Difference between PsyD and PhD in Psychology

December 13, 2016 by Editorial Team

To the layperson, the PsyD and PhD in Psychology are almost interchangeable. Both titles evoke images of clinics, couches, and patients telling a “shrink” about their childhoods. To a certain extent, these images are true. However, the theory and practice of psychology goes beyond clinical settings. Because of this, colleges and universities offer PsyD and PhD in Psychology degrees, with different specializations. This article will discuss their differences.


PsyD vs PhD in Psychology
Georgette Savvides, PsyD, a well-known clinical psychologist in the UK

The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) curriculum prepares psychologists for work in a clinical setting. PsyD students gain clinical exposure in various settings, such as community health centers and student counseling centers. Clinical training for PsyD students culminates in a 2-year full-time internship under the supervision of a psychologist.

To earn a PsyD degree, students have to pass comprehensive exams and internships. Most, but not all, schools require the submission and oral defense of a doctoral dissertation.

Generally, to gain permission to practice their profession, PsyD graduates need to pass national and state licensure examinations and to demonstrate clinical experience. As they complete their clinical exposure during the course of their studies, PsyD graduates find it easy to get the licenses needed to practice psychology.

In general, most holders of PsyD degrees choose to work in a clinical setting, such as private practice or mental health institutions.

PhD in Psychology
Sean Young, PhD, an expert in the use of social media in changing social behavior

A PhD in Psychology prepares psychologists for experimental research. While the PhD in Psychology curriculum in most schools involves clinical exposure, most of a PhD student’s time is spent on assisting academics with original research, which could include interactions with patients.

The requirements for a PhD include a master’s thesis, a doctoral dissertation, a sufficient number of clinical hours, and comprehensive exams.

Similarly, those who earn PhDs in psychology and wish to go into practice need to pass licensure exams and complete their clinical internship hours. As most PhD programs already offer internship opportunities, PhD graduates find it easy to secure their licenses.

Many with a PhD in Psychology choose to stay in the academe. Other career tracks include full-time research, teaching, and consultancy in non-clinical fields such as industrial psychology and social psychology.

PsyD vs PhD in Psychology

So what are the differences between a PsyD and a PhD in Psychology? The main differences lie in the programs’ respective curriculums, requirements for graduation, and career paths.


At most institutions, the PsyD program features earlier and longer exposure to clinical environments. In contrast, PhD programs lean heavily towards research and experimentation.

Requirements for Graduation

While most PsyD programs include a doctoral dissertation as a requirement for graduation, not all schools require it. Schools that award the PhD in Psychology, on the other hand, require the submission and oral defense of a doctoral dissertation.

Career Path

Most individuals with a PsyD degree go on to work in clinical environments, such as private practice or community mental health institutions. Meanwhile, graduates of PhD in Psychology programs gravitate towards research, teaching, and consultancy, specializing in fields such as social psychology or human resources.

Comparison Chart

PsyDPhD in Psychology
Curriculum is more clinical in orientationCurriculum is heavily research-oriented
Most schools require a dissertationAll schools require a dissertation
Most graduates go into clinical practiceMost graduates go into research and teaching