A Doctoral Degree in Psychology is the ultimate or the terminal degree in this field. It comes in two disciplines, the PhD or Doctorate of Psychology and PsyD or Doctor of Psychology. The former one is a research based study and you have to write a dissertation at the end of the research work, to complete the program. The PsyD is more associated with practical field work and examinations and not on writing dissertations.

doctoral degree

Typically, the PhD degree takes about 5 to 7 years to complete the research work and write the dissertation, followed by doing an internship of a minimum or 1 year, in some cases 2 years. The PsyD takes about 4 to 6 years to complete.

The PhD and the PsyD degree open up a wider arena of career opportunities and in most cases, this degree is required, if you wish to be a licensed Psychologist and use the title ‘Psychologist’ with your name, while practicing. The field of practicing gets broadened with the doctoral degree in Psychology.

Types of Doctoral Degree in Psychology

When you choose to complete the doctoral degree in Psychology, you will encounter two types of degrees, such as –

  • PhD: Those, who want to ensure a career in the clinical field or in the laboratory settings, schools, counseling and health service fields, choose the PhD degree. It is mostly based on the research work, the experiments and the academic achievements associated with this subject.
  • PsyD: The Doctor of Psychology is a more equivalent to a doctor of medicine such as MD or JD in law and practices on the application aspects of Psychological science.

By the time a student reaches this level or decides to further the education with a doctoral degree, he or she will have a career opportunity and field in mind. Depending on this career aspiration, the choice should be made.
However, the American Psychological Association specifies certain fields of Psychology specialization that the student can choose. These are –

  • clinical neuropsychology
  • counseling and clinical research psychology
  • educational psychology
  • child or developmental psychology
  • industrial-organizational psychology
  • forensic or criminal psychology
  • Clinical Health Psychology
  • Police and Public Safety Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Sleep Psychology
  • Family Psychology

Requirements/Prerequisites for Doctoral Degree in Psychology

In most cases, the American universities do not require the applicant to have completed a Master’s degree for enrolling to a doctoral degree in Psychology. He or she can enroll to this PhD or PsyD program, just after completing Bachelor’s degree, even with some other subject or discipline.

During the PhD course, the student has to complete a coursework, with a wide study of the core concepts during the first two years and then go for the research work. This consists of examinations, collecting data, statistics and analyzing them. The research culminates into writing a dissertation on the project. In case of PsyD course, the focus is more on the practice application of the subject and it does not require writing a dissertation. After the dissertation, the PhD student has to complete a minimum of 1 year in internship, under supervision and a licensed professional. It can be as under an individual or as a part of an organization.

Career Opportunities with a Doctoral Degree in Psychology

It is only after completing the PhD course that one can choose a career as a psychologist in fields like –

  • School
  • Hospital
  • Mental health care
  • Industry and organization
  • Police department
  • Forensic department

There are many such fields that you can choose and if your PhD has been a specific course on any specific field, the job will be more field specific. Almost every department and field requires a licensed psychologist. But for that you have to take the national or state level licensing test.

Associate's Degree0.8
Bachelor's Degree5.6
Master's Degree44.3
Doctoral Degree49.3
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Psychologists.

Continuing Education

PhD and PsyD are the ultimate degrees in this field of study and it does not require any further education, as you will already be established as a professional. However, you can attend workshops and do special certification, for additional knowledge.