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Pros & Cons of a PhD Vs. PsyD

Deciding between a PhD in psychology and a PsyD? This article will break down these degrees for you to help you decide which works better for your future career.

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There are two different degrees that doctoral candidates can seek in the psychology field - a PsyD and a PhD. The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree and the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) are found at many colleges and universities. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each degree to help you determine which one you would like to pursue.

Pros of a PhD in Psychology over a PsyD

When looking at the PhD and PsyD degree programs, you must understand that they have both similarities and differences. The following details some of the positives of a PhD over a PsyD to help you determine which makes more sense for your future career goals.

If You Enjoy Research

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs, as you can likely guess by the name, are based on theory. These programs train you in research methods and data analysis. This degree works best for you if you want to pursue a career as a research psychologist or in academia. Basically, if you are interested in focusing on reading, researching, and writing, a PhD is better for you. The PsyD degree, on the contrary, will spend more time studying current conditions, assessment methods, and therapy techniques.

If You Like Theory

PhD programs tend to offer concentrations for your studies. You may choose to focus on research, or you may choose clinical psychology, counseling psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology, etc. While these courses will include a look into the same mental health disorders and therapy options that a PysD program does, you'll focus more on theory and research courses in a PhD program. You may find courses that detail human development through the lifespan, understanding cultural and individual differences, theories of group counseling, regression analysis, and research methods in psychology, and more.

If You Want to Avoid a Clinical

PhD programs culminate in a research dissertation that demands a lot of research and writing. These dissertations vary by university, but typically require hundreds of pages written for a book or journal on a psychology topic or theory you select. You'll also need to complete an oral defense on your work. This program will include researching one topic for several semesters. This is the capstone to all PhD programs, whereas the PsyD typically includes a clinical or internship instead.

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Cons of Earning a PsyD over a PhD Degree

It can be quite frustrating to decide between the two programs. While one aspect may be a pro for you, it could be a con for another person. Let's look at the reasons that a PhD in psychology might not be preferable to a PsyD.

If You Enjoy Helping People

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) programs also look at theories. However, they look at the practical applications of these theories and therapeutic techniques with real patients. The skills you'll learn in this program will be better for you if you want to seek licensing as a psychologist or counselor. You'll use these practical skills to work with patients and groups, hence directly helping and working with people. However, earning a PhD will likely put you on course for a career working away from people and around books and observing from afar.

If You Like Practical Psychology

Though many universities cover the same courses, there are a few differences you'll find between a PhD and a PsyD. PsyD programs tend to look more deeply at therapeutic techniques and mental disorders. Here, you'll likely undertake some pharmacology courses, assessment courses, and specific therapies, such as couples therapy and psychotherapy. You'll also learn about clinical interviewing, psychometrics, behavioral training, specific mental disorders, pediatric neuropsychology, veterans, substance abuse, and multicultural trauma. PhD programs, on the other hand, will look more at research methodologies and the theories of these mental disorders or therapies.

If You Want to Avoid a Dissertation

The PsyD programs culminate in clinical work and internships. Again, though these vary by school, you can expect about a year of interning with a psychologist or community center. In other words, while your PhD counterparts are in libraries and labs, you'll spend time with people, putting your education and skills to use.

The positives and negatives of a PhD over a PsyD degree program are more personal in nature. Considering whether you want to do a dissertation or clinical and work more in academia and labs or directly with patients will help you determine whether a PhD or a PsyD is the right degree choice for you.

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