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What's the Difference between a PhD and PsyD in Clinical Psychology

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Congratulations! You've made the tough yet worthwhile decision to pursue a doctorate education in clinical psychology. A doctorate in clinical psychology provides many potential career opportunities. You can receive training as a clinical psychologist, work in social work, sports psychology, educational psychology, mental health psychology and more. Now, what is the next step?

Before you dive into a doctoral program and training, you'll need to clarify what type of doctoral degree you'd like to earn. In the field of Clinical Psychology, there are two distinctive doctorate-level degrees you can work towards: a PhD and a PsyD. What do these degrees mean and how do you choose which degree program is right for you? Find out more below...

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PhD in Clinical Psychology

The PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, degree, is traditionally a more common degree path in psychology. This type of doctorate in clinical psychology is founded in research, so the focus of your studies may be on developing research ideas, conducting experiments, and analyzing data. This training culminates in the completion of a doctoral dissertation project. Typical PhD program training takes between 5 and 7 years to complete. Depending on the school, these programs may be highly selective and only enroll a small number of students each year.

PsyD in Clinical Psychology

The PsyD, or Doctor of Psychology, degree, is an alternative doctoral degree that focuses on the clinical and applied aspects of psychology. PsyD study revolves around preparing students for professional practice and clinical placement. The coursework and practicum is directed at applying established standards of practice and evidence-based services that will be applied in future clinical work. PsyD students may also complete a doctoral project or dissertation that focuses on an applied clinical problem. Typical PsyD program training takes between 4 and 5 years to complete. These programs generally accept a higher number of students than PhD programs.

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How to Choose Between PhD and PsyD

Understanding the difference between a PsyD vs PhD can be confusing. Which program you choose depends on the direction you’d like to steer your studies and, ultimately, your career. Think about what sort of work you’d like to do beyond graduation: research-focused or clinically-focused. Take a look at what graduates of both, the PhD program and the PsyD program, are doing to see if their careers align with your own interests.

All things considered, PhD graduates may use their research-based degrees to conduct experimental studies, work in academic settings, and consult with schools or hospitals. PsyD graduates may use their clinical-based degrees to work directly with patients who need clinical psychology services. All students enrolled in Clinical Psychology programs at the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) at Alliant International University receive advanced training in psychology in a clinical setting to allow them to confidently function as clinicians and researchers. Most importantly, both our PhD and PsyD programs are accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA.)

Are you a doctoral candidate and conflicted about which Clinical Psychology degree is the best fit for you? Contact an Alliant admissions counselor by calling 1-866-825-5426 to learn more about our PsyD or PhD degree programs and the admission requirements.

Additionally, CSPP offers many master’s degree programs at our college campuses and online. Check out some testimonials from our graduate students of the programs and their experience below:

“I am so grateful to have been a part of the Fresno Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program at CSPP. The diverse faculty that I studied with throughout my tenure in graduate school made quite a lasting impression on me in terms of fostering my professional development and have helped shape me into the clinician and researcher that I am today.”  Jennifer Lewey, Clinical Psychology, PhD

“The Psy.D. program at Alliant prepared me in two different ways. First, it socialized me into the profession of psychology. Second, it, and the Center for Integrative Psychology more specifically, taught me how to think in more powerful, inclusive, and effective ways.”   Michael Lembaris, Clinical Psychology, PsyD

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