Pros & Cons of a PhD in Psychology

Jan 27, 2022

Psychology students can seek a doctorate in two different ways: the PhD or the PsyD. The PhD, or Doctor of Philosopy in Psychology, program is more research-intensive and spends more time looking at theories and observation, while the PsyD, or Doctor of Psychology, is focused on helping patients and handling clinical psychology situations. Below, we'll look at some of the pros and cons to earning a psychology PhD.

Pros of Earning a PhD in Psychology

Earning you PhD in psychology can prepare you for some lucrative careers in research and education. If you'd like to make changes to the psychology field or pass on your knowledge to future psychologists, consider some of these pros.

Edge out Competition

Though some community colleges and liberal arts universities may accept master's degrees for their professors, you really should consider earning your PhD. Tenure-track positions do require a PhD. So, if you are applying for a teaching position at a college, having the research-based PhD will provide you with the marketable skills for the position, and it can open doors to more prestigious universities.

Good Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) looks at the statistics for careers in all different fields. When considering the two most prominent career options for a PhD holder - professor and researcher - we can see that the outlook for these positions are growing as fast as the national average, which is at 10% currently. Psychology college professors can expect a 8% increase between 2020 and 2030. This means there should be an additional 13,500 positions opening during the ten year period. Non-clinical psychologists can anticipate an increase of 2%, or an additional 1,100 job openings, according to the BLS.

Good Pay

Again, looking at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we can see that those same two occupations have very lucrative average salaries. As of May 2020, psychologists, in general (excluding clinical and organizational), earned an average salary of $98,230. The top-paying industries for psychologists were the offices of other health practitioners and management, scientific, and technical consulting services.

Those interested in becoming a psychology professor could expect an average salary of $89,960. As of May 2020, the highest paying states for psychology professors were the District of Columbia, California, and New York.

Cons of Earning a PhD in Psychology

Because there are two degrees at the doctoral level, the PhD and the PsyD, students seeking a PhD may find some cons with this route.

Higher Student Debt

The PhD programs tend to take longer than the PsyD programs. A PhD program can take up to two years longer, but usually averages about 1.5 years longer than a PsyD degree. This is typically because of the doctoral dissertation that needs to be researched with a PhD program. This can eat up a lot of time and end up adding quite a bit to your tuition and living costs for that time.

Fewer Job Options

Though a PhD does open doors for research and academia opportunities, more often a PsyD degree is required, most particularly for working with patients. With a PsyD, you'll be able to work as a clinical psychologist, school psychologist, or a psychotherapist, among other positions.

A PhD in psychology can get you ready for a career in academia and research. However, if you are looking at working with patients, a PhD can cost more and take longer to earn than a PsyD.

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