Doctorate in Psychology (Ph.D. and Psy.D.) – everything you need to know in 2024

By Staff Writer

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A doctorate in psychology is the highest level of graduate degree in the field. As a result, there are lots of career options to choose from, including research roles, and clinical roles.

There are many reasons you may want to pursue a doctorate degree in Psychology, the following guide will provide everything you need to know; from the options, costs, timeframes, career advantages and more.

Ph.D. or Psy.D.?

First up, what are the two types of doctorate degree you can get and what are the differences?

The two doctorate degrees you can get in psychology are Ph.D. and Psy.D.

In simple terms, a Ph.D. in psychology is more research-focused, while a Psy.D. emphasizes clinical practice. The best choice between the two depends on your career goals and whether you prefer research and academia or direct clinical work.

Why do a doctorate in psychology?

  • Doctorate-level psychologists typically have higher earning potential compared to those with a master’s degree or bachelor’s degree in the field.
  • Gain in-depth knowledge and expertise in your chosen area of specialization within psychology.
  • Potentially make significant contributions to the field.
  • Advanced career opportunities in various settings, such as academia, research institutions, government agencies, hospitals, and private practice.
  • Connect with other professionals, researchers, and academics in the field of psychology, expanding your professional network
“A PhD in psychology is an intellectual marathon, not a sprint. It requires unwavering dedication, relentless curiosity, and the ability to thrive under pressure. Prepare to become intimately acquainted with statistics, delve deep into complex theories, and question everything you thought you knew. Sleep will become a luxury, self-doubt a constant companion, and moments of breakthrough pure exhilaration. Be prepared to stumble, to fall, and to pick yourself back up, driven by the insatiable desire to understand the human mind. If you persevere, you’ll emerge not just with a degree, but with the resilience, critical thinking, and research skills that empower you to make a real difference in the world.”
Dr. Kimberly Williams, a licensed psychologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania

Entry Requirements

The minimum requirements to study a doctorate degree in psychology will vary from institution to institution. However, there are several common requirements:

  1. Bachelor’s degree: all programs require applicants to have completed a bachelor’s degree, in psychology or a related field. Some programs may accept candidates with a degree in another discipline if they have completed prerequisite coursework in psychology.
  2. Master’s degree: Some doctoral programs require applicants to have a master’s degree in psychology or a related field. Others may admit students directly from their bachelor’s degree and incorporate a master’s degree into the doctorate program.
  3. GPA: Many programs have a minimum GPA requirement, usually 3.0 or higher. Some competitive programs require a higher GPA.
  4. Letters of recommendation: Applicants typically need to submit letters of recommendation from professors or professionals who can speak to their academic and research abilities.
  5. Research experience: Prior research experience is often valued by doctoral programs in psychology. This may include experience working on research projects, completing a thesis, or participating in research internships or assistantships.
  6. Personal statement: Applicants usually need to submit a personal statement or statement of purpose that outlines their academic and research interests, career goals, and why they are interested in the specific doctoral program.

*Outside of the licensed psychologist jobs listed above many of the above roles do not require a PhD but it is important to note that employers for these roles are increasingly favoring candidates with a PhD. 

How Long Does It Take To Study?

For the majority of students, a doctorate in Psychology may take anywhere from 4-7 years to finish, which will include a research dissertation and most likely residency or an internship in clinical or medical environments.

Is a doctorate program all theory/studying?

No. Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs in clinical or counseling psychology usually require students to complete a pre-doctoral internship as part of their training.

This internship typically lasts one year and involves supervised clinical practice in various settings, such as hospitals, mental health clinics, or community agencies.

The internship experience is intended to provide students with practical, hands-on training in their chosen area of specialization and help them develop the skills necessary for independent practice.

For Ph.D. programs in other areas of psychology, such as experimental, social, or developmental psychology, internships or practicum experiences may be less common or not required. Instead, these programs may emphasize research experience and skills development.

Career Path

With a PHD in psychology, you have a whole host of options when it comes to your career. With this kind of degree, you can work in specialty areas of psychology, depending on your studies and particular interests, or you can work as a researcher, an educational consultant, a forensic psychologist, political strategist, staff psychologist, private psychologist, professor of psychology, psychiatrist, or a clinical psychologist.

Earning Potential 

The earning potential for psychologists with doctoral degrees or PHDs can vary greatly depending on the specific specialty of psychology in which they work. General psychologists may earn around $90,000 a year, with the average salary around $84,000 per year.

On the other hand, clinical, counseling and school psychologists with PHDs tend to earn around $81,000 per year. The highest paying psychology careers can average up to $167,000, so studying a PHD in psychology will be worth it in the long run when it comes to career prospects.

Find Psychology Doctorate Degree Programs