How Long Does It Take to Earn A Ph.D. in Psychology?

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For those serious about a long and successful career in psychology, a doctorate or Ph.D. is the degree of choice. In fact, more often than not, a doctorate-level degree in psychology, such as a Ph.D., is a prerequiste to obtaining state licensing, and is required to work in many psychology fields.

How long it takes to earn a Ph.D. depends on a number of factors including the field of psychology you pursue, your specialty, or even the school where you eventually earn your degree. Typically, it takes anywhere from 4 to 7 years to earn a Ph.D. in psychology, after completing both a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree. Some specialties, such as licensed clinical psychology, also require the completion of a 1- to 2-year supervised residency program following the completion of your Ph.D.

However, before you jump right in to a Ph.D. program make sure you’ve considered all your options. A Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, is not the only doctorate degree you can pursue. You may also want to look into earning a Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) or Ed.D. (Doctor of Education ). All three of these doctoral-level programs will qualify you for a career in psychology. So which one should you choose?

Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.?

While a Ph.D. Psy.D and Ed.D. will all prepare you for a career in psychology, it’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of each.

A Ph.D. in Psychology is a traditional degree that most people are familiar with. This degree focuses on education through research. Pyschologists who complete a Ph.D. program are well prepared for a career in a variety of psychology fields and settings. Ph.D. graduates work in research and teaching at colleges, as practicing clinical psychologists at hospitals, clinics and mental health institutions, and as consultants for government agencies.

Unlike the Ph.D. in Psychology, that employs a research-based model of education, the Psy.D. degree is more practitioner focused. While Psy.D. graduates are qualified to teach and perform research, they more often are involved in applied psychology settings where mental health services and direct patient care is provided.

While less common, the Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) is another degree option for aspiring psychologists. The Ed.D. uniquely qualifies aspiring psychologists to work in education related fields such as school psychology. This degree should only be considered an option for those who are certain they want to pursue a career in education.

So How Long Does It Take to Earn A Doctorate in Psychology?

As we pointed out previously, how long it takes you to earn a doctorate in psychology will depend on several factors, including the field of psychology you pursue, your specialty, your previous education, or even the specific program you select. If you want to get through your doctorate degree as quickly as possible then the key is to start early in your educational career. Make sure you take all the prerequisite courses while completing your bachelor’s and/or master’s degree.

  • Time to Complete a Ph.D. in Psychology – On average, it will take anywhere from 4 to 7 years to complete a Ph.D. in psychology. Following the completion of your degree, you may also be required to complete a 1- to 2-year supervised intership program to qualify for state licensing.

  • Time to Complete a Psy.D. Degree – A Psy.D. typically takes less time to complete than a Ph.D. The Psy.D. can be completed in 4 to 6 years.

  • Time To Complete a Ed.D. Degree – An Ed.D. degree can be completed in less time than it takes to complete a Psy.D. or Ph.D. It typically takes 3 to 5 years to complete a Ed.D. program. However, obtaining a master’s degree is often a prerequisite for many Ed.D. programs. Conversely, many Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs will accepted applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology.