A doctoral-level academic degree is not mandated to provide clients with therapy. However, many therapists and psychologists seek to further their education in professional psychology by enrolling in terminal degree campus-based or online psychology programs to reach their academic and professional objectives.
Any doctoral degree program requires research; however, the nature and the focus of the research involved are typically contingent on the type of doctorate degree you choose to pursue.
For the past five decades, graduate students pursuing a doctorate degree have had two doctoral-level degrees from which to choose – the PhD – or the Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology or the PsyD – the Doctor of Psychology. Note that the PhD degree is centuries-old and has primarily been the terminal degree for top psychological scholars who wish to conduct professional research or to teach at upper levels in academia.
Until the early 1970s, professional psychologists who wished to practice psychotherapy/clinical psychology had no other choice but to complete the PhD program of study. The American Psychological Association accredits both PhD and PsyD programs, with more Doctor of Philosophy available with APA-accreditation than PsyD programs, at least for now (2021).
PsyD graduates have unique training as practitioners of in-the-field clinical psychology. Professionals who wish to pursue a psychological clinical degree at the doctorate level will find that the PsyD may be a great fit.
The University of Arizona Forbes Business & Technology School offers a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree program that provides students with the opportunity to specialize in an area that aligns with career or research goals. This online doctorate in psychology is delivered in accelerated online classes – one at a time, that run from six to 9 weeks, depending on the subject. UA’s online psychology programs offer a generous transfer credit policy, which allows up to 90 credits to be applied, if eligible.
Formerly Ashford U, the University of Arizona Global Campus is an affiliate school of UA that was established in 2020. This online school serves more than 30,950 students each year. UA Global is comprised of five colleges/schools offering a program in business, education, health, liberal arts, and general education. The origins of the Global Campus of UA dates to TeleUniversity – an online school that was created in the late 1990s.
Alaska Pacific University offers a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree program that ranks among Alaska’s most innovative online psychology programs. The curriculum for APU’s doctorate in psychology online program aligns with the APA’s CoA Standards and is primarily online except for three-day intensive weekends. Alaska Pacific University’s online PsyD program requires doctoral candidates to complete 93 credit units over a five-year study plan. Featured coursework includes social-based behavior, plus a dissertation, practicum, and internship.
Alaska Pacific University is a private Methodist-affiliated school that was founded in the late 1950s. The university operates as a space-grant school, with a special early entry program for exceptional high school seniors. More than 500 students attend classes online and on the Anchorage campus. The campus for APU is located alongside the Alaska Native Hospital and UA Anchorage.
Arizona State University offers a Doctor Behavioral Health (DBH) degree program with a clinical track that is recognized among the leading online programs in psychology in Arizona and beyond. This 84-credit doctorate in psychology online program is delivered in 7.5-week modules and includes 18 classes to graduate. In addition, doctoral students must complete a 400-hour internship for students who hold (or are eligible) a professional license in the allied health or behavioral professions.
Arizona State University was established as a teacher’s training college or normal school in the 1880s, while Arizona was still a territory. With more than 90,000 students attending classes on its multiple campuses and online platform, ASU is ranked among the largest institutions of higher education in the country. The university’s Tempe/Phoenix presence is organized into four distinct regional campuses.
California Southern University
California Southern University School of Behavioral Sciences offers a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree program that is among California’s most innovative online programs in psychology. Doctoral candidates enrolled in California Southern University’s doctorate in psychology online program complete the 66 credits in four to five years – if studying full-time, although the program offers up to 30 credits to be transferred if eligible. This degree fulfills California’s psychologist license requirements.
California Southern University (CSU) is a for-profit institution of higher learning that was established in the 1970s in Anaheim as a correspondence school. California Southern University offers programs and degrees in criminal justice, psychology, nursing, education, business, risk management, and regulatory compliance. The university offers more than 20 degree and certificate programs that are available on-campus and online.
Meridian University offers a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree program that ranks among California’s best online programs in psychology. This doctorate in psychology online program requires 133 credits, of which 25 credits are earned from 750 hours of relevant fieldwork. The school offers virtual labs for those students who can’t or wish not to travel to residential labs. There are thirteen available concentrations, including health coaching, integral psychology, clinical psychology, human and organizational psychology, somatic psychology, yoga & psychology, ad transformative leadership, among others.
