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Doctorate Degree

The vast majority of psychology professions that most students dream about as their career will require them to earn their full doctoral degree. This is the highest level of education that can be obtained in the field of psychology. Becoming a doctor and having a doctorate degree will enable you to enter any job field you are qualified for. This type of degree is the only one that will enable you to open your own private practice and work on your own as you own boss as a professional psychologist and see your own patients and clients.

What are the different types of doctorate degrees for psychology?

Doctor of Philosophy

Psychology PhD programs are designed so that the main focus is pinpointed heavily on theoretical research. This provides the foundation for theories, research, development, and work in a wide range of fields. A PhD is a good option if you want to eventually practice professionally or if your goal is to teach and conduct research.

Doctor of Psychology

PsyD programs are practice-oriented. This means that their focus is not on research and theory like the PhD program. The focus instead is on real world cases and scenarios, much like what one would see in the counseling office, the work place, or out in the real world. The PsyD would be the best choice if you want to have your own practice and be in business for yourself.

Doctor of Education

EdD programs are quite similar to PhD programs with one major difference. These doctorate programs have an educational approach to all of the theories and they emphasize educational based and educational related research. The EdD is the best choice for someone who wants to work in a school as a psychologist or career counselor or in the field of educational policy development.

How long will I have to study?

The length of time you will spend working on your doctorate is determined by a number of factors, and each one can greatly impact how long or short your study time will be for the doctorate. The type of degree you are pursuing, the work load you can carry each semester, your educational background, family situations, and the specific doctoral program that you are enrolled in all have an impact on how long it will take to earn your doctorate degree in psychology. In most cases, you must complete 90 to 120 credit hours during your study in order to earn a psychology doctorate. Most take between 4 and 7 years to finish their doctorate degree. Remember that is this in addition to the years spent working on the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

What types of courses?

As you chase after your dream of a doctoral degree, you will be taking specialized courses in the area of concentration that you have chosen to follow. This could be behavioral psychology, research, abnormal psychology, or any other branch of psychological study. Even with this focus, most programs will require general classes in standard areas such as behavioral analysis, clinical practice techniques, statistics, and research design. Some, which will be based on the academic research you likely did for any thesis that your master’s degree required.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure?

With a doctorate, virtually every job within the field of psychology is open to you. However, a doctorate in psychology does not mean you can only work in psychology based fields. The strong appeal of psychology degrees is that they lend themselves well to working within other fields of study. With this degree, you have a strong basis and understanding of how humans think, feel, and reason. This kind of knowledge can open the doors for rewarding careers in many areas, such as sales, human resources, customer service, market research, advertising, sales, or business management.

What should I consider when deciding on a school?

No matter area you have chosen o focus on or what type of doctorate you are looking at earning, you must make sure that your school’s psychology program is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Many states will require your degree to be from an APA-accredited program if you want to earn a professional license, which is required to work as a psychologist in your own office. So making sure your school is APA certified and backed is one of the most important factors you need to keep in mind when determining what school you will go to for your doctorate.

What are the requirements for admission?

Getting into a doctorate program is tough because space is usually very limited and it is very competitive. Check with the school you want to enroll in and see what their specific requirements are as far as what classes you need to have taken, GPA ranges, and other points that may impact your acceptance. Also look to see what they require in the admissions packet as many will require essays and letters of recommendation with your application.

Professional Licensing

When studying psychology for a career, it is important to keep in mind that you will need to be licensed in order to open your own practice and have your own clients. Be sure to look and see what your state requires for licensing. The criteria can change from year to year and from degree to degree so make sure you check several times to make sure you are on track throughout your degree. You can get in touch with the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards or your state’s licensing board for the information you need about the requirements for licensing within your state.


“Careers in Psychology” American Psychological Association. (Website).  Retrieved from Accessed Oct 15. 2013.
“New Research From Psychological Science.” APS (Website).  Retrieved from Accessed Oct 15. 2013.
“Online Psychology Degree Programs Directory.”  PDO (Website).  Retrieved from Accessed Oct 15. 2013.

About Jeff Morrow

With an English Literature degree from UCLA and a passion for career counseling and publishing, Jeff has worked at CareerPath and Microsoft. He published four editions of the World Wide Yellow Pages in partnership with Barnes and Noble. He now uses that passion for managing Psychology Online Degrees.

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