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Steps on How to Get a PsyD Degree

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 about the steps required to earn a Psy.D degree.

Excel in Undergrad

It’s generally not necessary for your bachelor’s degree track to end with a degree in psychology, but it will boost your academic resume to have excelled in all your classes, especially any that brush up against psychology, mental health or sociology.

That’s because doctoral programs want to see that not only is studying psychology not a fad for you but that you have been able to stick with a challenging and rigorous course of study regardless of the content of your classwork.

Some undergraduate majors will give you a better foundation for the continued study of psychology than others, though simply having a large concentration of elective courses that are related to the study of human behavior may achieve the same goal.

Possible undergraduate majors and elective focuses include:

  • Psychology
  • Child psychology
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Biology
  • Neuroscience
  • Counseling science
  • Social work

Consider Your Ideal Job

While a Psy.D is a popular degree option for people who want to begin working right away as a clinical psychologist or counseling psychologists, not all those who complete that degree will go on to become therapists, counselors or clinical psychologists.

SEE ALSO: What is a PsyD Degree?

So it can be helpful to think about what types of jobs you’d be best suited for and most challenged by, whether those involve working directly with clients or patients or using your expertise in human behavior in other ways.

Here are some examples of less-than-obvious jobs that may be possible after earning a Psy.D:

  • Clinic director
  • Insider threat analyst
  • Jury consultant
  • Court liaison
  • Personnel psychologist
  • Psychometrician
  • Human capital consultant
  • Sports psychologist
  • Social worker
  • Leadership experience specialist
  • User experience researcher
  • Experimental psychologist
  • Learning design manager
  • Behavioral scientist
  • Productivity manager
  • Applied social scientist
  • Professor
  • Lab researcher

Research Programs

Deciding to pursue a Psy.D is only part of the battle. Increasingly, colleges and universities are embracing the Doctor of Psychology as an option for students who want to study psychology with a strong focus on the clinical practice of observing and managing human behavior.

Not only are more and more schools offering the degree, but many have exciting and unique academic qualities that can make the task of choosing the right school even more challenging. There’s also the decision of whether to attend school online, in person or with a hybrid program that is partially online and partially on-campus.

Here are a few questions to answer in making your choice:

  • Which schools offer the focus or concentration I want (if any)?
  • Will I attend online, on-campus or some combination of both?
  • How much can I afford to spend?
  • Will I be able or willing to go full-time?
  • Does the school have a track record of professional placement or networking?
  • Are any psychologists I follow and respect alumni?
  • How involved are faculty in my development?
  • What is required to graduate, such as research projects and/or internships?

Apply & Enroll

Every college or university has its own slightly unique process for applying and enrolling in an accredited Psy.D program, though there are so many ways to go about it, and some requirements are pretty standard across the board.

In general, here’s are some of the things you’re likely to need to provide or submit to:

  • Transcripts and GPA from a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree (this level of education is usually but not always required)
  • In absence of psychology major or degree, strong previous academic background in psychology
  • GRE test score, minimum score requirements vary and aren’t usually published; top schools mostly accept scores in the 160-170 verbal and quantitative and 5-6 analytical writing
  • Personal essays, statements or other prompted writing samples
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Criminal background check
  • In-person interview
  • Resume or CV
  • TOEFL score (for international students)

Be Positive & Persistent

While Psy.D programs generally can be completed in less time than PhDs, most students will need at least four and as many as six years to complete their degree. A lot of things can happen in the space of a half-decade, and it can be easy to become distracted by family, work and other areas to the point that you allow your coursework and dedication to school to suffer.

But a Doctor of Psychology degree program is a marathon, not a sprint, and the program is time-consuming by design — you’re developing a deep and lasting understanding of human nature and all the ways in which behavioral patterns can manifest for better or worse. Humans are complex and so too is earning a Psy.D degree.

Here are a few ways to keep a positive attitude and ensure that you’ll be able to stick it out until you’ve earned your degree:

  • Get enough sleep: Losing even a couple of hours of sleep every night will impact your cognitive function over time. Create bedtime routines and stick to them to keep insomnia at bay.
  • Don’t rest on your laurels, but don’t disregard them either: Pursuing and achieving a doctoral degree is an incredibly ambitious goal, and it’s one that can become overwhelming if you forget all the work you’ve put in to get to this point. It’s not as if you just woke up today and decided to apply to Psy.D programs on a whim. You’ve already earned at least one degree and probably two, making you more accomplished than the average person as it is.
  • Keep a journal: This is a long process, and it’s one that might actually change your perceptions of your own mental health. Spend a few minutes every day or couple of days writing down your general thoughts and mood.
  • Make time for friends and family: It’s tempting to hunker down, especially when you have a big class or deadline coming up. But, as you’ve probably already learned in your studies, isolation is one of the biggest stepping stones to depression. Spend time regularly with family and friends, and try to plan activities that might help you make new friends.
  • Optimize your time management: If you’ve gone through a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, by this point, you’ve probably gotten pretty good at balancing your time. But a doctoral program is unlikely anything you’ve experienced, so it’s a good idea to keep a critical eye on how well you’re budgeting your time to ensure your practices are the best they can be.

Conclusion

As acceptance of the crucial role mental health plays in all aspects of a life well-lived, the need for professionals who can help others manage their emotional well-being and, if needed, change problem behaviors will only keep growing. For many people, the right path will mean pursuing a Psy.D degree, which is a heavy lift, but taking simple steps will go a long way.

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