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Comparing Psychology Degrees: PsyD vs. PhD

Home > Comparing Psychology Degrees: PsyD vs. PhD

By Taner Ergin
Contributing Writer to RNDegrees.net

psychiatrist

As one considers the possibility of continuing their education in psychology beyond a 4-year college degree, there are several options to keep in mind, such as choosing between PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), and a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) degree. Although the PhD degree is usually the most commonly pursued among the two choices, being the oldest doctorate available, the PsyD degree has seen a rise in popularity over recent years. The PhD is a more traditional, research-based professional degree, while the purpose of the PsyD is seen as placing greater focus on preparing the individual for professional practice, with less research training built into the curriculum. With this in mind, the decision to work towards either degree depends on what the individual plans on doing with his or her life. For a career in academia the PhD is seen as more advantageous because of the research-based emphasis. However, if one plans on entering a career centered on applied, clinical practice, both the PsyD and PhD are equal in terms of status and functional.

Similar Characteristics Yet Different

Both degrees in psychology have basic components in common like the basic science behind the study of psychology, and the practical skills that go along with it, but they differ greatly in terms of emphasis placed on research and clinical experience. Following the Vail Conference of 1973, where the PsyD was officially recognized as a professional doctorate, it brought an increased clinical perspective to the field of psychology. The American Psychological Association endorsed the recognition of the PsyD at the Vail Conference for it was stated that this degree was useful in giving psychologists increased flexibility to be useful in various different practitioner roles. Both degrees are widely accepted with licensure, but the PsyD prepares the individual for a future career in clinical, counseling, or school psychology, leaving the door open for the individual to also focus in on specific areas including child psychology, neuropsychology, forensic psychology, etc. In the end, both degrees are recognized worldwide, and both train people to be psychologists in an accredited manner. The added option of the PsyD in recent decades as a professional doctorate is so that those who want to become practitioners of psychology in the future have the ability to complete a doctorate geared more towards their desire to work in a clinical setting. In short, the PsyD degree focuses on the clinical application of psychology while the emphasis of the PhD lies in research training, with both degrees maintaining the similar basic components of study in science and practical skills of psychology.

Psychology Versus Psychiatry

Clinical psychology is one option which someone with a PsyD could pursue, but this should not be confused with psychiatry. Although both are similar in their goals of trying to alleviate mental suffering in patients, several key differences separate both. Clinical psychology involves applying psychology with the goal of understanding, preventing, or treating psychologically-based disorders and ailments. Psychological assessment and psychotherapy are seen as key components to the field of clinical psychology. Psychiatrists on the other hand are physicians with medical degrees and their approach to curing or relieving mental disorders is based mostly on medication although some elements of psychotherapy are integrated at times. Clinical psychology focuses more on the patient’s psychological development and is geared more towards gaining a greater understanding of the patient’s psychologically-based disorder.

Psychology Careers Offers Broad Options

The field of psychology is so broad that those working towards a professional degree have great freedom in choosing an area that they want to focus in on. For example, an industrial/organizational psychologist works with businesses and corporations, usually in the human resources department, using knowledge gathered from scientific study and utilizing said information to solve problems in the work place in the form of maximizing profits, production rates, employee satisfaction, decreasing employee absences, etc. They usually deal with issues such as improving communication within a business, and methods to hiring better employees, among other tasks.


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