From Psychology MA -> Psy.D -> Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Psychology

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Nov 20, 2008
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Hi, First let me thank all the participants. I'm new to this blog -this is my first post.

I currently work in the field of I.T. not health-related, I'm 29yrs old Male. In Minnesota currently. Throughout the years I've had an interest in psychology, philosophy, culture/social systems, mind body connection and holistic approaches to viewing people. I also like research a lot. The fields of mind, soul, body, positive thinking, holistic healing intrigue me but I do not want to become a physical therapist, I want to approach these from the mind and cognitive side.

I am considering making a career shift to psychology. Currently trying to figure out what path to follow and what degrees to take.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

MA -> Psy.D -> Ph.D.

In a nutshell I may have to go down this path: certification (requires MA), then Psy.D. (maybe?) and then a PhD.

You may be wondering why I want 3 degrees, let's take a look at my goals - I'd like to:


1. Have a career shift into psychology / counseling - continue to make a living as I transition.
2. Teach in colleges or universities
3. Own a practice
4. Conduct research

I'd like to deal with mind/body holistic approaches and bio-feedback, from transpersonal, health, to child psychology and couples counseling as well as hypnosis.

First, I need the MA degree in order to get certified in Minnesota and move on with the career shift and gain experience hours.

Teach/ Research
Next, I know I will not be content with counseling or clinical practice only, I would like to teach in colleges and universities as well. Further, I would like to conduct research.

These last two wishes I believe require a PhD, not a Psy.D.

MA vs. PsyD
In Minnesota, the main difference is that graduates with PsyD can administer copyrighted assessments, they make $10 an hr more (from insurance company payments) when compared to MA graduates.

Locally in Minnesota, there's an Adler graduate school ( offering MA degrees. It is not an online school and it prepares you for certification in MN. Adler psychology is holistic, which is a big plus. But will this get to me to a PhD?

PsyD's are offered only at Capella (online), Walden(online) and St. Thomas (local school). PhD's are only offered at the University of Minnesota (but this is a Full time grad program that I can't attend because I have a full time job now)

Has anyone out there heard of Adler graduate school ( - What do you think?

1, 2 or 3?
I basically would like to counsel (MA degree or PsyD) as well as to eventually (part time or full time) become a professor or conduct research (PhD degree)

Can I do both?
Can the MA count towards a PhD?
Can a PsyD count towards a PhD?
If I get a PhD will I be able to counsel/get certified?

Like I said, the University of MN has a PhD program but that will cost me $100K easily. While an MA is about $30k, and a PsyD is about $100k

Besides getting in debt up to my neck, what are my other options - besides trying to study part time and work full time in order too offset the cost / pay as i go?
Please share your thoughts, ideas, suggestions with me especially those of you who have similar experiences or interests to what I'm describing.


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I cant answer all of your zillion part question, but you should know that the Ph.D and Psy.D are totally different degrees that prepare you for the same job, namely, to be a clinical psychologist. You dont get both. Its one or the other. They are both doctoral degrees. The Ph.D. is the more traditional degree and focuses alot on empirical research in addition to your clinical training. Psy.Ds are prepared and trained for all the same clinical activities as Ph.Ds but do not get extensive research trianing in grad school, and thus, are not likley to be seen in academia or other research positions. You can teach with a Psy.D (and many do) but it wont be at "the university of" anything. Mainly, it will be a small colleges or possibly larger univerties as a an adjunct lecturer. Some Psy.Ds wiggle into academia here and there (i.e.,Andy Sayken), but its not the norm at all. You do NOT need to do a MA/MS first, as most doctoral students start the Ph.D. or Psy.D straight out of undergrad and simply earn a MA/MS along the way. Online doctorates are a joke. The rigors of graduate level training do not allow people to work full time, or even part time for the most part. A doctoral degree is a more than 40 hour a week commitment if you are doing what you should be doing at that level.

