How Long Does It Take To Get a PhD in Psychology?

How Long Does It Take To Get a PhD in Psychology?

Key Takeaways

  • It typically takes between four to seven years for full time students to get a PhD degree in psychology.
  • It takes part-time students five to seven years to complete a PhD program in psychology.
  • The length of a PhD program varies based on program prerequisites, the type of degree, and whether you attend part or full-time or online or on-campus.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 1.2% of the population have doctoral degrees. The reason? The daunting length of a PhD degree. However, that does not have to be the case for everyone. A PhD in psychology typically depends on the student’s program, education, and schedule. Knowing more about the process can help you plan your studies and career.

A PhD in psychology can brighten your career prospects and direct you toward higher-paying and rewarding career opportunities. To help you get there, we have done research on how long it takes to get a PhD in psychology.

Pyschology books section on a bookstore shelf

How long does it take to get a PhD in psychology?

The time it takes to get a doctorate in psychology varies. It depends on factors like the degree type, your education, and your specific program. Typically, these programs last between four to seven years. Let’s explore how long your PhD degree will take according to your degree type.

PhD in Psychology

PhD programs usually take five to seven years to finish. They often combine research and clinical training, following a scientist-practitioner model.

Moreover, you might need to do an internship or supervised residency alongside classes. The program typically ends with a big research project or dissertation.

PsyD Degree

PsyD programs generally take four to six years to finish. They aim to teach professionals how to use psychological knowledge to help treat people in real-life situations.

According to the American Psychological Association, PsyD programs focus more on applying psychological science through services.

EdD Degree

EdD programs typically span three to five years, focusing on psychology, counseling, or counselor education. They integrate education and psychology themes.

Unlike PhD and PsyD applicants, who often start with a bachelor’s degree, many EdD candidates already possess a related psychology master’s degree. This distinction underscores the varied entry points into doctoral studies. Moreover, it reflects the specialized nature of EdD programs in preparing professionals for roles in education and psychology.

Back to Top

What is the duration of a PhD in psychology for part-time students?

You can earn a PhD in psychology while being a part-time student, says the American Psychology Association. Both full and part-time students have the same program requirements, part-time students might take five to seven years to finish.

Not all schools accept part-time students, so check with your chosen schools first. Doing the required internship might be tough for part-time students. Part-time internships are less available compared to full-time ones.

The Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers offers hundreds of internships, only 17 are for part-time students.

Woman biting her pencil while staring at her laptop screen
Back to Top

Factors to Consider Before Choosing a PhD Program in Psychology

It’s always good to ensure you don’t sign up for a degree that takes longer than you thought. So, before picking a PhD program in Psychology, consider a few things related to how long it takes, such as:

  • Program Rules: Check what each program needs—like classes, research, and your dissertation. This helps you understand how much time you’ll spend.
  • Program Setup: See if the program is flexible with class schedules and research options that fit what you want to do.
  • Teacher Support: Look into how much help teachers give. Their guidance can make a big difference in how quickly you finish.
  • Money Help: Check if there are ways to get money, like scholarships or assistant jobs. This can ease financial stress and let you focus on studying.
  • Research Focus: Think about what the program likes to study. This can affect how long your degree takes.
  • Internship Needs: Check if the program needs you to do internships. This might change how long you’re in school.
  • Success Rates: Find out how many students finish the program and how long it takes. It gives you an idea of how long you might take.
Back to Top

Which Type of Degree Should You Get?

A doctorate is required to work in certain fields, like licensed clinical or counseling psychology. The American Psychological Association says you often need a doctorate for school psychology or health psychology, too.

While the PhD, PsyD, and EdD are good choices, don’t focus solely on how long they take to finish. Before committing to a doctorate, consider which degree aligns best with your career goals.

Here are some degrees and their objectives to help you understand which program best fits your career preferences.

Conducting Research

A PhD in Psychology is focused on a research-based education model. So, anyone with a PhD in Psychology offers many career choices. For instance, you can go for research, academia, and clinical positions in colleges, government offices, hospitals, and private mental health clinics.

Treating Mental Health Issues

The general focus of a PsyD degree is on a practitioner-based education model. So, individuals who earn a PsyD degree have the choice to teach or conduct research in psychology. Their main job is to offer direct mental health care in applied settings.

Applying Psychology to Help Students

Finally, you can consider a third doctorate option, the EdD or Doctor of Education. This degree is ideal for those interested in school psychology or related educational psychology fields.

Despite the time commitment, obtaining a PhD, PsyD, or EdD can be highly rewarding. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with a doctoral or education specialist degree in clinical, counseling, and school psychology will have the most solid job opportunities.

Woman wearing graduation robes and cap while showing off her red diploma
Back to Top

Can you finish your degree early?

Generally, if your background in psychology is strong and you have finished all of the required prerequisites, you might complete your doctorate sooner. You will be ahead of those who haven’t taken those prerequisite courses.

Planning your degree well also helps you finish the program quickly. So, ensure you have a clear plan for what you want to do with your psychology degree after you’re done. You can teach, research, work with clients, or combine psychology with law or medicine.

If you’re unsure, talk to an advisor at your school. They can guide you, answer your questions, and help you decide what’s best for you.

Student Submitted Questions About PhD’s in Psychology

How hard is it to get a PhD in psychology?

Obtaining an accelerated PhD in psychology demands significant dedication and effort. Graduate students must tackle coursework, pass exams, undergo extensive internships, and conduct experimental dissertation studies. The process entails substantial commitment and perseverance, emphasizing the rigorous nature of doctoral studies in psychology.

Do you need a master’s to get a PhD in psychology?

No, a Master’s degree is not typically required to obtain a PhD in Psychology. Instead, you can apply to universities offering doctoral programs after completing a psychology bachelor’s degree. There are different types of postgraduate degrees in Psychology, such as PhD, PsyD, and EdD, each with its focus and requirements.

How much does a psychologist make?

PhD holders in Psychology can pursue diverse careers in schools, hospitals, and mental health facilities. Examples include Psychologist ($85,330), Counseling and School Psychologist ($ 81,500), and Psychology Professor ($78,810).


Earning a PhD in psychology involves years of study, typically taking three to seven years. If you’re considering a career as a psychologist, research the different program options and the time it takes to complete them.

Regardless of your choice, be prepared for a significant commitment to graduate school to complete your doctorate.

Do you have a question about this topic? Ask it here