should i do a phd in psychology

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Is a Ph.D. in Psychology Worth it – (Pros VS. Cons)

There’s no doubt that getting a Ph.D. in Psychology can be a valuable investment. Studying psychology that can lead to many interesting and fulfilling careers. But is a Ph.D. in psychology worth it? This article will cover what you need to know before making your decision. We will talk about 25 reasons why a Ph.D. in psychology is worth it and also 7 reasons why it may not be the right degree for you. This article is not meant to dictate what you should do, but to provide you with the information to make an informed choice.


How long does a ph.d. in psychology degree take, how much does a ph.d. in psychology degree cost, what are the admission requirements for a ph.d. in psychology degree.

• A master’s degree, not necessarily in psychology. In some cases, a bachelor’s degree is also acceptable. • A GPA of at least 3.0 • Letters of recommendation • A letter of intent • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) • A Resume


Reason #1: a ph.d. in psychology can provide you with the opportunity to teach at the college level., reason #2: a ph.d. in psychology can give you a greater understanding of human behavior and mental processes., reason #3: a ph.d. in psychology can help lead to careers in research., reason #4: a ph.d. in psychology can give you the chance to work with different ethnic and racial groups, reason #5: a ph.d. in psychology can lead to a career in public health., reason #6: a ph.d. in psychology can help you start your own business., reason #7: a ph.d. in psychology can help you become a voice for social and political change., reason #8: a ph.d. in psychology can lead to opportunities to take leadership positions in prominent psychology organizations., reason #9: a ph.d. in psychology can make you less vulnerable to job loss during economic downturns., reason #10: a ph.d. in psychology can lead to a career working with children., reason #11: a ph.d. in psychology may lead to opportunities to meet and collaborate with thought leaders in the field of psychology through networking events., reason #12: a ph.d. in psychology can lead to a corporate career as an industrial-organizational psychologist., reason #13: a ph.d. in psychology can lead to a career in forensics., reason #14: a ph.d. in psychology can allow you to help people with drug addiction., reason #15: a ph.d. in psychology can help you develop stellar communication skills., reason #16: a ph.d. in psychology can lead to a career in sports psychology., reason #17: a ph.d. in psychology can lead to a lucrative marketing career., reason #18: a ph.d. in psychology can help you become an administrator at colleges and universities., reason #19: a ph.d. in psychology can lead to a career in the military., reason #20: a ph.d. in psychology can prepare you for a career in social work., reason #21: a ph.d. in psychology can help you become an environmental psychologist., reason #22: a ph.d. in psychology can make you a credible writer on psychology-related topics., reason #23: a ph.d. in psychology can lead to a career as a neuropsychologist., reason #24: a ph.d. in psychology can give you the skills to help people discover their dream careers., reason #25: a ph.d. in psychology allows you to work in correctional settings., why a ph.d. in psychology may not be worth it for you – the cons, reason #1: it takes a long time to complete a ph.d. in psychology., reason #2: a ph.d. in psychology can be an expensive degree to pursue., reason #3: it’s possible to lose income while pursuing your ph.d. in psychology., reason #4: you may lose time with family and friends., reason #5: finding an internship or residency can be difficult., reason #6: you may have to publish in psychology journals often., reason #7: if your goal is to be a psychology professor, you may find a lot of competition., what are the 3 main reasons behind the demand for ph.d. in psychology degree holders, 1. many industries perceive people with a ph.d. in psychology as top experts., 2. there is increased accessibility to healthcare services, including services from psychologists., 3. the mental health needs of people have accelerated due to the pandemic and other recent events in today’s world., what is the average salary for ph.d. in psychology degree holders, what are the 3 best jobs you can get with a ph.d. in psychology degree, 1. professor:, 2. research psychologist:, 3. psychologist in private practice:, bonus 3 tips to make more money with a ph.d. in psychology degree, 1. specialize in a high-demand area:, 2. get experience in the private sector:, 3. start your own business:, is a ph.d. in psychology worth it for you – my final thoughts, frequently asked questions answered, 1. what is the best age to do a ph.d. in psychology degree, 2. how hard is it to get into a ph.d. in psychology degree program, 3. is the gre required for those wishing to pursue a ph.d. in psychology degree, 4. do i need work experience to get into a ph.d. in psychology degree program, 5. what is the minimum gpa to get into a ph.d. in psychology degree program, 6. can i get into a ph.d. in psychology degree program with a low gpa, 7. are online ph.d. in psychology degree programs worth it, 8. are scholarships and grants available for ph.d. in psychology degree programs, 9. can ph.d. in psychology, students have a life, 10. can i work part-time and successfully complete the ph.d. in psychology degree program, 11. can i work full-time and successfully complete the ph.d. in psychology degree program, 12. do students fail in ph.d. in psychology degree programs, 13. will i ever regret getting a ph.d. in psychology degree, 14. how much does a ph.d. in psychology graduate make per hour, 16. will ph.d. in psychology graduates be paid less in the future, 17. are all ph.d. in psychology graduates successful in their careers, 18. are ph.d. in psychology graduates happy with their jobs, 19. can ph.d. in psychology degree holders become rich, 20. what are some ph.d. in psychology degree alternatives, 21. can i get a ph.d. in psychology without a masters in psychology, 22. what is the difference between a ph.d. in psychology and a psyd.

should i do a phd in psychology

Other Doctorates in Psychology

  • Doctorate of Counseling Psychology (PsyD)
  • Doctorate in Industrial-Organizational Psychology (PsyD)
  • PsyD in General Psychology
  • PhD vs. PsyD
  • Online Degrees in Psychology

PhD in General Psychology

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About the PhD in General Psychology

Degree type:, total credits:, aid eligible:.

General psychologists help all types of people overcome many different mental health challenges. While it’s possible to specialize in certain patient populations or conditions, a PhD in general psychology can give you the knowledge you need to use research or treatment to impact patients across a wide range of demographics and situations.

Interested in getting an education that can help you improve the lives of those struggling with mental health concerns? Keep reading to learn about the curriculum, costs, and employment opportunities related to a PhD in general psychology.

What Is a PhD in General Psychology?

A general psychology PhD is a terminal degree, or the highest degree available, in the field. The degree focuses on developing a broad base of knowledge, strong research and critical thinking skills, and analytical expertise across many subfields of psychology.  

PsyD vs. PhD degrees

There are 2 options for earning a doctoral degree in general psychology. You can earn either a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree. While both a PhD and PsyD will prepare you to work in many of the same roles, there are some key differences in program curriculum.

A PsyD program focuses more on applying existing knowledge to clinical settings and interactions with clients. In contrast, a PhD program is focused more on studying trends in the profession and producing new knowledge through research.

If your goal is to assess and treat patients with psychotherapy techniques, a PsyD may be the best choice for you. If you want to investigate psychological theory or work in academia—with or without a career in private practice—a PhD may be a better option.

Who are PhDs in psychology intended for?

PhDs in psychology are intended for students who want to work in research, academia, or administration. The degree’s emphasis on research and analysis is a good fit if you’re interested in a career as a university professor, researcher, consultant, or program director. A psychology PhD is also appropriate for private practitioners who have an interest in teaching or research since the degree meets qualifications for most state licenses and specialty certifications.

Careers with a PhD in Psychology

A PhD in general psychology can qualify you for many types of careers. This degree can lead you to positions in government agencies, corporations, universities, healthcare organizations, and private practice. While this list is by no means comprehensive, the following roles are just some of the careers you may find with a PhD.

Clinical psychologist

should i do a phd in psychology

While a PhD emphasizes research, the degree still allows you to earn the education you need to get a psychology license and work in private practice. A clinical psychologist works with clients to help them manage challenges posed by physical, mental, or behavioral issues. Many PhD clinical psychologists maintain a private practice, while also pursuing research and/or teaching endeavors.


According to the 2022 U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), clinical psychologists earn a median annual salary of $90,130 .

Other requirements

To practice independently as any kind of psychologist, you’ll have to earn a psychology license in your state. This usually requires having between 1,000 and 2,000 hours of postdoctoral supervised work experience and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) , as well as any other exams required by your state. After receiving your license and meeting specific criteria, you can apply for optional specialty certification in clinical psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) . Continuing education will also be required to maintain an active license.

Educational psychologist

should i do a phd in psychology

An educational psychologist focuses on identifying and studying the ways people learn and retain new information. Since education isn’t restricted to school settings, an educational psychologist can work to improve all types of learning at all stages of life. That said, they may specialize in 1 type of patient population, such as children, adults, or individuals with specific conditions.  

While the BLS doesn’t record salaries for educational psychologists specifically, the median annual salary for general psychologists is $106,420 .

Other requirements       

You’ll need to complete a set number of hours of supervised work experience, pass the EPPP exam and any other test required by your state, and pursue continuing education once you have your license.

Organizational psychologist

should i do a phd in psychology

An organizational psychologist applies psychological theories to organizations and the workplace. Professionals in this field use principles of individual, group, and organizational behavior to design and implement programs related to areas such as performance, training, and quality of work life.


According to the BLS, the median annual salary for organizational psychologists is $139,280 .

Other requirements        

Along with the work experience, testing requirements, and continuing education required of all licensed psychologists, you can opt to earn certification in organizational and business consulting psychology from the ABPP specialty board.

Psychology professor

should i do a phd in psychology

Colleges and universities typically require a PhD for psychology professors. Depending on your experience and interests, you can pursue programs that allow you to teach general or specialized psychology principles. Many psychology professors combine teaching with research to contribute new knowledge to the field.


Psychology educators at the postsecondary level earn a median annual salary of $76,920 .

To work as a psychology professor, you’ll have to earn your teaching certification from your state’s Board of Education. This typically involves completing an approved teacher preparation program and passing required exams. Certification renewal may be required every few years depending on your state’s criteria.

Research psychologist

should i do a phd in psychology

A PhD is the standard for conducting independent research in the field of psychology. Research psychologists typically work in universities, government health agencies, and private research organizations. They’re typically required to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals and give presentations at psychology conferences to maintain their positions.  

While the BLS doesn’t track salaries specifically for research psychologists, you may expect to earn around the same as a psychology professor. However, salaries can vary greatly depending on the exact setting in which you work.

As with all other psychologists, you’ll need to meet the national and state-specific requirements for earning your license.

Admission Requirements Before Starting a PhD in General Psychology

PhD admission requirements vary by program and school. Most students begin the program with a master’s degree in psychology or an advanced degree in a closely related field. Getting into a leading PhD program can be competitive and most base their admissions on a holistic assessment of the following:

  • Academic and professional letters of recommendation
  • Academic writing samples
  • Official academic transcripts
  • 1-on-1 interview
  • Proof of internship or professional experience
  • Responses to admission essays

Do you need to take the GRE or other standardized tests?

Achieving a specific score on the GRE is a requirement for admission to many general psychology PhD programs, though some don’t require this or any other standardized test. You’ll need to check with your program of choice for specific requirements.

GRE scores for the most competitive psychology graduate programs average around 160 out of 170 on both the Verbal and Quantitative sections, and about a 5 out of 6 on Analytical Writing. Some PhD programs may also require the GRE Psychology subject test for admission. Schools that do require the GRE or another standardized test typically only accept scores received within the previous 5 years of your application date.

Can you get in without a master’s degree?

Some general psychology PhD programs accept students without a master’s, but you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree for admission. Programs that don’t require a master’s are often called dual or joint-degree programs.

They’re configured so that you earn a master’s degree after accruing a set number of credits in the PhD curriculum. These may take longer than other PsyD programs , but they can ultimately save you time and money overall as your credits are being counted toward 2 degrees simultaneously. 

Can you get in if your master’s isn’t in psychology?

Many programs allow students to enter without a master’s specifically in the field, though you’ll probably have to complete prerequisites in psychology, human development, or statistics before beginning any PhD coursework.

Can you apply credits from a master’s degree?

Some programs allow you to apply credits from a master’s degree, though it’s usually contingent on whether the credits are applicable to the program’s coursework. In addition, most schools only accept transfer credits from an institution approved by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Commission on Accreditation .      

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Psychology?

Your PhD in psychology can take between 4 and 8 years to complete, with about 4–6 years being the average. For APA accreditation, programs must provide at least 3 full-time academic years and a 1-year internship. The number of credits required for graduation varies significantly by program, with the average being between 60 and 90 semester credits or the quarter equivalent.

Your time to completion is also determined by the structure of your program, your dissertation subject, and whether you attend full- or part-time. If you’re earning a master’s degree concurrent with your PhD, you can expect your program to take at least 5 years to complete. Some programs limit the amount of time you have to finish your degree to between 7 and 8 years.

The PhD in Psychology Curriculum

The PhD in general psychology curriculum emphasizes research, teaching, and leadership in the field. The coursework is intended to provide students with the unique perspective of a scientist-practitioner. Most PhD in psychology programs require a dissertation, which count toward a set number of credits.

What courses are involved?

Common classes in general psychology PhD programs include coursework in:

  • Foundations of theory and practice of psychology
  • Qualitative analysis and design Advanced inferential statistics
  • Program evaluation
  • Quantitative analysis and design
  • Research theory, design, and methods
  • Teaching of psychology
  • Professional ethics, law, and psychology

Popular concentrations      

A PhD in general psychology typically allows you to take courses in a broad range of popular concentrations. Depending on the number of electives you’re allowed, you may be able to combine courses in more than 1 concentration to design an individualized program that meets your goals.

Specific concentrations vary by program, but popular options include:

  • Child and adolescent development
  • Consultation
  • Organizational
  • Program evaluation and measurement
  • Teaching and instruction

Is an internship required?

Requirements vary by school, however, APA-accredited programs must include at least a 1-year full-time or 2-year part-time internship. Even if your program doesn’t require an internship, you’ll need between 1,000 and 2,000 hours of postdoctoral experience to qualify for a psychologist license in your state.

Are There Online PhD Programs in Psychology?

There are 3 different structures of programs that allow you to earn a PhD in general psychology, though keep in mind that you’ll most likely still be required to gain hands-on experience no matter the design of your program.

