Doctorate in Psychology Degree Programs
The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree is an applied doctorate that prepares psychology students for direct practice as licensed clinical psychologists. Designed in the 1970s, the PsyD prepares graduates to become certified as licensed clinical psychologists and work in a variety of settings including private practice, hospitals, and community mental health centers.
Doctor of Psychology programs are most often found at professional schools of psychology rather than public or research universities (where Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs are typically found). On this page, we provide an overview of the PsyD degree, admission requirements, and the careers you can pursue with this degree.
Table of Contents
- Reasons to Pursue a PsyD
- Program Options
- Admission Requirements
- Core Concepts
- Select Program Profiles
- Jobs With a PsyD Degree
- Frequently Asked Questions
Reasons to Pursue a Doctor of Psychology Degree
Since a PsyD program is a major time commitment, most PsyD students have clear career and licensure goals. There are two main reasons to start a PsyD program:
1. To become licensed. All 50 states and Washington DC require a doctoral degree in psychology to become a licensed clinical psychologist. Prospective clinical psychologists have two doctoral degree options: a PhD in Psychology or a PsyD degree. While both degree types qualify you to become licensed, there are also significant differences to consider. For example, if you are looking for a career in research or academia, you will likely opt for a PhD in Psychology.
2. To begin a career as a psychologist. Students who enroll in a PsyD program typically want to become clinical psychologists. Because PsyD programs require a substantial investment of time and money, students should be certain about their career path before beginning the program.
Doctor of Psychology Program Options
A PsyD degree takes four to six years to complete as a full-time student, depending on the program. This time varies as some students take more time to complete their dissertations or internship requirements. A PsyD program curriculum typically focuses on clinical, counseling, or school psychology theories, such as cognitive behavior and psychodynamics, and provides in-depth training on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness in the general population. Students can also choose to specialize in various types of therapies or populations, such as children or athletes. In addition to specialty options offered, prospective students should also consider a program’s accreditation status with the American Psychological Association (APA). All PsyD students must complete a doctoral paper, thesis, or research dissertation to graduate. Common specializations (also known as concentrations, specialties, or emphases) for PsyD programs include:
- Business Psychology
- Cognitive Behavioral Psychology
- Child Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Counseling Psychology
- Forensic Psychology
- Health psychology
- School Psychology
- Sport Psychology
Online Degree Formats
Admission requirements to a PsyD program vary by school. Typically, an undergraduate degree is the minimum educational requirement, but some universities require a master’s degree. Previous degrees usually do not need to be in psychology as long as the prerequisite courses have been completed successfully. Typical prerequisites may include introductory psychological theory, statistics, and cognitive, behavioral, and social psychology.
A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 is typically required for entry to the PsyD, although minimum requirements vary and the most competitive applicants may have higher GPAs. Some schools require applicants to submit scores from the general GRE and/or the GRE psychology subject test. Each university determines the minimum score requirement for these exams.
As the PsyD is a professional program, the application process also requires you to send proof of academic and personal suitability. Generally, this includes transcripts from all previous studies, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume. You will also likely need to pay an application fee, which can vary from $50 to over $100 per school.
