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What's the Difference Between a PhD in Psychology and a PsyD?

Thinking about pursuing a doctorate in psychology? First you need to make a choice. Should you go for a PhD in Psychology or a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology)?

A doctorate in psychology isn’t just prestigious—it’s marketable. There’s a continuing demand in today’s workforce for those with a doctorate in psychology, whether it’s a PsyD or a PhD in Psychology. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 14% growth in the demand for psychologists from 2016-2026 over the next decade—particularly for those with a doctorate.

From careers in research and academia to hands-on clinical practice and patient care, earning your PsyD or PhD in Psychology can help you cultivate a meaningful career that effects positive change in your life and in the lives of others.

What's the Difference Between a PhD in Psychology and a PsyD?

PhD in Psychology vs. PsyD (Doctor of Psychology)

Once you’ve decided to seek your doctorate in psychology, you need to decide which degree best fits your needs: a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD in Psychology) or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). But what’s the difference between a PhD in Psychology and a PsyD?

PhD in Psychology
Let’s start with the PhD in Psychology.

PhD psychology programs are plentiful, but also fairly competitive, with more rigorous admission criteria. Because of the strong focus on research, they’re ideal for students not only interested in clinical practice but also in academia and research. PhD psychology programs also provide valuable training for those who want to practice psychology in clinical settings. A PhD in Psychology can open up a multitude of career paths—from teaching to patient care to forensic psychology.

“I knew my work was making a difference when I heard from a patient how our integrated behavioral health program changed her life. Her husband had been depressed for many years. After a few months in our program, she reported that ‘she got her husband back.’ This is the kind of outcome that spurs me to help others make positive changes.”
—Dean Moritz
Walden University
PhD in Psychology Graduate

PsyD (Doctor of Psychology)
Developed in the late 1960s as an alternative to PhD psychology programs, a PsyD is typically pursued by individuals interested solely in the hands-on, straightforward practice of psychology, without dedicating professional time to research or academia.

Like a PhD in Psychology, the Doctor of Psychology degree (PsyD) prepares students to practice psychology in a wide range of clinical settings. A PsyD, however, focuses more on clinical practice and less on research. As a result, this degree requires fewer research and statistics courses and thus takes less time.

PhD in Psychology PsyD (Doctor of Psychology)
Ideal for those interested in clinical practice, academia, and research. Ideal for those interested in hands on, straightforward practice of Psychology without dedicating professional time to research or academia.
Strong focus on research Strong focus on clinical
Prepares students to practice in a wide range of clinical settings. Prepares students to practice in a wide range of clinical settings.
Multiple career path options:
  • Teaching
  • Patient care
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Scientific researcher
  • Scientific researcher & Clinical practice
Primary career path is Clinical Psychology and working directly with patients.
Fairly competitive Requires less time to complete
Rigorous admission criteria Requires fewer research and statistics courses
Plentiful Programs Alternative to PhD Psychology Programs

Which degree is right for you?

The answer depends on your interests and your career goals.

Are you interested solely in clinical psychology and working directly with patients? If so, a PsyD program may be the best path for you.

Do you envision yourself conducting your own scientific research? How about a career as a tenured psychology professor? Do you see yourself as a professional researcher in addition to maintaining a clinical practice? If so, consider a PhD in Psychology.

Think a PhD in Psychology is out of reach? Think again! Explore Walden University’s online PhD in Psychology program.