What Is a PsyD Degree?

The Doctor of Psychology, known as a Psy.D., is the professional degree program that prepares students to practice psychology and become licensed clinical psychologists. Learn about the admission requirements and courses in a Psy.D. program, and find out the differences between a Psy.D. and Ph.D. Schools offering Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

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

A Psy.D. is a Doctor of Psychology. Unlike a Ph.D., a Doctor of Psychology is a professional degree like a Juris Doctor or a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Once you graduate from a Psy.D. program, you are qualified to sit for the state and national licensing exams that will enable you to go into clinical practice.

Ph.D. graduates are also qualified for clinical practice, but the Ph.D. program has a much greater emphasis on research; the Ph.D. program model is sometimes called the scientist-practitioner model and prepares graduates to go into the field as researchers and academics rather than strictly clinicians. Ph.D. programs require a dissertation, but Psy.D. programs typically require a clinical project instead.

It's important to note, however, that the Psy.D. will not qualify you to be a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists must have a medical degree, which requires considerably more training. The most commonly noted difference is that as a clinical psychologist you will be able to diagnose and counsel patients and provide psychotherapy, but you will not be able to prescribe medication. Only a psychiatrist can do that.

Psy.D. Vs. Ph.D.A Psy.D. is a professional degree and focuses on the clinical side, whereas a Ph.D. focuses on research
Program Length6-7 years of study plus one more year of clinical work
PrerequisitesBachelor's or master's degree and a resume
Course TopicsPsychopharmacology, personality theory, ethics, cognitive therapy and psychological assessment

What Is the Program Like?

If you are accepted to a Psy.D. program, you have numerous years of study ahead of you. The degree program, which is very intensive, takes between 6-7 years to complete; after graduation, newly minted Psy.D.s must fulfill a mandatory year of post-doctorate clinical work. This is similar to the residency a medical student is required to complete.

Are There Any Prerequisites?

You must have a bachelor's degree in psychology. Some schools, but not all, also require a master's degree. If you don't have a graduate degree but have extensive experience in the field, some schools will accept that instead. Most programs will want to see your resume, regardless.

What Courses Will I Take?

This program combines academics, research and practical experience. Topics of study include the history of psychology, ethics and issues, psychopharmacology, sexuality, personality theory, hypnosis and sport psychology. You'll also examine psychological assessment, intelligence assessment and cognitive therapy.

You'll be expected to complete several practicums, an internship, a dissertation and several comprehensive exams. Because of the practical experience required, you're unlikely to find a Psy.D. program offered through online learning, particularly one accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). When you have graduated from an on-campus program, you will be able to take your board exams and get your license, but you'll still have to complete that final year of post-doctorate clinical rotations.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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