If your background is in Psychology and you want to expand your knowledge with your practice, then you may want to consider pursuing a doctoral degree in Psychology. This program will prepare the student to perform scientific research, professional psychological practice, or a combination of all these things. There are two major programs that most students receive, either a Doctor of Psychology or PsyD degree or a Doctor of Philosophy or PhD degree. Each of these degrees will provide students with skills and knowledge in psychology. But you have to weigh your choice very carefully because there are major differences between the degrees. There are also differences when it comes to the training and the career plans of students who are earning either of these degrees. (1)
A Short Background on the PsyD Degree
The PsyD degree was introduced in the year 1970 as a practice-focused alternative to the Ph.D. The PsyD program is generally intended for students and professionals who intend to provide psychological services instead of conducting research or work in the academe.
Professional schools of psychology are offering the PsyD degree and these may be affiliated with psychological research or teaching university. The students may also be contained in a stand-alone graduate school. The main focus of the PsyD program is to be able to train these postgraduate students in skills that they will be able to use in careers that will apply their scientific knowledge of psychology.
The professional will then deliver services to groups, individuals or organizations. Most of the PsyD programs will require the student to prepare a thesis or a dissertation. The students can then use qualitative or quantitative techniques and methodologies to be able to show how specific psychological research can be applied to human behavior.
Some Advantages and Disadvantages of PsyD Degree
The following are some advantages when taking a PsyD degree:
- The student will have the opportunity to help people. The student will study the practical application of psychology and then put theories and therapeutic techniques in actual practice with patients. If you plan to become a licensed psychologist or counselor, then this is the program that you may want to pursue.
- If you are one who enjoys practical psychology, PsyD programs will often look deeply at therapy techniques and serious mental disorders. So, it is possible that you may take courses in pharmacology, assessment and specific forms of therapy. You will also be needing to study clinical interviewing, psychometrics, behavioral training substance abuse, and mental trauma.
- If you are one who does not want to do a dissertation, then taking up the PsyD program can be your preference. Most PsyD programs are ending with clinical work and an internship. You can also expect to be spending a year as an intern with a community center or a psychologist. Thus, while students in Ph.D. programs are working in laboratories and libraries, you, on the other hand, will be working with patients and eventually put your skills to practical use.
- There is less cost and less time involved. In a PsyD program, this can usually be completed within four years and is generally less expensive, the PhD, on the other hand, can take up to six or even eight years to finish.
The following, on the other hand, are the disadvantages when taking a PsyD degree:
- There is only limited research. Because PsyD program mainly focuses on practice, and not the theory, which is of course, good, if you really want to become a practicing psychologist. So, in a PsyD program, you are going to be trained in the practical applications of the subject and not on things like data analysis and research methods. So, if you want your career to be in research or the academe, then perhaps you are more suited for a PhD, instead of PsyD. Furthermore, if you want to be working more in reading, researching and also writing about psychology, then still, a PhD degree is going to be a better fit. However, when you have a PsyD degree, then you are going to spend much more tie studying the mental health conditions, methods and assessment and modes of therapy.
- There is only a limited theory. In most PhD programs, they offer a lot of concentrations for your psychological studies, so you could choose to study research, clinical psychology, counseling psychology, social psychology and more. The same mental health problems and therapy choices as the PsyD program will be examined in these courses, however, you will mostly focus on the theory and research with a PhD. So, if you feel that this is what you want, then you may want a PhD degree.
- There is no dissertation. With a PsyD degree, it will culminate in a clinical internship instead of a research dissertation. So, if you want the latter, then you may want to pursue a PhD degree.
- There is less recognition. With many others, the PsyD degree is also a legitimate doctoral degree, however, it is not as famous and as established as a PhD. There are also some professionals and academic that may view the PsyD program in some circles that they deem as less worthy than a PhD.
- Possibility of more debt. This is because as compared to PhD students, there are only limited financial help when it comes to PsyD students. So, even if the PsyD degree is less expensive, you still can have more student debts. (2)
Degree Specialties in PsyD Degrees
There are a lot of PsyD programs that cover all areas of psychology and psychotherapy, however, there are also some programs that do offer concentrations. Below are some concentrations:
- The serious mental illness
- The dialectical behavior therapy
- The interventions with high-risk families
Furthermore, each of the PsyD programs will have its own curriculum, however many of the courses that you will take will be similar from program to program. Here are some required courses:
- The Cognitive and Neuropsychological Assessment
- The Advanced Adult Psychopathology
- The Behavioral Assessment
- The Behavior Analysis
- The Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
- The Developmental Psychology
- The Personality Assessment
- The Clinical Interviewing
- The Assessment of Children
- The Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy
- The Cognition, Perception and Cognitive Therapy
- The Professional Development Seminar; and
When it comes to the employment options of a PsyD degree holder, there are still many career options such as the following:
- You can become a private practice psychologist. This is one of the most popular psychological professions because you will be working with patients in a number of settings to be able to deal with various mental health issues and personal problems.
- You can become a hospital psychologist. This profession typically works in a management capacity in a healthcare facility wherein the management of other psychologists is involved.
- You can become a counseling psychologist. There are many same jobs as a clinical psychologist which include providing psychotherapy and mental health treatment. In this profession, you will often work with clients with less severe types of mental health problems.
- You can become an engineering psychologist who is one who works with companies to increase the efficiency and the profitability and at the same time eliminate safety concerns that can lead to liability.
- You can become a forensic psychologist who works in the assessment and treatment of different types of criminals. You will also be working in the execution of criminal investigations.
- You can become a correctional facility psychologist who is responsible for the managing of the psychological and mental health of the prisoners in a correctional facility. You will be working in training, dealing with mental concerns, motivations, including behavioral disorders.
- You can become a clinical psychologist which is one of the most common and popular areas of psychology. They primarily work centers as to assessing behavioral problems and devising treatment plans that are going to be effective in working through programs that are related to serious mental illness.
- You can become a school psychologist who will be monitoring the child’s performance and at the same time watch for signs that indicate that they need any help with their personal development and academic performance. You will also be working with the school, or the district and then diagnose behavior and the learning programs with children.
After you have completed your degree, whether you earn a PsyD or PhD, you are going to be required to obtain a license through your state’s licensing board so that you can practice as a psychologist. In some states, if you are employed at a college, university, state or federal institution, research lab or company, you may be exempt from taking licensure. This will then vary widely by state and it is going to be your responsibility to verify your own state’s examination from licensure.
Finally, in deciding as to what program you are really going to pursue, then this will ultimately boil down to what you really are passionate about. So if you prefer to obtain research training, and then work in academic practice, then you may want to choose the PhD degree. However, if you do not want to obtain research training but instead want to put your learnings to actual use, then the PsyD degree might be the right choice for you.