Online PhD programs let you complete most of your coursework online at your convenience. However, most online programs have an internship or research requirement that you’ll have to complete in person. In addition, some states require that qualifying degrees include at least 1 year in-residence.

Classroom PhD programs provide the most comprehensive experience. By attending courses onsite, you’ll be able to interact with professors and fellow students in-person. While attending school full-time isn’t an option for everyone, the experience can facilitate your participation in psychology research.

Hybrid programs combine online and onsite courses. Most hybrid courses allow you to complete courses online with the requirement to attend periodic seminars or courses on campus or at regional locations. Hybrid programs incorporate the convenience of online learning with the support of regular in-person instruction and supervision.

How to Pick a Degree Program

When selecting a general psychology PhD program, look for accreditation from the APA, the Canadian Psychological Association , or another accrediting body recognized by the ABPP . Accreditation ensures that your program meets the minimum standards of quality defined by the profession, qualifies you for state licensing applications, and meets the criteria for ABPP specialty certifications.

It’s also important to ensure that your institution is accredited by an institutional accrediting organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education . Attending an accredited institution is a prerequisite for applying for federal financial aid and can ensure that your credits are accepted by other accredited institutions.

Choosing a general psychology PhD program requires comparing its structure, curriculum, and cost against your professional goals and financial resources. Consider the following:

  • Does the program offer courses in the specialized areas I want?
  • Can I take classes part-time and/or online?
  • Will I have to complete a dissertation?
  • What’s the average class size?
  • How many students match with their first-choice internship?
  • What are the program’s rates for graduation and employment?
  • How do graduates perform in exams for licensure and certification?
  • Are assistantships, fellowships and/or scholarships available?

Financial Aid for Psychology PhD Students

The cost for your general psychology PhD will depend on the type of institution you attend.

While the cost can be daunting at first, keep in mind that PhD students often qualify for partial to full tuition remission through research or teaching assistantships. In addition, you may qualify for reduced student housing and other benefits while working on campus in these positions.

School-sponsored fellowships and scholarships are additional sources of income. These awards may be short- or long-term and can include additional benefits and stipends.

You also may be eligible for other kinds of financial aid. Find out whether you qualify for need-based awards by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) . If you’re eligible for aid, you also may be able to secure a part-time job in the Federal Work-Study program .

For additional financial help, look to scholarships awarded for academic achievement or other criteria. Some places to check include:

  • Scholarships from your program or school
  • Incentive programs funded by your state
  • Private businesses and foundations
  • Local and national chapters of psychology associations
  • Community or professional organizations
  • Scholarships for nontraditional students
  • Employer tuition reimbursement
  • Military or other service scholarships
  • Federal or private student loans

Does psychology qualify for student loan forgiveness?

Your PhD in general psychology may qualify for student loan forgiveness if you have direct federal student loans, make a minimum of 120 repayments, and have a full-time position in a nonprofit organization or government agency. Other standards can require that you work in an area where there’s a shortage of psychologists. 

The U.S. government funds the following loan forgiveness programs:

  • 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

You may also qualify for state loan forgiveness programs by meeting similar criteria for employment and repayment. Contact your state’s Department of Health for details about available programs.

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Getting a Ph.D. in Psychology

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

should i do a phd in psychology

Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity,, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

should i do a phd in psychology

Verywell / Evan Polenghi

Ph.D. vs. Psy.D.

Job opportunities, earning a degree, specialty areas, alternatives.

Getting a Ph.D. in psychology can open up a whole new world of career opportunities. For many careers paths in psychology-related career paths, a doctoral degree is necessary to obtain work and certification. A Ph.D. is one option, but it is not the only educational path that's available to reach some of these goals.

A Ph.D., or doctor of philosophy, is one of the highest level degrees you can earn in the field of psychology . If you're considering pursuing a graduate degree, you might be wondering how long it takes to earn a Ph.D. in psychology . Generally, a bachelor's degree takes four years of study. While a master's degree requires an additional two to three years of study beyond the bachelor's, a doctoral degree can take between four to six years of additional graduate study after earning your bachelor's degree.

Recently, a new degree option known as the Psy.D. , or doctor of psychology, has grown in popularity as an alternative to the Ph.D. The type of degree you decide to pursue depends on a variety of factors, including your own interests and your career aspirations.

Before deciding which is right for you, research your options and decide if graduate school in psychology is even the best choice for you. Depending on your career goals, you might need to earn a master's or doctoral degree in psychology in order to practice in your chosen field. In other instances, a degree in a similar subject such as counseling or social work may be more appropriate.

A doctorate in psychology is required if you want to open your own private practice.

If you want to become a licensed psychologist, you must earn either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. in clinical or counseling psychology.

In most cases, you will also need a doctorate if you want to teach and conduct research at the college or university level. While there are some opportunities available for people with a master's degree in various specialty fields, such as industrial-organizational psychology and health psychology , those with a doctorate will generally find higher pay, greater job demand, and more opportunity for growth.

In order to earn a Ph.D. in psychology, you need to first begin by earning your bachelor's degree. While earning your undergraduate degree in psychology can be helpful, students with bachelor's degrees in other subjects can also apply their knowledge to psychology Ph.D. programs . Some students in doctorate programs may have a master's degree in psychology , but most doctorate programs do not require it.

After you’ve been admitted to a graduate program, it generally takes at least four years to earn a Ph.D. and another year to complete an internship. Once these requirements have been fulfilled, you can take state and national exams to become licensed to practice psychology in the state where you wish to work.

Once you enter the graduate level of psychology, you will need to choose an area of specialization, such as clinical psychology , counseling psychology, health psychology, or cognitive psychology . The American Psychological Association (APA) accredits graduate programs in three areas: clinical, counseling, and school psychology.   If you are interested in going into one of these specialty areas, it's important to choose a school that has received accreditation through the APA.

For many students, the choice may come down to a clinical psychology program versus a counseling psychology program. There are many similarities between these two Ph.D. options, but there are important distinctions that students should consider. Clinical programs may have more of a research focus while counseling programs tend to focus more on professional practice. The path you choose will depend largely on what you plan to do after you complete your degree.

Of course, the Ph.D. in psychology is not the only graduate degree option. The Psy.D. is a doctorate degree option that you might also want to consider. While there are many similarities between these two degrees, traditional Ph.D. programs tend to be more research-oriented while Psy.D. programs are often more practice-oriented.

The Ph.D. option may be your top choice if you want to mix professional practice with teaching and research, while the Psy.D. option may be preferred if you want to open your own private psychology practice.

In the book "An Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology," authors John C. Norcross and Michael A. Sayette suggest that one of the key differences between the two-degree options is that the Ph.D. programs train producers of research while Psy.D. programs train consumers of research. However, professional opportunities for practice are very similar with both degree types.

Research suggests that there are few discernible differences in terms of professional recognition, employment opportunities, or clinical skills between students trained in the Ph.D. or Psy.D. models. One of the few differences is that those with a Ph.D. degree are far more likely to be employed in academic settings and medical schools.

Social work, counseling, education, and the health sciences are other graduate options that you may want to consider if you decide that a doctorate degree is not the best fit for your interests and career goals.

A Word From Verywell

If you are considering a Ph.D. in psychology, spend some time carefully researching your options and thinking about your future goals. A doctoral degree is a major commitment of time, resources, and effort, so it is worth it to take time to consider the right option for your goals. The Ph.D. in psychology can be a great choice if you are interested in being a scientist-practitioner in the field and want to combine doing research with professional practice. It's also great training if you're interested in working at a university where you would teach classes and conduct research on psychological topics.

University of Pennsylvania; School of Arts and Sciences. Information for applicants .

American Psychological Association. Doctoral degrees in psychology: How are they different, or not so different?

U.S. Department of Labor.  Psychologists . Occupational Outlook Handbook .

Norcross JC, Sayette MA. An Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology (2020/2021 ed.) . New York, NY: The Guilford Press; 2020.

Davis SF, Giordano PJ, Licht CA. Your Career in Psychology: Putting Your Graduate Degree to Work . John Wiley & Sons; 2012. doi:10.1002/9781444315929

US Department of Education. Bachelor's, master's, and doctor's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by sex of student and discipline division: 2016-17 .

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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8 Reasons Why You Should Get Your Doctorate in Psychology

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Are you thinking about going back to school to get your doctorate in psychology? Earning your Ph.D. or PsyD can be an excellent way to improve your career and salary prospects. Below are some of the best reasons to consider earning this prestigious degree.

#1 You Want To Be An Academic

Earning your bachelor’s degree and even a master’s degree in psychology is not enough to get you the best-paying jobs in academia. If you want to be a full-time psychology professor at most universities, you must earn your doctorate in psychology.

Many students want to get their doctorate and work in academia so they can teach students at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Being a full-time professor provides a good salary, benefits, and job security.

Others want to perform research at universities and obtain research grants from public and private entities.

#2 You Want To Be a Researcher

Many Ph.D. students in psychology yearn to become a research psychologist. In this field, you have the chance to study a variety of complex psychological issues and treatments and come up with new solutions.

Many doctoral degree holders are employed by the government or non-profit groups to discover new treatments for mental health conditions. Others focus on discovering innovative ways to teach certain populations of students.

Research psychology is also a good path if you want your original research published in peer-reviewed journals, such as The Journal of Psychology and Cognition and The Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy.

#3 You Have Your Master’s Degree

Students interested in a psychology career can do little with a bachelor’s degree alone. Practicing as a counseling or clinical psychologist requires at least a master’s degree. However, to work independently, you must have a doctoral degree.

Most psychology students eventually earn their master’s degree, which means you are just one of many who have their graduate degree. But a lot fewer students earn their doctoral degree.

Doctoral programs are more selective and difficult. You can make yourself stand out from other psychology students with your Ph.D. or PsyD.

#4 You Want To Specialize

Some master’s programs allow you to specialize in a branch of psychology. But obtaining your doctorate in psychology allows you to focus even more on that specialization so you can become an expert and authority in the field. Some of the most popular doctoral specializations are:

  • Neuropsychology
  • Engineering psychology
  • Sports psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Human factors psychology
  • School psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Abnormal psychology

#5 You Want to Work in Private Clinical Practice

You can work as a clinical psychologist with a master’s degree, but you must be supervised by a Ph.D. in the field. While this may be a satisfactory arrangement for some time, many professionals want to eventually start their own private practice.

#6 You Want To Understand a Psychology Subject Better

If you want to become a subject matter expert on a subject in psychology, getting your Ph.D. may allow you to conduct in-depth research in that area.

For example, if you want to understand better how the brain solves problems, or how some drugs can affect depression or bipolar disorder, doctoral study will allow you to do years of research in those areas. You may even decide to write your dissertation on the subject.

#7 You Want to Help Other People

You can counsel others with a master’s degree. But having your psychology doctoral degree means another four to six years of experience and study. You can provide more in-depth help to your patients with a Ph.D. or PsyD.

SEE ALSO: Is it Worth It to Get a PsyD in Psychology?

#8 You Want to Make More Money

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the top earners in the field make at least $130,000 per year. Most of them have a doctoral degree and many years of work experience.

You also will qualify for more jobs with a doctoral degree. APA’s Workforce Studies found that 72% of surveyed psychologists with a doctorate got their top choice for work after they graduated.

What the Experts Say

We checked with experts on about this question: “Is it worth it to get a Ph.D. in psychology?”

  • “If you enjoy research, by all means, look into the possibility of pursuing the Ph.D., which will open many career avenues even before graduation. The field of psychology is rapidly following the study into biological and genetic factors behind mental illness and is the wave of the future. This opens up many new areas of research that you may become a part of.” – Mike King, MA in Politics, MS in Psychology, Minor in Management .
  • “It depends on what you mean by “worth it.” If you don’t mind working hard for a finite number of years in order to have great flexibility in where you work (VA, academia, private practice, mental hospital, community mental health, the federal prison system, etc.) and what you do (therapy, assessment, administration, supervision, teaching, research, etc.), then yes, it’s worth it.” – Valerie Leake, Psychologist, Therapist .
  • “A Ph.D. in psychology is centrally about doing research and getting it published. Do you feel comfortable doing research? Do you aspire to become a professor of psychology? Is there any domain in psychology that you have a special passion for? If your responses to these questions are all “yes”, then go ahead [and get your Ph.D.]. – Jimmy Zhong, Student, Ph.D. in Psychology .
  • “I found it useful. I was able to teach undergraduate and graduate classes at three different universities. I worked as a school psychologist/diagnostician and earned a good salary. It was six years of hard work past my undergraduate degree, but I think it was worth it.” – Rondeall Bizzell, Ph.D. in Psychology .

Earning your doctoral degree in psychology provides you with many job opportunities and a shot at earning a top salary in the field. It is a worthy educational goal that can “result a high level of personal and professional satisfaction.

  • Psychology PhD Overview. Accessed at
  • Is a Doctorate in Psychology Worth It? Accessed at
  • Doctoral Degree in Psychology. Accessed at

The Magoosh logo is the word Magoosh spelled with each letter o replaced with a check mark in a circle.

What is a PhD in Psychology and Should You Get One?

A woman holding a pen to her forehead in front of a blackboard with an image of a brain shaped cog drawings and question marks

Deciding if the field of psychology is a good fit for your graduate education can be confusing and overwhelming. To start, the career field is VAST. There are so many subfields in psychology and each requires unique specialization in order to become a licensed professional in that field. A graduate degree in “psychology” doesn’t really exist. Rather, you get a graduate degree in clinical psychology, industry psychology, social psychology, quantitative psychology, behavioral neuroscience, and so on. Keep in mind, someone who is educated in one area of psychology cannot always do a job in another, and because of that, it can be hard to figure out the right education for what you want to do. As someone who is currently a PhD student in a psychology program, I’m here to help answer all your questions related to what a PhD in psychology actually looks like, and help you decide if it is the right choice for you.

What Is a PhD in Psychology?

