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The Ph.D. is the more familiar degree for most people. It is a Doctor of Philosophy, which one can earn in any academic discipline. The Psy.D. refers to only the study of psychology. It is a Doctor of Psychology.

This is a companion to our post: What is the Benefit of a Ph.D. in Psychology vs. a Psy.D? (See link below) This article will elaborate on the differences between the two degrees with the intention of avoiding repetition. Our objective is that the following information will help the prospective doctoral student make an informed decision regarding the two options.

One of the primary differences expressed by academics is that the typical college-based Ph.D. prepares students for research and teaching. This degree may be more advantageous for individuals interested in a tenured professorship role. A Ph.D. program in psychology is designed to yield psychologists who can both understand and perform research. Their research discovers more information above how the mind works and creates more effective types of therapy. In this endeavor, Ph.D. candidates spend more time doing research than in the practice of the clinical aspects of the profession.

The Psy.D helps students prepare for state licensure. It also provides training in practice-related knowledge therapeutic techniques, and further expertise in intervention assessment and skills. However, this does not resolve their differences. In fact, regarding clinical psychology, either degree allows you to practice as a clinical psychologist.

The list of schools offering a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology attests to the absence of differences between the two degrees regarding clinical practice. Generally, a  Ph.D. program concentrates on the requisite training needed for clinical psychologists. The theme is to become versed in psychological theory and its methodology. A Doctor of Psychology program focuses on the clinical application of the science. These programs can lead to state licensure as a clinical psychologist.

Although some programs may have definite differences in their emphasis (research vs. clinical practice), another difference is the length of time to complete the respective doctoral degree. Generally, there are minor differences in the coursework. For example, there could be less emphasis on clinical coursework in Ph.D. programs. There is a consensus of opinion that a Ph.D. program can be about a year longer than a Psy.D. program.

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Stipends and Grants

Another difference to consider is the fact that Ph.D. programs tend to have more financial assistance from various universities than PsyD programs. Additionally, these payments can be a difference and a benefit. Some universities consider research conducted in psychology as a work for the university. There are also fellowships for students entering Ph.D. programs.

For example, a department fellowship at a state university might be generous enough to cover your  registration fees, health insurance, and out-of-state tuition (if applicable). There are usually conditions associated with these benefits. You could be required to honor a commitment of four additional years of financial support through teaching or research at the respective school.

A short list of possibilities for Psy.D. support are:

APA: It provides career development and financial support to promising doctoral and postdoctoral students in areas related to ethnic minority behavioral health research or services.

Psi Chi: This is an international organization for psychology hosts grants and award competitions every year. Students can be the recipients of research grants and paid travel to psychology conferences.

The Society for Neuroscience and the Association for Psychological Science are additional sources that help students in research areas and travel to conferences.

Cost and Debt

We touched on this in our post mentioned in the second paragraph. You may have the good fortune to enroll in a university-based Ph.D. program that waives tuition costs for graduate students. In exchange for the partial funding, you become involved as a teaching or research assistant. This type of funding is less common in PsyD programs, which typically have higher tuition. Various studies conducted in recent years suggest that students from PsyD programs graduate with more debt than their counterparts in a Ph.D. program. Some statistics show as much as an average debt of $50k for Ph.D. students versus a median debt of $120k for PsyD. students. (APA, 2011).

Additional Resources:

How Do You Earn Your Master of Social Work License?

What Jobs Can You Get With a Master’s in Social Work Degree?

What is the Benefit of a Ph.D. in Psychology vs. a Psy.D?

What are the differences in an Online vs Campus Master’s Degree in Psychology?

What Are the Different Kinds of Psychology Degrees?

How can I use a Psychology degree in Criminal Justice?

What is a degree in Psychology?

How fast can I complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology Online?