One advantage PsyD programs have over a PhD in Psychology is that admission is less selective. Around 40% of PsyD applicants are offered admission each year, compared to only 11% of PhD in Psychology applicants, according to the APA.1 PsyD programs also produce more graduates each year, with an annual average of 22 graduates per PsyD program versus just seven graduates per year in a PhD program.1
Core Concepts and Coursework
PsyD coursework focuses on foundational theories of human behavior, clinical skills, and specialized intervention training. Students are also trained in assessment and interviewing, which can be used in practicum with various populations. Practicum and internship experiences are typically required throughout the program as well as the completion of a research dissertation. Coursework in a PsyD program may include:
- Advanced Psychodynamic Theory
- Behavioral Assessments
- Biological Foundations of Human Behavior
- Child Development and Psychopathology
- Clinical Interviewing
- Cognitive Assessments
- Ethics and Professional Development in Psychology
- Psychological Theory and Foundations
Doctor of Psychology Programs
The Graduate School of Education & Psychology at Pepperdine University offers a full-time Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Clinical Psychology that takes four years to complete including the required dissertation and internships. The program is accredited by the APA and is designed to prepare graduates for clinical work in a variety of settings and with a variety of populations. Eligible applicants must have a master’s degree in psychology or a closely related field with a foundational knowledge of biology, cognitive and social behavior, psychological measurement, research methodology, and data analysis. Applicants who pass the initial screening must also complete an admissions interview either in person or via telephone prior to admittance. While Pepperdine is a Christian institution, the program curriculum has a multicultural and multi-faith approach to psychology. It integrates an evidence-based, scientific framework with attention to individual differences in assessment and intervention. Students begin placements in university-run community clinics during the first year and continue to engage in supervised practicums and internships throughout Southern California to apply classroom learning. A required final dissertation is completed with the support of one of the university’s Applied Research Communities. Pepperdine also offers a Master of Arts (MA) in Psychology (also offered online), an MA in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy (general or with Latinx Communities; also offered online), and a Master of Science (MS) in Applied Behavior Analysis (also offered online).
Rutgers offers two Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) programs accredited by the APA starting in the fall term through the Graduate School of Applied & Professional Psychology: the Clinical PsyD and the School PsyD. The Clinical PsyD program provides didactic training in intervention methods and their underlying philosophies, with a focus on diversity associated with ethnicity, culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin. The School PsyD program prepares students to work in the school system or with children and youth in clinical settings. A Multicultural Psychology Concentration is also open to all students, which focuses on how human diversity affects the assessment and treatment of mental health. Students in both programs complete supervised practicums in settings across New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania to develop practice skills, progressing from one day per week in the first year to a full-time placement in the final years. As this is an intensive schedule, only full-time study is possible. Up to 30 transfer credits may be approved for students with prior graduate-level training in psychology.
First offered in 1976, the University of Denver’s (DU) PsyD program has been accredited by the APA since 1979, making it one of the oldest accredited programs in the country. Over time, the Graduate School of Professional Psychology developed several unique features and specializations within the program. For example, all students are required to take a four-course module on multiculturalism and choose a specialty area, such as Military Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Treatment of Women, and Dynamic Psychotherapy. At the beginning of the program, students are assigned a faculty mentor to assist them with academic matters as well as a clinical supervisor in placement. The 135-quarter credit program covers topics including theoretical foundations; diagnosis and psychopathology; research methodology; effective therapeutic interventions; ethics; and individual and cultural diversity. It is also possible to take relevant courses from other departments in the university to supplement the PsyD curriculum. Rather than a dissertation, students must complete a doctoral paper, which can be research-based or another format, such as a case study. The university also offers various master’s-level degrees in psychology.
Hybrid and Online Programs
Touro University Worldwide offers one of the few PsyD degree programs available fully online with no residency requirements. The program concentrates on human and organizational psychology, including themes from leadership, ethics, and industrial psychology. This program is designed for individuals planning to work in organizations as advisors or leaders. Unlike many other PsyD programs, it does not meet the requirements for licensure for clinical work. The “scholar-practitioner” model is used to help students understand how academic theories can help to address issues in workplaces and other types of organizations. Students spend the first two years studying various research methods and theories before progressing to the dissertation proposal. Courses include Applied Social Psychology, Evidence-Based Practices, and Developing a Research Topic. The research proposal must be approved by a committee before the student can begin the independent research project. The final year is spent working on the dissertation. Applicants must have a master’s degree from an accredited school with a minimum 3.4 GPA and GRE test scores are not required.