A PhD in psychology is the highest level of education offered in a specialized field of psychology. The majority of careers in psychology require a PhD or PsyD, but there are some careers that can be done with a specialized master’s or EdS degree (e.g. applied behavior analysis, school psychologist, etc.).

A PhD or PsyD can prepare you for a wider variety of roles in the field of psychology (e.g. academic, client-based, research/lab based, etc.) and it often leads to higher paying positions: anywhere from $55k to $150k per year based on specialization and location.

Wait, What Is a PsyD and How Does It Compare to a PhD?

Both a PhD and a PsyD are doctoral level degrees . The difference between degrees comes down to your priorities in your education and career. See the table below to compare degree types.

Should I Apply for a Psychology PhD/PsyD or Should I Apply for a Master’s/EdS?

This depends entirely on the career you want to pursue. Practicing psychologist roles will require doctoral degrees and any careers in research and academics require, specifically, a PhD degree. That said, there are a lot of careers that do not require training beyond a master’s or EdS degree. Do your research on what jobs you want to be able to do with the education you receive before applying to any programs.

Additionally, you will need to factor into your decision the time commitment involved with a psychology doctoral program. They take longer to complete, are almost always full-time and in-person programs, require a year-long internship as well as a dissertation (PhD and some PsyD), and often have extensive additional time requirements outside of coursework. If that does not sound feasible for you, consider finding an alternative career path or waiting until that commitment is feasible.

One thing to note is there are careers in the mental health field that fall outside of the psychology field and do not require doctoral degrees. Jobs like a counselor, therapist, or a social worker only require a master’s for licensure and have online program options. If you just want a career where you help counsel people in tough situations, choosing one of those pathways instead of a psychologist pathway could save you a lot of time and money.

What Prior Experience or Education Do I Need to Apply for a PhD/PsyD Program?

It entirely depends on the program for which you are applying. Some programs will require you to have a master’s degree. Some offer combined master’s and PhD/PsyD programs where an undergraduate degree is sufficient for admissions. Some require a certain amount of research experience while others expect you to have work experience in some field related to the subfield you will be entering. Be sure to do your due diligence while researching any program requirements before applying, and if you have any questions about the program prerequisites, always ask!

What Steps Should I Take Before I Apply for a Doctoral Program in Psychology?

Step 1: decide on a subfield of psychology.

If you decide you want to be a psychologist of some kind, you first have to decide what specialization you want for your doctorate. This career guide from The American Psychology Association (APA) is a great place to start when choosing a subfield and career path in psychology.

For me, I knew I wanted to pursue my doctorate in the science of learning, and I wanted a career where I could impact decisions being made in educational institutions. When looking into psychology programs, something like health psychology or clinical psychology would not make sense with my aspirations. A better fit for me was educational and school psychology. Do not fall into the trap of just applying for clinical psychology programs if you want to be a psychologist. Clinical psychology programs are incredibly competitive and may not actually meet your education and career goals. Research all types of specializations offered in psychology to find the right fit for your interests.

Side note, to become a psychiatrist, you will need to be accepted into medical school and follow their unique admission requirements. In this article, we are only discussing education and training for psychologist careers.

STEP 2: Research Licensure Requirements

Once you have chosen a specialization that makes sense for you and your goals, it is paramount that you research licensing requirements before applying for graduate programs. You may be required to attend a university program that is APA accredited and some states may not accept licensing from other states or recognize the subfield you got your degree in. Research licensure THOROUGHLY before applying to graduate programs. The last thing you want is to spend 5-8 years pursuing a doctorate and not be able to get licensed for the job you want to do. For state licensing information, the ASPPB website is a great starting point.

STEP 3: Find University Programs For You

The final step before applying is finding the programs that can give you the education and training you need. University psychology departments only offer specialization if they have specialized faculty in that area, so you may have to do some broad searches across the country to find the right program for you. This means that to get the education you need, you may need to be open to moving where it is offered ( don’t forget about researching licensing issues! ) and you may need to be open to applying to only a few programs . I ended up applying for five programs in four different states, none of which were my state of residency.

There are so many factors to consider when deciding if a graduate education in psychology is right for you. I spent a lot of my time researching and considering my options before finally deciding to apply. Thankfully, all of my preparation benefited me when it came down to interview time, and I could easily answer their big question: “why do you want to pursue a PhD in educational and school psychology from our university?” This early stage will feel stressful and confusing at times, but, as long as you do your research and know what you want, you will find the right degree and the right program for you.

Kelsey Crowson

Kelsey is an admissions instructor at Magoosh. She graduated from Utah State University with a B.S. in English, history, and psychology education. Upon graduation, she worked in a middle school in Wyoming teaching literature and composition while also teaching her students the art of navigating adolescence. After being in the workforce for five years, she sought out Magoosh for help with GRE test preparation and admissions questions to help her pursue her goals in furthering her education, and just recently accepted to pursue her PhD in school psychology at her alma mater. She is eager to share her experience with graduate admissions and continue to help others achieve their educational goals!

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5 Great Reasons For Pursuing A PhD in Psychology

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It doesn’t matter whether you are a recent college graduate or a professional who has been in their career for years - planning ahead for your future is extremely important to take your life in the direction you’d like. In a number of situations, the biggest thing holding us back from reaching our dreams and goals is the level of education that we’ve obtained. Although the psychology field is growing rapidly, having less than a PhD in psychology can drastically limit the number of career options that you have available. Securing your future through obtaining your doctorate degree is a great idea in most cases and can open up a whole new world of opportunities.

Here are five great reasons that you should consider pursuing a PhD in psychology:

1. You Want To Become A Research Psychologist

For many people, one of the biggest reasons that they earn their PhD in psychology is to become a research psychologist.

While images of a scientist in white lab coats slaving away all day behind closed doors may pop into the mind when thinking of the career, this is often far from the case. Research psychologists’ main goal is to learn all that they can and discover more about ourselves and the human mind. Projects for a research psychologist can vary greatly from field to field, such as finding new treatments for mental health issues or discovering more effective methods of teaching. If you’re looking to become famous, this may not be the career for you, but getting your research and studies published in scientific journals across the field is a distinct possibility.

Many research psychologist positions are at universities and centers of higher learning, but that does not mean that there are not a number of opportunities across the private sector as well. Many times, large companies hire research psychologists to help develop training programs and improve processes.

2. You Would Like To Teach One Day

Let’s face it – in today’s world, simply obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology will not get you very far. Sure, there are a number of different counseling positions available to those with a four-year degree, but getting a PhD in psychology will open up a myriad of different career opportunities for you. One career path which you almost always need a PhD to enter into is teaching at a higher level. Being charged with teaching children through the high school age is possible with less of a degree, but in order to truly enter the world of academia, earning your doctorate is a necessity. Teaching at a university level not only gives you the opportunity to greatly expand the minds and knowledge of your students, but also provides you with the opportunity to perform research and studies and acquire both government and private grants.

