Get Your Psy.D. Degree After MSW Social Work

Interested in going from a Masters in Social Work to Ph.D. in psychology? Obtaining a doctoral degree in psychology such as a Psy.D. is a natural option after you already have earned your Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW). With your doctoral degree in psychology, you will learn essential clinical skills so that you can eventually earn licensure as a psychologist. One of the advantages of earning your Psy.D. is psychologist tend to make more than social workers.

Salary Considerations

Current Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that all psychologists earn a salary of approximately $77,000. Those with the highest level of experience may earn a salary up to $124,000 with a doctoral degree. (

SEE ALSO: Salary PsyD Degree

On the other hand, social workers earn only around $48,000, but with an MSW degree, you can earn up to $79,000. ( Because you already earned your master’s degree, you do not have to spend any part of your Psy.D. in psychology earning master’s. Combining these two degree can provide you with an excellent salary and skill set from the perspectives of psychology and social works.

Job Demand Considerations

With a doctoral degree in psychology, you can expect a 14% increase in job demand by 2026. Job growth in psychology should be most pronounced in clinical, counseling and school psychology in the coming years, as more people seek help with their psychological problems. (

In the social work field, you can expect 16% job growth through 2026, much faster an all occupations. Also, employment with health care social workers should rise by 20%, much faster than average. Healthcare social workers are more needed to help older populations and families deal with new treatments, lifestyles and medications. (

Be Ready for Competition

Even if you already have your master’s degree in social work, you will have to go through a similar rigorous process for your Psy.D. program in psychology. But your psychology Psy.D. admission process could even be more intense than what you found for your MSW program. Psychology doctoral programs often are more competitive than the MSW. Many such programs only accept a few candidates every year. Doctoral programs in psychology are some of the most difficult to enter in the country.

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What It Takes

Many graduate clinical Psy.D. in psychology programs can look easier to get into as you have previous MSW graduate experience. But you still have to meet tough requirements for admission. To get admitted into a Ph.D. or Psy.D. program, you may have to take the GRE. Some programs may require a 1200 GRE score, and others could require more than 1500. In terms of past college work, you could need to have a GPA of 3.4 or higher. There are a number of distance learning options that allow applicants to forgo the GRE requirement.

SEE ALSO: Online PsyD Degree Programs without GRE


Earning your doctorate degree in psychology often requires up to six more years of study. Your typical MSW program has various coursework and requirements for internships, so your credits may not be able to transfer. You could need to take all of the courses that the doctoral program requires. It is not even a sure thing that master’s in psychology credit will transfer to a doctoral program.

Different Work Situations

Social workers and psychologists often work in different environments. Both careers may involve working in an office offering counseling and therapy, there can be differences. Psychologists with their Psy.D. may work in a private office setting or a hospital. But a social worker can work in a rehabilitation center, nursing homes schools, mental health facilities, prisons and military bases.

SEE ALSO: Salary Outlook with Ph.D. in Social Work

Social workers tend to work more on a community level. That is, they attempt to connect patients to community resources to deal with their mental health problems, such as resources for jobs, medical care, drug treatment etc. Psychologists tend to focus more on the individual treatment plan for the person. Combining these two degrees could provide patients with an interesting mix of care options that are pulled from different disciplines.

Think It Through Carefully

Think about the professional and personal reasons you want to earn your Psy.D. in addition to your MSW degree. A good reason to earn your Psy.D. is if you want to open a private psychological practice. You will have more options to do so with your doctoral over a mere masters degree. Still, with your masters in social work, you can still work in private practice as a mental health professional, similar to a psychologist. You might even after several years be able to earn more than $100,000 per year with an MSW degree as a clinical social worker.