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.

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PsyD vs Ph.D

PsyD focuses on clinical training and once you finish it, you become a doctor of psychology. On the other hand, a PhD student must prepare a master thesis and a doctoral dissertation, it focuses primarily on research. (See more PsyD vs PhD degreeBurcu ArslanB.A. Psychology, Bogazici University (2017)

Steps to take to get my PsyD

As a terminal degree in psychology, the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D) is a doctoral degree that can provide a crucial stepping stone for a long and happy career in the analysis of human behavior. Though a Psy.D is a bit newer than the more traditional, academic-minded Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD), it’s quickly become a very popular degree option for psychology professionals and learners. Learn More.

What can I do with my PsyD?

As a terminal degree, meaning the highest possible academic achievement in the field, a PsyD is a doctoral degree that can provide the foundation of many successful and challenging career paths, including becoming a licensed clinical psychologist, working in academia or even helping hold criminals accountable for their actions. Learn More.

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. Learn more.

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. Learn More.

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.

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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, most careers in Psychology 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. Learn More.

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.

How many years is a PsyD Program?

A PsyD program typically takes at least four years to finish but can take as long as six years. It depends on whether the student is enrolled full-time or part-time. Also, if you come into the PsyD program with most prerequisites completed, the program can take closer to four years. Students who have to pay for their program out of pocket may need to take breaks to save money, so they could take longer to complete their PsyD.

Are PsyD programs hard to get into?

Getting into a PsyD program is typically easier to get into than a Ph.D. program. Ph.D. programs in psychology tend to be highly selective, taking 10 or fewer students per year. Ph.D. programs across the country have a 13% acceptance rate. On the other hand, PsyD programs usually accommodate more students, as many as 100 per class per year. With more spots available, the average acceptance rate is approximately 40%.

Do you have to get a master’s before a PsyD?

Most students entering a PsyD program have a master’s degree in psychology or a related field. However, there are some PsyD programs that allow students to enter with a bachelor’s degree. Your education will include working on your master’s in psychology and then your Psy.D. This is known as a joint or dual degree program and can reduce the time you spend in school to earn the two degrees.

Can I get a PsyD with a masters in counseling?

The type of master’s degree that is required to be accepted into a PsyD program will depend on the individual university program. However, many PsyD programs will accept students into their programs with a master’s degree in counseling or clinical psychology. Check with the specific program you are interested in to determine which master’s degrees they will accept for entry into the program.

Can you become a Psychologist with a PsyD?

Yes, in fact, this is the best educational step you can take in your journey to becoming a psychologist. In every state, professional licensure is required to practice as a psychologist, and completing a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) fulfills the educational requirements set forth by the states. But it’s important to note that most states prefer applicants to complete their doctoral training in programs accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), while a couple of them will only grant licenses to those who have APA-accredited degrees. States also will grant licensure to those who have completed Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) degrees in psychology, but state requirements for supervised professional experience mean that Psy.D. degrees are typically a better investment for those who want to practice psychology professionally, as most Psy.D. programs are designed to provide exactly that type of hands-on experience.

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Is it worth it to get a PsyD?

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. Learn more.