Graduates with a Ph.D. in psychology often qualify for top-level positions in academia, research, and healthcare administration. Doctoral degree-holders who earn a state license can work as private psychologists or offer clinical counseling services in a variety of healthcare settings.
Psychologists help diverse groups of people with a variety of health problems, such as depression, paranoia, addiction, and anxiety. These professionals apply evidence-based treatments to help clients lead more productive lives. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists earn a median salary of $80,370 per year, much higher than the median salary of $39,810 for all occupations.
Psychology PhD Questions
Q. Is a Ph.D. in psychology worth it?
Some positions in psychology require a Ph.D. For example, clinical counselors and postsecondary teachers typically need a doctoral degree.
Q. What can I do with a Ph.D. in psychology?
A Ph.D. in psychology often qualifies degree-holders for professional opportunities as higher education administrators, licensed clinical psychologists, and postsecondary teachers.
Q. How long does it take to get a Ph.D. in psychology?
Most students earn their Ph.D. in psychology in 4-6 years. Factors that influence degree completion time include the learner’s background and enrollment status.
Q. How much does a psychologist with a Ph.D. make?
According to August 2021 data from PayScale, professionals with a doctorate in psychology earn an average salary of $93,640 per year.
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Why Get an Advanced Degree in Psychology?
A Ph.D. in psychology meets the education requirement for licensure in most states. Graduates of psychology Ph.D. programs can qualify for roles as clinical psychologists, postsecondary teachers, and researchers.
Online psychology degree programs typically follow the same curriculum as their on-campus counterparts. Online learners usually receive instruction from the same faculty members as on-campus students. Additionally, employers typically view online and on-campus degrees as holding equal weight. A doctorate can lead to a variety of career paths, many of which feature high salaries and potential for professional advancement.
How Much Does a Psychology Degree Cost?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of graduate tuition and fees at in-state public institutions was about $12,170 for the 2018-2019 academic year. Graduate students at private schools paid an average of about $27,780 during the same time frame.
Students pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology often save money by enrolling in online classes. Online enrollees typically save on housing and transportation costs, and many distance learners work full time while earning their doctorate. Some public institutions offer in-state tuition rates to all online learners, regardless of residency. This can save out-of-state students thousands of dollars in tuition.
Calculating the Cost of a College Degree
The calculation tool below can help students compare the cost of attendance at various schools. Prospective students can usually find much of the required information on each school’s website. Some schools charge online enrollees an additional technology fee, so learners should consider fees and additional costs when budgeting for their doctoral studies.
College Affordability Calculator
Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay.
Doctoral degree-holders earn the highest median salary of all professionals, according to BLS data. However, several factors can influence a professional’s earning potential, such as their industry and state.
After earning a Ph.D. in psychology, graduates often work as clinical, counseling, and school psychologists. According to the data from the BLS, these psychologists earn a median salary of $79,820 per year. The employers that hire the highest numbers of these professionals include elementary and secondary schools and healthcare offices.
The clinical, counseling, and school psychologists who earn the highest median salaries work for outpatient care centers ($109,100), childcare services providers ($105,670), and home healthcare providers ($103,520). The top-paying states for these psychologists include California ($115,840), Hawaii ($110,780), Louisiana ($109,180), and Oregon ($108,000).
Doctoral Psychology Course Work
Doctoral students typically craft an individual study plan comprising classes relevant to their academic and professional goals. Most Ph.D. in psychology programs also include foundational courses that all students must take.
Many psychology Ph.D. programs offer specializations in areas such as neuropsychology, psychodynamic psychotherapy, long-term mental illness, and child and family psychology. Available specializations often depend on the school’s resources and academic objectives. Most doctoral-level psychology programs require students to complete a dissertation, and learners take research courses to prepare for this culminating project.
The course explores various theoretical models and the main etiological factors in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of adult clients. Students learn how to use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a diagnostic tool in therapeutic environments.
Students in this class examine the psychological impacts of factors such as culture, race, gender, and ethnicity. Learners study how these factors help or hinder the therapeutic process, and they develop the skills necessary to work with clients from diverse backgrounds. Degree-seekers evaluate historical and contemporary issues that impact current practice.
Students learn how to administer, interpret, and communicate the results of intelligence tests commonly used in the field. Enrollees prepare to create proper testing environments and to maintain a professional demeanor. Students also learn how to establish rapport with clients in order to obtain accurate and relevant testing results.
Certifications and Licensure for Psychology Doctorates
Ph.D. degree-holders must obtain a license before practicing as psychologists. Licensed psychologists can work in settings such as private clinics and hospitals. Licensure requirements vary by state, but a doctorate in psychology typically meets the education requirement. Professionals can also obtain voluntary certifications to demonstrate skills and training in a specific role or field of practice.
