The difference between a PsyD and PhD in psychology

April 25, 2017

What’s the difference between a PsyD and a PhD in psychology?

When trying to decide between these degrees, a good place to start is by asking yourself: Would I rather see patients in a clinical practice, or work in research, administration, or an academic setting?

Generally speaking:
  • a PsyD prepares you for clinical practice
  • a PhD prepares you to teach

Below, take a closer look at each degree and see a side-by-side comparison.

A PsyD prepares you for clinical practice

This degree focuses on assessing and treating patients. Research is secondary but still important. The PsyD helps students prepare for state licensure with extensive training in therapeutic techniques, assessment, and intervention skills.

A PsyD program includes coursework such as:

  • Advanced biological psychology
  • Cognitive/affective psychology
  • Advanced psychopathology
  • Evidence-based practice in psychology
  • Strategies of clinical supervision and consultation

Career paths to explore:

  • Private practice psychologist
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Psychotherapist
  • School psychologist

A PhD in psychology prepares you to teach

This degree areas gives you the knowledge and skills you need to advance as a teacher, researcher, and/or administrator in the field of psychology. You might pursue an academic career as a college faculty member, or an administrative career in a higher education institution, a research facility, or a human services organization.

A PhD in psychology program includes coursework such as:

  • Ethics and multicultural issues in psychology
  • Tests and measurements
  • Advanced inferential statistics
  • Qualitative analysis
  • Quantitative research methods in psychology

Career paths to explore:

  • College or university faculty member
  • Researcher
  • Higher education administrator
  • Human services administrator
  • Market research analyst
  • Data analyst

Compare the PsyD and PhD and side by side

  PsyD PhD
Main focus Clinical practice Teaching and research
Ideal for… People who are skilled at active listening, communicating, and critical thinking. Curious, research-minded professionals with an interest in learning about how people think and act. Excellent critical thinking and data analysis skills are essential.

These are examples intended to serve as a general guide. Some positions may prefer or even require previous experience, licensure, certifications, and/or other designations along with a degree. Because many factors determine what position an individual may attain, Capella cannot guarantee that a graduate will secure any specific job title, a promotion, salary increase, or other career outcome. We encourage you to research requirements for your job target and career goals.


Whether your ultimate goal is to be a therapist, teacher, researcher, or administrator, Capella University offers degree programs that can help you get there. Explore Capella’s PhD in Psychology, PsyD in Clinical Psychology, and a PsyD in School Psychology.


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