Most Ph.D programs are fully funded, meaning you do not pay tuition and you get a annual stipend to live on. This is because research is a big part of your degree, and the financial support comes from grant money and teaching assitantships. This is specifically done so people do not work outside the program. Many Ph.D programs are heavily, heavily research foucused, and although they provide clinical training, this is NOT their goal and they dont really want student who want to do clinical practice. They want pure researchers. This sums up the University of Minnesota's program for the most part. And by the way, their Ph.D program is very well funded, as they have more NIH/NIMH R-O1 grants in their psych department than almost anyone else. We have a post-doc fellow from there at my practicum site this year and I think is stipend was like 22K or somethingwhen he was there. I dont know where you got the idea that it would cost you a 100K do go there? However, U of MN is one of top psych departments in the world, their accpetance rate for their clinical Ph.D program is about 3 percent. (The average Ph.D program acceptance rate is about 10 percent) And trust me, they dont want aspiring clinicians in that program anyway. Other Ph.D. programs are more "balanced", but still require heavy research. You will not be competitive for a Ph.D. program unless you get significant research expererience before applying. Most MA and PsyD programs do not offer financial supports (due to lack of grant money to support you with because there is little research emphasis in that degree) and students often have to take out loans that often times are burdensome. Salaray potential of the average psychologist does not justify 150K loans.
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Just to clarify...."clinical training" doesn't equal therapy, as applied clinical work involves more than just therapy. Therapy at some institutions is a dirty word, so it is important to understand the focus of training at a program.
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Thanks for your reply, it was very informative. I've been researching this non stop since I started this thread.

A local school offering an MA in psychology (not APA accredited) that emphasizes internship hours and qualifies a person for the state certification told me that the amount of $ reimbursed by insurance companies to an PsyD is $10 more than that for an MA thus not justifying the added cost of studying at a PsyD level, that an MA is a more cost effective choise.

I concluded that should I want any doctoral level study, that I rather go with the PhD from a financial stand point. Further, I know that I am a researcher by nature, so I started looking for APA approved PhD programs.

The University of MN PhD program requires 12 hrs of undergrad in advaced psychology, I do not have these hrs. I am now looking for workarounds to this, I may be able to take these classes somewhere or maybe get that MA degree and have it qualify me to apply for the PhD program. I'm waiting for a response from the U on this.

Jon Snow,
Thanks for your clarification, I don't know where I will end but it is good to know that they allow diversity, to do both clinical and research.. There must be something good to be had from both.

Thank you for the clarification

I am now looking at the U of MN and at UW Madison and others. I need to find a way to take the required classes in order to be able to apply for a PhD program. I am willing to leave my IT career and become a full time student and downsize if I get to study and research psychology.

Thanks to all of you, if you have anything else to add please go ahead
The two programs you mentioned are two of the top places in the nation for clinical psychology, so I hope you apply to a wider ranger of programs because they get hundreds and hundreds of apps for a handful of spots.
I have to agree here. You will need to expand your list. You have basically (unknowingly it sounds like) picked the 2 most research heavy, empirically based, competitive programs in the US for psych. People accepted there have GREs in the 1300 and 1400s, research excperience with publications, top notch academic letters, etc. You would need alot more than just satisfying course prereqs to even have a shot there. Namely, you would need research experience, a couple years of it. More importatly though, you would have to "fit" with the program, meaning you are showing that you are dedicated to pursuing empirical research as a career.

Your reasoning for not pursuing a Psy.D. seems to be based on reimursements for clinically related services. First of all, this is a flawed analysis because you are only looking at reibursement for psychotherapy services(it sounds like anyway). Thats just one aspect. You have not taken into account the multitude of other jobs duties PsyD.s have such as consulations, program evalualtion, assessment and testing. None of these activitie are things that are done by masters levels providers. They just bill for therapy, thats all. The Psy.D increases your diversity of skills sets, and hence, the activities you will be engaging in and billing for. You have also not taken into account subspecialty or setting. A Psy.D working in a hospital setting is going to make higher base salary than someone with a masters, because their education offers a broader range of clinical services that can be provided. And, a Psy.D who is a neuropsychologists is billing at the same rate as a Ph.D neuropychm, an specialty that is only avialble with doctoal level training. My point is, its not just about the monetary difference, its about the skills sets you have and the range of clinical activities that you will be doing that you can bill for. Masters level providers bill for therapy and intakes, thats all. Its a pretty limited range of activites compared to doctoral level folks. Second, if you are so concerned about clinical servces reibursement, why would you be looking at programs that are so research heavy (ie., Minesotta, Wisconsin)? It's important to find a program that you will be happy in, and one that fits your training and career goals. You will not make more money doing clinical work with the Ph.D. than you would the Psy.D by the way. They are both doctoral level providers. They are both psychologists. Given your heavy emphasis on the practice aspect (it seems), you might want to consider Ph.D. programs that are slightly more "balanced" than Wisconsin and Minnesota. There are places with great financial support and great research training that will also put more emphasis on developing your clinical skills than places like Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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Guys, thanks for your quick responses. I appreciate it. I knew how good the U of MN and UW were, just probably did not have a clear idea of how competitive.

erg923, thanks for talking about sub specialties. I'm not concerned with reimbursement, it's just a point that came up. I like your suggestion on looking at more balanced PhD programs. It is easy to find the top schools in the nation, but how do I go by finding places with great financial support and great research training that will also put more emphasis on developing clinical skills?