Candidates for this credential must hold a master’s or doctoral degree from a program accredited by the Association for Behavioral Analysis International. Candidates must have at least 3,500 hours of supervised fieldwork or demonstrate experience through postdoctoral or faculty teaching.
Applicants for this certification must hold a current state psychology license and a doctoral degree in the field. Candidates must also have completed an accredited internship program. The American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology administers this credential.
The National Association of School Psychologists offers this certification to candidates with at least 60 school psychology graduate credits. Applicants must also have completed a practicum experience and at least 1,200 internship hours, including at least 600 hours in a school setting. Candidates must pass the Praxis School Psychologist Exam.
Scholarships for Psychology PhD Students
Doctoral psychology students often receive financial support from their institution in the form of fellowships and grants. Learners can also apply for funding from state and federal agencies, professional organizations, and private nonprofit groups. The following list features a few scholarship opportunities for psychology degree-seekers.
APF Graduate Student Scholarships
Who Can Apply: The American Psychological Foundation offers scholarships for master’s and doctoral students in psychology degree programs. Learners submit one application to be considered for multiple scholarships.
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be attending an accredited master’s or doctoral program and studying mental health. Candidates must demonstrate past involvement in volunteer, research, or career-related activities.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship from the American Psychological Foundation supports minority students enrolled in a master’s or doctoral program. Candidates must plan to pursue a career in public service or providing clinical services. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to working with disadvantaged minority communities.
Theonline Doctorate of Philosophy in Counselor Education and SupervisionatAdams State Universityprepares graduates to work as counselor educators, supervisors, researchers and practitioners in diverse academic and clinical settings. Applicants and admitted students must attend selection interviews and new student orientation, respectively. Prospective students are evaluated on academic aptitude for doctoral-level study, previous professional experience, fitness for the profession (including self-awareness and emotional stability), oral and written communication skills, cultural sensitivity and awareness and potential for scholarship, professional leadership and advocacy. In addition to becoming skilled in advanced clinical counseling, program graduates will also be able to supervise counselors and counseling students, conduct research, write for professional publications and become counseling leaders, mentors, practitioners and consultants. Courses include Quantitative Research Methods, Supervision and Consultation, Advanced Multicultural Issues, Advanced Group Counseling, Data Analysis, and Advanced Assessment. Students also participate in practicums and internships. Students typically enroll in 6 credit hours per semester and cohorts begin every fall semester. The 66-credit program requires 4 1-week summer residencies. To graduate, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and complete a written comprehensive exam and a research project/dissertation. Graduation from the program doesn't equate to a professional license. Students must obtain a professional counseling license and/or appropriate certifications prior to, or during their first 2 years as a doctoral student. All program participants are assigned an academic advisor who is a faculty member in the Counselor Education Department. Advisors participate in student orientation, provide academic and career advisement and offer professional counseling referrals for students in need. The Ph.D. Counselor Education and Supervision program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.
Liberty University developed the 100% online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Psychiatric Mental Health program to help nursing professionals get specialized mental health training to meet all their patients' needs, not just their physical ailments. For nursing professionals with an M.S. in Nursing, Nurse Practitioner certification and experience in the field, this program will provide advanced training in nursing administration, nursing care best practices and mental health. Graduates also will be prepared to obtain additional, specialized certifications such as the American Nurse Credentialing Center Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner national exam. Coursework includes theoretical application for advanced practice nursing, clinical psychopharmacology, psychotherapeutic theories, frameworks and modalities, nursing research, and policy and ethics. The online DNP can be completed in as little as 2 years, but must be completed within 5 years. Courses are taught in 8-week cycles. A total of 58 credit hours is needed to graduate, including 27 in core courses, 17 in the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner cognate, and 14 in project and practicum courses. Academic advisers help online students with registration, financial aid, class enrollment and degree completion planning. DNPs open up career opportunities, including psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, nursing administrator, clinical researcher and social service programs. The program, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, is currently accepting only students who are Virginia residents.
