How To Choose The Best Psy.D. Program

By Patricia Oelze

Updated December 20, 2018

Reviewer Laura Angers

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You are nearing the end of your bachelor's degree program, or maybe you finished it some time ago, and you are wondering what's next. A doctoral degree is calling your name, but how do you choose one? You think that a Psy.D. might be right for you, but what exactly is a Psy.D. and how do you choose the Psy.D. program that will work best for you?

What Is A Psy.D.?

A Psy.D., sometimes also written as PsyD, is a doctor of psychology degree, as opposed to a Ph.D., which is a doctor of philosophy degree. A Psy.D. will prepare you for clinical practice while a Ph.D. will generally prepare you for a career in research. If you are interested in clinical practice, then the Psy.D. is for you. There are many Psy.D. programs to choose from, but how do you choose the right one? You choose the right one by researching available Psy.D. programs and considering factors like quality, location, requirements, goals, affordability, and internships.

Quality

One of the most important things to consider when trying to identify top Psy.D. programs is the programs' level of quality. Accreditation status is a measure of a program's quality, and the American Psychological Association (APA) is the best resource for checking a Psy.D. program's current accreditation status. You want to stick with APA accredited Psy.D. programs to be sure that you receive the best possible preparation for your chosen career path and ensure your future success.

Location

Some people feel like they need the structure that in person Psy.D. programs provide, while others would prefer to complete their Psy.D. programs online. What you look for will depend on things like whether you have or plan to have a family or job while pursuing your Psy.D. degree. If so, online Psy.D. programs might be a good fit for you as you will not be required to attend classes on campus and can log in from anywhere at any time that is convenient for you. However, it may be difficult to find an accredited program that is completely online. If you are looking for APA accredited Psy.D. programs online, the following information from the APA will be of interest to you:

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At this time there are no APA-accredited programs available that ONLY use online methods of instruction. Some programs may offer courses online or utilize some nontraditional/distance education methods, but the Commission on Accreditation (CoA) does not maintain information on the courses offered, the modality of such courses or which programs might be offering them. All accredited programs must meet all provisions of the Standards of Accreditation (SoA), regardless of the methods of instruction they may use.

If you prefer to attend your classes in person at a brick and mortar institution, you will have a set schedule of classes to attend. And, if you live somewhere like New York City, you are in luck because there are several APA accredited Psy.D. programs in NYC to choose from, at Pace University, Yeshiva University, and St. John's University.

Requirements

In looking for the right Psy.D. program, you will also need to consider your ability to qualify for the programs that you are hoping to choose from. Requirements like GPA (Grade Point Average) and GRE (Graduate Records Examination) scores will play a role in the types of programs that you can get into. You can find these requirements by visiting the program's page on the institution's website. For example, St. John's University lists the following among its requirements for prospective Psy.D. candidates:

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Applicants must:

  • Possess a baccalaureate degree
  • Satisfy the department that his or her undergraduate preparation indicates a high potential for successful advanced study in psychology
  • Submit transcripts of undergraduate and any prior graduate work
  • Have completed a minimum of 24 undergraduate credits in psychology, including courses in Introductory Psychology, Statistics, and a laboratory course
  • Submit three to five letters of recommendation, one of which must be from an individual who will address the matter of the applicant's research potential
  • Submit two papers from psychology courses: one a laboratory paper and one a term paper
  • Provide a written statement of educational and professional goals
  • Submit acceptable scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (general)
  • Complete an interview process with the departmental admissions committee

Requirements will vary from program to program, so it is important to check the specifics of each program before narrowing down your choices. And it may be to your advantage to choose the programs for which you most exceed the requirements so that you will stand out from any competition.

Goals

As you explore different programs, you will find that they each have their own set of goals and objectives. The key is to figure out if a prospective program's goals and objectives align with your own. For example, Pace University provides the following description of their program's goal:

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The goal of Pace University's PsyD program in School-Clinical Child Psy­chology is to prepare professional psychologists as health service providers with expertise in school and clinical psychology. These professional psycholo­gists will be prepared to develop, provide, supervise, and research a full range of evidence-based psychological services.

They will be unique, prepared to provide clinical and educational expertise and consultation within the school and clinical settings to best serve children and families across a variety of systems of service delivery. The program utilizes a practitioner-scholar train­ing model that prepares psychologists to provide direct and indirect services from a variety of theoretical perspectives.

It may be useful for you to spend some time getting clear on your own goals before you begin researching programs to make it easier to see if your goals align with the goals of the programs that you are interested in.

Affordability

Affordability should also be a factor in your decision-making process. It is important to consider what sort of financial assistance may be offered to help you afford your degree program. For example, Yeshiva University offers the following summary for the financial assistance that they offer for their prospective students:

Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and Yeshiva University's Office of Student Finance assist students in putting together a funding package through a variety of resources-grants or scholarships, loans, and work-study, which can help cover the cost of your education.

Something else you may wish to consider is assistantships and fellowships. Fellowships are merit-based awards like scholarships. Assistantships are like work-study programs and usually require a commitment to teaching or researching exchange for free or reduced tuition, potentially in addition to other benefits like a stipend. St. John's University has this to offer about the assistantships and fellowships that they award to some of their graduate students:

The University awards some Doctoral Fellowships annually to qualified graduate students. Doctoral fellows are appointed to the Department of Psychology where they work eighteen hours per week in support of faculty research. Additional assistantships are available in both academic and non-academic departments throughout the University. The University requires recipients to maintain a full-time course of study, and work fifteen hours per week in their respective department. The assistantships provide tuition remission for a maximum of fifteen credits and sometimes, a stipend.

The more financial assistance that you can get that does not come in the form of a loan, the easier life will be after you complete your program. You want to make sure that as little of your future salary will go to loan payments as possible so that you can live the life that you envision without the added stress.

Internships

Another factor to consider is the availability of internships and whether they are unpaid or paid. For example, St. John's University has the following to say about internships related to their program:

St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers students the opportunity to gain professional experience in their chosen field of study through internships.

Students who participate in internships gain:

  • Academic credit toward their majors
  • A head start in their chosen careers
  • An introduction to the professional world
  • Practice in skills like written and oral communication, leadership, organization, teamwork, flexibility, and critical thinking
  • Networking opportunities
  • Resume-building experience

As with the other factors that we have covered, requirements will vary from program to program, so it is important to research the requirements for each program that you are interested in. After all, internships can help you to get a head start on your chosen career path, so they are definitely worth some consideration as you think about which program might work best for you.

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Choosing from among the best Psy.D. programs is a process, but if you thoroughly research your options and consider all the relevant factors, you stand a good chance of choosing the best possible program for you. Doing so will provide you with a firm foundation for your chosen career path and help to ensure your future success. Good luck!


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