PsyD Frequently Asked Questions

There are two main educational paths for people who become psychologists — a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). While two separate people earning one of the two degrees each may end up both working as clinical psychologists or elsewhere within the study and practice of human behavior, the two programs have some very important distinctions, and there’s no doubt a PsyD is not for everybody.

What should potential students know about the PsyD and how it compares and contrasts with the Ph.D., what’s required for admission to a PsyD program, and how long do most programs take? We’ll answer those questions and more below.

In This Section

How much do you make with a PsyD?

A common career path for those with a PsyD is becoming a licensed psychologist, and the median annual wage in the U.S. for psychologists is $79,010. Industrial-organizational psychologists, another possible career path after a PsyD, earn a median annual amount of $97,260, while clinical, school and counseling psychologists earn $76,990 per year.

How long does it take to get a PsyD after a Masters?

At least 4 years. Students with master’s degrees are able to complete the typical PsyD program in as little as 4 years, though it’s common for a PsyD to take up to 6 years. The time to complete a PsyD varies based on the program and what real-world experience is required, as well as the student’s desired focus area and whether they are able to attend full time. A PsyD generally can be completed more quickly than a Ph.D. See also how long it takes to become a Psychologist.

Is a PsyD as good as a Ph.D.?

In many cases, yes, especially for those who wish to immediately begin a career as a licensed clinical psychologist. The chief difference between a PsyD and a Ph.D. is the program approach, with Ph.D. programs being more focused on academics and PsyD programs putting their focus on hands-on experience. Individuals who intend to teach at the postsecondary level or conduct clinical research would find a Ph.D. to be the preferred degree in most cases, though.

Is a PsyD a doctor?

Any person who has a doctoral-level degree could well refer to themselves as “Dr.” — and ask others to do the same. This goes for those who have earned a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree as well. It’s important to note, however, that this title does not mean a PsyD holder is a medical doctor, as the training and education required to earn a PsyD is not the same as medical school, and most states do not permit psychologists to do things like write prescriptions.

Can you get a PsyD without a Masters?

It’s often recommended by PsyD programs that students complete master’s level work before beginning any doctoral program, including the PsyD, or Doctor of Psychology. However, many programs across the U.S. offer joint degree programs in which students will spend the first couple of years of their PsyD program earning their master’s degree, and many other schools don’t explicitly require applicants to have a master’s degree.

Can you teach with a PsyD?

Yes, but it’s unlikely that a PsyD alone will be a strong enough qualification to earn a full-time, tenure-track teaching position at a college or university. The Doctor of Psychology degree was designed specifically for individuals whose career goal is the practice of clinical psychology, and it was meant as an alternative to the heavy academic focus of traditional Ph.D. programs.

Do PsyD programs require a master’s?

In some cases, yes, but many schools offer joint degree programs in which students spend the first portion of their time completing masters-level work so that they essentially finish two degrees in one. And not all PsyD schools require a master’s degree, though it’s generally considered a boost for applications.

What jobs can I get with a PsyD?

Most individuals with a PsyD degree will work in clinical psychology, which could include working in schools, healthcare settings or in private practice. Another popular job for PsyD holders is as an industrial-organizational psychologist, which is usually a less hands-on role but may be more lucrative than others. Other potential job titles include counselor, therapist, teacher, and many others.

What jobs can you get with a PsyD in clinical psychology?

A PsyD in clinical psychology is a doctoral program that focuses on the hands-on practice and theory of psychology and human behavior. As such, the most common Psychology jobs for people with that degree will involve working directly with clients or patients in helping them understand why they do the things they do and potentially assisting them in altering their behavior. Specific job titles include clinical psychologist, therapist, counselor, and many others.

Is a PsyD a psychologist?

In most states, a person cannot legally call themselves a psychologist without first becoming licensed in the state. This means that in addition to completing the PsyD, the person must have at least 1 year of supervised professional experience in addition to passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Before they’ve done that, a person with a PsyD is simply someone who has finished a rigorous academic track.

Can I get a PsyD without a Masters?

Yes, but students who pursue a PsyD track before completing their master’s degree may limit the number of schools they can apply to; that’s because some schools do require a master’s, and most of them consider master’s degrees beneficial in the application process. Also, many schools today offer joint MS/PsyD degrees, so it may be possible to complete graduate work while you do your doctorate.

Can a PsyD diagnose?

One of the most important functions served by psychologists who have earned a PsyD before beginning their practice and becoming licensed is to study human behavior and diagnose disorders and other issues, so being able to identify and isolate emotional and mental disorders is crucial for most PsyD’s. But while they can and should diagnose mental and behavioral problems, most PsyDs cannot prescribe medications.

Can PsyD write prescriptions?

In most states, no, though five states — Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, New Mexico, and Louisiana — do permit some licensed clinical psychologists to prescribe medication. All of those states require applicants not only to have a PsyD but to complete a post-doctoral Master of Science in Clinical Psychopharmacology in order to achieve prescriptive authority. In all other states, PsyDs are not permitted to write prescriptions, though efforts have been made in other states to expand prescriptive authority to psychologists.

Which is better PsyD or Ph.D.?

The answer to this question depends on the career goals of the person asking. If a prospective psychology student is certain that their career path will mostly involve working directly with clients or patients, diagnosing their emotional and behavioral problems and devising plans to improve their lives, then a PsyD degree is probably better. If the person has any desire to conduct clinical research or teach at the postsecondary level, then a Ph.D. may be the better option. See Ph.D. vs PsyD in more detail.

Is someone with a PsyD a doctor?

Yes, as a doctorate-holder, a person who has earned a PsyD could definitely refer to themselves as “Dr.,” though it’s good to note that PsyDs are not medical doctors and in most states cannot prescribe medication or conduct medical treatments. But like their PhD-holding counterparts, PsyD-earners have completed doctoral education and therefore are technically doctors.

Can you get a PsyD online?

Yes, increasingly schools are offering fully online or hybrid Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) programs that still meet the intended purpose of a PsyD program, which is to provide students with hands-on experience in the practice of psychology. Each school handles things a bit differently, but because a PsyD is designed specifically to focus more on clinical work than academics, the idea of an online PsyD is actually quite logical, since the degree is one in which classroom work, while important, is not necessarily the only focus. See 5+ Best Online Psyd Programs.


Ann Steele, Ph.D.

Ann Steele, Ph.D.


Ann Steele, Ph.D., is Editor-In-Chief of Ann has training as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who has worked with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens throughout San Diego county.