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How to Earn a Doctoral Degree in Psychology

Higher Education Articles August 12, 2013

If you are browsing around a college site, you might wonder just how long the road is for a Ph.D. degree. It’s understandable why you would be considering this road. If you are competitive and ambitious, then you don’t want to be someone’s assistant—you want to be the best in the field. You want to reach the pinnacle of the profession, which is commendable.

Your Responsibility and Obligation as a Doctor

However, it’s important to understand the responsibility that will be put on you should you go this route. Not only will you be an authority on psychology, but one of psychology’s trusted spokespersons. You will be expected to know about the profession and the science, and will be well qualified to educate others. If you are wondering how to earn a doctoral degree in psychology, then you can rightly assume the educational progress will be rigorous.

The first point of order is to decide whether you want a Ph.D. in psychology, a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D), or Doctor of Education (Ed.D). What’s the difference? A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy degree and focuses on research oriented career choice. This will allow you to work in a wide variety of fields, usually in an educational capacity. You can apply to universities, hospitals, colleges, government agencies and other facilities. The Psy.D degree is a practitioner degree, and this also involves teaching work, but is more oriented towards applied settings and direct mental health services rather than an academic setting. The Ed.D degree will allow you to work as a school psychologist.

How Long Does a Doctoral Degree in Psychology Take?

Now the question is, which of these degrees will take the longest to acquire in a school setting? It’s not an easy question, since you have to consider the individual curriculum, as well as your own educational background. On average, students with a background in psychology can finish their Ph.D. programs in just five years. However, others will take seven years, if more training is required for the curriculum and school. In addition to educational requirements, you must complete an internship and supervised residency program. On average, Psy.D degrees take less time than Ph.D’s to complete, approximately one year less. Ed.D programs take about two years less than PhDs. The reason being, however, is that most students who pursue this route are coming in with a master’s degree in a similar field, whereas students going after the other degrees will often start with only a bachelor’s degree.

What kind of career path can you expect should you earn a high-level degree? Most doors would be opened to you, provided you go on to become officially licensed and certified. You can choose between clinical psychology and even counseling. There are also areas in school psychology and health psychology, which are becoming even more imperative in recent years because young adults are experiencing emotional problems.

Why not make your education count by trying a field that inspires you to help people overcome obstacles and change their life in a positive way?

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  • Topped the list as Best Online Bachelor’s Program in Virginia by U.S. News & World Report in 2019.
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