What degree do I need to be a psychologist?

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In order to call yourself a “psychologist”, you will have to have a full doctorate degree. While a Bachelor’s degree is the foundation of your education, your horizons expand dramatically as you progress to graduate school. This will also require a greater time commitment and tuition expense. After your 4 year undergraduate degree, it takes another 5 years, at least, to obtain a Master’s degree. Subsequently, there are more years involved to attain your doctorate depending on which discipline your interests lie. For example, do your talents and interest lie in research, teaching, therapy, forensics or a combination of research and practice? Assuming, the years of additional study and cost aren’t insurmountable, then the degree needed to be a psychologist is a doctorate.

RELATED: What Is the Fastest Way to Become a Psychologist?

Difference between a Psy.D and a Ph.D

Both are doctorate degrees in psychology. The Psy.D is relatively newer as it became popular in the early 1970’s as a programs to train graduates for applied work, primarily in therapy. It is a practical degree, meaning the student puts their doctorate to practice in the field of therapeutic techniques. As a graduate from a Psy.D program you can expect to excel in practice-related knowledge and experience, and be familiar with research methodology, comfortable reading research articles and learning about research findings, and able to apply research findings to your applied work. Psy.D graduates are trained to be consumers of research-based knowledge.

PhD programs have a primary emphasis on research and, secondarily, the research is put to practice. However, many Ph.D programs combine both the scientific aspect and the practitioner models. Whereas, the Psy.D programs emphasize creating practitioners. During the Master’s program, the student will probably develop an affinity for one of these two distinctive programs.

What if you’re in a quandary as to which program to chose? You may have been accepted into both the Ph.D and Pys.D programs at the same or different universities? As you complete your Master’s, you need to ask yourself, “What career do you desire?” What is you chose the Psy.D program and become a therapist but later decide, this doesn’t appeal to you? If career flexibility is important, the PhD program will offer this flexibility. Hence, more opportunities to switch professions throughout one’s work life.

The financial burden to receive a Master’s can be enormous. With this in mind, when you’re considering a particular college/university for your doctorate, also ascertain what funding and/or stipends are offered in the form of a research assistantship.

Employment Prospects

The culmination of years of study will be the satisfaction of being on the receiving end of the financial spectrum. Your career choice may already have been chosen based upon your continuation in the research field. A smooth transition from your doctorate work. For others, there will be career choices to be made, and these will be partially governed by your area of expertise.


Vocational Counselor:      Average salary: $46,000

School Psychologist:         Average salary: $59,000

Forensic Psychologist:      Average salary: $60,000

Sports Psychologist:         Average salary: $45,000 to $80,000

Industrial Psychologist:      Average salary: $84,000

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in early 2014 listed the 20 fastest growing occupations in the U.S.. Coming it a number one with a projected growth rate of 53% between now and 2022 is the Industrial-Organizational Psychologist. These professionals apply psychology to the workplace by using psychological principles and research methods to improve problems and improve the quality of work life.


The future looks bright for those venturing beyond a Master’s program. However, to be honored with the designation of a “psychologist”, you must have a Psy.D or PhD.

Related Resources:

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Psychologist?