PsyD vs PhD in Psychology: Which Degree Is Right for Me?

PsyD vs PhD in Psychology: Which Degree Is Right for Me?

If you want to work in the field of mental health, pursuing a doctorate in psychology is an excellent decision. The gold standard of degrees in the field of psychology, a doctorate will help qualify you for a greater number of career opportunities. When considering which graduate psychology program is right for you, there are a lot of factors to take into account: location, cost, program length, funding opportunities, available areas of concentration, internship and community placement options, training model, faculty achievements – the list goes on. One factor you may not have considered, however, is the type of degree you will earn.

Within the field of psychology, two doctorate degrees are available: the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology and the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). For a long time, the PhD in Psychology was the only available degree option. Then, in the 60s and 70s, a movement was started to create a new type of degree, one that was practice-oriented and would appeal to those wanting a strong professional program with less of a focus on conducting research. Although it was initially met with skepticism and was mired in controversy, today the PsyD is a viable, practical option offered at many universities around the country.

Choosing which degree program is the best fit for your will largely depend upon your career goals.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology

The PhD in Psychology is more research-oriented, and is usually a better fit for those students looking for a career in a research institution or an academic or administrative setting. Do you want to eventually teach psychology at the university level? Are you interested in conducting scientific research to further the study of psychology today? The Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology is probably the right degree for you then.

Just because a PhD in Psychology program is more research-focused doesn’t mean it neglects practical experience, however. PhD in Psychology programs are often taught in the scientist-practitioner model, which aims to give students a foundation in both research and clinical practice, with the belief that integrating scientific research into practice makes for a well-rounded psychologist. Most PhD programs have a clinical component where students can obtain real-world experience providing mental health services to a variety of clients in a variety of settings.

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

The Doctor of Psychology degree was created to train practitioners, instead of researchers, by focusing on a course of study that emphasizes clinical training. In the 1960s, when the PsyD movement began, more doctoral-trained psychologists were choosing careers as academic researchers rather than careers in practice. The need for practitioners in the community was real – but no program existed that was geared toward students wanting to practice clinical psychology rather than move into research.

Over the years, many critics of the PsyD degree have argued that PsyD programs ignore the scientific component of psychology. But just as the PhD doesn’t neglect clinical practice, the PsyD doesn’t neglect research – or the science behind psychology. Although PsyD programs focus on practical application, their teachings are based in and informed by scientific research, and students are trained to apply the scientific method to problems they see in their communities.

Choosing the Right Doctorate Degree for You

When evaluating which degree is right for you, start by considering your career interests. Would you rather work directly with the community, helping individuals in a practice-based setting? Or are you more interested in conducting research to make new discoveries in the field of psychology, or entering academia and passing your knowledge along to the next generation of psychologists?

In its 2014 Doctoral Annual Report Online, the American Psychological Association’s Commission on Accreditation reported that 30% of clinical PhD students found initial employment in academic teaching, with 40% finding initial employment in a hospital or medical center. For PsyD students, however, the numbers skew more heavily toward practice-oriented professions, with 28% entering private practice and 22% finding initial employment in a community health center.

Program availability may also influence your decision. Although both degrees are offered nationwide, the PhD in Psychology is more widespread. In the same annual report, the American Psychological Association reported that in 2014 a total of 301 PhD in Psychology programs were available in the U.S., as compared to just 75 PsyD programs overall.

Keep in mind that no matter whether you decide to pursue a PsyD or PhD, it’s critical to select a program that is accredited by the American Psychological Association. If you enter a program that is not accredited, you will likely have a hard time getting an internship or getting licensed.

Alliant’s Doctorate in Psychology Programs

Whether you’re looking for a PhD or a PsyD program, Alliant has you covered. Alliant’s California School of Professional Psychology offers both PhD in Psychology and PsyD programs – with both degree options being offered at multiple locations throughout California. Although all the programs have commonalities, each doctoral program also has something unique to offer. We invite you to explore each program in-depth to find the one that best meets your specific interests and goals. To learn more about our doctorate in psychology programs, or to speak with an advisor, please contact us today!