3. You’ve Already Earned Your Master’s Degree

Because of the competition between intelligent and qualified graduates, advancing your career in a psychology field with just a master’s degree is more difficult than ever. If you have already put in the time and effort needed to get this far, another couple of years of schooling is commonly a smart choice. In fact, a number of the most respected psychology programs in the country require their applicants to have already obtained their master’s degree prior to even being considered for entry. Although more opportunities are open professionally for those who have completed a master’s program than lesser achievements, many of the more desirable jobs in the psychology field will be holding out for applicants with even more education in order to fill those positions with “the best of the best”.

4. You Have A Determination To Complete The Program

There is no doubt about it – getting a PhD in psychology is not an easy process. With more students going for an advanced degree than ever before, many people are beginning to think that it is a feat that anyone can complete – that is far from the truth. Getting your PhD is going to be difficult, involve years of research and studying, and more than anything else, will take personal dedication and determination on your part. If you’re looking for a laid-back, easy to complete degree, this is not it. If you have the determination and drive to finish what you start and commit the countless hours to your education that you’ll need, then getting your PhD in psychology is a wise step. If you are lazy, un-motivated, or just looking for a way to bump up your salary a little bit, then this may not be the educational path for you to follow. Less than half of the students who begin their PhD programs end up graduating, with those less dedicated being systematically weeded out along the way.

5. You Love To Help Others

Helping others is an integral part of psychology. Your goal is to learn as much as you can about the human mind and how we interact with ourselves and each other. Your focus may be developing educational programs to help people learn better or conducting research to develop treatment methods for mental illnesses and problems. No matter what field you venture into, helping others and society should be your main goal. Many jobs in the psychology field aren’t the highest paying careers out there, so therefore many of the people in those positions are there for one reason – to do good and improve the lives of others. If you’re solely considering obtaining a PhD in psychology for the money or prestige, then there may be better choices for you peruse that involve less of a personal sacrifice and commitment.

The psychology field is huge, and there are countless different career paths that it encompasses, even for people with just a bachelor’s or master’s degree. If you want to take your life and career further though, pursuing a PhD in psychology is needed for the most desired jobs. Whether you want to conduct scientific research developing substance abuse treatment plans, or just want to expand the minds of others through teaching at a collegiate level, a personal dedication to completing a PhD program in psychology is the most important step you can take to reaching your goals.

Amy Bucher, Ph.D.

Applied Behavioral Science for Health and Well-Being

Should I Get a PhD in Psychology?

Should I Get a PhD in Psychology?

Before I get started, keep in mind that PhD programs differ quite a bit between disciplines. If you’re thinking of getting a degree in engineering or English, your program might look a lot different from mine, so keep your grain of salt handy.

You might want to get a PhD in psychology if . . .

You want a job or career that requires a PhD. This one seems like a no-brainer, but not everyone thinks it through. In general, working as an academic in an R1 institution  (that is, a tenure-track professor role that includes both teaching and research) will require a PhD. It’s possible to get a college teaching job at a community college or liberal arts school with a master’s degree, although my guess is that this is getting increasingly competitive as PhD programs graduate new doctors faster than the academic job market can bear . Likewise, it’s possible to work in academic research (particularly in a lab manager or coordinator role) without a PhD, but these roles are not plentiful in the social sciences.

If you are interested in counseling psychology, it may not be necessary to get a PhD. PhDs in clinical psychology who receive their license (through additional training and internships) are qualified to counsel patients, but so are social workers (LMSWs), psychiatrists (MDs), and many other types of professionals. I’d recommend the PhD for someone who wants to counsel patients but is also interested in conducting and consuming research on mental health and treatment.

You can also use a PhD in psychology in a number of non-academic fields. I work in a blended role where I conduct and apply research on motivation and behavior change to health technology. Other psychologists I know work in market research and consumer insights, human resources data analytics, product development, and strategy consulting. A PhD in psychology typically comes with strong research design and analysis skills that can be creatively applied in a number of fields, although you may need to do some work to help others see that connection.

You are comfortable with intellectual uncertainty.  The more you know, the more you become aware of all you don’t know. A doctoral education is a fast way to figure out all of the many, many gaps in your knowledge. Being successful in graduate school requires getting comfortable with the idea that you will never know everything, that there is rarely an easy black-or-white answer to questions, and that your hardest work may not be in acquiring knowledge, but in sorting through it and organizing it. If you’re the type of person who loves puzzling through huge volumes of sometimes contradictory information, you will enjoy grad school more than someone who prefers just enough information to make a basically correct conclusion.

You love learning and sharing what you’ve learned.   This is a corollary to being comfortable with shades of gray. A colleague of mine once told me he can recognize people who have PhDs by their outlook when presented with a problem. He said, they’re the ones who will dive into researching and reading and figuring out the problem and want to discuss it and think about it.

I took this photo in Niagara Falls, and my friend and I dubbed it "grad school."

You have a big but resilient ego.  On the one hand, it’s hard to make it through grad school if you don’t believe in your own intellectual abilities. It’s especially important to have a healthy ego because grad school also consists of being constantly beaten down. That sounds fun, doesn’t it? But in all seriousness, the volume of work required, the depth of feedback given, and the level of competition encountered in grad school all wear down on you over time. Add to that the many rejections and set-backs that everyone encounters during grad school, including paper and conference rejections, grades or exam scores below goal, and funding crises, and it takes a resilient soul to make it through. And it takes a big ego to keep submitting the next paper, exam, or grant application after the last rejection.

This is not to imply that grad school will not also make you more resilient. It will. You will learn a lot of strategies for coping with tough days and nights, and you’ll find enduring friendship in the trenches.

Some cautions . . .

If you want to be rich, a PhD is not a quick win.  You can definitely make a very nice living with a psychology PhD, in several different types of jobs. But grad school is expensive–even if you have a stipend to cover your costs, you will not be earning enough money to save, and you may additionally be acquiring loans. Because grad school living is so lean, I am glad I went right after my undergraduate, while I was still used to having no money (although I have friends who worked between undergrad and grad school and were glad to have some savings).

Hail to the Victors! The University of Michigan Diag in Ann Arbor

Many PhD programs include a master’s degree as part of their curriculum. I’ve met people who pursued a master’s degree as a way to test the waters for a PhD program. In general, I recommend against this. Many, if not all, PhD programs in psychology include a master’s degree as the conclusion of the first few years of coursework, and I’ve never heard of a program that lets someone skip those first few years based on a prior master’s. The people I know who tested the PhD waters by getting a master’s are now people with two master’s.

PhD programs take a while.  My grad school program, like many psychology PhD programs, was approximately five years long and included two years of coursework toward the master’s along with ongoing research requirements and at least four semesters of undergraduate teaching. Students pursuing a clinical license also have to do an internship on top of these other requirements.

People will be weird to you if you get a PhD in psychology.  First, if you get any PhD, some people will want to comment on your intelligence level (at least they assume it’s high!), which I find awkward. Second, if your PhD is in psychology, prepare for comments like:

  • “Do you know what I’m thinking right now?” (Answer: No, that’s psychic, not psychologist.)
  • “Are you psychoanalyzing me right now?” (Answer: No, I’m not that type of psychologist, but even if I were, I wouldn’t be doing my job for fun right now.)
  • “So you must know everything that’s wrong with me.” (Response: Well, I know you don’t really know what a psychologist does.)

