Loyola University Maryland

Psychology

Which is Right for You? M.S. vs Psy.D. vs Ph.D.

If you’d like to dive deeper into the discipline of psychology, you can choose several different ways to take your education and career prospects to the next level. Choosing the right graduate school—and the right type of program—is essential for setting you on the path toward your career goals.

Here’s a rundown of three different types of grad programs, what the differences are, what types of careers you can expect with each, and programs offered at Loyola University Maryland. If you have questions like “What is a Psy.D. degree, anyways?” then keep on reading!

Graduate Psychology Programs

Once you’ve completed an undergraduate degree, the next step may be to earn your Master's in Psychology. While your prior education was designed to give you a broad perspective of the discipline, you’ll now begin to choose a specialization and narrow your field of study per the learning aims of your master’s program.

Degree programs typically take two to three years to complete. Some are designed to prepare you to directly enter the workforce upon completion (i.e. Loyola’s M.S. in Clinical Professional Counseling), while others are designed to prepare you for entering a doctoral (Ph.D.) program instead. Most programs will expect you to conduct a research project or write a thesis, and/or spend a certain number of hours practicing in a clinical setting, in order to complete your degree.

Many more jobs are available for people who hold a master’s degree in psychology than for those with a bachelor’s, including serving as a counselor, psychology associate, or research assistant in environments such as:

  • Career centers
  • Colleges and universities
  • Corporations
  • Federal and state government agencies
  • Human resource divisions
  • Law enforcement institutions
  • Mental health clinics
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Prisons
  • Private research laboratories
  • Public Schools

Taking It to the Doctoral Level

If your goal is to become a psychologist, you must hold a doctoral degree. You can choose from among two different types of doctoral programs: a research-focused Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program or a practice-focused Doctor of Psychology (Loyola’s Psy.D.) program.

Both types of programs can take 4 to 8 years to complete (at Loyola, the program takes 5 years) and require rigorous coursework, a supervised practicum working part-time supervised by a licensed psychologist, an internship working full-time in a clinical setting for at least one year, and the completion of a research dissertation or equivalent project.

So what is the difference between a Psy.D. vs Ph.D.?

  • The Ph.D. is the traditional doctoral-level degree. Its approach is research-oriented, though it includes both theoretical and applied training so you can choose to work in teaching, research, or an applied area.
  • The Psy.D. program is more focused on the practice of psychology and provides extensive training in applied topics such as diagnosing mental illness, performing psychological assessments, and conducting clinical interventions.

Upon completion of either degree, you’ll be ready to take the state and national licensing exams. Once you pass them, you can officially call yourself a psychologist, and work in any number of roles or fields, such as:

  • Group practice
  • Health care services
  • Inpatient hospitals
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Private companies
  • Private practice
  • Research laboratories
  • Schools and universities – clinical, teaching, or research positions

So which program is right for you? A master’s is perfect if you’d like to work as a counselor, psychology associate, or research assistant. Or for the aspiring psychologist, think about whether you’d like to focus more on research (Ph.D.) or practice (Psy.D.). Whichever you choose, you can be proud to pursue a career that’s rewarding, in which you can have a deep impact in the lives of your future patients.