Doctor of Psychology (PsyD): Degree Overview

Oct 09, 2019

Essential Information

Psychologists are mental health professionals who diagnose clients and offer treatment services, including individual and group therapy. To become a psychologist, an individual must complete a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D) degree. Programs typically take five years to complete.

Some programs offer concentrations in major psychological specialties, such as health, child psychology, or forensics. In addition to coursework, Psy.D. programs include extensive clinical training. This requirement places students in the field under the supervision of licensed psychologists who evaluate their performance. Individuals may consider programs that are approved by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Doctoral Degree in Psychology

Applicants to a Psy.D program must have completed either a bachelor's or master's degree. Often, applicants are required to have completed a minimum amount of credit hours in psychology. Letters of recommendation and work experience may also be required for admission.

Psy.D programs typically contain a research sequence that includes methods, design and statistical analysis. The core curriculum can include broad topics in the practice of psychology, while elective coursework allows students to select specific topics of personal interest. Some possible course topics that may appear in a Psy.D program could include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Assessment with children
  • Group psychotherapy
  • Developmental psychology
  • Neuropharmacology

Popular Career Options

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many psychologists work for schools, outpatient centers, state governments or private practices ( Regardless of the work setting, their primary job duty is typically helping clients determine the cause of their behavioral problems. Psychologists often interact with other professionals in health, education or law enforcement. Some possible career options include:

  • Clinical psychologist
  • Child psychologist
  • Clinical therapist
  • Behavioral psychologist
  • Forensic psychologist

The BLS expects a 14% increase in job opportunities for psychologists during the 2018-2028 decade. It also estimated that clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned a median salary of $76,990 in 2018.

Licensure and Certification Information

According to the BLS, all states have licensing requirements for psychologists who offer patient care. While standards vary by state, typical requirements include earning a doctorate, having supervised experience and passing a qualifying exam. Many states allow psychologists to transfer their license from another state, although they may have to meet special requirements. Continuing education may be required to maintain licensure.

The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) offers board certification in different psychological specialties. While each specialty has different requirements, all of them require a doctorate and state licensure. The ABPP indicates that board certification may count as continuing education in certain states (

Students who wish to practice as a clinical psychologist should look into a Doctor of Psychology program. These programs will allow students to achieve expertise in specific psychological areas, based on their specific research and career goals.

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