Hey aspiring psychologists? Are you committed to obtaining a doctorate? If so, you’ll need to know about two degree programs the Ph.D. and the Psy.D and understand the differences between them.
When most of us picture psychologists, we imagine a wise clinician chatting with people in a cozy office. However, the Ph.D. in psychology is not intended to prepare students for a career in clinical practice. It can, and hybrid programs exist, but more often than not, Ph.D. programs train students to be researchers and professors. So if your career aspirations include the laboratory and the classroom, the Ph.D. may be the way to go.
According to a study by the American Psychological Association (APA) there are a few benefits to obtaining your Ph.D. versus your Psy.D. For one, obtaining additional funding for your education tends to be easier. Many Ph.D. programs have faculty with research grants who sometimes pay students to assist them. In addition, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010 the median salary for psychologists practicing in the field of psychological research was $89,900, while the median salary for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was slightly lower at $66,640.
The Psy.D. was created in the 1970s as a professional degree. Psy.D. programs emphasize clinical practice over scientific research.
Psy.D. students tend to complete their programs in less time than Ph.D. students, a benefit for students who are eager to get out in the field and practice. According to the APA study additional educational funding is less available to Psy.D. students, and most pay for their programs with a combination of loans, wages, and financial gifts from family, rather than fellowships and grants. That’s not to say it’s impossible to find public funding; it’s just slightly more difficult.
In addition to choosing a degree program, any student planning to pursue graduate studies in psychology should consider two things: accreditation and fit.
The APA accredits graduate psychology programs. Licensed practitioners must have attended an accredited school. In many states, unlicensed practitioners cannot have a private practice. Other restrictions may exist as well, depending upon the state. If you’re considering attending an unaccredited school, ask questions about why they are not accredited, and if attending an unaccredited school, where you won’t qualify to obtain licensure will help you achieve your career goals.
The reality is, while Ph.D. programs emphasize research and Psy.D. programs emphasize practice, some crossover exists. There are quite a few Ph.D. programs that do an excellent job preparing psychologists to conduct therapy. Rather than generalizing, evaluate each school on an individual basis. Explore curriculum, internship sites, and faculty research interests and areas of specialization. If possible, make a site visit and speak with faculty and students at the school that interests you. In doing so, you’ll have quite a bit of information with which to make your decision.