What Doctoral Degree in Psychology Was First Introduced in 1973?


Diego Sanchez

In 1973, a groundbreaking doctoral degree in psychology was introduced known as the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). This degree was developed to provide an alternative to the traditional Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in psychology, which had been the standard for many years. The PsyD program aimed to train psychologists who were focused on the practical application of psychological knowledge rather than research and academia.

The Need for a New Degree

Before the introduction of the PsyD, the PhD program in psychology was primarily designed for individuals interested in pursuing careers in research and academia. However, there was a growing recognition that there was a need for psychologists who were more focused on clinical work and direct patient care. This realization led to the development of the PsyD degree.

Key Differences between PhD and PsyD

While both degrees involve advanced study and training in psychology, there are some key differences between a PhD and a PsyD:

  • Focus: The PhD program emphasizes research and academic pursuits, while the PsyD program focuses on clinical training and applied practice.
  • Dissertation: In a PhD program, students are typically required to complete a dissertation based on original research. In contrast, PsyD programs often require students to complete a doctoral project or clinical internship.
  • Career Paths: Graduates with a PhD in psychology often pursue careers as researchers, professors, or consultants. On the other hand, individuals with a PsyD degree often work as licensed clinical psychologists or in other applied settings.

The Impact of the PsyD Degree

The introduction of the PsyD degree had several significant impacts on the field of psychology:

  1. Increased Accessibility: The PsyD program provided a more accessible pathway for individuals interested in clinical practice. It allowed students who were not as inclined towards research to obtain a doctoral degree and pursue careers as clinical psychologists.
  2. Emphasis on Practical Skills: The PsyD curriculum places a strong emphasis on developing practical skills that are directly applicable to clinical work.

    This focus better prepares graduates for the challenges they will face in their professional careers.

  3. Expansion of Psychology Practice: The introduction of the PsyD degree contributed to the growth of psychology as a profession. It helped to address the increasing demand for mental health services and expanded the scope of psychological practice beyond academic settings.


The introduction of the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree in 1973 was a significant milestone in the field of psychology. This alternative to the traditional PhD program provided individuals with a pathway to become licensed clinical psychologists and focused on practical skills rather than research. The PsyD degree has had a profound impact on psychology practice, increasing accessibility, emphasizing practical skills, and expanding career opportunities within the field.