Psychology Doctorate Degree Programs Overview

Essential Information

Doctoral degree programs in psychology teach students how to observe behavior, measure results and employ statistics to quantify outcomes. Earning this degree requires completion of a dissertation and possibly a comprehensive intern- or externship residency. Overall, the program can take four to seven years to complete. In order to apply, you will need a bachelor's or master's degree in psychology, and you will be required to submit transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

Doctoral Degree in Psychology

Doctoral students can choose to pursue either a practice-oriented Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree or a research-based Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. Specialization options include subfields such as neuroscience, clinical psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, and cognitive psychology. At the end of the program, students are required to submit and defend a dissertation.

Doctoral programs focus primarily on developing either research or clinical skills and prepare students for careers such as counseling, lab research, forensic analysis, or teaching. Students take a wide range of courses, and then apply the concepts they learn to their specialized dissertation work. Courses may include:

  • Experimental psychology
  • Theories of psychology
  • Human development
  • Clinical ethics
  • Cognitive processes
  • Analytical psychology
  • Dissertation preparation

Popular Career Options

Individuals with a doctoral degree in psychology receive specialized training that can be applied in diverse settings. Psychologists can offer broad general services or focus on a specific area, such as mental health, perception, human memory or women's issues. Career options include:

  • Criminal psychologist
  • Psychological consultant
  • Experimental-research psychologist
  • School psychologist
  • Clinical administrator
  • Forensic psychologist
  • Environmental psychologist
  • Organizational-industrial psychologist
  • Psychotherapist
  • Educator
  • College or university professor

Continuing Education Information

A doctoral degree in psychology is considered a terminal degree. Those interested in a corresponding doctoral degree may consider a Doctor of Philosophy in Transpersonal Psychology or a Doctor of Philosophy in Holistic Psychology.

Overall, a doctorate in psychology allows students to achieve the highest level of education in the field and focus in a specific area of interest. Depending on your specialization, the degree can prepare you for almost any psychology-related career.

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