Graduate students in research-oriented clinical PhD programs get better funding, different training and more internships than students who are in PsyD programs, according to a study in Training and Education in Professional Psychology (Vol. 4, No. 2).
About 89 percent of clinical psychology students in research-oriented PhD programs receive both a tuition waiver and an assistantship or fellowship, while only 17 percent of students in university psychology department PsyD programs receive a similar package, according to research led by John C. Norcross, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. At "freestanding" PsyD programs, which Norcross defines as being unaffiliated with a larger, comprehensive university, a mere 1 percent receive both the waiver and stipend.
Freestanding PsyD programs and PhD programs also differ in the kind of training they offer, Norcross found. For instance, while cognitive-behavioral psychologists constitute about three-quarters of the faculty at research-oriented clinical programs, they make up only 28 percent at freestanding PsyD programs. Professors at freestanding PsyD programs tend to have more of a psychodynamic bent, the study found.
Research-focused PhD programs are also vastly more selective, admitting just 7 percent of applicants, while freestanding PsyD programs admit 50 percent on average, the researchers found. Students in the freestanding PsyD programs also are less likely to land APA-accredited internships, according to the study.
"The ease of acceptance comes at a price," says Norcross.
Nabil El-Ghoroury, PhD, associate executive director of APAGS, says the model used at freestanding PsyD programs is reasonable for students geared toward clinical practice. "If you don't want to be trained to do research, then a PhD program might not be the right place for you. However, it's important to consider debt load and future salary," he says. Students can look up average psychology salaries in the Report of the 2009 APA Salary Survey.
Students should also weigh the type of training offered, as well as programs' internship match rates, Norcross adds.
"These are profound choices," says Norcross. "There is no free lunch in psychology graduate training."