PsyD vs PhD in Psychology: Comparison of Requirements and Salary

PsyD vs PhD in Psychology: Comparison of Requirements and Salary
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Taking a PsyD vs PhD in Psychology can lead to different opportunities for psychology graduates. Graduates who complete masters in forensic psychology online, for instance, can go on to take either of these advanced degrees. Since the demand for psychologists is expected to increase by up to 6% from 2021 to 2031 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022), having an advanced degree can always be an advantage.

Nonetheless, choosing between these two doctoral degree types can determine the kind of career that a graduate student can take. A PsyD emphasizes clinical and applied aspects of Psychology. On the other hand, a traditional or online PhD in Psychology focuses on research.

This explains why a graduate student must intentionally choose a doctorate in psychology path. To help them weigh their options, our researchers gathered all the valuable information that graduate students would need to know before pursuing a PsyD or PhD in Psychology.

PsyD vs PhD in Psychology Table of Contents

PsyD vs PhD in Psychology: What is the difference?

While a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) both allow one to gain a deeper understanding of their specializations, the two have key differences regarding each of the degree types’ training and career plans. Perhaps after you’ve identified the jobs to get with psychology degree, you are considering how to further your education.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology is the most common doctoral degree conferred to graduate students. Available in both public and private universities and colleges, a PhD is suitable for those who want to earn teaching and research experience.

This explains why PhD students get substantial training in research methods and statistics by completing a dissertation. This allows them to demonstrate their research competence and their mastery of Psychology as well as produce new scientific knowledge for the field.

Graduates of PhD in Psychology can pursue a career in applied work. This includes becoming a health psychologist, school counselor, or industrial psychologist.

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

This doctoral degree was created in the 1970s as an alternative to PhD in Psychology. Instead of focusing on research, this program is built to cater to students who want to focus on providing psychological services.

Graduate students can earn their PsyD degree by enrolling in any professional school. These are colleges and universities that provide hands-on training to psychology students. A professional school of Psychology can be in a free-standing graduate school or affiliated with research and teaching universities.

This program focuses on applying the scientific knowledge of psychology. Thus, PsyD graduates can work in clinical settings like mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, or correctional facilities.

Source: American Psychological Association, 2022

Choosing Between a PsyD or a PhD in Psychology

Farther into the psychologist career path, you will have to decide between a PsyD and a PhD in Psychology. This decision will underpin the career graduate students can pursue and even the institution to enrol in, like schools for criminal psychology for those interested to work in law enforcement. Hence, it is essential to be intentional about the type of psychology doctorate degree they want to complete.

Specialization and Concentrations

Is PhD or PsyD better? This will depend on the career path that a graduate wants to take. Fortunately, psychology students who study behavioral psychology or are pursuing doctoral degrees have plenty of choices regarding areas of focus. This allows them to apply their skills to specific passions and interests.

PsyD students can specialize in any of these concentrations:

  • Child Psychology. This area of focus has to do with understanding the physical, cognitive, and emotional development of children and adolescents. Hence, this specialization often requires students to complete an undergraduate degree in child psychology.
  • Health Psychology. This concentration gives students additional expertise in the psychological aspects of various health problems. These include studying how different patients handle illness.
  • School Psychology. This specialization focuses on the practice and science of students of various ages and the education process. This includes developing a positive learning environment and programs that prevent misbehavior.

Meanwhile, PhD students can consider these specializations:

  • Clinical Psychology. This allows graduates to provide one-on-one counseling and diagnose and treat mental health patients.
  • Forensic Psychology. Graduates of forensic psychology colleges can apply their skills in legal and law enforcement. They lend their expertise in court cases and during an investigation.
  • Cognitive Psychology. Specializing in cognitive psychology enables students to study how human behavior affects mental processes.

Scholarship and Financial Aid

According to the Federal Student Aid Center, 33% of student borrowers owed less than $10,000 in federal loan debt (2022). Fortunately, there are some ways that graduate students can gain access to a scholarship and finance their education.

For one, most graduate schools offer scholarships. Student’s eligibility will depend on their financial needs, academic merit, community involvement, and minority status.

Students can also apply for a scholarship and financial aid from the following organizations:

Licensing and Certifications

In a graduate student’s pursuit of being a licensed psychologist, it is vital to be familiar with various licensing and accreditation bodies:

Graduate students must receive a license from ABPP and ASPPB to become practicing psychologists in the United States. ASPPB also allows them to practice in Canada. In addition, students must be aware of the general and state-specific licensing requirements.

Job Outlook

Depending on the type of doctoral degree they are pursuing, graduate students of Psychology can work with patients, conduct research, or provide consultation services. They can be part of the healthcare system, the education sector, legal and law enforcement, or have their practice.

In addition, the median annual salary of a psychologist is more than $81,000 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022), somewhat within the range of clinical psychologist salary. This explains why having a doctoral degree in Psychology presents plenty of well-paying career opportunities.

Source: Indeed, n.d.

PsyD vs PhD in Psychology Application Requirements

When applying, graduate students can expect slight similarities in PsyD vs Phd Psychology requirements. However, they tend to have low acceptance rates.

Colleges and universities in the U.S. conferred more than 190,000 doctoral degrees during the academic year 2019-2020 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2021). However, there are only 6,346 conferred doctorates in Psychology.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2021

To improve their chances of getting accepted into a PhD or PsyD program, graduate students must consider the following factors:


Both PsyD online and in-campus require applicants to complete their bachelor’s degree in a related field. Students with online psychology degrees can enroll in this program.

