What Are The Differences Between a Ph.D. and a Psy. D. Degree in Psychology?

When an individual decides they would like to pursue a career in psychology one of the most asked questions is which degree option is right for me? With degrees ranging from a bachelor’s level to a master’s degree all the way to a doctoral degree it can be difficult to know which is the best option. In many states, individuals who would like to pursue a career in a private practice setting, in a research setting or in academics will be required to obtain a doctoral level degree. Additionally, jobs in certain areas like School Psychology or Health Psychology may also require a doctorate in order to become empolyed.

If you plan to pursue one of these areas of psychology, a doctoral degree insures that you have the flexibility you need to pursue the career you plan. Once the decision has been made the next decision is whether to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (Ph.D. in Psychology) or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.).

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

A Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology or Ph.D. in Psychology is the ideal option for individuals who would like to pursue a career in psychological research, academia or clinical positions in places like hospitals, private practice or higher education. The curriculum in a Ph.D. program focuses on a research-based approach to the application and practice of psychology.

Students can typically complete a Ph.D. program in five to seven years, depending upon the specific program. Programs will have a basic curriculum that must be completed as well as requirements for research hours, internship, fellowship or residency. Depending upon the concentration of the program, students will often have an opportunity to pick a specialization within the field of psychology and steer their research and course work to address their area of specialization.

Typically, the final requirement of most Psychology Ph.D. programs is a doctoral dissertation. This involves direct participation in research, the writing of a formal dissertation and an oral Dissertation Defense with a panel of faculty members or professional psychologists or psychiatrists.

Doctor of Psychology

A Doctor of Psychology or Psy.D. Degree is a better option for individuals who are more interested in the direct care side of psychology. Graduates with a Psy.D. are often found working in private practices, mental health facilities, schools and other direct care settings. While graduates with this degree still have options for teaching or research, they are more typically mental health practitioners.

The curriculum in these programs utilizes an application-based approach rather than a research based methodology. Programs are generally shorter than their Ph.D. counterparts, taking between four and six years to complete. With slightly less focus on the research aspect of the field, students in these programs have the opportunity to focus more on the actually practice of psychology and therapy.

Whether you are looking for a career in research or the practice of psychology, there is a perfect degree to suit your needs. With some careful consideration regarding your long-term career goals, the right doctoral degree program can be the beginning of a career in psychology. Whether you choose a Ph.D. or Psy.D. Psychology Degree your career options will be plentiful.