Differences between PhD, PsyD, and EdD

To be considered a “doctor” in any field is a title that is well-respected. The “Dr.” in front of a person’s name carries prestige and recognition. The status associated with this designation is well deserved, due to the amount of time a person takes to complete this degree and rigorous academic program. Although the word “doctor” is usually associated with a doctor of medicine or MD, the Ph.D or doctorate of philosophy has existed for almost as long. In more recent years, other types of doctorate degrees have become popular and as recognizable. The EdD, doctorate of education degree, and PsyD, doctorate of psychology degree, have gained respect in the field of psychology.

Although the doctorate of psychology (PsyD), doctorate of philosophy (PhD), and doctorate of education (EdD) are valued doctoral programs, subtle differences exist in the concentrations and traditional avenues of work in the professions. The doctor of education (EdD) is research-based, with most jobs being offered through the Department of Education. Much of the study focuses on counseling, developmental, and educational psychology. After completing the EdD, many people pursue careers at colleges and universities, private practice, mental health, counseling, or the industrial and organizational fields, although the EdD is traditionally regarded in academia and still does not carry as much weight outside of the profession. Although, in the past, an EdD was considered less prestigious than a PhD, the National Science Foundation, (NSF) has come to recognize this degree with an equivalent sense of importance and contributions to the field of psychology. Let’s explore some of differences in these degree programs and highlight the EdD program, in particular.

The EdD, PhD, and PsyD are all research-based programs with similar academic requirements. Dissertations are mandatory of all three doctorates. PhDs and EdDs typically pursue careers as educational researchers, university or college level professors, principals, or superintendents of schools. The EdD arose from the need for a practitioner in education, as opposed to a research-orientated doctoral degree.

Although EdD programs are not as common as those offering a PhD, many schools do offer the degree. Harvard University was the first school to award the EdD degree in 1920 and soon afterwards, other major universities began to follow suit.

Difference between Phd, PsyD, and EdD

If you are interested in searching for the best degree programs, you can use an American Psychological Association (APA) publication titled Graduate Study in Psychology, which can be found in libraries and bookstores.

As with any other advanced degree, the EdD requires an oral exam and a doctoral exam before completing the program. This program will take about 96 credit hours, about six years’ full-time study, to complete. Formal internships and practicum are required, as opposed to the PhD program where they may be optional. Most of the courses in an EdD program are focused on the application of psychology, with some credits based on statistical methods and quantitative research analysis. Entrance requirements for each school will vary, however most schools do not require a previous Master’s or Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

In terms of acceptance, some insurance companies will not pay for services rendered by a practitioner with an EdD, although that too is changing. Today it’s safe to say that the major differences in the degrees encompass the orientations of the programs: if you’re interested in rigorous scientific research, than the EdD is probably not for you!

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the most recognized of the doctoral degrees. The “P” in PhD is for “philosophy” because the degree originates in ancient Greece where every academic subject was philosophy-based. The PhD is offered in many specialties, such as developmental, social, clinical, and experimental psychology. A dissertation involving research is required for the degree, and some programs require the dissertation to be based on original research. Many schools require an oral and doctoral exam before the student can begin the dissertation process. The oral exam usually consists of a presentation defending one’s dissertation proposal.

Almost all programs will focus on applied, empirical, and research-based study. As the profession has grown, we have seen many more degree programs that specialize in psychology. These careers have risen in the areas of mental health, education, and industrial and organizational fields where a student can obtain a master’s degree and work in the field. Although many psychology jobs are available, a PhD will provide advanced career opportunities and salary progressions that will not be afforded to other designations. Degree programs, entrance requirements, and course completion will vary by school. Credit hours will depend upon whether the candidate is enrolled in a Masters, PhD, EdD, or PsyD program. The PhD usually takes from four to seven years to complete, with practicum and internships required. Most courses are statistical and quantitative-based.

