PhD in Psychology

Professionals who intend to be fully licensed psychologists, researchers, or professors will need to pursue a PhD in psychology.

PhD in Psychology At a Glance

  • Admission Requirements: Schools look for pre-doctorate education, GPA scores (varies), GRE scores (varies), transcripts, letters of recommendations, and other assessments (e.g. interviews, essays, Statement of Purpose, etc.)
  • Courses and Required Training: There are advanced courses and specific courses for the chosen specialization, such as clinical psychology, counseling psychology, and school psychology. Schools also have particular requirements for completion.
  • Acceptance Rate: 11-15%*of students who apply get accepted
  • Program Length: PhD programs usually last 5-7 years but can take longer due to dissertations.
  • Financial Assistance: 84% of PhD students receive full financial assistance.
  • Internship Acceptance: 96% of PhD students get accepted to APA-accredited internships.**
  • Career Options: PhD graduates have options to teach, research, or engage in practice.

Emphasis, Courses, and Required Training

The focus of PhD in psychology is research and experimentation. Many of the required courses focus on the knowledge and application of research methodologies.

In the psychology doctorate levels, advanced course work is necessary to prepare students to practice in a wide range of clinical settings. Similar to the masters in psychology, you will have an option to pick a specialization such as clinical psychology. If you plan to get accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA), choose from clinical, counseling, and school psychology. The school you choose should also be APA-accredited.

Specializations and program courses vary depending on the school and the student’s interest. Schools would generally require the following:

  • 60 credits which include masters credits or 90 credits for clinical psychology
  • Required and elective courses must be completed
  • Clinical practicum or supervised laboratory experience must be completed (hours required vary)
  • Internship program
  • Doctoral dissertation
  • At least one year residency

Program Length

Program completion will depend on many factors such as your school’s program, your specific program and specialization, and personal constraints (such as time you can allot per semester). Doctorate programs typically last for five to seven years due to the requirement of PhD programs to produce a dissertation. As a tip, the quickest way to finish your psychology doctorate is to start early in your bachelor’s and master’s degree by taking the prerequisite or foundational courses.

Internship Acceptance and Licensure Exam Performance

A huge number of PhD graduates get accepted into APA- accredited internships. In fact, 96% get accepted! The high acceptance rate is associated with the more rigorous admissions process and requirements of PhD programs.

Who’s Who with the Credentials?

As you can see, you can explore a wide variety of industries once you get your psychology doctorate. The APA website even talks about the different non-academic positions that you can enter.

  • Craig Haney, PhD works in the field of criminal justice and law enforcement by researching about incarceration. His research includes the impact of solitary confinement to prisoners.
  • Alison Gopnik, PhD works in the field of developmental psychology. One of her researches focus on challenging the traditional beliefs about the minds of babies and young children.
  • Susan Clayton, PhD spends her career life in environmental conservation. She stays in zoos to study human, animals, and nature interaction.
  • Eduardo Salas, PhD helps businesses and organizations. Being an organizational psychologist, it requires him to think about teamwork, positive work environments, and solving many other organizational challenges.
  • Tim Nichols, PhD gets to play a lot of video games as a user research lead. He applies his knowledge in psychology to observe, measure, and analyze human behavior in gaming. He also helps in designing video games that capture and engage the interest of players.

Alternatives to PhD program – The PsyD

There are other alternatives to higher education. A PhD in Psychology is not the only degree option. Another doctorate-level program is the PsyD or the Doctor of Psychology. Although both PhD and PsyD programs have similarities, the main difference lies in PhD’s focus on research and PsyD’s focus on practice. Learn more about the difference between a PhD and PsyD.

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