Joking aside, I think the PhD can intimidate people at times, so be prepared for those reactions and ready to either use them to your advantage or alleviate them with humor and humility.

It’s up to you.

Like I said, I can’t tell anyone whether a PhD in psychology is right for them. The decision has to be one you own. Grad school is hard and long, but also filled with many adventures and pockets of joy. I am so glad that I went and earned my PhD. I wouldn’t have my career and the opportunities it provides if I hadn’t, and I would never have met many of the people who are the most important in my life. If you want to take on this onerous journey, you have to really want it; but if you do, I promise you’ll have some good times on the way.

Related posts:

  • How to Describe What I Know: The Appeal (and Frustration) of Psychology
  • Careers in Psychology: To Counsel or Not?
  • Career Options Outside Academia for Psychology PhDs
  • Walking Away from Academia with a PhD in Psychology

4 thoughts on “ Should I Get a PhD in Psychology? ”

I’m in my last year of my undergrad in psych. In 27 and have 2 kids. I want to pursue a degree where I can do what I enjoy, and make money. I’m worried about another 7 years in school for a PhD and was told there isn’t much for me with a masters in clinical psychology. I had looked into LCSW, but was not sure if I would be content selling short my dream/goal. Can I counsel, and still do research with a masters? Or am I better with an LCSW?

Admittedly, clinical practice is not my area of expertise. However, I do know people who have counseled with an MA and I also know several people with LCSWs. Both seem like good options if you’re interested in the clinical piece.

I’m not sure about the research part–I’d imagine that depends on where you end up working as a counselor. In a university or health system setting, it seems to me that should be possible. The PhD does make research more feasible as it sets you up to run a lab (assuming you go into academia or a research-focused company).

I was very influenced by the idea that even if something takes a long time, that time will still pass and at the end of it you could have done the thing or not. There have been a few times it’s helped me make choices that seem like they take a lot of time and commitment.

I’m interested in what you decide! I am sure you will find a way to do what makes you happy while making money.

Hi Amy! Thank you so much for your posts. I’ve been STRUGGLING with the decision of whether or not to apply to graduate school for a PhD in Social Psychology. To be frank, I don’t feel qualified to apply and I’m unsure if my reasons for wanting to go to graduate school are good ones. I’m no longer an undergrad student so opportunities to work in a lab has been impossible without at least a Master’s.

A little bit about me: I graduated from undergrad in 2015. I did work as a research assistant for a couple of months, but I mainly invested my time working full-time to pay for school. I liked working in a lab but it was in Human Development & Nutrition, so I often found myself watching the dynamics and social interactions between the family members rather than watching what I was tasked to focus on (whoops). I graduated with decent grades (3.75) with two majors (Communication & Psychology) and a minor (Latin – I love languages). I have a lot of supervising and training work experience from my job, and I would like to continue working in a training/educational capacity (so not really interested in being in academia).

The reason I want to study Social Psychology at the Doctoral level is because I have SO many questions on topics like resilience & life stories. As a trainer & supervisor, I would witness people crumble and thrive in the face of obstacles and (as a person who has the tendency to crumble) I would wonder: “What do resilient people do differently? How can the way we view our life stories change how resilient we are in the face of life challenges? What about in the context of training for a new position? How can programs be created to take into account differing personalities and stories?” Another reason is because I’ve read so many personal development books but I couldn’t help but think: “This is nice but show me the research behind it. I want to see it tested and understand why it works.” Not really sure if those are good enough reasons to apply.

Overall, I want to be able to take research on resilience and make it more applicable and accessible. I want to create workshops & train people on resilience & life stories (possibly do something similar to life coaching), but I’m not sure if that’s a good enough reason to apply or if I should probably go about it through another route.

I apologize for the long comment, but you’re website has been the only helpful website I have found on this topic!

Thank you for the kind comments!

As for applying–it can’t hurt to look at a few programs and see if you can’t find one that feels like a good fit. Having served on the admissions committee while in grad school (we were all required to give a year in service), I can tell you that your passion and curiosity will matter. Maybe you can find a few names of professors or grad students at schools that interest you working on resilience and grit and reach out to them for an informational interview (you may have better luck with grad students).

The other thing you could try to do is find a non-academic research job that lets you explore your questions. Agencies are a good place to look. Many big companies are also bringing behavior change teams in-house.

I’d love to know what you end up doing!

Comments are closed.

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Natalie Craig stands smiling in front of UQ's sandstone buildings

Is a psychology PhD worth it?

UQ people Published 5 Jan, 2023  ·  5-minute read

Psychological research is a fascinating field of study that can have a big impact on the way people think, feel and react. If you’re interested in a career in this field, you may be thinking about pursuing a PhD in psychology.

A psychology PhD can help you hone your research skills, pinpoint the research area you’re passionate about and create a solid foundation for a fulfilling career in this industry.

We chatted to UQ PhD candidate Natalie Craig about her experiences studying a Doctor of Philosophy , what inspired her to choose a psychology research topic, and why a psychology PhD is worth it, from her perspective.

Learn more about studying a PhD at UQ .

What can you research with a PhD in psychology?

There are seemingly endless avenues to explore when it comes to choosing a PhD topic with a focus on psychological research. As long as you can secure a PhD supervisor and funding, you can pursue your research passions in psychology with a Doctor of Philosophy.

You may wish to explore research topics in:

  • cognitive neuroscience
  • basic perceptual and cognitive processes
  • higher cognitive processes (such as decision-making)
  • human development
  • social psychology
  • organisational behaviour
  • health psychology
  • clinical psychology.

Natalie Craig sits out the front of UQ's Student Central with greenery in the background

Natalie’s PhD topic focuses on trauma recovery research.

“My PhD topic is about understanding how our social relationships influence how we recover from trauma,” she says.

“My thesis is particularly focused on those who have survived natural disasters.”

Natalie recently won UQ’s School of Psychology Three Minute Thesis competition and is hoping to continue making waves with her research.

“The best possible outcome for my PhD is firstly to better understand how our social relationships influence recovery from trauma, so that we can use this information to begin adapting programs focused on harnessing and enhancing social connections after a traumatic event,” she says.

“Ideally, these programs could then be delivered in the wake of a traumatic event at scale, using the resources of the community.”

Many communities in Australia are still dealing with the tragic after-effects of natural disasters such as floods and bushfires, making Natalie’s research more important than ever. She's passionate about using it to create positive and lasting change.

“Overall, the ultimate goal of all of this is to help subvert people away from developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and instead move them towards post-traumatic growth.”  

This potential to make a real difference in people's lives is a huge motivator for many PhD candidates and a large part of what makes a PhD in psychology worth pursuing.

What is a Doctor of Philosophy in psychology? And how does it differ from a Doctor of Psychology?

When studying a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) with a topic focused on psychology, you’re undergoing in-depth, independent research in an area of your choosing for the duration of your program. A Doctor of Psychology , on the other hand, is a program for those whose interests lie largely in clinical psychology. It involves specialist placements and coursework as well as a research component.

Natalie Craig stands with her hands in her pockets, smiling amongst green plants

Who can do a PhD in psychology?