Penn State strives to offer graduate students a uniquely empowering experience. The more than 40 faculty members in the Penn State Department of Psychology work closely with students not only in facilitating the delivery of coursework, but in consulting with students on enhancing their professional development in order to be more competitive in the workplace, including grant writing and other funding-related activities. Graduate students may also take advantage of teaching assistantships, as the department is known as a strong producer of psychology faculty. The department treats graduate students like colleagues, frequently integrating students into research activities and sending them into the community to put their skills to work. A Ph.D. in psychology at Penn State may be earned in one of 5 program areas: clinical (including adult and child-clinical), cognitive, developmental, industrial/organizational and social. Prospective students must choose one upon applying, and the path may only be changed with faculty approval. Students admitted into this on-campus program work one-on-one with faculty to devise the details of their individual programs, which includes a major and a minor (which may be one of the other four psychology paths or another subject altogether). For certain students, Penn State's dual-degree programs in psychology may also be appealing. These two programs combine doctoral studies in psychology for Ph.D. candidates with either women's studies or language science, providing students the opportunity to graduate with Ph.D.s in two subjects and extend their psychology work. Although programs are highly flexible and developed by students and faculty, basic curriculum requirements include English language, statistics, 18 credits of major area course work, a breadth requirement and research. Typically, programs last 4-5 years. In order to graduate, students must remain in good standing, meaning that no failing grades are earned during program courses and that grades lower than B+ are not received in multiple courses. The majority of students accepted into Penn State's highly selective graduate program in psychology have earned undergraduate degrees in psychology; those from other disciplines are accepted, but applicants should have some background in psychology. Applicants must submit sample papers to demonstrate their writing skills, as well as statements of purpose, and they should have taken the general GRE (there is no minimum score requirement). The psychology subject test is also strongly recommended for those interested in the clinical program, especially for those who did not major in psychology in undergrad.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles provides several master's and doctoral-level programs in psychology specialties. Its 5 Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) offerings cover subjects related to psychology, including applied behavioral analysis, business psychology, international psychology and organizational leadership, but its only Ph.D. directly offered in psychology is apost-master's behavior analysis specializationprogram. This full-time, 5-year program offered on the Los Angeles campus prepares graduates to pursue careers as behavior analysts and licensed psychologists, or they may also go on to work as teachers, administrators, researchers or clinicians. The coursework in this program is taught by practitioner faculty, and it emphasizes the study of behavioral principles to affect positive behavior change. A sampling of courses includes applied behavioral analysis, psychological assessment and intervention, and critical analysis of research in verbal behavior. Though not all states require behavior analysts receive licenses, including California, this program is designed to prepare students to pursue (with further coursework and supervised professional experience) licensure with the California Board of Psychology. The Chicago School's Los Angeles campus enjoys a diverse, urban location that offers psychology students proximity to numerous hands-on, career-relevant opportunities for professional development and community service. Students work closely with faculty to provide services to real clients, such as therapy, law-enforcement training or management consulting, or they may apply knowledge gained in their programs to assist local service agencies or advocacy groups. Students in the Ph.D. in psychology program also gain hands-on learning experience in The Chicago School's ConCISE (CONsulting within Southern California's Communities through Innovation, Service and Education), a student-run firm providing human capital consulting to businesses and nonprofit organizations. Because of its professional focus, The Chicago School asks applicants to submit, resumes or curriculum vitaes, along with their applications, as well as an essay, transcripts from all colleges attended and 3 letters of recommendation. Application is open to anyone who has earned a master's degree in psychology, education, behavior analysis or a related degree recognized by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) and either holds a current Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification, or has completed the BACB-approved courses required to qualify for the BCBA exam.
Students looking to earn a doctoral degree in psychology in a convenient, accelerated delivery method may find Tuoro University Worldwide'sonline Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in human and organizational psychologyan attractive option. This 100% online program offers students: 1) the opportunity for an accelerated admissions process that requires no GRE scores; 2) an accelerated pace comprised of 8-week course terms; 3) no requirement for residency; and 4) an affordable online tuition of $700 per semester credit unit. This professionally oriented program prepares students to design evidence-based solutions in the profession of psychology, and it emphasizes practice over theory. Students may select one of three concentrations: organizational, leadership or industrial psychology. The program begins with courses in theory and research, then quickly shifts toward putting theory into practice; once required courses are completed, students begin constructing proposals (pre-dissertation) and their dissertations. Each student works with a faculty dissertation chair and a committee, all of whom assist the student with completing the dissertation. The 66-credit program (including dissertation) provides students with faculty research guidance, and faculty are scholar-practitioners who currently work in the field. Students should note that this degree does not prepare students for any type of licensure. The program is intended to be completed in 5 sessions; those who need more time must pay continuation course tuition of $500, which earns no credit and does not qualify for financial aid. To apply for the program, applicants must possess master's degrees where they earned cumulative GPAs of 3.4 or greater. Following that, students submit their applications with transcripts from all institutions attended, two letters of recommendation (academic and professional) and a doctoral entrance essay that presents, in narrative form, the student's biographical information, career plan and goals in pursuing this degree. Once students are admitted, they have access to advisers who serve as coaches, regularly monitoring academic activity and meeting with students once per session to review their educational plans. They can assist students with developing individualized degree plans and provide advice on courses. Students also have access to career resources, to assist students with networking or finding jobs and internships.