Knowledge is Having the Right Answer

PsyD vs PhD – What’s the Difference Between PhD and PsyD?

Graduate Psychology Programs – MS vs PsyD vs PhD 

After completing an undergraduate degree, the next step may be to earn your Master’s in Psychology. The undergraduate education was designed to give you a broad perspective of the discipline.  Now, you can choose a specialization and narrow your field of study to focus through your master’s program.  Many more jobs are available for people who hold a master’s degree in psychology than for those with a bachelor’s degree.  This includes serving as a counselor, psychology associate, or research assistant in environments that include:

  • Career centers
  • Colleges and universities
  • Corporations
  • Federal and state government agencies
  • Human resource divisions
  • Law enforcement institutions
  • Mental health clinics
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Prisons
  • Private research laboratories
  • Public Schools

Degree programs typically take two to three years to complete. Some are designed to prepare you to directly enter the workforce upon completion (i.e. Loyola’s M.S. in Clinical Professional Counseling), while others are designed to prepare you for entering a doctoral (Ph.D.) program instead. Most programs will expect you to conduct a research project or write a thesis, and/or spend a certain number of hours practicing in a clinical setting, in order to complete your degree. (Source:

Both a Psy.D. and a Ph.D. in psychology train students for careers in psychology, but they lead to different professions. A Psy.D. prepares learners to work with patients and clients in a professional setting. A Ph.D. prepares graduates to conduct research and provide some psychological services.

The difference between a Psy.D. vs Ph.D.

  • The Ph.D. is the traditional doctoral-level degree. Its approach is research-oriented, though it includes both theoretical and applied training so you can choose to work in teaching, research, or an applied area.
  • The Psy.D. program is more focused on the practice of psychology and provides extensive training in applied topics such as diagnosing mental illness, performing psychological assessments, and conducting clinical interventions.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The Ph.D. is the most common degree conferred in psychology and is generally offered at either private or public research universities. Ph.D. degrees are intended for students interested in generating new knowledge through scientific research (i.e., setting up experiments, collecting data, applying statistical and analytical techniques) and/or gaining teaching experience. PhD graduate students receive substantial training in research methods and statistics in order to independently produce new scientific knowledge and are often required to produce a dissertation to demonstrate research competency. Students enrolling in Ph.D. programs may also be interested in pursuing professional careers in applied work — such as health services, counseling in school settings, and consulting in businesses and organizations in addition to research and academic work. (Source:

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

The PsyD degree came into existence in the 1970s as an alternative to the Ph.D. for those more interested in providing psychological services than conducting disciplinary research. The PsyD degree is generally offered in professional schools of psychology — either affiliated with research or teaching universities or housed in a free-standing graduate school.2 The focus of PsyD programs is to train students to engage in careers that apply scientific knowledge of psychology and deliver empirically-based service to individuals, groups and organizations. Most programs require students to write a thesis or dissertation, and students may use quantitative or qualitative methodologies to demonstrate how psychological research is applied to human behavior. (Source:

Students who pursue a Psy.D. often become clinical psychologists.  Students who earn a Ph.D. in psychology can pursue more career options including research and teaching.  With a Psy.D., students can pursue careers as a clinical psychologist in private practice.  They may also work as a forensic and school psychologist. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in the next decade, employment for psychologists will grow by 14%. A Psy.D. degree also prepares learners to work as social workers, a profession that will see an estimated 16% increase over the next several years.

Ph.D. programs build skills applicable to careers in clinical psychology.  But, they also train students to work as marriage and family counselors, addictions counselors, and industrial-organizational psychologists – who study human behavior to assess efficiency in the workplace. Additionally, Ph.D. programs hone the analytical and critical thinking skills candidates need to work as psychological researchers and teachers. Researchers may work in government positions or within private organizations and companies. Postsecondary teachers, according to the BLS, will experience a 15% job growth rate in the coming years.

Education Differences Between PsyD vs PhD Programs

Psy.D. classes focus on human behavior and theories, practice, and foundations of clinical psychological practice. Ph.D. coursework combines the fundamentals of psychology, statistics, and applied research.


A Psy.D. program explores aspects of psychology and human behavior as they relate to individuals and groups. Candidates learn to evaluate and assess the psychological needs of others and study human development and emotion across the lifespan. Psy.D. programs also include coursework in professional and ethical standards of clinical psychological practice.


Admission to Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs include similar requirements. Prospective students submit documentation from previous college coursework, along with any work experience and letters of recommendation. Both degrees also often include written and oral components to admission processes. Finally, learners may take into account a school’s GPA and/or GRE requirements when deciding which program best meets their needs.

You’re likely to need a master’s degree in psychology or a related field, though it’s possible to find combined masters/doctoral programs that accept students who only have a bachelor’s degree.  You’re also likely to need a GPA of at least a 3.0 and certain scores on the GRE or another school-administered test. You’ll also be expected to write personal essays, undergo interviews, and submit letters of recommendation.


The most significant difference in the admission process is the average acceptance rates of Ph.D. and PsyD programs. Because there are far more Ph.D. programs in psychology available, they tend to be highly selective, with many only accepting 10 students or fewer a year. Across the country, this works out to an average acceptance rate of about 13% of applicantsWhile this varies by school, PsyD programs tend to accommodate a higher number of students per year, sometimes as many as 100. This, coupled with the fact that there are fewer students applying to these programs in general, makes for an average acceptance rate of about 40%.

Of course, PsyD programs are not necessarily easier to get into. Though they often accept more students than PhDs, there are far fewer PsyD programs as a whole. This means the available number of PsyD spots across the country could be the same or even less than those for PhD programs.   The training you receive in a PhD program will focus on research that leads you to producing new scientific knowledge. PsyD programs emphasize training that allows you to apply your knowledge in a practical setting, though you’ll likely still conduct some research.  In both programs, you’ll be required to participate in an internship for at least a year. As with your program itself, these internships should be accredited by the APA. Choosing a program or internship that’s not accredited could make it difficult to get your license. (Source: 

PsyD vs PhD – Final Words

So which program is right for you? A master’s degree is perfect if you’d like to work as a counselor, psychology associate, or research assistant. If you are an aspiring psychologist, think about whether you’d like to focus more on research (Ph.D.) or practice (Psy.D.). Whichever you choose, you can be proud to pursue a career that’s rewarding, in which you can have a deep impact on the lives of your future patients.

the Doctor of Psychology degree (PsyD) prepares students to practice psychology in a wide range of clinical settings. A PsyD, however, focuses more on clinical practice and less on research. As a result, this degree requires fewer research and statistics courses and thus takes less time.  For most students, PsyD programs take roughly 4–6 years to complete. Due to the stronger emphasis on extensive research, Ph.D. programs typically take between 5 and 8 years. 

Up Next:  Eyewitness Testimony and Reconstructive Memory

Eyewitness testimony can provide very compelling legal evidence.  But rather than recording experiences flawlessly, memories are susceptible to a variety of errors and biases. Reconstructive memory can result in errors in remembering specific details.  Witnesses can even remember whole events that did not actually happen.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *