The Doctor of Psychology Degree (Psy.D.)
The Doctorate of Psychology Degree (PsyD) is a relatively new offering, geared for those whose are more interested in the practice of psychology and will have less emphasis on research and more focus on applied topics. The degree was born as an alternative to the traditional PhD and is very attractive to those whose career interests are limited to applied practice of the profession. A PsyD degree will allow you to work and practice in almost all mental health fields and there is at least one new PsyD program specializing in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
In 1973 the APA officially endorsed the PsyD. - Doctor in Psychology - as an accepted practitioner training program for those interested in careers in professional psychology. This milestone might be viewed as part of a trend away from doctoral degrees as exclusively the province of academic and research scholars and more toward practitioner oriented degrees.
The first such degree was the EdD - Doctor of Education - offered at Harvard University beginning in 1920. Prior to that time, some PhD.s were supposed to prepare students for both scientific research and practical application but many felt clinical work did not get sufficient attention. While some still feel the holder of a Doctoral Degree in one of the many fields of Psychology should be a scientist first, today most major universities offer practitioner specializations in Psychology under their PhD. programs.
Clinical psychology PhD programs and PsyD programs have many similarities. Both are highly competitive and have a rigorous application process. Both require courses in research methods, statistics, ethics and clinically relevant courses. Both require a dissertation (most PsyDs now require a dissertation or research project). Both programs take approximately 4-7 years to complete. Both programs produce clinicians that are license eligible in all states. Both can be APA approved. Both degree types receive comparable salaries in the workforce and levels of insurance reimbursement.
What are the differences between these two degrees? The simple answer is that a clinical psychology degree will have more of a research focus along with applied practice while a PsyD will have more focus on applied mental health practice and less on research. This is a generalization, of course, and programs do vary in their focus. More recently many PsyD programs have added more extensive and rigorous research requirements to their programs so the differences may be less than in the past.
PsyD program faculty may also tend to have a more diverse mix of theoretical orientations, but this will vary from program to program. PsyD programs may have higher overall acceptance rates compared to PhD programs but this has become less true as the degree has grown in popularity and acceptance in the field. As a general rule though if your focus is primarily in going on to practice mental health service then either program will work well.
If you think you may desire to be significantly involved in clinical research, or go on to teach or work in an academic environment, then you may want to lean toward the clinical psychology path. If you are interested in a mental health doctorate you will want to look into both types of programs.
When it comes to practicing psychology (e.g., therapy), your options are many. With a state license to practice, all fields of mental health are open to you as is a private clinical or counseling practice. Many PsyD holders go into private consulting practice in business, government, and non-profit institutions. While it is possible for a PsyD holder to get an academic teaching or research position, alternatives are not as numerous as they are for holders of a traditional PhD.
Now that you know all about the PsyD Degree in Psychology, what should you do next? Here are the three most appropriate next steps: