PsyD vs PhD in Clinical Psychology

by sinclair89

This article breaks down the pros and cons and major differences of the PsyD vs PhD in clinical psychology.

The Great Debate: PsyD vs PhD

Doctorate Level Choices in Clinical Psychology

Taking a doctoral program of any kind represents a significant investment of time, energy, and finances. That is why it is so important to get it right. When looking for the ideal doctoral program in clinical psychology it is often assumed that the difference between a PsyD degree and a PhD degree is insignificant. It is not. The PsyD vs PhD debate is an important one. The following article goes into depth on the differences and similarities between the two programs in the doctoral field. The aim is to provide a basic understanding for the reader to make an informed decision about which program is best for them. 

A Difference of Title

PsyD stands for Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. A PhD program is a Doctorate of Philosophy of Clinical Psychology. Understanding the difference in title can help explain the difference in focus. 

A Difference of Focus

Up until the late 1960s there really was no conception of applied clinical psychology in academiaIn fact, the very first pioneers of applied psychology at the doctoral level frequently had to gain admission into PhD programs under the pretense of entering the academic world of research. 

The fundamental reason behind the development of PsyD programs (first at piloted at Rutgers and Widener Universities in the 1970s) was to engage the applied psychologist. This was done by focusing more on practicums, in service training, and practical teaching methods. 

The PhD programs have a much longer tradition of research, testing, and theoretical advancement. Initially PsyD programs were viewed like ugly step-children, but it has become clear today that both types of programs serve an integral role in the clinical psychology field as a whole. 

A Difference of Finances

Where things are not always equal is the availability of financial aid. Since PhD programs are generally from well established institutions with a long list of alumni, research grants, and other financial aid is generally more readily available for qualified candidates. This can be a deciding factor for some.

That is not to say that there is no financial aid available in PsyD programs. The older ones tend to have a bit more of an endowment. But because the idea of the program is a relatively young idea itself, there is not the built in financial support system (yet). There are also some for profit run programs that are quite competitive and can offer different student loan options. 

A Difference of Design and Length

It is hard to gauge just how long either program will take because there are so many variables in play. Younger post-grads tend to be more attracted to the PhD program because of their lower costs of living combined with better financial aid and grant options. For this type of individual, the PhD might be the shorter route. 

A PsyD degree can generally be accomplished in 3.5-7 years. Many people prefer the PsyD because it is easier to get on a part-time or incremental basis. A research PhD program involves a larger time commitment in the classroom but can be accomplished in 4 years on a full time basis.

PsyD in More Depth

The Doctor of Psychology degree is a professional doctorate earned through one of two established training models for clinical psychology. An individual who earns a doctorate in clinical psychology, educational psychology or counseling ...
Updated: 01/28/2012, sinclair89
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