How to Earn a Doctorate of Psychology Degree

A Doctorate of Psychology is a graduate degree based on the practitioner-scholar model. The practitioner-scholar model is focused on training graduate students with clinical practice in mind. By using research and clinical hours, the Doctorate of Psychology program aims to prepare top students for primarily clinical work. Students who complete this program are not unable to work in research or academia, it is simply more common that they pursue a career in clinical psychology.

Why It’s Hot

Students with a doctorate of psychology are qualified to pursue licensure to become a clinical psychologist. The salary outlook for clinical psychologists is a positive one, expected to increase by 22% by the year 2020. Faster than average job growth is not the only enticing aspect of a career as a clinical psychologist. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for psychologists is $69,280, many students may be attracted to a doctorate of psychology programs due to earning potential.

Advantages of a Psy. D. Doctorate of Psychology

There are many advantages to choosing a Psy.D degree over a Ph.D. depending on your circumstances and career goals. Upon graduation, Doctors of Psychology are prepared to work with patients at a clinical level by obtaining their license as a clinical psychologist. Because of the additional education and clinical hours, the earning potential as a Doctor of Psychology is significantly higher when compared to a Master’s of Psychology.

A Doctor of Psychology program provides students with a comprehensive understanding of psychology and the necessary skills to succeed in multiple fields. There are many subspecialties which fall under the umbrella of a Doctor of Psychology. This allows individuals who have earned a Psy.D. to can choose from the numerous subspecialties based on what interests them. This gives Doctors of Psychology the chance to work with various demographics based on age, gender, race, and sexuality.

Disadvantages to Consider

The factors which make a Psy.D. the perfect fit for some may be disadvantages for others. Due to the clinical focus of a Psy.D., students who would prefer to pursue a career in research or teaching may be better suited for a Ph.D. program.

SEE ALSO: What is Difference PhD vs PsyD of Psychology?

Additionally, it is important to keep in mind the length of time required to complete a Psy.D., as the program can last anywhere from four to six years. One last disadvantage to keep in mind is the geographical restraints that may be placed on an individual because their license is held at a state level.


The first Doctorate of Psychology program was launched in the 1970s after the groundwork had been laid by several members of the American Psychological Association. Their reasons for pursuing an alternative to the Doctor of Philosophy degree were based on the limitations they perceived in the program.

The main complaint made was that students were graduating with too little clinical experience, leaving them feeling ill-prepared to begin practicing on a clinical level. The Doctor of Philosophy degree was a research-heavy degree founded on the scientist-practitioner model. This model is concerned mostly with establishing a strong foundation of research and was believed to be better suited for those pursuing a career in research or teaching. Accredited online PsyD options exist from select Non-Profit and For-Profit schools.

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Completion of a Doctorate of Psychology program can take anywhere from four to six years. The guiding vision of these programs is preparing students for clinical practice so they are prepared to evaluate, diagnose and treat mental illnesses and impairments of cognition and emotion. This is accomplished through an understanding of the scientific method,  the study of behavioral sciences, and clinical hours. Clinical hours are obtained in various environments including hospitals, schools, private practices, and businesses.

Coursework in a Doctorate of Psychology focuses on the application of sound research in areas such as experimental psychology, ethics, development, theories of psychology, and dissertation preparation.


Requirements for licensure may vary from state to state because licenses are obtained at the state level. Typically the requirements for becoming licensed as a clinical psychologist include completion of a graduate program and all required clinical hours. Some states may have additional requirements, but in most cases the required amount of clinical hours is between 1,700 and 2,000 hours. It is also expected that students pass the state and national exams for licensure as a clinical psychologist. Most students are able to complete their clinical hours by the time they graduate.

Career Paths

Individuals who have completed a Doctorate of Psychology Degree have an incredible amount of options available to them when considering a career path. Upon completion of the program, clinical hours, and licensing exams, students may choose to pursue a psychology career in one of the following fields:

  • As a clinical psychologist who practices in hospitals and private practices working with clients and patients to diagnose and treat mental illness.
  • Working with students as school psychologists to research the factors which contribute to successful learning in schools. This research is then applied in hopes of improving educational outcomes.
  • As a consultant within businesses helping managers to improve the workplace. This is accomplished by assisting in writing interview questions so the right candidates can be hired. Additionally, consultants can assist in improving employee performance and satisfaction.
  • Many doctors of psychologists practice as counselors specializing in a wide range of topics including marriage and family counseling, neuropsychological disorders, and addiction.

Podcasts for Doctor of Psychology

  • Speaking of Psychology Podcast: a video podcast produced by the American Psychological Association full of timely and relevant research for psychology students or individuals with an interest in psychology.
  • All in the Mind a podcast exploring the application of psychological concepts to the everyday.
  • Brain Science Podcast: Medical doctor Virginia Campbell produces this podcast full of interviews, news, book reviews, and research on psychology
  • Group Therapy Radio: a cleverly formatted podcast uses a panel to discuss confessions sent in by listeners.
  • The Psych Files: A podcast with a mixed audio and video format covering current topics in psychology.

Suggested Websites

  • American Psychological Association: This membership based organization provides students and psychologists in all fields with resources which encourage the development of new psychological information, continued research, continued education and training, and spreading and applying useful information.
  • Encyclopedia of Psychology: This website, put together by Jacksonville State University, is full of resources relevant to psychology education, career, and research.
  • PsyD provides information to those considering and pursuing a Doctorate in Psychology.
  • Psychology Careers: An exhaustive list of careers options available in the field of psychology.
  • This website is full on information on graduate school options for a Doctorate in Psychology. also provides tips and advice on getting into and succeeding in graduate school.
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Further Reading