Psy.D. Doctorate Psychology Degree

PsyD or Doctor of Psychology
Vstock / Getty Images

Earning a doctorate degree in psychology is a great way to improve your opportunities for career growth. While you might immediately assume that the Ph.D. degree is your only option, the Psy.D. degree is a doctoral-level degree that you should definitely consider.

What Is a Psy.D.?

The Psy.D., or doctor of psychology, is an applied clinical doctorate degree that is one of the highest level degrees available in the field of psychology. Until the late 1960s, the Ph.D. in psychology was the only degree option available for professional psychologists. However, there was some concern that the doctor of philosophy degree did not provide adequate preparation for those interested in clinical work. As a result, the Psy.D. degree was developed in the early 1970s as a professional program to train psychologists as practitioners.

What Can You Do With a Psy.D.?

After earning a Psy.D. in clinical or counseling psychology and then passing the required licensing exams, an individual can diagnose and treat mental disorders. Common job duties include administering evaluations, conducting psychological tests, and providing psychotherapy services.

Individuals with a Psy.D. can work in a wide variety of settings, including hospitals, mental health clinics, government offices, and schools. Some professionals choose to open their own psychotherapy practices or work as consultants for private corporations.

  • Preparation is more focused on clinical work

  • Graduates usually work with patients in clinical settings

  • Takes 4-7 years to complete (shorter times more typical)

  • Evaluation usually consists of exams and practical work

  • Preparation is more focused on research

  • Graduates often teach at the university level or do research

  • Takes 4-7 years to complete (longer times more typical)

  • Evaluation usually involves a dissertation

How You Earn a Psy.D.

The educational requirements for the Psy.D. are designed to train psychologists to utilize their understanding of the science of the mind and behavior to treat and diagnose mental illnesses. Most Psy.D. programs take approximately four to seven years to complete, depending on the program specialty, an individual's prior education, and so on. During this time, students study and practice a wide variety of topics, including psychological assessment, diagnosis, and clinical interventions.

As with the Ph.D. degree, Psy.D. students must participate in a supervised practicum as well as a supervised internship in a clinical setting. During the practicum, students usually work part-time under the supervision of a licensed psychologist in a variety of different clinical settings. The internship is a full-time position and usually lasts at least one year. After completing an internship, students are then able to take state and national exams in order to become licensed psychologists.

The American Psychological Association accredits both Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs. No matter what type of program you are considering, you should definitely check to see if the program is APA accredited. Most state licensing boards require applicants to have completed their degree and supervised internship at an APA accredited institution.

Alternatives to the Psy.D. Degree

Before you decide if the Psy.D. is the right degree for you, it is important to spend some time considering your options. The Psy.D. can be an excellent choice if you want to focus your energy on being a practitioner of psychology. If you are also interested in conducting research, then you might want to consider the Ph.D. option.

If you know that you want to work in the field of mental health but aren’t sure if you want to spend the time and money on a doctorate degree, social work, counseling, school psychology, education, and health sciences are other academic options that might also hold some appeal.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. Doctoral degrees in psychology: How are they different, or not so different?.

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Psychologists. Occupational Outlook Handbook.

  3. American Psychological Association. APA accreditation.

Additional Reading

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."