PsyD vs. PhD: Comparing Programs

psychologist in chair talking to patient

If you want to pursue a career in psychology and are interested in working at the highest level in the field, then there are two degree options that you should consider. These are the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology degree. Learning about both of these programs can help you decide which option is right for your personal and professional goals.

PsyD Overview

If you are more interested in being a psychologist without focusing on research or academic pursuits, then the PsyD program might be the right choice for you. This degree serves as an alternative to a PhD in Psychology for students who want a more direct path to practicing clinical psychology and working directly with patients. The PsyD program can give students the skills they need to practice psychology in a variety of settings. Unlike PhD programs, this program focuses on the clinical aspect of psychology.

After earning a PsyD, you will be able to pursue a rewarding career in clinical psychology. Graduates often pursue careers as counselors or social workers, enabling them to work directly with patients.

PhD Overview

If you have an interest in clinical psychology, but also enjoy the research aspect of psychology, then you might want to consider choosing a PhD instead of a PsyD. Both programs prepare students to work in a variety of clinical settings. However, PhD programs can provide students with even more options for careers to pursue following graduation.

This program has a strong emphasis on statistics and research. Students must also complete a one year minimum internship that is accredited by American Psychological Association. PhD programs tend to be much more competitive than PsyD programs. As such, they tend to require more commitment from students.

One benefit offered by PhD programs is that part or all of a student’s tuition might be covered if they assist with teaching or research during their time in the program. The same is not true for PsyD programs. As a result, students might end up having more debt if they a PsyD over a PhD.

Similar to the PsyD program, the PhD program can prepare students to work in a variety of clinical settings. Unlike the PsyD program, the PhD program also prepares students to work in a variety of research and academic-related fields. These include positions in clinical practice, scientific research, forensic psychology, patient care and even teaching.

PhD Emphases

You can also specialize in different areas with a PhD. Many colleges offer emphasis options to tailor your education to your interests. Some options for emphases include an emphasis in cognition and instruction, industrial and organizational psychology, integrating technology, and an emphasis in performance psychology. Picking an emphasis for your PhD can be a challenging decision so it is important to conduct research to decide on the right one for your interests and skillset.

Similarities Between the Degrees

Both degrees are great to pursue for students looking to further their education in psychology or for professionals looking to advance in their field. While they vary from each other they do have some similarities. They both are postgraduate academic degrees and require you to have master’s degree ideally in psychology. Attaining either degree can set someone up for a variety of good careers within psychology.

Differences Between the Degrees

There are many differences between a PhD in Psychology and a PsyD degree, that is why it is important to do your research before deciding which is best for you. The courses within the program vary between the two degrees. While both are geared towards psychology, they prepare you for different careers and specific areas in psychology. The time to complete them both varies and the tuition rates may vary as well.

The biggest difference between the two is the careers they lead in to. If you want to pursue a job that involves research or teaching, a PhD will better prepare you for those jobs. If you know you only want to apply your psychology training in a more client-facing way, a PsyD can provide you with advanced knowledge in that area.

Are you ready to take the next step in your academic career? If so, check out the programs offered by the College of Doctoral Studies here at Grand Canyon University. We have a variety of program options for a PhD in General Psychology such as an emphasis in cognition and instruction, industrial and organizational psychology, integrating technology, and an emphasis in performance psychology. Click the Request Info button at the top of this page if you would like to learn more about our online PhD programs.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.


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