I've been using the lists found here (links @ the bottom of page):

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here is a better link with ALL the APA accedited programs in the US (and Canada I believe)

You just have to look. There are tons of great programs to chose from (apply to anyway). Do not worry about the prestige of a place when chosing a program for this. It doesn't matter, you need a place that you fit with, research wise mostly, but also in terms of the trianing goals and the academic atomophere. Plus, prestige is often counter-intuative at this level in psych. For example, Bowling Green State University (ever heard of it?) and the University of Kansas. Both GREAT programs.
First, you won't need 3 degrees. You can start in a MA/MS program, graduate, and apply to PhD or Psy.D programs, OR apply straight to PhD/Psy.D programs and obtain a MA along the way.

Do you have any coursework in psych? Have you taken the GRE? What is your undergraduate GPA? Answers to these questions can give us a better idea as to where you may want to start (i.e., apply to MA or PhD/PsyD first).

Generally, the PhD is a research degree, and the PsyD is more applied. However, there are many people who transcend this notion. Just because you have a PhD doesn't mean that you have to be a researcher, and the same goes for the PsyD and clinical work. I'd start by examining the programs listed on the link that was posted above, or purchase a copy of Graduate Study in Psychology published by the APA.

Regardless, here's my 2 cents. If you want to practice and do research, I'd look for a balanced research/clinical PhD program. A program that comes to mind is Central Michigan University.
Thanks guys, you've helped clarify things a lot.

Myelin, to answer your questions.

I have not taken the GRE yet. I am starting to prep now.
I had one psychology class as an undergrad, got an A
my GPA is 3.54 in Computer Info Science and a Minor in Math.
Graduate 4 yrs ago and worked in my field / I.T. since
I'm 29yrs old.
Thanks guys, you've helped clarify things a lot.

Myelin, to answer your questions.

I have not taken the GRE yet. I am starting to prep now.
I had one psychology class as an undergrad, got an A
my GPA is 3.54 in Computer Info Science and a Minor in Math.
Graduate 4 yrs ago and worked in my field / I.T. since
I'm 29yrs old.

You mentioned above that you might have underestimated the competitiveness of the listed programs. Well, it isn't just those that are competitive... the entire field of clinical psychology graduate study is competitive.

I spent all of undergrad preparing for admission into a clinical psych program. I studied the ups, downs, ins, outs, etc and had a ton of internships, research, specialized courses, and took over 30 psych classes (90 credit hours in major), good gpa, great gre's, excellent letters of rec from top folks in the field... still, I was at best, moderately competitive compared to my peer group in that application cycle.

I won't get into the debate about which grad promotes are the most difficult to get into... because you really can't compare between fields. I can say, however, that a law school application class, even to top 10 schools, will have a wide range of applicants with gpas prob going from the mid 2's to 4's. Your competition for a psychology program, even crappy ones, will almost always be mid 3's to 4's.

Your psych apps will ask you for a combination of your last 2 year's gpa, your psychology gpa, your major gpa (in case that's different), and your cumulative gpa. Specifics vary at each school but if you are taking your pre-reqs soon, make sure to do as well as possible to prove you are capable of returning to school full-time.

Some programs (though I think fewer than when I first applied) require the psychology GRE so study for that after you've taken your pre-reqs. I don't know that the stuff would make much sense to you now without that basic foundation of knowledge.

Finally, agreed with the others, there's no reason for 3 degrees. There's a lot of argument/discussion/personal preference over PsyD versus PhD but the truth is that there are excellent and crappy programs with both degrees. You have to choose what is going to be the best fit for you and the only way to know that is to pound the internet until answers fall out of it.

I first had to do this when very little information was online... and the way to get through it is to read. School websites, program websites, faculty vitae, course listings, old theses/dissertations of almuni from each school, etc, etc... know as much as you can before your apply so you don't waste your money on a school that you wouldn't even enjoy.

Good luck with the process.