Deciding on Psychology Graduate Programs

By: Hayley

Now that you have decided that you are going to complete a graduate program in psychology you need to decide what type of program you want to attend. There are five  main types of graduate programs: masters, certificate, PhD, PsyD, and Ed.D.


Completing a certificate program is an option some students chose to prepare them for graduate training in that field. They are not offered at every university but usually take only a year to complete. Having a certificate in a particular area can make you stand out when applying to graduate school or jobs but they are not an advanced degree on their own.


Masters programs usually involve two full years, including one summer, of course work if you attend full-time. If you only attend part-time, then it may take you four years or more to complete your degree. Many people who earn their masters in psychology and obtain the necessary licensure, find jobs in the counseling field. Jobs like rehab counselor, school counselor, career counselor, and mental health counselor are some of the more common positions.

PhD vs PsyD:

Getting your PhD or your PsyD can take anywhere from four to six years and sometimes even longer depending on how quickly you complete the requirements. Once you have graduated from a PhD program you will be a Doctor of Philosophy in your chosen field of Psychology. Where as once you complete a PsyD you will be a Doctor of Psychology. One of the main differences between the two options is that a PhD tends to be a lot more research focused and the PsyD is more practice and application oriented. Also in most PhD programs you are also trained on how to teach others. In general, fewer people apply to PsyD programs but the qualifications once you complete your degree are very similar and often offer the same employment opportunities.

Once you have completed a PsyD program and the required licensing exams for your chosen field, usually clinical or counseling, you will be able to diagnose and treat mental disorders in clinics, private practice, schools, or mental health hospitals. Graduates with a PhD can also diagnose and treat mental health disorders, depending on their field, but there is a wider range of areas to chose from for PhD programs. People with a PhD or PsyD can get jobs as clinical psychologists, forensic psychologists, psychology professors, or industrial organizational psychologists, depending on the area of psychology of their PhD or PsyD.


The Ed.D degree is a little different in that it is a Doctor of Education degree. You can get an Ed.D degree in counseling, developmental, or educational psychology. In general a Ed.D degree takes the same amount of time that a PhD or PsyD and has been recognized as equivalent to them by most organizations. The employment opportunities for people with this degree are similar to that of the PhD and PsyD but many people chose to open their own practice or teach at the university level.

As you can see, there is a wide range of options for furthering your education to choose from in the field of psychology. In general which one you chose to complete depends on your own preference and what you would like to do when you graduate.

Read Hayley’s other posts

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