that an undergraduate transcript isn’t the only aspect of an application that will be reviewed, so if your transcript doesn’t show the ideal bachelor’s degree, that’s not necessarily a knock against you.

In some cases, students can gain admissions to Psy.D. programs without majoring in these areas or even in psychology, provided their transcripts show that they excelled in many of these areas.

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Psy.D. programs are among the most rapidly growing in the country, and for good reason. This unique doctoral program combines rigorous coursework with the hands-on experience necessary to gain professional licensure. Those with a passion for helping others can gain the experience and expertise they need in a handful of years and quickly get on the path to a rewarding career.