About the PsyD in General Psychology
Degree Type: Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Location: Online, classroom, and hybrid
Duration: Minimum of 4 years
Total Credits: Typically between 70 and 124, but varies widely
Aid Eligible: Yes, for accredited programs
If your vision of a psychology career involves helping individuals identify and manage mental health challenges, a PsyD in general psychology can help you achieve your goals. With a PsyD, you’ll have the knowledge and experience necessary to evaluate, diagnose, and treat a wide range of concerns that impact people’s daily lives. While you’ll be trained to treat all types of patients and conditions, you’ll also have the option to specialize in areas that address specific disorders, behavioral issues, or relationship problems.
If you’re looking to get the credentials necessary to work in this mental health field, keep reading to find out what’s involved in earning a PsyD in general psychology, along with the professional opportunities available after you graduate.
What is a PsyD in General Psychology?
A PsyD in general psychology is a terminal degree, or a degree at the highest level, in the field. The PsyD degree was introduced in the 1970s as an option for students more interested in providing psychological services than conducting psychological research. The PsyD degree emphasizes the application of scientific knowledge to individuals, groups, and organizations in all types of clinical settings.
PsyD vs. PhD degrees
If you want to work as an independent psychologist, whether in private practice or other settings, you’ll need a doctoral-level degree to qualify for a license. To meet the qualification of a general psychologist, you can choose between a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. Both degrees can meet state requirements and prepare you for the same positions, though there are important differences you’ll want to consider when choosing which to pursue.
If your goal is to use principles of psychological theory to impact individuals or groups in clinical settings, a PsyD may be the best degree for you. A PsyD program emphasizes the application of proven knowledge and therapies to the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals, families, and groups.
If you want to study psychological principles and work to contribute new knowledge to the field, you may prefer a PhD program. As a PhD student, you’ll study research methods, data analysis, and statistics to prepare for positions in psychological research and academia, while also earning the credentials necessary to provide clinical services.
Who are PsyDs in psychology intended for?
PsyDs in psychology are intended for individuals interested in gaining the knowledge necessary to work with individuals and groups without taking extended coursework in research and statistics. The emphasis on clinical experience prepares students to assume roles in which they can apply their knowledge to help people overcome a wide range of mental health obstacles in general or specialized areas of practice.
Admission requirements for a general psychology PsyD program depend on the institution you select. Most students apply after earning a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or a closely related field.
You can expect the admission process to be competitive for accredited programs. In most cases, you’ll be required to provide the following:
- Letters of recommendation from professors or supervisors
- Examples of academic writing
- Current curriculum vitae
- Personal statement of professional goals and experience
- Face-to-face interview
- Copies of official transcripts
- Answers to school- or program-specific essays
Do you need to take the GRE or other standardized tests?
Requirements for scores from the GRE or other standardized tests vary by program. Most PsyD programs require that you submit GRE scores received within the previous 5 years of your application, though some programs don’t consider standardized tests in admission criteria.
Highly ranked graduate psychology schools that use the GRE usually require Verbal and Quantitative scores of about 160 out of 170 and Analytical Writing scores at around 5 out of 6. Some PsyD programs also require the GRE Psychology subject test.
Can you get in without a master’s degree?
While some general psychology PsyD programs admit students without a master’s, the minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree. These programs—often referred to as dual or joint-degree programs—allow you to earn a master’s degree after completing a certain number of doctoral credits. These may take longer than other PsyD programs, but they can ultimately save you time and money overall because your credits are counted toward 2 degrees simultaneously.
Can you get in if your master’s isn’t in psychology?
Some PsyD psychology programs accept students with a master’s in a different field. However, these programs usually require you to complete prerequisites in areas including general psychology, developmental psychology, statistics, and methodology before starting the PsyD curriculum.
Can you apply credits from a master’s degree?
You may be able to apply credits from a previous master’s degree if your courses align with those offered in your PsyD curriculum and meet other requirements. When transfer credits are allowed, PsyD programs typically only allow transfer credits for foundational courses, not clinical skills. The decision to apply credits from a master’s degree is usually made on an individual basis.
