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PsyD vs. PhD

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) In Clinical Psychology Program

PsyD vs. PhD in Clinical Psychology

What are the advantages of a PsyD over a PhD?

Students entering a PsyD program often get more clinical training and experience and get this experience earlier in the program than many PhD programs. Our students start their assessment and treatment courses in the first year of the program. In fact, first year students are required to spend 16 hours per week in the field, second year students 20 hours per week and both third and fourth year students 25 hours per week. A second advantage of a PsyD program is the breadth, depth and focus in our clinical course work with required courses in areas such as: Clinical Health psychology, Supervision Skills, Advanced Treatment and Assessment, professional Clinical Psychology and Psychopharmacology. We also offer electives, which provide more in-depth coverage of specific disorders and types of treatment such as Personality Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Schizophrenia, Cognitive and Constructivist Approaches to Treatment and Empirically Supported Interventions with Children and Adolescents.

How does a PsyD differ from a PhD?

A PsyD is a doctorate in Professional Psychology whereas a Clinical Psychology PhD is a doctorate degree in philosophy, with a specialization in Clinical Psychology.

The primary difference between the two types of programs is that a PsyD program generally places greater emphasis on clinical training early in the program. In many cases a PhD program will have greater emphasis on research involvement than a PsyD program. For example, in most PhD programs in Clinical Psychology, a student would be expected to complete a Master’s research project as well as a doctoral research project dissertation. In most PsyD programs, students do only a doctoral level research project. The graduate student stipends are also sometimes greater in a PhD program than a PsyD program; often due to greater amounts of faculty grant money in research-oriented PhD programs.

The MSPP PsyD program involves students in clinical course work and training starting in the first year of the program. We also encourage students to become involved in faculty research early in the program in preparation for developing a doctoral committee, which will supervise the completion of the student’s doctoral project. While called a doctoral project rather than dissertation, the length and quality of the doctoral projects completed by our students are very similar to dissertations produced by students in PhD programs. In fact, a number of our students have published articles stemming from their doctoral research projects. Thus, the emphasis on research at MSPPs PsyD program is likely somewhat greater than other PsyD programs.

Dispelling the PsyD Myths...

You aren’t a real ‘doctor’ with a PsyD—your clinical abilities won’t be respected as much as they would if you had a PhD

First, there are a number of different doctoral degrees in Psychology including School, Clinical and Counseling Psychology. For much of the public, there is very little understanding or even awareness that not all “Psychologists” have the same training or background. Thus, for the majority of your clients, you will be considered a “doctor” in Psychology, just as any other doctoral-level providers in Psychology.

Although there is some lack of knowledge and understanding of PsyD versus PhD among the public, there is a growing awareness and appreciation of the PsyD clinicians in health care settings. The majority of PsyD graduates are employed in clinical settings, thus your peers in health care settings are likely both to be familiar with the degree, and also to appreciate the clinical competence and experience that the degree implies.

It’s harder for PsyD students to get Internship positions

Experiential education is an intricate component of our program. All students are successfully placed in internship sites every year by our professional field placement office. APA-accredited Internship sites such as in V.A. medical centers, university medical centers, community mental health centers and consortiums are also available to our students if they choose. In addition, the majority of our students over the past several years have gotten offers at one of their top three Internship choices. Many Internship sites are looking for students with diverse clinical experience in both assessment and treatment. Our program has a strong reputation for producing students who are well trained in both assessment and treatment and have a great deal of clinical experience as well.

You can’t teach or work in academia with a PsyD

Although it is generally true that PhD graduates are more competitive than PsyD graduates for teaching positions, a number of PsyD graduates teach as adjunct professors at colleges and universities nationwide and several do hold full-time positions.

Updated 12/19/11

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