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What is the Difference Between a Ph.D. and a Psy.D.?

What is the Difference Between a Ph.D. and a Psy.D.? For students who are interested in earning a terminal degree in psychology, the differences between the two can be career-changing. Knowing what each degree can do or how it can be helpful for a doctorate candidate is critical in order to choose between a Ph.D. and a Psy.D. program., according to Psychology Today.

Type of Degree

Both the Ph.D. and the Psy.D. are doctorates in psychology, but the similarities end there. While both are terminal degrees, the Ph.D. focuses on research and academic career paths; the Psy.D. is a practitioner-based degree that has been delivering clinical education to psychologists since the 1960s. It will be up to the student to decide which degree best suits their needs. If a student wishes to work in administration, academia, or research, the Ph.D. is the best path forward; if they wish to work in a clinical setting, the Psy.D. program is for them.

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Time Spent in Program

The Ph.D. program takes significantly more time to complete than the Psy.D., owing to the fact that the degree requires a number of research and statistics courses for graduation. Because the Ph.D. program is research-based and the Psy.D. program is clinical practice-based, the requirements differ and mean that students who want to be clinical practitioners would be better served by opting for the Psy.D. in order to move into their career quicker. Additionally, Ph.D. programs generally require a master’s degree capstone project in order to be accepted into the program; Psy.D. programs rarely have such a requirement, making it quicker for students to go from undergraduate to postgraduate work.

Acceptance Difficulty

Both degrees are competitive based on the fact that they stand as terminal degrees; however, the Ph.D. program is far harder to get into than the Psy.D. program. The fact that the Psy.D. program is based on clinical practice alone and does not require research or academic assignments as part of the requirements for getting the degree means that the Psy.D. was made specifically for clinical practitioners and is not so rigorous in its demands of its candidates. The Ph.D., however, has been around far longer and is considered to be the most common terminal degree. It is a competitive program at any accredited university owing to the fact that many students see it as a more credible degree than the Psy.D. program.

Focus of Degree

As stated above the Ph.D. focuses on academia and research while the Psy.D. focuses on the clinical practice of psychology. Because of the difference in focus, a student will want to choose the terminal degree that best fits their needs. A Ph.D. can get candidates in jobs in everything from forensic psychology to teaching, while a Psy.D. offers only professionals the chance to become a clinical psychologist that works primarily with patients in a clinical setting.

Earning a terminal degree in psychology is a goal that many students have, especially since the rewards of obtaining the degree far outweigh the time and commitment it requires. But when a student is deciding what career path they want to take, it’s important to not only ask, what is the difference between a Ph.D. and a Psy.D., but also, what can be gained from choosing one program over the other?