Other requirements often include that your transferred credits are from courses completed within 5 years prior to transfer and with a final grade of B or above. Most programs also limit the number of transfer credits they’ll accept. In addition, accredited institutions only accept credits earned from courses completed at other accredited schools.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a PsyD in Psychology?
On average, most PsyD in general psychology programs can be completed within 4–6 years of full-time attendance year-round. PsyD degrees in general psychology average between 70 and 124 semester hours or the quarter equivalent, though programs vary significantly.
To qualify for accreditation through the American Psychological Association (APA), PsyD programs must require a minimum of 3 full-time academic years and at least a 1-year full-time or 2-year part-time internship. So while it takes no less than 4 years to earn a PsyD, it’s important to note that most PsyD programs limit the amount of time you’re allowed to complete your degree. For most programs, the maximum time you’re permitted is around 7 years, unless you’re granted an extension.
The PsyD in psychology curriculum typically follows the practitioner-scholar model of professional training. PsyD coursework is designed to help students develop critical thinking skills as they study psychological science, while practicums and internships facilitate the development of advanced clinical practice skills. While a dissertation or capstone project is more often found in PhD programs, some general psychology PsyD programs also include this requirement.
What courses are involved?
Examples of typical courses required for a PsyD in psychology can include:
- Advanced research methods and statistics
- Advanced psychopathology
- Advanced psychological testing
- Evidence-based practice in psychology
- History and systems of psychology
- Lifespan development
- Multi-cultural perspectives in human behavior
- Strategies of clinical supervision and consultation
- Theories of psychotherapy
While specific options vary by program, popular concentrations include the following:
Child and adolescent psychology
Child and adolescent psychology focuses on serving infants, toddlers, and adolescents affected by psychological, developmental, academic, family, and health-related issues.
Couple and family therapy
Couple and family therapy emphasizes the unique psychological issues related to families and couples, along with interpersonal dynamics within that occur within these groups.
Geropsychology applies psychological knowledge and methods to help older adults maintain psychological well-being while handling the mental, medical, and functional changes that can come along with aging.
Integrated behavioral health
Integrated behavioral health focuses on ways behavioral health and primary care providers work together to address physical conditions that occur with psychological issues.
Neuropsychology emphasizes the investigation into the psychological principles associated with brain-behavior relationships.
Rehabilitation psychology includes helping disabled individuals overcome cognitive, emotional, and functional issues.
Trauma psychology focuses on individuals affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, and other trauma-related conditions.
Is an Internship or Other Fieldwork required?
Most PsyD programs require that you participate in an APA-accredited internship lasting a minimum of 1 full-time year or 2 part-time years before graduation. In some programs, you’ll prepare for an internship with fieldwork experiences or practicums that allow you to observe professionals at work before assuming more responsibilities as an intern.
In addition to an internship, you’ll likely have to work between 1,000 and 2,000 hours under supervision after graduation to meet state licensure qualifications.
Are There Online PsyD Programs?
Yes, some schools offer online PsyD programs so that students can earn credits at their convenience. These programs allow you to meet work and family obligations while attending school. However, since a PsyD requires supervised practicums and an internship, you’ll still have to work in-person at approved clinical settings to fulfill these criteria.
For licensing, some states require that you spend at least 1 year-in-residence while earning your degree. To meet this standard, you may benefit from attending a classroom or hybrid PsyD program. Traditional classroom PsyD programs usually demand full-time attendance but give you the benefit of full curriculum immersion and personal interaction with professors and peers. Hybrid programs provide the opportunity to complete some courses online and others in person.
How to Pick a Degree Program
When selecting a PsyD program, look for accreditation from the APA, the Canadian Psychological Association, or a national accrediting agency approved by the ABPP. Accredited programs meet quality standards and criteria for ABPP board certifications. Many states also require degrees from accredited programs for licensing.
In addition to program accreditation, confirm that your school has earned approval from an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Attending an accredited institution allows you to qualify for federal financial aid and transfer credits to other accredited schools.
When exploring PsyD programs, consider curriculum, clinical requirements, and costs. To make an educated decision, ask the following questions:
- Can I attend on a part-time or online basis?
- What’s the average student to teacher ratio?
- What types of financial aid are offered to PsyD students?
- Does the program require a dissertation or capstone project?
- Will the school help me find an internship?
- How often do students match with their first-choice internship?
