Psy D vs PhD: Doctorates in Clinical Psychology Degrees - What's the Difference?

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The Ph.D.

The Ph.D. is the oldest doctorate and the most well known. After attaining a Ph.D. you will have a Doctorate of Philosophy. The Ph.D. is known for the scientist-practitioner model, which has a foundation of research and scientific practice – it’s also known as the Boulder model. Many individuals who wish to serve in the academic world choose to obtain the Ph.D. – people such as university professors for example.

The Ph.D. program usually lasts around one to two years longer than a Psy.D. program and is also a bit more difficult to get into, with an 11%-15% acceptance rate. There are also more options for fellowships and assistantships than there would be in a Psy.D. program.

Other career options include full-time researcher, therapist, or even a consult. It seems many doors are open with this doctorate. This would be the best choice for an individual who wants to work in a variety of settings or who does not yet know exactly which setting they would like to pursue. Ph.D.’s are endorsed by the American Psychological Association and you can obtain licensure as a psychologist in all states with this type of degree.

The Psy.D.

The Psy.D. is a baby compared to the Ph.D. This doctorate was supported for approval by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1974. Psy.D. stands for a Doctorate in Psychology. The Psy.D. is also known as the “Vail Model” and is based on the foundation of the “practitioner-scholar” model. It focuses more on the clinical aspect of psychology rather than the research.

Just like the Ph.D. program, students are required to complete an internship. Individuals with this type of degree mostly pursue careers in clinical settings such as mental institutions, family therapy clinics and hospitals. While those with this type of degree can be hired in the academic world, currently someone with “the reliable” Ph.D. may be hired before a person with the Psy.D. Also if you want to pursue research, a Psy.D. program does not prepare someone for this, so in this case a Ph.D. would be a better choice.

Psy.D. programs have a 40%-41% percent acceptance rate and students receive little funding for fellowships or assistantships. More than 30 programs are now approved and endorsed by the APA across the United States and you can become a licensed psychologist in all states with the Psy.D.

Current Averages of Accepted Students:

  • Overall GPA: Psy.D. (3.49) Ph.D. (3.62)
  • Psychology GPA: Psy.D. (3.67) Ph.D. (3.80)
  • GRE-V: Psy.D. (585) Ph.D. (620)
  • GR-Q: Psy.D. (580) Ph.D. (610)
  • GRE-Psych: Psy.D. (595) Ph.D. (619)

The Right Choice:

The Ph.D. versus the Psy.D. has become a very popular debate amongst many potential doctoral students. So now that we know a little bit about each type of program, which one should you attain? The real decision comes down to what career you are aiming for. If you want to be in the area of research then the obvious choice would be Ph.D. If you rather work hands on in the clinical setting and will not move forward with research then your opportunity will await with the Psy.D.




· Norcross, J. C., Sayette, M. A., & Mayne, T. J. (2002). Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology (2002-2003 ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

· Norcross, J. C., Sayette, M. A., Mayne, T. J., Karg, R. S., & Turkson, M. A. (1998). Selecting a Doctoral Program in Professional Psychology: Some Comparisons Among PhD Counseling, PhD Clinical, and PsyD Clinical Psychology Programs. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 29, 609-614.

This post is part of the series: Online Doctoral Degrees in Psychology

Online degree programs are up and coming especially in psychology So what do they consist of and what are the costs? While you do not need to graduate from an APA accredited program, find out the only online program accredited by the APA.

  1. Online Doctorates in Psychology
  2. Online PhD at Fielding Graduate University
  3. Ph.D. Vs. Psy.D.: A Comparison of Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Degrees