PsyD Vs. PhD in Counseling Psychology

Jun 04, 2019

Students considering a PsyD or PhD in Counseling Psychology should think about their interests, career goals, and educational timeframe when trying to decide between the 2 programs. Learn about the unique features of each program and how to apply.

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Counseling Psychology and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counseling Psychology are very similar degree programs that require various hands-on training experiences in counseling psychology. However, PsyD programs are usually shorter and prepare students primarily for hands-on clinical work, while PhD programs are longer and are more research-focused. See more distinctions and details of each program below.

Comparing a PsyD to a PhD in Counseling Psychology

PsyD in Counseling Psychology

PsyD in Counseling Psychology degree programs are typically designed to prepare students for professional practice in the field, and each program often has its own area, or areas, of emphasis, such as social justice, rural mental health, evidence-based practice, and/or cultural diversity. These programs may require around 93 to 119 credits and are usually completed in 4 years with 3 years of coursework and a final, 1-year internship experience with an organization. Throughout the program students participate in other hands-on learning and training, such as practicum experiences and/or unique cultural immersions, and are typically required to complete a dissertation. Students pursuing the degree may take coursework that discusses topics in ethics, diversity issues, group dynamics, social psychology, psychometrics, assessment, and couples and family therapy. Graduates of PsyD in Counseling Psychology degree programs typically work as psychologists, therapists, evaluators, and diagnosticians, but can also pursue research or teaching careers in higher education.

PhD in Counseling Psychology

PhD in Counseling Psychology degree programs train students to be scientist-practitioners and commonly place an emphasis on multiculturalism and social justice. These programs may also provide additional areas of concentration, such as assessment, supervision, teaching, or clinical health psychology. Students may be required to take around 98 to 108 credits and typically complete the program in 4 to 6 years. The program requires students to complete practicum experiences, a dissertation, and a 1-year internship at the conclusion of the program for hands-on learning. Specific course topics may include cognitive psychology, ethics, history of psychology, behavioral neuroscience, counseling theories, psychopathology, and group counseling. Graduates with a PhD in Counseling Psychology can work as researchers, educators, consultants, or practitioners within the field.

Common Entrance Requirements

Most PsyD degree programs require applicants to hold a master's degree, typically in counseling, psychology, or another closely related field, while some PhD programs may accept students with only a bachelor's degree. Students applying to either program generally need to meet a minimum GPA requirement, which may range from a 2.75 to a 3.5, depending on the institution. Students also typically need to take the GRE General Test and many programs allow, but do not usually require, students to submit the GRE Psychology Subject Test to strengthen their application. Other common application materials for both degree programs include transcripts, letters of recommendation/references, and a resume or CV. PsyD programs also usually require students to complete 1 to 2 essays with their application, while most PhD programs require students to submit a statement of purpose or goals that may address why the program is a good fit.

A PsyD or PhD in Counseling Psychology can prepare students for careers as practitioners or academics, but PhD programs are more research-based. Both programs may also require a dissertation, but PsyD programs can usually be completed in 4 years, while PhD programs may take up to 6 years for completion.

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