On the other hand, graduate students must have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Psychology or any relevant field to enroll for a PhD in Psychology. That includes online psychology masters and undergraduate degrees.


As proof that applicants completed their undergraduate and master’s studies, they must submit their official transcripts from all the universities they previously attended. They must also have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.7 for PsyD or 3.0 for PhD in Psychology. Some schools may require students to submit their Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) score, which varies by college or university.

Other Requirements

To improve a graduate student’s chances of getting accepted into a PsyD or PhD program, they should also submit letters of recommendation. Applicants can ask their advisors and supervisors to write a recommendation on their half.

Other than that, graduate students may also need to submit an application essay. The essay should detail their academic and professional achievements, including their doctoral degree goals.

What are the PsyD and PhD in Psychology requirements to graduate?

PsyD students must fulfill 70 to 114 credits to graduate. This usually takes four to six years. Some schools also require them to complete a university dissertation or an equivalent capstone project.

Additionally, graduate students enrolled in a PsyD program must have a direct application of their psychology knowledge. This is possible through working with clients and patients. Thus, they should also complete a supervised internship for hands-on experience.

Meanwhile, PhD students must fulfill 90 to 120 credits. This means they will graduate in five to eight years. Aside from completing a certain number of credits, they must complete a dissertation.

Graduate students enrolled in a PhD program must demonstrate their knowledge of research, statistics, and teaching methodologies. Hence, they must also fulfill at least a year of accredited internship before graduating.

 PsyDPhD in Psychology
Program FocusDirect application of psychology knowledge through work with clients and patients.Research, statistics, and teaching preparation alongside theoretical and practical psychology knowledge.
Degree LengthFour to six yearsFive to eight years
Minimum Degree Level RequiredBachelor's, perhaps Master'sMaster's
Minimum GPA for Admission2.7 to 3.03.0 to 3.5
Doctoral ProjectDissertation or equivalent projectDissertation

Can I take PsyD or PhD in Psychology online?

While it is convenient for graduate students to complete their doctoral degrees in Psychology online, the American Psychological Association does not accredit online-only postgraduate programs. This is because various subfields of Psychology can be research-intensive or may require patient contact hours.

Moreover, the APA Commission on Accreditation (CoA) deems an online instructional method inappropriate for specific classes, such as internships. Nonetheless, online learning allows graduate students to foster specialized skills. The findings from a paper titled “Training the Next Generation of Clinical Psychological Scientists: A Data-Driven Call to Action,” published in the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, are instructive on this point.

It states that “to develop the technical skills necessary to tackle the next generation of clinical science research, students need sufficient access to relevant training opportunities. Classes, workshops, and informal learning groups have the potential to provide greater efficiency than ad hoc one-on-one mentorship. A rapidly expanding catalog of online courses—many developed by leading methodologists—provide additional opportunities for learning specialized skills (Gee et al., 2022).” Thus, as a compromise, students can enroll in an accredited doctoral program that offers online courses in a hybrid learning environment.

PsyD vs PhD in Psychology Salary and Career Outlook

PsyD vs PhD in Psychology may have their differences but both will allow graduate students to land various well-paying clinical and research positions. For psychologists wanting to become respected experts in their fields, earning a doctoral degree can be worthwhile.

Are PsyD and PhD in Psychology in high demand?

It is expected that 11,300 job openings will be available to psychologists from 2021 to 2031 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022). Hence, psychologists with PsyD or PhD degrees are in-demand.

The federal government, healthcare institutions, and the education sector have the highest employment levels of psychologists. Moreover, their average annual salary ranges from $74,000 to $108,000 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022).

Meanwhile, the top-paying industries for psychologists include industrial consulting services, government and for-profit organizations, and the health and wellness industries.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022

What kind of salary can a PsyD or PhD in Psychology degree holder earn?

The median hourly wage of a psychologist is around $39 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022). This is at least double the consolidated minimum wage in some U.S. states.

A PhD vs PsyD salary has similar projections. However, a student’s preferred work setting can impact one’s earning potential. For instance, PsyD graduates can earn more by having a private practice or working as corporate psychologists. Meanwhile, graduates of PhD in Psychology can command high salaries as tenured college professors or when leading research projects.

Is PhD or PsyD better?

Deciding whether a PhD or PsyD is better will depend on a student’s academic and professional goals. It is imperative that one understands what each program provides. This is because each doctoral degree type allows students to acquire specific skills and abilities.

Earning a PsyD allows students to work in clinical settings. Hence, they can be in schools, rehabilitation centers, correctional institutions, or private practice.

On the other hand, a PhD in Psychology is suitable for students who are keen on research. Hence, they are often in research settings, conducting tests and surveys to understand human behavior better. They are also qualified to work as college instructors.

Regardless, a graduate psychology degree program can provide many career paths and options to psychologists. This means earning a PsyD or PhD in Psychology can be worthwhile.




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Get personalized degree recommendations that will help you find a program that will match your goals and dreams.

The website is funded by advertising. All school search, finder, and match results, as well as featured or trusted partner programs, are for schools who pay us. Our school rankings, resource guides, or any other editorially impartial content on our website are unaffected by the compensation we receive.