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What’s the Difference between a Ph.D. and Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology?

Considering a doctoral degree in clinical psychology? There are some key differences between the Ph.D. and Psy.D. that you’ll need to understand.

More so than other branches of psychology, the field of clinical psychology is particularly concerned with the assessment and treatment of patients with mental illness. If you are considering earning your doctoral degree in this field, it is first important to determine whether a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology program is the best option for your future goals. Below, we explore some key differences between these two choices.


What is a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology?

Since 1948, the American Psychological Association (APA) has been officially promoting Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology. A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is generally concerned with research practices and philosophy of a given field. The intention of this type of program is usually to prepare students to teach and/or conduct essential scientific research that can help further advance the field.

Most Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology programs take between 5 to 7 years to complete after completion of an undergraduate degree. Most programs incorporate a teaching element, and all require a written dissertation.


What is a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology?

At its roots, the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) is primarily concerned with the practical applications of psychology. According to the APA, “the focus of Psy.D. programs is to train students to engage in careers that apply scientific knowledge of psychology and deliver empirically based service to individuals, groups, and organizations.”

The Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology typically takes between 4 to 6 years to complete after completing an undergraduate degree. Students often have an opportunity to pursue specializations in certain areas as well, such as neuropsychology.

Psy.D. programs are better designed to prepare students for careers as practitioners in the field of psychology, where they will deal with patients on a day-to-day basis, as opposed to academic careers. However, this does not mean you would be prevented from pursuing a career in academia. Most Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology programs also feature practicums or internships, and many also require a written dissertation.


So, what’s the difference between Ph.D. and Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology?

In summary, there are several key differences between a Ph.D. and a Psy.D. The most prominent difference is each program’s focus. If you seek a career in academia, a Ph.D. may be right for you. The Psy.D. was built specifically for those hoping to apply the principles of psychology in professional practice, with patients.

Additionally, the program lengths differ. A Ph.D. typically takes 5 to 8 years to complete, while a Psy.D. takes between 4 to 6 years.


Are you interested in learning more about clinical psychology programs available at The Chicago School? Fill out the form below to request more information or apply today through our application portal.



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