What You Should Know About This Degree
To become a licensed clinical or counseling psychologist, an individual must have a doctoral degree. The two most common types of degrees are a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). PhD programs emphasize research, with students completing a dissertation as part of their graduation requirements. A PsyD is more clinically-focused, with students learning advanced practical skills. When deciding between the two degrees, think about your personal interests and career goals to determine which program is right for you.
Regardless of degree, psychologists must have a state-issued license to offer psychological and counseling services to the public. Specific licensure requirements vary by state, but they generally include a doctoral degree in psychology, an internship, and supervised postgraduate experience. You can find out your state’s requirements by visiting the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
Even if you enroll in an online program, you should be prepared to complete in-person requirements like an internship. Talk to a program representative about the number of clinical internship hours you are expected to complete, and the setting in which you will complete those hours.
There are several specializations within the field of psychology, including neuropsychology, group, and school psychology. The American Board of Professional Psychology offers certifications in these specializations, which may be required by employers.
Here are some questions to ask when researching PhD.Psych programs:
- Am I eligible for this program? PhD programs tend to have significant requirements for admission, including a master’s degree in psychology or a related field and professional experience. You may also be required to submit a writing sample, as PhD programs require a significant amount of writing. Review the program’s eligibility requirements to confirm that you meet the qualifications before applying.
- What research opportunities are available in the program? In addition to meeting the qualifications for professional licensure, many students pursue a PhD in psychology to conduct research that contributes to the field. It’s important to select a program that aligns with your research interests, and supports your work through faculty mentorship, financial support, professional contacts and more.
At this stage, look at the program’s admissions requirements and deadlines, and start gathering your application materials. PhD programs are usually selective, and may require standardized test scores and writing samples as part of the application packet.
Also consider your options for financing your doctoral degree. Many programs offer fellowships or assistantships to doctoral students, although these may require working as a teaching or research assistant.