Psy D Programs

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Participating in one of the many available Psy D programs and earning a doctor’s level education in psychology is a great way to advance your career. Psy D degrees and programs enable you to work with many different populations. It is one of the highest degrees available in psychology.

Essentially, a Psy D program is an alternative to earning a research doctoral degree in psychology or a PhD in Psychology. Students who enroll in a PhD in Psychology program are usually expected to have completed a Master’s degree level research program related to psychology, as well as a doctoral dissertation, but Psy D students are focused on clinical training, as opposed to research. Make sure you understand the difference between PsyD and PhD programs.

The first PsyD degree was earned in the last 1960s. The degree is similar to an MD in medicine, and includes in-the-field training in clinical settings. Students in PhD programs receive clinical experience, but it begins later in the program than with the PsyD degree. A Psy D is shorter in length than PhD programs and in many cases, might be easier to be admitted to.

PsyD At a Glance

  • Emphasis: Clinical practice and supervised experiences with patients.
  • Origins: 1973 Vail Conference on Professional Training in Psychology.
  • Admission Requirements: Schools usually require Bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, GPA scores (varies), GRE scores (varies), transcripts, letters of recommendations, and other assessments (e.g. interviews, essays, Statement of Purpose, etc.)
  • Acceptance Rate: 40-41 % of students who apply are accepted.
  • Specializations: Clinical Psychology and Counseling Psychology although there are a handful of PsyD’s focusing on School Psychology.
  • Years: Generally requires 5-7 years and can include at least a year of supervised clinical experience.
  • Certification or Licensing: Requirements vary by state. Graduates of American Psychological Association or APA-accredited PsyD programs are eligible to take licensure exams. According to APA, students who did not attend an APA-accredited school may have their program’s curriculum scrutinized by licensing boards.

Requirements and Prerequisites

Requirements for Psy D program enrollees vary from school to school, and might even vary within the same school depending on whether someone is currently enrolled in a lower level program or an outside applicant.

In general, you can expect you will need to have:

  • Earned a Master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or related mental health field
  • Sustained an adequate GPA, usually 3.0 or higher
  • Participated in an interview
  • Completed specific course pre-requisites that if not completed in another program will be required on an individual basis. So for instance, if your previous programs did not require abnormal psychology, you would need to take the class prior to admittance to a program.

Courses and Curriculum

Most PsyD programs are comprehensive and provide education and hands-on training for the student. The goal is to ensure graduates have the skills and knowledge to promote sustainable health and well-being for patients, while acknowledging the connection between mind, body, and spirit, and the role of a person’s social support systems. Many programs also delve into economic, spiritual, vocational, environmental, political, and communal issues.

How Do I Know If a Psy D Program is Right for Me?

Whether or not a Psy D program is right for you depends on your career goals. There are some who do not consider a aPsy D as prestigious as a PhD, but this is not necessarily justified and usually only the case in the academic world. When it comes to working with clients and practicing in a clinical setting, both degrees have equal status and function about the same. This means your decision comes down to whether you prefer to learn in a hands-on clinical setting or to conduct research.


Do you have specific questions about earning a Psy D? The frequently asked questions below might help:

What are my career options with a Psy D degree?

For the most part, someone who has earned a Psy D degree is qualified for the same jobs as a person with a PhD in psychology. Job choices with Psy D include counseling, social work, providing mental health services to special communities, and working in hospitals, community agencies, university counseling centers and other areas of academia, clinics, or private practice.

Do I need to have a doctorate level degree to work in psychology?

Many people work in the field of mental health without a doctorate. However, to call yourself a psychologist, you must earn a doctoral degree in psychology. You will only be able to receive your license and refer to yourself as a doctor if you have done so.

There are many reasons why people choose to or not to pursue a doctorate level degree, including time and financial commitments. Depending on your career goals, a Psy D or other doctorate level degree might not be necessary and might not “pay off” in the long run. On the other hand, if you have a passion for psychology and you wish to achieve the highest level of education, earning your doctorate degree can be extremely beneficial to your career.

Is it possible to work while enrolled while completing a Psy D ?

Yes, and many students do so. In general, working while attending classes to earn an advanced degree is common. However, for many, it’s very difficult to work full-time while enrolled in a doctorate program, especially a Psy D. There are required courses, many of which are offered only during the day or at night, so students do not have a great deal of scheduling flexibility.

There are also practicum experiences required during most semesters of study, which equates to as much as 20 hours per week of onsite work. These are demanding programs and require a great deal of commitment from students.

Online Psy D programs might make it a bit easier to balance full-time work and learning since there are fewer in-classroom requirements, but doing so can still be difficult because of practicum demands.

What is a PsyD Practicum?

A practicum is a hands-on learning experience. It provides students an opportunity to work directly with patients in a clinical setting and is one of the primary benefits of a Psy D.

Working in a clinical study during education is important for a few reasons:

First, it allows you to gain hands-on experience and face challenges while still under the support of your mentors and educators. This makes you better equipped to deal with challenges once you graduate.

It’s also beneficial to have hands-on experience with different populations because it allows you to make a well-informed decision about your career path. Many people, especially doctors, enter a program assuming they want to do one thing, only to learn of a better option during a practicum experience.

Practicums are typically completed in hospitals, schools, and community agencies or organizations. When choosing a program, it’s important to spend a great deal of time examining the practicum opportunities the program offers. With a PsyD, this is arguably the most important part of your education and you want to be sure the program you choose makes it possible for you to accomplish your goals.

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