- What are the graduation and employment rates?
- How well do students perform on state licensure exams?
Career Opportunities with a PsyD in Psychology
A PsyD in general psychology can prepare you for many different types of careers in the field. With this degree, you can qualify to work independently in your own practice or in leading clinical positions in healthcare institutions, schools, legal organizations, or private businesses. While this list is by no means comprehensive, the following roles are just some of the careers you may find with a PsyD in general psychology.
Clinical psychology is one of the largest specialties within the field.
Clinical psychologists evaluate, diagnose, and treat individuals and groups affected by behavioral, emotional, and physical obstacles.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical psychologists earn an average annual salary of $81,330.
For any psychologist, earning a license typically requires having between 1,000 and 2,000 hours of postdoctoral supervised work experience and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). You may also need to take additional exams depending on your state.
After receiving a license and meeting specific criteria, those with a general psychology degree can opt to apply for specialty certification in clinical psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). Continuing education will also be required to maintain an active license.
Forensic psychologists apply their knowledge of psychological theory and clinical skills to support the legal process.
They help lawyers, judges, police officers, and other legal professionals understand human behavior. They may assess the mental health of criminals, provide counseling services to victims, or serve as expert witnesses in court.
While the BLS doesn’t report salaries specifically for forensic psychologists, the average annual wage for psychologists across all fields is $93,440. Psychologists working within government often earn more, so forensic psychologists have the potential for higher salaries.
You’ll need to complete a set number of hours of supervised experience, pass the EPPP exam and any other test required by your state, and pursue continuing education once you have your license. You can also earn ABPP certification in forensic psychology, though it’s not a requirement.
An organizational psychologist—also referred to as an industrial-organizational (I/O) psychologist—uses psychological principles to identify challenges and design programs involving workplace issues such as training, performance, and quality of work life.
According to the BLS, the average annual salary for I/O psychologists is $102,530, though the data is somewhat limited.
Along with the work experience, testing requirements, and continuing education required of all licensed psychologists, you can earn optional ABPP certification in organizational and business consulting psychology.
School psychologists work with elementary and secondary school students and parents to address mental, emotional, physical, or behavioral issues that interfere with learning.
They also help teachers and administrators facilitate healthy educational environments.
According to the BLS, psychologists working in elementary and secondary schools earn an average annual salary of $77,430.
After completing all requirements for a psychology license, you can also earn certification in school psychology or clinical child and adolescent psychology from the ABPP, though neither is required for employment.
Financial Aid for PsyD Students
Financial aid for PsyD students can include several types of resources, depending on your available funds, tuition costs, and related expenses. According to a 2016 study conducted by APA, the median annual tuition for doctorate programs included the following totals based on the type of institution:
- Public, in-state: $10,800
- Public, out-of-state: $24,000
- Private: $33,698
As a PsyD student, you probably won’t qualify for a research or teaching assistantship. These positions, which typically provide tuition remission, are usually offered to PhD students. However, you may earn short- or long-term fellowships or scholarships, which can include stipends or other financial benefits.
Your eligibility for need-based aid is determined by the information you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you meet FAFSA criteria for federal aid, you may be able to apply for part-time university jobs in the Federal Work-Study program.
You also can apply for awards based on academic merit or other non-financial criteria to meet your obligations. Check for awards from the following sources:
- Scholarships and grants from your school or program
- National and local professional psychology associations
- Scholarships for nontraditional students
- Private businesses
- Community organizations
- Employer tuition reimbursement
- State incentive programs
- Military service scholarships
If awards and scholarships don’t meet your needs, consider applying for federal or private student loans to make up the difference.
Does psychology qualify for student loan forgiveness?
A PsyD in psychology may qualify for student loan forgiveness if you have direct federal loans, work full-time in a nonprofit organization or government agency, and have contributed at least 120 installments toward repayment. Some programs also require you to work in an area defined as having a shortage of psychologists based on federal guidelines.
The federal government sponsors the following loan forgiveness programs that may apply to psychology:
- Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation Program
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program
- National Health Services Corps Loan Repayment Program
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) Student Loan Repayment Program
State loan forgiveness programs may also apply to psychology if you meet employment and repayment criteria. Your state’s Department of Health can provide information about current programs.