William James College offers a four-year PsyD program specializing in Leadership Psychology with optional concentrations/emphasis areas in Educational Leadership; Leading Non-profits and NGOs; Anti-Racist Leadership; and The Neuroscience of Leadership Psychology. These options appeal to applicants interested in working in the areas of diversity, cultural competency, and mental health in diverse organizations. The program follows a cohort model, which means full-time students progress through courses together in order to graduate at the same time. While the majority of coursework is completed online, the program does require three four-day residencies in Newton, MA each year as well as a mandatory two-day orientation before the start of the program. Courses include the Psychology of Leadership and Followership; Ethics and Standards of Organizational Practice; and Organization Development and Change. Students complete a 600-hour practicum and a 300-hour internship as well as a doctoral project. Placement sites are based on the student’s location, and career goals and are overseen by a matched mentor to ensure the quality of the learning experience. The school also offers several other master’s and bachelor’s degree programs in psychology.
Jobs with a Doctorate in Psychology
There are many job opportunities for PsyD graduates, particularly if you pursue licensure as a clinical professional. Some examples of jobs with a doctorate in psychology include:
- Addiction Counselor
- Applied Researcher
- Clinical Psychologist
- Government Researcher
- Industrial-Organizational Psychologist
- Marriage and Family Therapist
- Mental Health Clinician
- Professional Consultant
- School Psychologist
- Sport Psychologist
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a degree in psychology to apply?
Not always. Many schools accept students from different academic backgrounds provided the prerequisite courses have been met, including substantial course content in psychology and statistics.
Can I get a Doctor of Psychology degree online?
Due to the applied nature of the PsyD degree, there are fewer online programs offered. The APA does not accredit fully-online doctoral psychology programs, but it does accredit some hybrid programs. When choosing an online PsyD program, you should look for a school that is accredited by agencies approved by US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Additionally, consider whether the program leads to licensure in your state and whether you’ll have access to campus resources, services, faculty, and placement assistance for your practicum. You can read more about pursuing your psychology degree online on our online psychology degree page. Though it focuses on bachelor’s degrees, the page provides information that is relevant to anyone considering an online psychology degree.
Do I need to attend an accredited college or university to receive my PsyD degree?
Choosing an accredited school is necessary if you plan to apply for a clinical psychologist license. Check with the APA to find accredited programs and state requirements to ensure you meet the licensure requirements.
Can I become licensed with a Doctor in Psychology?
As the PsyD is designed to train students to become licensed clinical psychologists, most students choose to work toward full licensure after graduation. If you plan to apply for licensure, be sure to choose a PsyD program accredited by the APA. The licensing process varies by state, so check the licensure requirements of the state where you intend to practice before beginning a PsyD program to ensure you will meet the requirements. In most states, you may need to complete an additional internship or post-doctoral placement to accrue enough hours to meet the requirements. Licensure requirements typically include completion of an accredited degree program with a supervised internship and passing the Exam for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). It is possible to work in a psychology-related position without licensure, although you will likely not be able to complete clinical assessments or diagnose and treat mental illnesses. For more information on becoming licensed as a psychologist, read our How to Become a Psychologist page.
What’s the typical salary for a Doctor of Psychology graduate?
The salary will vary depending on the type of psychologist you choose to become and where you work. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) clinical and counseling psychologists earned an average annual salary of $99,640 in 2021.2 Projections Central reports clinical, counseling, and school psychologists have a projected job growth rate of 10.4% from 2020 to 2030.3 Industrial-organizational psychologists have the highest average annual salary of all categories of psychologists, at $113,320 as of May 2021.4 For more information regarding jobs for PsyD graduates, check out our careers page.
Can I complete the program online or part-time?
Due to the applied nature of the PsyD program, most schools require students to attend full-time on-campus. Some schools may offer flexibility with scheduling and attendance in exceptional circumstances on a case-by-case basis. We have profiled a few select online PsyD programs above.
1. American Psychological Association, Commission on Accreditation 2018 Annual Report Online, Summary Data: Doctoral Programs: https://www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/about/research/2018-doctoral-summary.pdf
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Clinical and Counseling Psychologists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193033.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Industrial-Organizational Psychologists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193032.htm