PsyD vs PhD Psychology Requirements

Are you thinking about a doctoral degree in psychology? Then you probably know there are two degrees to consider: the Ph.D. in Psychology and a Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology).

From exciting careers in psychological research and academia to clinical practice and patient care, earning a Ph.D. in Psychology or a Psy.D. will help you to develop a meaningful and rewarding career in providing positive changes in the lives of others.

Once you have decided to obtain a doctoral degree in psychology, you need to determine which advance degree is the best match for your personal and professional goals.

Ph.D. in Psychology Overview

The Ph.D. in Psychology degree has been around much longer than the Psy.D. degree, so there are more online and campus-based programs available across the country. This degree has more of a focus on research so it is a good fit for students that are not just interested in clinical practice but also on research and academia.

This program provides excellent training for people who want to practice psychology clinically, but also for those who want to conduct long term research on psychological problems and subjects. Most Ph.D. programs require the student to complete a dissertation.

Other aspects of the Ph.D. program to consider:

  • The ideal program for people who want to focus on clinical practice, academia and research
  • Especially focused on research, much more so than the Psy.D. degree
  • Prepares post-graduate students to practice in many clinical settings and patient populations.
  • Career options include teaching, patient care, forensic psychology, scientific researcher
  • Longer program time than Psy.D. – from four to seven years
  • Tougher admission criteria and heavy competition for limited seats
  • GRE scores often required
  • More programs offered than Psy.D, which is a newer degree

Psy.D. Overview

The Psy.D. was developed in the late 1960s as an alternative to the Ph.D. in Psychology. The Psy.D. is often the choice for professionals who want to focus only on the practice of psychology without dedicating professional time to academia or research. (

Like the Ph.D., the Psy.D. will prepare you to practice psychology in many clinical settings. A Psy.D., however, is much more focused on clinical practice. So, this advanced degree requires the student to take fewer statistics and research courses and takes fewer years to complete.

Other aspects of this advanced degree to consider:

  • Ideal degree for students wanting the hands-on practice of psychology without dedicating time to research and academia
  • Strong focus on clinical study
  • Prepares students to work in many clinical settings
  • Most graduates work in clinical psychology and work with patients directly
  • Generally easier admission criteria than Ph.D.
  • Requires less time to complete than Ph.D.
  • GRE scores often not required
  • Requires no research and statistics courses in most cases
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Psy.D. Requirements and Prerequisites for Admission

The Ph.D. in Psychology and the Psy.D. have somewhat different requirements and prerequisites for admission generally. There will be some cross over here as the content of the degrees can differ widely at different universities. Note: Some Psy.D. programs may require GRE or GMAT scores and some may not. Generally, Psy.D. programs are less likely to required standardized test scores than Ph.D. programs.

To get an idea of requirements and prerequisites for both degrees, we will review the guidelines for different universities.

At Capella University, the following are the requirements for the Psy.D. degree: (

The goal statement and writing sample must describe the student’s interest in becoming a psychologist, including goals, objectives, and plans as they relate to getting a Psy.D. degree.

Regarding prerequisites, different Psy.D. programs have different requirements. At Loyola University Maryland, Psy.D. applicants must have taken the following courses: (

  • General psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Psychopathology
  • Statistics and/or research methods
  • Learning/cognitive theory

Other Psy.D. programs may require different courses in psychology:

  • Abnormal psychology
  • Personality psychology
  • Physiological psychology
  • Developmental or learning psychology

Ph.D. in Psychology Requirements and Prerequisites for Admission

So what are the requirements for a Ph.D. in psychology? Generally, you will find that being admitted to a Ph.D. in Psychology program is more rigorous and difficult than a Psy.D. program. For example, at Clark University in 2018, there were 162 applicants and only eight accepted. ( The Ph.D. has been around for many decades, and competition for limited openings in good Ph.D. programs is strong. Many Ph.D. programs require GRE scores, but not all.

Below are some general tips for increasing your odds of being accepted in a Ph.D. program.

  • Your chances of acceptance increase if you have taken part in substantial psychological research. Clinical trials and data analysis are essential parts of a career in psychology.
  • Completing relevant practicums and internships show your commitment to independent research will enhance your resume and bolster your Ph.D. application.
  • Cultivate professional relationships with a community of psychology-focused peers. You can do this by joining an alumni association, and professional psychology-related associations.

At Adelphi University, below are the requirements for consideration for the Ph.D. in Psychology program: (

  • Completion of undergraduate or graduate courses in general psychology, experimental psychology, statistics, research, developmental psychology and abnormal psychology.
  • GRE scores are required.
  • You must have a group and an individual interview.
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose essay about your interest in psychological research

At Drexel University, an essay is required that describes the specific research area and questions you want to focus on in post-graduate study. Why are these research questions important to you? Does this line of research fit with the faculty members at Drexel University. (

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Both the Ph.D. in Psychology and the Psy.D. degree are degrees worthy of consideration if you want a long career in psychology or related fields. The Ph.D. is more research and academia-focused, and generally has more rigorous admission requirements, and takes four to seven years to complete. GRE scores are often required and admission is highly competitive.

SEE ALSO: Psychology PhD vs PsyD

The Psy.D. degree is a newer degree focused solely on clinical practice and has little or no research component. The program is usually four years long and admission is often not as difficult as the Ph.D. degree. Admission criteria is often easier.

Now that you understand more about these desirable postgraduate degrees, you can make a more informed decision about your educational path in psychology.