Psy.D. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology FAQs

Discover the similarities and differences between Wheaton's Psy.D. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology programs

Wheaton is transitioning its doctoral program from a Psy.D. to a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. During this transition phase, we will offer both degrees as separate programs of study. Learn more about why Wheaton is making this change, discover the differences and similarities between a Ph.D. and Psy.D., and explore whether the Psy.D. or the Ph.D. is the best choice for your clinical psychology career goals.

The consistent mission of doctoral training in clinical psychology at Wheaton is to prepare clinical psychologists for preferential service to the church and to those traditionally underserved and marginalized in society. Our training model is changing from a practitioner-scholar (Psy.D.) model to a scholar-practitioner (Ph.D.) model, but our core mission remains the same. 

When the Psy.D. program launched in 1993, the prevailing understanding in the field of psychology was that the Psy.D. would emerge as the primary credential for clinical service provision (in contrast to a research-focused Ph.D.). Since that that time, however, Psy.D. degrees and programs have changed significantly around the country. Ph.D. programs continue to prepare students for clinical practice as well as for research, and the Psy.D. has not, after all, emerged as the sole degree option for clinical service provision. The primary vocation of individuals with both Psy.D. and Ph.D. degrees remains clinical service provision. 

The practitioner-scholar model in Wheaton’s Psy.D. already features a heavy emphasis on research, but the emphasis on research and scholarship for Psy.D. programs is typically thought of more exclusively as preparation for clinicians to be informed consumers of research at the least and potential producers of original scholarship at the best. Our research approach has evolved to operate less exclusively as a vehicle through which one can effectively prepare for clinical application of the science of psychology, and increasingly features original research related to specific underserved and marginalized populations and the church, as identified in our mission statement. The scholar-practitioner model will build on the research strengths and foci already in place at Wheaton, and will prepare students for a slightly different approach to clinical training, academics, and research. Ph.D. students will be trained with an even greater emphasis on contributing original clinical research and scholarship within the field.

Consistent with most Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology, we expect many of our graduates will still primarily work as clinicians, yet we desire to prepare students for clinical research options in their careers, especially as it relates to engagement with the church and in service to underserved and marginalized populations. The Ph.D. program will prepare students who wish for this increased diversity of options for career service.

During the first few years of the Ph.D. program, we will continue to enroll cohorts of students into our APA-accredited Psy.D. program. We anticipate entering the accreditation process for the Ph.D. program in 2023-24 and will continue to maintain the Psy.D. program in accordance with APA-accreditation standards. Once the Ph.D. program is accredited by the APA, we will cease to admit new cohorts the Psy.D. program.

The primary distinguishing factor between the Ph.D. and the Psy.D. is the Ph.D.’s increased flexibility in the vocational application of the degree. Individuals with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology have more options as it relates to research, academic instruction, select subdisciplines, and international service.

The American Psychological Association (APA) only accredits doctoral programs once there are certain outcome data points available. Data will include two years of student performance in the Ph.D. program, including student practica data.

The Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology are separate and distinct programs with separate admission and degree requirements. Students wishing to transfer after matriculation from the Ph.D. program to the Psy.D. program should seek the counsel of their advisor and are required to apply and gain admission to the Psy.D. program through the Graduate Admissions Department (transfer credit subject to Wheaton College transfer policies for coursework). Transferring from the Psy.D. to the Ph.D. program is not permitted.

Both programs require rigorous doctoral level academic work and clinical training, and as such the requirements are rather similar. Individuals applying to either program will have similar GRE and GPA benchmarks, and match to the mission is of particular importance in admission to both programs.

The Ph.D. program additionally considers exposure to increased research opportunities and match with Wheaton faculty research interests in the admissions process.

Whether you hold a Psy.D. degree or a Ph.D. degree in Clinical Psychology, your career is likely to look very similar. Practitioners work in a variety of contexts, such as academic medical centers or hospitals, universities and colleges, community mental health facilities, military, government or veteran’s administration, nonprofits and businesses, and independent practice. While we anticipate that graduates of both degree programs will have similar job opportunities, we expect Ph.D. degree holders from Wheaton College will have further opportunities for employment at non-Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) universities and colleges and will be widely recognized as clinical psychologists in international contexts.

There is significant overlap in the Psy.D. and Ph.D. curricula, thus it is most succinct to highlight the differences. Students in the Ph.D. program will take one less credit in Psychological Assessment, Psychology History, and Systems coursework; one less credit of practicum seminar; and two less credits of integrative course work. Ph.D. students will take seven additional credits of applied clinical research and an additional three-credit course in clinical statistics focusing on advanced regression techniques and statistical modeling.

We do not anticipate any substantive differences between Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs in the practica and internship training components.

There are no appreciable differences between the Ph.D. and Psy.D. for the comprehensive exam and professional qualifying exam.

Whereas dissertations in the Psy.D. program will satisfactorily employ correlational research and descriptive reports to questions with clinical utility, dissertation projects in the Ph.D. program will speak more directly to models and mechanism in clinical contexts.

Students are well-positioned in an equal measure to work in a variety of clinical settings whether they train in the Psy.D. program or the Ph.D. program.

The Ph.D. program is the best choice for students interested in making research or teaching in the academy a major part of their careers. Historically, Psy.D. alumni have had successful academic career placements at Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) member schools, but we expect that Ph.D. graduates will have even more opportunities to live out faithful lives in broader academic contexts.