Psychologists are a vital component of healthcare—and, in turn, a crucial part of our social fabric. From providing crisis prevention to helping individuals wrestling with substance abuse, they may have the chance to make a profound and enduring impact on the lives of others.1
But even perfunctory research on obtaining a doctorate in psychology (PsyD) reveals that it is a substantial investment of one’s time, energy, and resources. Naturally, this begs the question, what can you do with a doctorate in psychology?
You can do a lot more than just becoming a clinical psychologist. Keep reading as we uncover the basics of a PsyD and the potential career path that is available to you, should you choose to pursue this academic and professional field.
What Is a Doctorate in Psychology?
PsyDs emerged in the 1970s as an alternative to a Doctor of Philosophy (PHD) in Psychology.2 Established for aspiring psychologists who expressed a stronger interest in serving patients than performing qualitative research, it typically requires 4 to 5 years to finish, following the successful completion of your undergraduate and your master’s.3
Whereas PhD programs in Clinical Psychology primarily focus on disciplinary research to prepare graduates for work in academia, research, and other areas of psychology, PsyD programs are oriented toward equipping students with the expertise and techniques they need to work directly with patients. (PsyD programs also give grads with the skills they require to conduct research and teach at the university level, although this may be a less prevalent professional route.)
A doctorate of Psychology is broadly separated into three distinct niches:
- Counseling psychology
- Clinical psychology
- School psychology
Regardless of where you place your focus, you may be able to obtain a position in a variety of settings—and assume a variety of roles.
What Can You Do with a Doctorate in Psychology? 3 Possibilities
A large part of the allure of pursuing a PsyD is that its possibilities are far-reaching and varied, from working with specific populations like veterans to serving as a consultant in mental health settings.4
Let’s examine a few of the most popular avenues you can take with a PsyD under your belt and after your name.
#1 Open an Independent Practice
The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that more than half of psychologists who provide psychological services in clinical practice—as opposed to working in academia—independently.5
One of the biggest boons of opening a private practice is that you can select the population and/or psychological complication that resonates the most with you; a specific area and concern where you feel you might offer the most value. This might be:
- Working with adolescents with eating disorders
- Providing psychological services to veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Counseling young adults with a dual diagnosis, such as substance abuse and bipolar disorder6
In addition to autonomy, you can operate as your own boss, design your own hours, and even select the part of the country where you want to live (provided that you pass the licensing exams in your state of choice).
However, opening an independent clinical practice is an endeavor that takes time. You need to first gain experience as a clinician, learn the business side of running a practice successfully, hone your niche, and garner the knowledge you need to market yourself well. And yet, the return may satisfy your career and personal objectives.
#2 Work in a Community Mental Health Clinic
If you’re passionate about assisting marginalized populations and giving back to your community in a measurable, lasting way, you may want to use your PsyD by offering psychological services in a community behavioral health center.7
Community behavioral health centers were created to provide individuals with comprehensive mental health care, such as recovery from addiction, regardless of patients’:8
- Capacity to pay
Your responsibilities in a community behavioral health center may run the gamut. It might involve providing psychiatric rehabilitation services, handling targeted case management, spearheading crisis prevention, and/or offering outpatient substance abuse counseling.
#3 Provide Services to the Armed Forces or for Veteran Affairs
There are many ways a PsyD may prove to be valuable in the armed forces, either as a contract psychologist or by joining the military in the capacity of a post-graduate PsyD.
In this environment, your duties may entail:
- Working directly with patients in mental health facilities
- Advising policymakers
- Offering psychological expertise and counsel to Special Forces and other specialty niches in the armed forces
Similarly, you may also choose to pursue a role as a PsyD in veteran affairs.
What Can You Do with a Doctorate in Psychology? Additional Options
Bear in mind that this is not an extensive list of the possibilities that might be feasible for you after completing a PsyD program and obtaining your license.9
You might also explore roles such as:
- Serving as a consultant for private corporations
- Working in schools
- Teaching at the graduate level
- Conducting clinical research
- Providing psychoeducation assessments in an education setting
- Helping incarcerated individuals in a correctional facility while also protecting the safety of the facility and the community
- Working with children as a child psychologist
- Offering neuropsychological services to patients with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or Hyperactivity disorder
Your experience in a PsyD program may help you hone in on the specialty that speaks to you—and help you discover, and decide on, the professional track to take.
Fulfill Your Passion for Psychology at Alliant International University
Psychology is a broad and enthralling field. With the potential ability to work with patients at different stages of their lives and under different circumstances, you may enjoy an exciting and meaningful career.
Alliant International University facilitates the process through our doctoral program. We offer a PhD in clinical psychology and a PsyD in clinical psychology to empower you with knowledge and confidence and to prepare you well for the rigors of the profession. We also have a number of campuses throughout California, including Sacramento and San Francisco.
Request information about our programs today to learn more about what awaits with a doctorate in psychology.
- “Clinical Psychology.” American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/clinical. Accessed March 21, 2023.
- “Doctoral Degrees in Psychology: How Are They Different, or Not so Different?” American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/psn/2016/01/doctoral-degrees. Accessed March 21, 2023.
- University, Alliant International. “Home.” Difference between a PhD and PsyD in Clinical Psychology. https://www.alliant.edu/blog/whats-difference-between-phd-and-psyd-clin…. Accessed March 21, 2023.
- “Career Considerations for Clinical Psychology Psy.D. Students.” Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy. https://societyforpsychotherapy.org/career-considerations-for-clinical-…. Accessed March 21, 2023.
- “Are You Really Ready for Private Practice?” American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/11/private-practice. Accessed March 22, 2023.
- “Advisory - Samhsa Publications and Digital Products.” https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma16-4960.pdf. Accessed March 22, 2023.
- Cherry, Kendra. “Is a Doctorate Degree in Psychology Right for You?” Verywell Mind. Verywell Mind, April 10, 2020. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-psyd-2795135. Accessed March 22, 2023.
- “Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (Ccbhcs).” SAMHSA. https://www.samhsa.gov/certified-community-behavioral-health-clinics. Accessed March 22, 2023.
- University, Alliant International. “Home.” 6 Clinical Psychology Jobs and Career Paths. https://www.alliant.edu/blog/what-are-different-career-paths-clinical-p…. Accessed March 22, 2023.