Psyd vs PhD Degree Differences

Many professionals want to become a psychologist today because job demand in the field is rising and so is the pay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there will be 19% job growth for all psychologists by 2024. For clinical psychologists, job growth will be 20%. Pay is commensurate with the demand, with a median of $72,580.

To practice on their own and earn the highest income, however, psychologists must have a doctorate. A doctorate in psychology is a post-graduate degree, but it comes in two forms: the Psy.D. and the Ph.D.

Many aspiring doctoral students often apply to many psychology programs with the hope of just getting into one of them; many programs are competitive, especially in clinical psychology.

Some students may not do the research that they should to learn about the differences between the Psy.D. and the Ph.D. Below is an overview of each program.


There are many Ph.D. in psychology programs but many are quite competitive to enter. They are largely research and academic degrees, so are often best for people who want that type of career path. However, some Ph.D. programs also provide very good training for professionals who want to work in a clinical environment, too.

  • Often ideal for the professional who wants to perform academic research
  • Research focused and involves a dissertation with at least a year of research
  • Also can prepare you for clinical settings
  • Career path can be teaching, forensic psychology, researcher, clinical practice


The Psy.D. was developed in the 1960s as a possible alternative to a Ph.D. It is usually obtained by students who only want to practice in psychology with patients, and not spend time on research and academia. This is a mostly clinical practice degree. Thus, a Psy.D. degree has less research involved, as well as few statistics classes, so it may take less time than a Ph.D.

  • Ideal for hands on students who want to practice psychology only
  • Strong clinical psychology focus
  • Prepares students to work in many clinical settings
  • The main career path is clinical psychology

One thing to think about with a Psy.D. is that it is a newer degree, so in some eyes, it might be as recognizable in terms of status or quality. The Ph.D. of course has been around for a long time, and has a higher level of recognition.

Also, some experts note that if you decide on a Psy.D. and then decide you would rather work in research, you could be at a disadvantage. It is important to decide early on what your career path will be and stick to it.

Some may assume that one degree is better than the other, but this is not the case. Which one you select is more about what your personal career goals are.

The Importance of Your Psychology Career Goals

Making the decision between these two degrees is vital because each takes anywhere from three to five years to earn, and both cost a great deal of money. Thus, the first thing to do as you consider both degrees is to think about where you want your career to be five years or so after graduation.

Where you want to be working after you earn your doctorate will go a long way towards determining which degree is for you. Generally, most Ph.D. programs in psychology are designed for students who want to spend their career doing research and working at the university level as a professor or instructor.

Psy.D. programs, on the other hand, generally prepare you to practice as a psychologist in a given specialty. However, it is worth noting that there are now some Psy.D. programs that do offer some research opportunities.

So, most Psy.D. programs are focused on practice, and most Ph.D. programs are focused on research and academia. But there are exceptions, and you should look carefully at every program you are considering to see what the exact focus is at that university.

Financial Needs

Another notable consideration as you think about a Psy.D. or Ph.D. degree is finances. Generally, Psy.D. programs are more expensive than Ph.D. programs. Many Psy.D. students often graduate with more loans.

One of the reasons is that some Psy.D. programs are run by for-profit universities that sometimes charge higher tuition. Meanwhile, many Ph.D. program will reduce or waive tuition and provide post-graduate students with fellowships and stipends.

Faculty members in Ph.D. in psychology programs get grants to do research. Therefore, they can pay their students to help with research. However, experts caution that you should look at each program – whether it is Psy.D. or Ph.D. – in its entirety. There are some Psy.D. programs that may well provide funding for your education.

Online Doctoral Degree Options in Psychology – Ph.D.

Northcentral University is our recommendation if you wish to earn an online Ph.D. in psychology. This program has been designed due to a growing need for more clinical psychologists, which results in a growing need for more educational programs. In this four year program, you will be able to improve your critical thinking abilities, expand your knowledge base in clinical psychology, so that you can evaluate many different psychological problems.

You will be prepared to excel in this online Ph.D. program. The program includes experiential learning with case studies, real world scenarios, and even real life patient situations. You also will be able to learn a huge amount of information from your highly experienced professors.

As you move through this accredited program, you will become more skilled in conducting and evaluating research. Also, you will learn how to prepare the highest level professional communication in many different media.

Further, you will be able to critically evaluate complex psychological theories, and design new strategies to improve people from a psychological perspective.

Upon graduation, you will be able to demonstrate skills in these general areas:

  • High degree of competency in research writing
  • Post-graduate level of ability in research methods
  • High level of skill in statistics
  • High level of computer competency

This program also allows you to focus on the following specializations:

  • Gerontology
  • Health psychology
  • Industrial and organizational psychology
  • Mental health policy and practice
  • Trauma and disaster relief
  • Addictions

We recommend overall that you very carefully consider your career goals and interests in psychology so that you are certain that you are pursuing the correct doctorate.