Earning a Ph.D. in Psychology can open up a whole new world of career opportunities, but is it the best choice for you? Learn more about the Ph.D. psychology degree as well as a few alternative graduate options that might also want to consider.
What Is a Ph.D. in Psychology?
A Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, is one of the highest level degrees you can earn in the field of psychology. If you are considering pursuing a graduate degree, you might be wondering how long it takes to earn a Ph.D. in Psychology. Generally, a bachelors degree takes four years of study. While a masters degree requires an addition two to three years of study beyond the bachelors, a doctorate degree can take between four to six years of additional graduate study after earning a bachelors degree.
Recently, a relatively new degree option known as the Psy.D., or Doctor of Psychology, has started to grow in popularity as an alternative to the Ph.D. The type of degree you decide to pursue depends on a variety of factors including your own interests and career aspirations.
What Can You Do With a Ph.D. in Psychology?
A doctorate degree in psychology is required if you want to open your own private practice. In most cases you will need this level of degree if you want to teach and conduct research at the college or university level. While there are some opportunities available for people with a masters degree in various specialty fields, such as industrial-organizational and health psychology, those with a doctorate-level degree will generally find higher pay, greater job demand and more opportunity for growth.
How to Earn a Ph.D. in Psychology
In order to earn a Ph.D. in Psychology, you need to first begin by earning a bachelors degree. While earning your undergraduate degree in psychology can be helpful, students with bachelors degrees in other subjects can also apply to psychology Ph.D. programs. Some students may also earn a masters degree in psychology, but many doctorate programs do not require it.
After you?ve been admitted to a graduate program, it generally takes at least four years to earn a Ph.D. and another year to complete an internship. Once these requirements have been fulfilled, students can take state and national exams to become licensed to practice psychology in the state where they wish to work.
Which Specialty Area Should You Choose?
Once you enter the graduate level of psychology, you will need to choose an area of specialization such as clinical psychology, counseling psychology, health psychology or cognitive psychology. The American Psychological Association accredits graduate programs in three areas: clinical, counseling and school psychology. If you are interested in going into one of these specialty areas, it is important to choose a school that has received accreditation through the APA.
For many students, the choice may come down to a clinical psychology program versus a counseling psychology program. There are many similarities between these two Ph.D. options, but there are important distinctions that students should consider. Clinical programs may have more of a research focus, while counseling programs tend to focus more on professional practice. The path you choose will depend largely on what you plan to do after you complete your degree.
Alternatives to the Ph.D. in Psychology
Of course, the Ph.D. in Psychology is not the only graduate degree option. The Psy.D. is a doctorate degree option that you might also want to consider. While there are many similarities between these two degrees, traditional Ph.D. programs tend to be more research oriented while Psy.D. programs are often more practice oriented. The Ph.D. option might be your top choice if you want to mix professional practice with teaching and research, while the Psy.D. option might be your preferred choice if you want to open your own private psychology practice.
Social work, counseling, education and the health sciences are other graduate options that psychology undergraduates may also want to consider if they decide that a doctorate degree is not the best fit for their interests and career goals. Learn more about some of the alternative graduate programs for psychology majors.