In many areas of psychology, it is a minimum requirement for someone to have completed a doctorate degree. This includes counseling psychologists and licensed clinical psychologists. In fields, such as health psychology and school psychology, the same degree is often required.
Psy.D., Ph.D. or Ed.D?
There are three different degree options at doctorate level for psychologists. A Ph.D. is a research degree and graduates can work in research and teaching. They can also obtain clinical positions in universities, colleges, government offices, hospitals and private mental health practices, but the majority of people with a Ph.D. in psychology no longer work directly with patients.
The Psy.D., by contrast, is very much based on direct clinical work with patients. They can do some research on psychology or teach, but this is rare. Instead, they tend to work in an applied setting where they provide direct services to people with mental health issues.
The Ed.D. option, which is the Doctor of Education, is the final option. This is the best degree for those who want to work in some form of educational psychology. This degree is the least common out of the three, due to the fact that it is very specific.
The time it would take to achieve a doctorate degree in psychology varies depending on your chosen pathway and your career goals. The following timeline is provided as a guide only.
How to Achieve a Doctorate in Psychology
The first step is to obtain a bachelor’s degree. This takes between four and five years to complete. Here, you will learn the basics and fundamental theories of psychology. This is followed by a two to three year master’s degree option, which allows for wider career choices, including those for social workers, employment specialists and case managers. In most states, you will be required to have a doctorate degree, which takes between four and seven years to finish, in order to be licensed. This is where you will choose whether to follow a Ph.D., a Psy.D. or an Ed.D. educational pathway. In a number of states, you will also need to complete a post-doctoral training program, although other states allow a year’s work experience instead.
It should be pointe out that there are a number of fantastic careers within psychology that do not require you to take part in such extensive education. However, choosing to obtain a doctorate degree leads to higher earnings, better job prospects and a great deal of personal satisfaction and pride. Hence, it is recommended to complete a doctorate.
The Bachelor’s Degree
The first element, as stated above is to complete a four to five year bachelor’s degree. This degree will teach you the fundamentals of human emotions, learning and behavior. Once completed, you could work for market research firms, nonprofit organizations, government, social services agencies, advertising agencies and marketing departments.
The Master’s Degree
Following on from the bachelor’s degree, you will need to complete a two to three year master’s degree. This will introduce you to the field of psychology in a far more in-depth manner. You will also be able to choose a field of specialization, although not all schools offer this option. Upon graduation, you will be able to work in government, education, health care, human services, mental health care, advertising and marketing. The master’s degree is also a preparation for the doctorate degree, which you can either move into straight after completion, or some time later on.
The Doctorate Degree
It takes between four and seven years to finish a doctorate degree. As stated, the Psy.D. and Ph.D. are the two most common options, although the Ed.D. is certainly also interesting. Choosing between them depends on what your career goals are and whether your focus is going to be on clinical practice, research or education. Naturally, you can also combine the three.
The Psy.D. is a practice-focused degree option that includes a lot of practical work. The Ph.D. is more based on research and testing new experimental methods. With a Psy.D., you are most likely to continue to actually practice psychology. With a Ph.D., however, you will have a greater understanding of psychology and research therein, as well as being able to conduct and apply research.
Once you have graduated with a doctorate degree, you can expect to get to work in colleges, schools, government, health care systems, social services agencies, nonprofit organizations and market research firms.
The length of time you will need to complete your degree depends on the type you have chosen. As such:
- Ph.D. programs generally take between five and seven years to finish. The curriculum will be made up of extensive coursework, but you will also have to complete a supervised residency or internship. Additionally, you will need to submit a dissertation, which is usually in an original research project.
- Psy.D. programs take between four and six years to complete on average. In most cases, it takes around one to five years more to finish a Ph.D. than what is required in order to complete a Psy.D. The Psy.D. will also often require an internship and a thesis that must be defended.
- Ed.D. programs take between three and five years to complete. The Ed.D. degree is the only one that only accepts master’s degree applicants. The Ph.D. and Psy.D. will accept bachelor’s degree applicants, whereby they will have to finish an accelerated master’s degree during their doctorate program.