Meridian University was established in the 1990s in the greater San Francisco Bay area to offer unique programs to professional students across the globe. The degrees leading to licenses offered by Meridian University have been recognized for more than two decades by California’s Board of Behavioral Sciences & Psychology Board.
What’s the Difference Between a PsyD and a PhD?
The reality is not all online doctoral programs in psychology are the same. The two degrees – the PhD & a PsyD are the highest terminal college degree that requires candidates to demonstrate advanced psychological theory and conceptual mastery. Both the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) offer degree holders rewarding careering in helping others within the psychological realm and the human condition.
Both campus-based and psychology programs require candidates to explore human behavior & cognition, and both degrees generally meet the requirements of earning a license in each state.
Professionals who have earned a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) degree will typically use their training wot work with clients working through the therapeutic psychological process to solve a personal issue. In other words, a PsyD holder seeks to apply current research in an effort to better understand and solve ongoing problems in the therapy process. PsyD students apply theoretical frameworks within psychotherapy. This process often leads to new ideas; however, a PsyD’s primary career objective is to be more of a clinician and not that of a researcher, although the two are never mutually exclusive.
Those who hold a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) in Psychology degree are usually seeking a career in research, consulting, or academia across a variety of mental health fields. PhD holders are involved in research, sometimes in the development of new theories based on experimental studies & related trials.
But note, there are instances where a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology degree holder will want to work in clinical settings to apply specialized conclusions of theories garnered from research and studies. Conversely, some graduates who have earned a PsyD may ultimately find a research position.
Who Should Get a PsyD and Why?
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) academic degree programs are designed for professionals with a professional career goal to further develop their understanding of psychological research as it applies to clinical therapy.
As noted above, professional psychologists and therapists are not required to hold a doctoral degree to work directly with therapy clients. However, many clinicians prefer to reach the pinnacle to become licensed prior to establishing a private therapy practice.
Earning an on-campus or online doctorate in psychology degree will generally translate to a significant jump in potential income and likely a more comprehensive range of job options from which to choose. Because PsyD programs require research, many PsyD professionals tend to possess more specialized knowledge than those who hold a master’s degree in psychology.
On average, a Doctor of Psychology degree program tends to have a quicker completion time than the Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology, and for those professionals who have a career goal to work in clinical practice, the PsyD program will likely be a better fit, most of the time.
Why Should I Get My PsyD Online?
Earning an on-campus or online doctorate in psychology degree (PsyD) offers these benefits –
- An Online Doctorate in Psychology offers Early Clinical Exposure – a PsyD emphasizes practice over research which is why the applied internship/fieldwork begins sooner in the curriculum. This is especially true if students pursue an Accelerated PsyD option. This also offers PsyD candidates more exposure to real-world therapeutic situations faced during the thousands of clock hours of clinical experience. Internships are available in a variety and cross-section of settings, which include drug rehabs, medical centers, schools, or counseling centers.
- Online & On-campus PsyD Programs Tend to Have Shorter Completion Times – the curriculum and training model is scholar-practitioner valuing practical experience over laboratory research. According to Psychology Today, the PsyD is completed in 4-6 years rather than the required 5-7 years for a PhD.
- A PsyD Program Often Offers Clinical Alternatives in Lieu of a Doctoral Dissertation – which may include written narratives on case studies experienced during field supervisions or working in clinical trials or focus groups, to name a few. Avoiding a dissertation is often a relief to many students.
- There are online combined MS/PsyD programs that offer a quicker (and less expensive path) to graduation. Less financial aid means less debt to pay back.
- Available Clinical Psychology Specializations – The APA acknowledges three proficiencies & 18 specialties in the clinical practice of psychology. (2021) Most PsyD curricula offer candidates the opportunity to customize a program that allows them to meet career goals.
- PsyD programs are slightly less competitive in terms of admissions than a similar PhD degree program.
- Completing a PsyD online allows students more time to focus on fieldwork rather than commuting.