Despite what many people may think, you don’t need to study psychology at an undergraduate level to pursue a PhD in the same area.

Natalie’s passion for psychology didn’t develop until her career in public relations was already in full swing.

After completing a Bachelor of Communications, Public Relations and Journalism in 2009, she undertook several communications and PR roles, progressing into management and working with high-profile brands. Despite her success, however, she felt as though something was missing in her day-to-day work.

“I became quite disillusioned with the public relations industry in that it didn’t feel like I was contributing towards something that was truly meaningful to me,” she explains.

Natalie is quick to point out that incredible work is done in PR by a range of very talented individuals, but for her, the sense of fulfilment wasn’t quite there.

“I felt that my skills, ability, and passion could be better used to help people improve their lives,” she says.

Natalie decided to pursue postgraduate education in psychology, completing 2 graduate diplomas before applying for her PhD at UQ. Her research topic was inspired by a natural curiosity.

“I’ve always been drawn towards understanding why people do what they do, and why some people seem to thrive after a traumatic event while others struggle to overcome their traumatic experience(s),” she says.

“Understanding what this mechanism is that puts people on a trajectory towards post-traumatic growth is what has led me to be where I am today, pursuing my particular research question.”

Is a PhD in psychology worth it?

A personally fulfilling career trajectory and impactful research outcomes are not the only things Natalie hopes to get out of her PhD.

Natalie Craig quote

Overall, I think my PhD will benefit me in terms of developing confidence and competence across a variety of domains.

During her PhD studies, Natalie has improved her:

  • research expertise and knowledge
  • project-management skills
  • public speaking
  • collaboration skills.

“I’ve also enhanced my understanding of a variety of topics outside of my specific research question,” she says.

“In addition to this, I’ve met some really amazing people and have made some wonderful friendships and connections that I’m sure will remain in my life long after my PhD has ended.”

After her PhD, Natalie hopes to secure a postdoctoral position at UQ, so she can continue to build upon her current research.

“Ideally, I'd like to create interventions that focus on the principles of how our social relationships influence recovery from trauma,” she says.

"I also hope to do my Master of Clinical Psychology here at UQ, so I can work with a population of trauma survivors in a clinical and hands-on capacity (as well as in a research capacity).”

For Natalie, a psychology PhD has opened doors to a new career path where she can pursue her passion for research and find meaning in her work.

Why study your psychology PhD at UQ?

So, what’s unique about studying your PhD in psychology at UQ?

“I chose UQ because it has one of the best schools of psychology in the country and also has a solid standing globally,” says Natalie.

“The School of Psychology here at UQ is a large one with a lot of resources and therefore a lot of capacity for support and opportunity, both as a HDR student and also in terms of future career prospects.”

Ready to follow your passion for research with a PhD in psychology?

Learn more about studying a PhD at UQ

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Doctorate in Psychology (Ph.D. and Psy.D.) – everything you need to know in 2023

What's in this guide, ph.d. or psy.d., why do a doctorate in psychology, entry requirements, phd in psychology jobs, how long does it take to study, is a doctorate program all theory/studying, career path, earning potential , find psychology doctorate degree programs.

A doctorate in psychology is the highest level of graduate degree in the field. As a result, there are lots of career options to choose from, including research roles, and clinical roles.

There are many reasons you may want to pursue a doctorate degree in Psychology, the following guide will provide everything you need to know; from the options, costs, timeframes, career advantages and more.

First up, what are the two types of doctorate degree you can get and what are the differences?

The two doctorate degrees you can get in psychology are Ph.D. and Psy.D.

In simple terms, a Ph.D. in psychology is more research-focused, while a Psy.D. emphasizes clinical practice. The best choice between the two depends on your career goals and whether you prefer research and academia or direct clinical work.

  • Doctorate-level psychologists typically have higher earning potential compared to those with a master’s degree or bachelor’s degree in the field.
  • Gain in-depth knowledge and expertise in your chosen area of specialization within psychology.
  • Potentially make significant contributions to the field.
  • Advanced career opportunities in various settings, such as academia, research institutions, government agencies, hospitals, and private practice.
  • Connect with other professionals, researchers, and academics in the field of psychology, expanding your professional network

The minimum requirements to study a doctorate degree in psychology will vary from institution to institution. However, there are several common requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree: all programs require applicants to have completed a bachelor’s degree , in psychology or a related field. Some programs may accept candidates with a degree in another discipline if they have completed prerequisite coursework in psychology.
  • Master’s degree : Some doctoral programs require applicants to have a master’s degree in psychology or a related field. Others may admit students directly from their bachelor’s degree and incorporate a master’s degree into the doctorate program.
  • GPA : Many programs have a minimum GPA requirement, usually 3.0 or higher. Some competitive programs require a higher GPA.
  • Letters of recommendation : Applicants typically need to submit letters of recommendation from professors or professionals who can speak to their academic and research abilities.
  • Research experience : Prior research experience is often valued by doctoral programs in psychology. This may include experience working on research projects, completing a thesis, or participating in research internships or assistantships.
  • Personal statement: Applicants usually need to submit a personal statement or statement of purpose that outlines their academic and research interests, career goals, and why they are interested in the specific doctoral program.
  • Addiction Counselor
  • ABA therapist
  • Mental Health Therapist
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor
  • Licensed Professional Counselor
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
  • School Psychologist
  • Organizational Psychologist
  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Sports Psychologist
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Counseling psychologist
  • Research psychologist
  • Professor of Psychology
  • Child psychologist

*Outside of the licensed psychologist jobs listed above many of the above roles do not require a PhD but it is important to note that employers for these roles are increasingly favoring candidates with a PhD. 

For the majority of students, a doctorate in Psychology may take anywhere from 4-7 years to finish, which will include a research dissertation and most likely residency or an internship in clinical or medical environments.

No. Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs in clinical or counseling psychology usually require students to complete a pre-doctoral internship as part of their training.

This internship typically lasts one year and involves supervised clinical practice in various settings, such as hospitals, mental health clinics, or community agencies.

The internship experience is intended to provide students with practical, hands-on training in their chosen area of specialization and help them develop the skills necessary for independent practice.

For Ph.D. programs in other areas of psychology, such as experimental, social, or developmental psychology , internships or practicum experiences may be less common or not required. Instead, these programs may emphasize research experience and skills development.

With a PHD in psychology, you have a whole host of options when it comes to your career. With this kind of degree, you can work in specialty areas of psychology, depending on your studies and particular interests, or you can work as a researcher, an educational consultant, a forensic psychologist, political strategist, staff psychologist, private psychologist, professor of psychology, psychiatrist, or a clinical psychologist.

The earning potential for psychologists with doctoral degrees or PHDs can vary greatly depending on the specific specialty of psychology in which they work. General psychologists may earn around $90,000 a year, with the average salary around $84,000 per year.

On the other hand, clinical, counseling and school psychologists with PHDs tend to earn around $81,000 per year. The highest paying psychology careers can average up to $167,000, so studying a PHD in psychology will be worth it in the long run when it comes to career prospects.

  • PhD in Organizational Psychology
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