The Meaning and Significance of a PsyD


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Ph.D. degree, the doctor of philosophy degree, as it is the older of the two degrees and is awarded in every other graduate discipline, not just in psychology. But what is the PsyD and is it for you?

What Is the PsyD?

The Doctor of Psychology, known as the PsyD, is a professional degree awarded in the two main practice fields of psychology: Clinical and counseling psychology. The degree's origins lie in the 1973 Vail Conference on Professional Training in Psychology whose attendees articulated a need for a practitioners' degree to train graduates for applied work in psychology (that is, therapy). The PsyD prepares students for careers as practicing psychologists.

What Training Is Required to Earn a PsyD?

Doctor of Psychology programs are rigorous. They typically require several years of coursework, several years of supervised practice, and the completion of a dissertation project. Graduates of American Psychological Association (APA) accredited PsyD programs are eligible for licensure in all US states. However, graduates of programs that are not accredited by APA may find it difficult to become licensed in their state. APA maintains a list of accredited programs on its website.

The major difference between a PsyD and the more traditional Ph.D. in Psychology is that there is less of an emphasis on research in PsyD programs than in Ph.D. programs. PsyD students are immersed in applied training right from the start of graduate study whereas Ph.D. students often begin their clinical training later in favor of an early start in research. Therefore PsyD graduates tend to excel in practice-related knowledge and are able to apply research findings to their applied work. However, they generally do not engage in research.

Can You Teach or Work in Academia With a PsyD?

Yes. But graduates of Ph.D. programs generally are more competitive applicants for academic positions because of their research experience. PsyD psychologists are often hired as part-time adjunct instructors. PsyD psychologists are also hired in some full-time academic positions, especially those that teach applied skills such as therapeutic techniques, but full-time instructor positions are more often held by Ph.D. psychologists. If your dream is to become a professor (or even if you see it as a possibility in the future) a PsyD is not your best choice.

How is the PsyD Perceived?

Given that it is a relatively new degree (four decades old), applicants are wise to ask about how the PsyD is perceived. Early PsyD graduates may have been viewed by other psychologists as having lesser degrees, but that is not the case today. All clinical psychology doctoral programs are highly competitive with a rigorous admission process. PsyD students successfully compete with Ph.D. students for clinical internships, and graduates are employed in clinical settings.

The public often lacks knowledge about the PsyD versus Ph.D. but the public often holds inaccurate views of psychology as well. For example, most people also are unaware of the many practice areas within psychology, such as clinical, counseling, and school, and assume that all psychologists have the same training. Generally speaking, most people view PsyD practitioners as psychologists and doctors, too.

Why Choose a PsyD Over a Ph.D.?

Choose the PsyD if your ultimate goal is to practice. If you see yourself conducting therapy through your career, perhaps becoming an administrator for a mental health setting, consider a PsyD. If you have no interest in conducting research and don't see yourself developing one, consider a PsyD. If you don't see yourself in academia other than as part-time adjunct instructor teaching a course here and there, consider a PsyD. Finally, remember that the PsyD is not your only choice if you want to practice. Several master's degrees can prepare you to conduct therapy.

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Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "The Meaning and Significance of a PsyD." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. (2023, April 5). The Meaning and Significance of a PsyD. Retrieved from Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "The Meaning and Significance of a PsyD." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).