- Available Dual PsyD Programs – PsyD programs dovetail easier with other professional degrees when compared to PhD programs. Earning a dual degree helps save money and time. For instance, forensic pathologists may complete a PsyD with a Juris Doctorate.
How Much Can I Make with a PsyD?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nearly 179,000 psychologists working in the country in 2020. The median annual salary for these psychology professionals was $82,180, with a robust anticipated growth rate of 8% through 2030, which translates to new job openings for more than 13,000 psychologists. With pay like that, you’ll pay back your financial aid easily.
An on-campus or online doctorate in psychology degree offers competitive advantages for landing a job, as with specialty areas that include –
Clinical Psychologist works with clients to help overcome life and behavioral issues. In 2020, the median yearly salary for psychologists was $82,180. Similar Job titles include:
- Clinical Psychologists
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker
- Health Psychology
- Licensed Therapist
- Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (Counseling) is a subspecialty that offers a career working with families and children as they solve life issues. In 2020, the median yearly salary for marriage and family therapists was $51,340. Similar titles include –
- Behavioral Therapist
- School counselors work with students to develop academic, social & career path goals. In 2020, the annual mean wage for school/career counselors was $58,120.
- School Psychologist
- Sport and Performance Psychology
- Career Counselor
- Child Psychologist
- Guidance Counselor
- Learning Disability Specialist
- Addiction specialists work with clients facing mental health and behavioral disorders that lead to or are the cause of substance abuse. The 2020 median annual wage for addiction or substance abuse counselors was $59,870. Similar titles include –
- Substance Abuse Therapist
- Licensed Alcohol Counselor
- Trauma Specialist
- Addiction Counselor
- Industrial Organizational Psychology – and Industrial Psychologists are a group of professional psychology jobs in the areas of training and development. The 2020 median annual wage for I/O psychologists was $62,700.
- Business Psychologist
- Training Director
Should I Choose Counseling or Clinical Psychology?
In the field of psychology, there are subtle differences between clinical and counseling psychology. We generally think of counseling when we think of psychology, and clinical psychologists do very similar work. Both are behavioral health professionals, and both generally practice some sort of psychotherapy, but they tend to serve different clientele. Counseling psychologists tend to work with patients who are looking for help with normal aspects of life. These would include coping with stress at work, or dealing with difficult changes in the home.
Psychologists who work on the clinical side, however, usually work with people who have serious psychological concerns or disorders. Counseling psychologists are more concerned with what might be thought of as health and wellness psychology. They work to help patients attain better emotional and mental health. On the other hand, clinical psychology students learn about diagnosis and clinical psychopharmacology – the prescribing of psychiatric drugs.
In both cases, students in a doctoral program will learn about assessment and evaluation. They will learn to interview and counsel patients at all stages of life, from child and adolescents to middle-aged and seniors. They will learn about individual and group therapy, as well as different methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. And despite the name, all clinical psychologists do not necessarily work in a clinical setting. They may have private practices, or work in hospitals, schools, or government agencies.
The choice depends on where you feel comfortable, and where you feel you can do the most good. Psychologists have their specialties, and they are usually based on what they do best. Some prefer to work with children; some prefer elders. You may not be emotionally equipped to work with people with severe symptoms every day and prefer counseling. Whichever you choose, you are working to make life better one patient at a time.
Can I Become a Clinical Psychologist Online?
To become a clinical psychologist, you need at least a master’s degree in clinical psychology, but a doctorate in clinical psychology is even better. The good news is, you can absolutely get a degree in clinical psychology online. There are numerous accredited online PsyD programs focussing on clinical psychology.
It’s easy to find an accredited online PsyD program in clinical psychology today. With online courses, you can learn all you need to know about evidence-based practice, applied psychology research methods, behavioral health leadership, and all that is required of a doctorate in psychology program. Psychology program details vary, but a reputable online degree program will provide the preparation you need. Online courses in a psychology program usually include specialization courses to prepare you for professional practice in mental health services.
It’s important to note that online PsyD programs may not be fully online. You may use online learning for the majority of your courses, but online courses cannot cover everything. Many online PsyD programs will require some short residencies, such as a week or two on campus during the summer. Fully online programs may still require some sort of clinical training or clinical practicum. But, if you’re already working in the field, your current job may fit the bill.
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