How Long Does It Take to Get a PsyD After a Master’s Degree?

The time commitment and financial investment required to earn a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree is extensive. Most programs will take at least four years (usually between five and seven years), and a typical Psy.D. graduate who finishes with student debt will have six figures in loans to repay.

That’s why many psychology students may choose to complete a master’s degree before heading into a Psy.D. program. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons to this path, including how much time students can expect to cut off their academic journey by getting a Psy.D. after their master’s.

Completion Time for PsyD

Generally, a Psy.D. program will take between five and seven years to complete, and most programs can’t be completed in less than four years, including internship time. Some Psy.D. programs actually include a master’s degree as part of the Psy.D. degree track with students completing the master’s during their second year in the Psy.D. program.

Depending on where they earned their master’s and if course credits will transfer over, it may be possible for Psy.D. students to shorten the length of time they spend in the doctoral program, though students will need to be sure they will be able to do this before they begin the master’s program.

SEE ALSO: Psychology Ph.D. or PsyD without a Masters Degree

Not all Psy.D.-granting institutions will consider courses completed in a master’s as counting toward a Psy.D., so depending on where they got their master’s and where they plan to get their Psy.D., it’s possible the master’s degree won’t save any time at all.

In cases where students are able to earn credits toward their Psy.D. via their master’s transcript, it’s reasonable to expect that only a few courses will transfer over. So those who expect to shave years off their time to complete a Psy.D. will likely be disappointed.

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PsyD Without Master’s?

Depending on your undergraduate experience, it may be necessary to earn a master’s degree in psychology before pursuing a Psy.D. But a growing number of Psy.D. programs are designed to be completed by those who have only a bachelor’s degree.

As referenced, some Psy.D. programs are designed such that students will complete a master’s degree en route to the doctorate. Other students may choose to complete a master’s degree if, for example, their undergrad degree is an area other than psychology or if they want to refocus their psychology education to a specific population group or specialty. And, of course, some Psy.D. programs require applicants to have completed a master’s degree before they apply.

Practical Experience

While it’s possible to offset some of the time needed to complete a Psy.D. by getting a master’s degree, there’s no substitute for hands-on experience, and this is the hallmark of the Psy.D. program.

In every state, those who apply for professional psychologist licensure must complete thousands of hours of supervised professional experience. This ranges from about 1,500 to as much as 4,000 hours depending on the state, and most Psy.D. programs include internship and practicum experiences either from the start or as the culmination of the degree.


Some Psy.D. programs, though not all of them, also require students to research, write and defend a dissertation. This process usually begins from Day One of the Psy.D. program with students selecting a topic and receiving guidance while they work on it throughout their entire Psy.D. track.

Like an internship, this is a lengthy and intense process that by design takes a great deal of time given how important it is to illustrating a student’s command of the subject matter. In other words, there’s simply no substitute for putting in the work.

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Earning a master’s degree on the way to a Psy.D. is a perfectly sensible educational path to take, and in some cases, students may be able to save a small amount of time by going this route. But the intensive coursework, dissertation and internship experiences that are critical to earning a Psy.D. will still take several years, so for those who are serious about earning a Psy.D., it’s best to set aside at least seven years from start to finish.