Many people are not familiar with the Doctorate of Psychology Degree (PsyD) since it is a newer designation than the more familiar PhD. The “Psy” indicates psychology, and the “D” denotes a doctor. This degree primarily focused on the practice of psychology with theoretical and applied topics, as opposed to quantitative research. Many people with a PsyD work in the mental health fields or specialize in industrial and organizational psychology.

Since the APA recognizes the PsyD as an accepted practitioner program, it could indicate a trend toward less academic-based and more research-focused courses. In the past, doctorate programs prepared students for scientific research and practical application. Clinical work did not get the same amount of attention. The PsyD focuses on theories and practical applications for clinical work. Well-known schools, such as George Washington University and Rutgers, offer the PsyD with a focus on the practical applications of science. Other schools, such as the Adler School of Professional Psychology and the Erickson Institute, offer PsyDs in various specialties, including forensics, applied behavior, clinical psychology, and business psychology.

Many career opportunities exist for individuals with PsyD, EdD, and PhD degrees. Although many psychologists into private practice, others work in consulting, government, or non-profit organizations. Some also pursue careers in teaching and research; however this is not a typical career direction, as compared to the PhD.

PsyD Programs

PsyD programs are an option that many people do not know about because they are less common than the traditional PhD track. The PsyD program is gaining popularity within the counseling field. The PsyD curriculum specifically trains students to become therapists, as opposed to the research focus of a traditional PhD program. The PsyD has therefore become an option for students who want a career in therapeutic practice.

The PsyD degree also differs from a PhD in the amount time it takes to complete the program. A PhD degree typically takes about six to eight years of full-time study to complete; whereas the PsyD usually takes between four to seven years. This reduced time commitment is another reason why some individuals choose the PsyD over a PhD. The PsyD also provides the student with more hands-on experience working with patients under the supervision of an experienced therapist, while a PhD program is more research- and assessment-based with a lot of time spent in practicum. Most PsyD programs are APA accredited and probably offer a better choice if the candidate has a clinical focus, desire to attend school on a part-time basis, and an interest in working as a therapist. Many students enter PsyD programs after completing a bachelor’s degree in psychology or have at least taken several introductory courses in psychology.


Some other important things to know about a PsyD include how it is structured, the courses you will take, location, and cost. Online learning has gained popularity and respect in most professions, and many schools now offer PsyD programs online, face to face, or a combination of both, although almost all programs will require in-person residencies.

To complete a program, most students are required to complete a dissertation and internship under a licensed psychologist. Course topics will include legal and ethical issues, research methods, abnormal and biological psychology, testing, theory, patient assessment, psychopharmacology, family therapy, and clinical techniques.

The application process for a PsyD works the same as any other degree program in that official transcripts, GRE scores, and letters of recommendations are required. The average cost of a degree program averages from $20,000 – $40,000 per year, with most schools offering financial aid to help students pay for their education.

Psychologists with a PsyD can specialize in any area of counseling, such as clinical or developmental psychology, within different industries. Job opportunities may be found within healthcare, schools and universities, private practice, and government. Depending on the specialty, a psychologist may be involved in helping people with family issues or resolving workplace conflicts. PsyD programs offer psychologists broader career options in situations where a person may pursue clinical or counseling psychology. Clinical psychology requires the professional to treat specific problems which may be complex in nature. It may require working with a team of professionals to treat the patient in an individual or within a group setting. The work environment for individuals completing PsyD programs could be high stress and involve managing large caseloads. It may require working with a team of people or working alone. The average salary for a PsyD graduate with no experience ranges from$39,000 – $60,000 with a significant increase occurring with experience. After one year of experience, the salary range increases to about $45,000 – $70,000 per year, and most psychologists with over ten years of experience earn between $66,000 – $100,000 a year with variations for location, industry, and experience. As of March 2011, PsyD graduate salaries were the highest in Alabama, California, Connecticut, and Georgia.

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