Is it Worth It to Get a PsyD in Psychology?

You have two doctoral options in psychology; the PsyD or Ph.D. The PsyD is a newer degree program that started in the 1970s that prioritizes clinical therapy. The Ph.D. is a  more traditional doctoral degree that focuses more on teaching skills and research at the university level.

Until around 1970, the Ph.D. was the most common choice for clinical psychologists. But today, there are approximately 100 PsyD programs accredited by the American Psychological Association in the US. A PsyD degree fulfills the requirements to become a licensed clinical psychologist in all 50 states.

If you have not made up your mind on which doctoral degree to pursue, below are some expert reasons that getting a PsyD in psychology is worth it:

#1 More Focus on Clinical Practice

The PsyD places more focus on clinical practice compared to most Ph.D. programs. PsyD students use theoretical frameworks in their daily psychotherapy sessions.

On the other hand, the Ph.D. stresses research methods that are used to come up with cognition and behavior theories.


There may be some overlay in the course structure, but the PsyD and Ph.D. programs have different foci. Being able to produce psychological research is not a common goal in PsyD programs.

Classes usually stress clinical skills development to provide students with the expertise they need to be good clinical or counseling psychologists.

#2 More Clinical Exposure in Years 1 and 2

The PsyD degree focuses more on practice than research, so your curriculum in the field starts sooner. You may begin your clinical experience in a PsyD program as soon as your first semester. Ph.D. students typically spend their first year studying their core research courses.

This is why a PsyD program is usually better at giving the student more clinical practice-based knowledge. These students also receive more clinical therapeutic exposure before they graduate. Most PsyD programs have 800 to 1,000 hours of fieldwork before graduation. Also, students must complete a one year, full-time internship in the last year of their doctoral program.

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#3 Shorter Programs

The Ph.D. follows a scientist-practitioner model, so students perform hands-on research with humans. The PsyD has a scholar-practitioner model with a clinical orientation that emphasizes clinical experience over research or laboratory work.

Therefore, PsyD programs have shorter completion times than Ph.D. programs. Most PsyD programs can be completed in as few as four years, while a Ph.D. program takes up to six years. If your goal is to enter clinical practice, you will get there faster with a PsyD.

SEE ALSO: List of Best 3 Year PsyD Programs to Consider

Some universities offer a five-year combined Master of Science in Psychology/PsyD program, too.

Shorter completion time in a PsyD program also means lower tuition payments.

#4 More PsyD Programs Available

The PsyD has enjoyed a resurgence in the last 20 years, and there are many online and on-campus programs available across the country. If you earn your Psy.D. online, you can complete your coursework remotely and participate in your clinical work and internship in your local area.

SEE ALSO: Best APA Accredited PsyD Programs

If there ever was any stigma surrounding the PsyD, most of this is gone because employers understand that one degree is not better than the other. Most doctoral-level psychology employers accept professionals with either degree.

The difference between the PsyD and Ph.D. has much more to do with your personal goals than degree quality.

#5 Dissertation May Be Optional

All Ph.D. in psychology programs require a dissertation. This massive academic document is usually 200 or more pages long and requires more than a year of research and writing. While the thesis is an essential part of the Ph.D. process, many PsyD programs do not need it; after all, the focus of the degree is clinical practice, not research.

SEE ALSO: 9 Tips for Your PsyD Dissertation

Some PsyD programs do require a writing project, but it may be about what they learned from their clinical rotations. A capstone project may include psychological case studies, focus groups, clinical trials, or consulting work.

#5 Similar Salaries and Job Demand

The PsyD degree has become more accepted by employers over the decades. Today, many employers view them as equal degrees if you intend to secure a job as a clinical or counseling psychologist.

SEE ALSO: Clinical Psychologist Salary Outlook

Their equivalence today means that the median salary for both doctoral degrees is often the same. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median wage for psychologists was $80,370 in 2019, and the top 10% with doctoral degrees and the most experience made more than $132,000.

Job demand for psychologists with either doctoral degree is healthy, too. BLS reports job demand for clinical and counseling psychologists will rise by 14% by 2028.

#6 More Clinical Psychology Concentrations

As of 2020, the APA recognizes 17 specialties for clinical psychology practice. A PsyD provides the student with more chances to focus on one of these concentrations.

The curricula for most PsyD programs tailor the classes to fit these specialties. For instance, a PsyD focused on forensic psychology trains students to perform mental health screenings in prisons. Specialization in industrial and organizational psychology prepares the student for improving company work climates and ensuring the best workers are hired for the right jobs.

#7 Dual Degree Program Options

Most Ph.D. programs do not allow you to add another degree. But a PsyD major can sometimes combine their degree with a J.D., for example, so they can work in forensic psychology as a licensed attorney.

Also, there are PsyD/MBA programs that are perfect for executive leadership roles in clinical practices.

Ask The Experts

We asked the experts at about worth it is in getting a PsyD program without a psychology background. Here is what we learned:

  • “You have a greater likelihood of being admitted to a PsyD program than to a Ph.D. program. However, you will probably have less of a chance of being admitted than a student who is a psychology major. You can improve your chances by making sure you take courses that correspond to the topics tested on the Psychology GRE and do well on it. Getting some clinical experience where you can demonstrate some leadership abilities will help.” – Linda Buyer, Ph.D., Cognitive Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago.

We also asked if it is better to choose a PsyD or Ph.D.:

  • “Earning a Ph.D. matters if you are interested in research and teaching. But if you want a clinical career, the PsyD is a good choice. A PsyD. does not require empirical research, and the Ph.D. does in the doctoral dissertation.” – Bruce Kugler, Ph.D., retired psychologist.
  • “PsyD is a practitioner’s credential like the M.D. Ph.D. is the academic credential, aimed at research and teaching. PsyD study focuses heavily on therapeutic practice rather than some other areas of psych such as cognition, neuropsychology, social psychology, etc.” – Margaret MaDonald, trained as a clinical psychologist at the doctoral level.
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The PsyD and Ph.D. are worthwhile degrees that require intense commitment in grad school. The PsyD can often be completed in only four years and provides you with the skills and experience to work as a clinical psychologist. It is a substantial investment in your education and career if your passion is to become a licensed, practicing psychologist.