Types Of PhD Programs In Psychology

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by Team College Learners

The study of psychology examines the relationship between brain function and behavior. This field is expansive in nature, and if you’re thinking of earning of psychology degree, it’s important to learn more about specializations to help narrow your search and reach your desired career path.

Thanks to an abundance of curiosity, each year, as many as 1.6 million students take undergraduate psychology courses in pursuit of psychology degrees.

Common types of psychology courses include Abnormal Psychology, Biological Psychology, Human Memory, and Childhood Development. Read more on the Types Of Phd Programs In Psychology, clinical psychology phd programs, fully funded psychology phd programs, and phd in psychology how many years.

Psychology Ph.D. Programs - Types of Programs and Requirements

what is Psychology

Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of conscious and unconscious phenomena, including feelings and thoughts. It is an academic discipline of immense scope, crossing the boundaries between the natural and social sciences. Get to know more about fully funded psychology phd programs.

While the discipline of psychology is often associated with cognitive therapy, the reality is that psychology has a place in nearly every corner of life — including the workplace.  For example, a master’s in organizational psychology degree can help people apply an understanding of employee behavior to enhance workplace quality. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular psychology degrees, along with their descriptions and educational requirements. 

Types Of Phd Programs In Psychology

The American Psychological Association recognizes three distinct categories of doctoral programs: clinical, counseling, and school psychology.

Some popular concentrations include:

  • Behavioral Neuroscience. …
  • Clinical Psychology. …
  • Abnormal Psychological Disorders. …
  • Human Growth and Development. …
  • Developmental.

What fields of psychology are in demand? 

The field of psychology is broad, offering several popular career paths via different types of psychology degrees. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), Careers in demand include clinical psychologists, health service psychologists, psychology researchers. Other fields include school counselor, organizational psychologists, and college faculty. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the job prospects for psychologists will grow 3 percent between 2019 and 2029. This represents an increase of about 5,700 new jobs nationwide. The bureau also points out that most practitioners will need a license in addition to a degree. 

Popular psychology fields include:

  • Clinical psychologists – The median salary for general psychologists is just over $80,000 per year, with the highest salaries in government jobs. 
  • Industrial-organization psychologists – Industrial-organization practitioners make over $92,000 on average and are expected to remain in demand. 
  • School psychologists – These practitioners average about $78,000 per year in the U.S. and often work in elementary or high schools.

Which psychology PhD is best?

Here are the best psychology graduate programs

Stanford University Stanford, CA #1 in Psychology (tie) Save4.8
University of California–Berkeley Berkeley, CA #1 in Psychology (tie) Save4.8
Harvard University Cambridge, MA #3 in Psychology (tie) Save4.7

What Types of Psychology Degrees Are There? 

There are four types of psychology degrees. While an associate degree is not required, it is the fastest way to get your feet wet in the field before moving on to other psychology degrees. Many clinicians get a Ph.D. in psychology before opening their own practice. 

  • Associate’s Degree in Psychology: This degree takes two years to complete and includes introductory and general psychology courses. It’s often the most affordable way to get general classes out of the way. 
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology: A bachelor’s degree takes four years, or two years if you enter with an associate’s degree under your belt. At this level of study students can take classes in more specific specialities, such as child psychology or substance abuse. 
  • Master’s Degree in Psychology: Most master’s programs take two years to complete. Many programs include an internship or other hands-on experience and allow students to dive into a specialty. 
  • Doctoral Degree in Psychology: A doctorate is the terminal degree available for psychology and can take up to 8 years to complete. These degrees require a lot of research and students must complete a research dissertation.

Pros | Cons

It Takes Longer to Earn the Doctorate Degree in Psychology

Most doctorate degree in psychology programs can be completed in four to seven years. This, of course, is the longest possible amount of time a psychology professional can expect to spend on their schooling. The time commitment requires a student’s full attention, and it is for this reason that some students elect to move straight from their bachelor’s in psychology to their Ph.D. in psychology.


While students will be pledging a great deal of time and effort towards their academic pursuits, those who choose to pursue their Ph.D. in psychology will find that this is the most lucrative career move.


At times, it can be very hard for Ph.D. in psychology students to juggle work, internships, clinical training and psychology studies. What’s more, almost all Ph.D. in psychology candidates go on to continue their research and training for one to two years after graduation; these externships and practical experiences must be present in order to qualify most Ph.D.s for work.

Once Graduated with a Ph.D. in Psychology, You Enter the Workforce as an Authority in the Field

Part of enrolling and earning a doctorate degree in psychology is making the time and the connections that will allow students to gain intensive practical experience after graduation.


Ph.D. in psychology candidates with some experience are often preferred to master’s degree in psychology candidates who may have more hands-on skills.


Some evidence suggests that Ph.D. in psychology candidates can oversaturate a market. In these cases, employers will be inclined to hire a candidate with more life experience (such as a master’s degree) and lesser academic credentials.

The Doctorate Degree in Psychology is Versatile

Because a Ph.D. in psychology is a terminal credential for the majority of occupational psychologists, earning a doctorate degree in psychology in this broad field can offer candidates a certain amount of flexibility when searching for a career. For example, while there may not be many opportunities in a graduate’s chosen field right away, a doctorate degree in psychology is an excellent credential for those who may be interested in teaching at the college or university level.


Nearly all fields of psychology have room for those with a Ph.D. in psychology credential.


May need to relocate due to low demand in some regions of the country.

There is a High Return on Investment

It could be argued that the cost of earning a Ph.D. in psychology is not consummate to the annual earnings for an average doctor of psychology. Some data points to the fact that the amount psychologists earn has much more to do with the industry in which they are employed than with their academic credentials. However, the disparity between the earnings for a bachelor’s and master’s degree graduate and a doctorate degree in psychology are substantial.


Psychologists can earn upwards of $100,000, according to the BLS. The median pay for 2018 was $79,010.


To offset the cost of tuition, doctorate degree in psychology students often must find fellowship, assistantship and paid internship opportunities in their area or through their university.

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