Masters In Psychology vs PsyD

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Many students struggle with a serious of questions throughout the course of their medical education. One particularly troublesome one is whether they should earn their master’s degree before they apply to take part in a doctorate program. Sometimes, if you’re not sure whether doctoral study is the right option for you, a master’s degree maybe a good option, and you can spend time talking to your college adviser about the option most applicable to your career goals and educational interests. However, in many cases, students are not entirely sure what the differences are between a Masters in Psychology, and a Psy.D.

The History of the Degrees

What is a Master’s Degree in Psychology?

A master’s degree in psychology is a graduate degree that involves around two or three years of extra study beyond the typical education required to achieve an undergraduate degree. There are various options to choose from, including a Master’s in experimental psychology, a master’s in applied psychology, or a master’s in clinical psychology.

Some programs offer a ‘terminal degree’, which has been designed to offer students the chance to obtain some professional practice in their area of specialty. Other programs utilize master’s study as a way to prepare students for further study at doctoral level.

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The requirements of a specific course can vary according to where you go, so you may have to carefully consider the outline of any course that you might be considering. Furthermore, you may have to choose between a non-thesis program and thesis program. The latter choice is generally recommended for individuals interested in further study, whereas a non-thesis could be ideal for those interested in immediately pursuing a career after graduation.

What is a Psy.D?

A Psy.D. Or ‘doctor of psychology’ degree, is a professional doctorate degree that has been designed as a way to prepare students and graduates for practice within the field of psychology. Originally, earning the degree could be done by completing one of two training models for clinical psychology. However, today, programs are no longer limited to clinical psychology alone, and many professional schools offer doctorates in organizational development, school psychology, counseling psychology and business psychology.

One of the highest-level degrees that are currently available within the field of psychology, a Psy.D. is an applied clinical doctorate degree. Until the 1960s, the Ph.D. in psychology was the only option available for professional psychologists looking to achieve their degree. However, concerns were raised that this option did not provide the correct preparation for those who wanted to pursue further clinical work. As a result, the 1970s saw the development of the Psy.D. Degree to train psychologists in practice.

1 – The Work You Can Do

Although having a master’s degree gives an individual more job opportunities than a bachelor’s level degree, options can still be limited if you are interested in entering professional psychology. A terminal master’s program typically opens doors for individuals into entry level jobs in fields including industrial-organizational psychology, mental health, and forensic psychology.

After earning a Psy.D. and passing the required licensing exams, an individual may treat and diagnose mental disorders, whilst conducting psychological tests, providing psychotherapy services and administering evaluations.

2 – Place of Employment

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment opportunities for psychologists within the United States is expected to grow significantly. However, the handbook also notes that those who hold master’s degrees in fields other than industrial-organizational psychology may ‘face keen competition’. The need for trained professionals to boost productivity and worker retention is expected to drive a huge demand for these psychologists.

Places where individuals with a Master’s in psychology may look for employment include universities, government locations, private businesses and colleges.

However, individuals with a Psy.D. could work within various settings, including mental health clinics, schools, government offices, hospitals, and some choose to open their own psychotherapy practice.

3 – Educational Areas

Those hoping to pursue a master’s degree in psychology will benefit from planning their course early. Before you are able to apply for a master’s program, you may be required to take a GRE or Graduate Record Examination, as well as the GRE psychology subject test. Usually, developmental psychology, experimental methods, and statistics are some of the common courses that students will expect to see within psychology graduate programs.

The educational requirements of a Psy.D have been carefully created to prepare psychologists for practice, teaching them how to utilize their understanding of the mind, behavior, and the science behind them in order to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Many Psy.D programs can take approximately four to seven years to complete, and can contain various topics including diagnosis, clinical intervention, and psychological assessment.

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Similarly to as is required with a Ph.D. in Psychology, Psy.D. students must participate in supervised practice, as well as supervised internship opportunities within a clinical setting. During the practice, many students will work on a part time basis beneath the eye of a licensed psychologist. The internship, on the other hand, is a full time position which typically lasts for at least one year. After their internship is completed, students are required to take national and state exams to become licensed as psychologists.


About the Author: Ann Steele

This website is co-authored by Ann Steele, a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego with extensive experience with children and adolescents. Ann Steele attended American School Of Psychology & Argosy University Online. She especially enjoys using music therapy for mental and emotional well-being.

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We are an open forum for articles, manuscripts, unpublished thesis, and letters as well as a guide for job, career and program advice from like-minded Graduates. We are seeking submissions that will be of interest to the community.