Is a PhD in Psychology Better Than a PsyD?

In asking whether a PhD in psychology is better than a PsyD, the answer depends in part on what the asker hopes to do with the degree as well as on other factors. A PhD focuses more on research while a PsyD focuses more on clinical work. Below are several other things that should be considered when considering these two degrees.

Related resource: Top 25 Doctor of Psychology Degree Programs (PsyD)


Both a PsyD and a PhD are doctoral-level programs in the field of psychology. Both prepare students to take licensing exams and become clinical psychologists. Both are pursued by students with an interest in the human psyche, and both courses involve looking at current research in psychology. Both degrees can lead to jobs in fields that are in high demand, and the American Psychological Associations (APA) offers accreditation for both types of programs. Both programs look at students’ previous education, GRE scores, interviews, transcripts and other similar elements when making a decision about admissions.


There are a number of differences. A PsyD is a relatively new degree. According to the APA, it began in the 1970s and is often offered at professional schools. The PhD is a more traditional academic degree. A PhD focuses on research and prepares students to do original research of their own. It also prepares students to teach in the field. A PsyD is for students who are primarily interested in providing clinical services rather than doing research. While these are the main differences in the two programs, there are other considerations that may affect which one students choose to pursue and whether a PhD or a PsyD is a better choice.

Other Considerations

A PsyD may take a little less time than a PhD to complete. Typically, a PsyD program lasts 4-6 years while a PhD takes 5-7 years to complete. A PhD may still be more widely accepted than a PsyD. There are more PhD programs than there are PsyD programs, and most doctoral degrees awarded in psychology are PhDs, but a PhD program may be more difficult to get into. Fewer PsyD programs are accredited by the APA compared to PhD programs. In a PsyD program, students will have the opportunity to get clinical experience at an earlier stage than they will in a PhD program.

One of the most important considerations for students looking at both programs is funding. Most PhD programs are fully funded, and most PsyD programs are not. Students may also want to make sure that even if they are getting a PsyD, their internship is APA-accredited since a non-accredited internship may significantly limit their employment prospects. Jobs in the Department of Veteran Affairs, civilian jobs with the military and some other employers require that internships are APA-accredited.

Neither of these degrees is inherently better than the other. A person who plans to go into academic research will almost certainly need to get a PhD. A PsyD may be the right choice for someone who wants to go into clinical practice. However, beyond that, which degree to get is largely a matter of personal preference and the other factors mentioned. Students will have to consider their own career plans and situations, including costs and program acceptance rates, in deciding whether a PhD is better than a PsyD for their particular circumstances.