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How to Choose a Doctorate in Psychology Program

Alliant International University
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Published on: 02/16/2016
Last Updated: 02/28/2024
5 minute read

A Doctorate in Psychology program is a major commitment – most programs take anywhere from four to eight years to complete and can cost a significant amount of money. As such, if you are considering going back to school for a Doctorate in Psychology, you’ll want to give careful consideration to where you’re going to spend your time and money over the next half-decade. As you research various schools psychology graduate degree programs, you’ll want to consider the following factors in helping you make your decision:

Types of Doctorate in Psychology Programs

The first and most important step in the decision-making process is evaluating your career aspirations so you can find a program that aligns with your professional interests. What kind of psychology do you want to practice? Are you interested in serious mental disorders, or would you rather help patients cope with day-to-day stresses and life changes? Are you interested in working directly with patients, or would you prefer to conduct research to further the profession of psychology? All of these questions are important to consider as they will determine what type of a degree you should earn.

PhD vs PsyD: On the highest level, you have two degree options to choose from: a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD) or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). If you prefer the academic route and are interested in conducting research or working at a university, a PhD might be a better fit for you. Conversely, if you prefer to practice psychology and want to work directly with patients, a PsyD might be a better fit for you. To learn more about the differences between these two degrees – and which might be a better fit for your career goals – read the blog post “PsyD vs PhD in Psychology: Which Degree is Right for Me?”.

Areas of Psychology: One of the most important decisions you will make when selecting a Doctorate of Psychology program is what type of psychology you want to study. Is there a particular group of people you are interested in working with, such as couples and families, children or the elderly? Perhaps you’re interested in working with segments of the population that are historically underserved, stigmatized or oppressed. Do your career interests relate to a certain location, such as a hospital, school or corporation? To learn more about different types of psychology, check out the blog post “Choosing an Area of Specialization for your Psychology Degree.”

Once you have settled on what type of degree you want and what kind of psychology you want to study, you can begin to look more in-depth to Doctorate in Psychology programs around the country. As you evaluate them, consider the following:

Specializations and Concentrations Available

Although many schools offer a variety of overarching programs such as Clinical Psychology, Organizational Psychology or Counseling Psychology, the types of concentrations or degree specializations available are also important to consider. Concentrations offer the ability to specialize your studies and further direct the path of your future career. If you already know of a specialized field in psychology that you’d like to study and eventually practice, take this into account when you’re looking at programs. For example, if you are interested in eventually working as a health psychologist as part of an integrated care team and the schools you are looking at don’t offer a Health Psychology concentration – or any faculty with research or professional experience in your field – you might want to cross those schools off your list.

Faculty and Research Opportunities

Finding a psychology program whose faculty are a good match for you can play a major role in your career development and overall happiness. You will be working closely with your program’s faculty for the next four to eight years, so you want to ensure that you get along – and that their professional interests overlap with yours. Conduct extensive research on each program’s faculty as well as the schools overall reputation. Alliant's California School of Professional Psychology founded in 1969 has accomplished faculty and the reputation as an industry leader. You may have the ability to join your professor in their research, which can help to advance your professional development.

Professional Experience Opportunities

Practical experience isn’t just an important part of a graduate degree program in psychology – it’s required. Before graduating you will need to accrue a certain number of hours of clinical professional experience. As you conduct your research on different schools, look to see what practicum and internship opportunities are available through each program and how well they align with your personal interests. (Learn more about some of the community engagement opportunities at the California School of Professional Psychology.)

Funding Opportunities

The cost of a graduate psychology program is a major consideration – as is the amount of available financial aid. As you look at different programs, consider what type of funding is available. Does the program offering tuition waivers, graduate fellowships, stipends or other types of funding?


Although it might seem a small factor to consider, the location of each program is important to keep in mind. Obviously considerations such as “Will I have to move?” and “Do I like the weather?” will likely be at the front of your mind, but there are other secondary considerations that you should also think through as well, such as: How much will it cost to move to this location? What is the cost of living in this city? Is this city easily accessible for travel? What type of internship opportunities will be available to me in this city? Will I have to move or commute to another city to gain professional experience?

Alliant’s Doctorate in Psychology Programs

Alliant’s California School of Professional Psychology offers graduate degree programs in Clinical Psychology, Organizational Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy and more, with too many concentrations to name! Our PsyD and PhD in Psychology programs are offered at multiple locations throughout California, including Fresno, L.A., San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento. To learn more about any of our programs, we encourage you to contact us today!


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