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Psychology Degrees

In this section we'll cover many different elements of the psychology degree, focusing primarily on Graduate Psychology Degrees. We'll discuss the different types of psychology degrees, what you can do with a graduate degree in psychology, careers in psychology, and more.

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Doctor of Education Degree (EdD)

Where It All Began: The History of the Ed.D.

Ph.D.'s were first offered by European universities during the Middle Ages when all fields of knowledge - with the exception of theology, medicine, and law - were seen as part of philosophy. Viewing philosophy as the font of all knowledge is an idea that originated with the Ancient Greeks. As human knowledge advanced more attention was paid to the idea of practical applications of knowledge instead of knowledge purely for the sake of knowledge. As an interesting side note, the first recognized application of clinical psychology, attributed to Lightner Witmer in 1896, took place in an educational context: poor spelling as evidence of learning disabilities.

Harvard University awarded the first Ed.D. degree in 1920. The awarding of doctoral degrees in the United States began with the natural sciences at the end of the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth was expanded to the social sciences.

This change came about in response to an expressed need for more practitioner oriented education at the doctoral level. Harvard added the Ed.D to meet that need and other major universities soon followed suit. The Ed.D Degree has maintained its reputation as a practitioner oriented degree, in contrast to the research orientation of many PhD. programs, but not without controversy.

In the early days of the Ed.D degree some scholars felt a doctoral level degree should be reserved for the preparation of researchers, not practitioners. Based on contemporary trends, that argument is moot as more and more PhD. programs offer practitioner oriented fields of specialization. In today's world what is the difference between these two degrees?

What's The Difference Between An Ed.D. and a Ph.D.?

In times past there were differences boil in perception and acceptance.Although studies have shown an Ed.D curriculum and dissertation can be just as rigorous as a comparable PhD program, the Ed.D is still seen by a few holdouts as an "inferior" degree.

In terms of acceptance, some insurance companies will not pay for services rendered by a practitioner with an Ed.D, although that too is changing. Today it's safe to say the major difference is the orientation of the degree: if you're interested in rigorous scientific research in the field of cognition, and EdD is probably not for you.

If you are interested in pursuing any of the many practitioner fields within Psychology, the EdD deserves you consideration. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has pretty much put the issue to rest by officially recognizing an Ed.D as equivalent to the PhD.

If you're interested in this NSF finding as well as other information about doctoral programs in the US, check out the study at the Department of Education.

As a final explanation of the differences, let's take a look at the letter designations used in all academic degrees, starting at the doctoral level.

The letters "Ed.D" differentiate this academic degree from other well known conferred degrees like the B.A/B.S, the M.A. /M.S. degrees, and the traditional Ph.D. or the newer Psy.D. The "D" refers to the highest level of expertise available in a given field of study - that of Doctor. A PhD or an Ed.D generally require 3 - 6 years of additional study beyond the Bachelors Degree, where the 'B" indicates a basic or introductory level of expertise; and an additional 2 - 4 years of additional study beyond the Masters degree, where the "M" denotes a level of expertise more advanced than the Bachelors but less than the Doctorate.

At the Bachelors and Masters levels the "A" or "S" in the Master or Arts or Master of Science degrees indicates expertise in the fields of liberal arts or the natural/empirical sciences. At the doctoral level the "P" stands for philosophy and the "E" stands for education. You may already know you can get a doctorate in a field like counseling psychology as either a PhD or an Ed.D.

What Are The Requirements For A Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) Degree In Psychology?

Areas of specialization within the field of Psychology offered in Ed.D. Degree programs are not as numerous as they are within traditional Ph.D. programs. Typically, you can get an Ed.D in Counseling Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Educational Psychology. Not every institution of higher learning offers the Ed.D in all these fields and degree and entrance requirements vary by school. The best source for comparing institutions offering an Ed.D in Psychology is the APA (American Psychological Association) publication "Graduate Study in Psychology" which you can buy at better bookstores or find at your local library. You can also search for schools using the Graduate School Search Engine, which allows you to find schools according to degree, topic of study, and geographic location.

All Ed.D programs require some form of dissertation and many require the dissertation be based on original research, although the research is geared towards practical applications. Just as is the case with a PhD student, an Ed.D student must pass oral preliminary examinations as well as a doctoral qualifying examination before being formally declared an Ed.D candidate. Ed.D candidates need to present and defend their dissertation proposals, just as PhD candidates do.

There is little difference between the two degrees when it comes to credit hours as well, with around 96 total hours and up to a 6 year commitment being typical of both. While formal internships and practica may be optional with a PhD depending on the field of study, they are required in Ed.D programs. Although most courses in an Ed.D program deal with practical applications of psychology, courses in statistical methods and quantitative research analysis are also required.

Some schools do not require a Masters or even a Bachelors degree in Psychology for admission, but do have prerequisite courses that must be met. These vary by school, and again the best resources available for identifying differences in both entrance and degree requirements across all Ed.D and Ph.D. programs is the APA's "Graduate Study in Psychology" or the Graduate School Search Engine here at

What Can You Do With an Ed.D.?

An Ed.D will get you entry into the professional practice of psychology in academic and some research settings as well as in many areas of the mental health field. Check the faculty listings of major universities and you'll find Ed.Ds involved in teaching and in some research in practical applications of the field of psychology in counseling and educational settings. Many holders of the degree open private counseling practices as well as consulting practices specializing in industrial and organizational issues.

Next Steps

Now that you know all about the Ed.D. Degree in Counseling Psychology, what should you do next? Here are the three most appropriate next steps: