What to Expect from a Doctorate Degree Program in Psychology
Many people are drawn to careers in psychology, as they offer the chance to help people with their problems and work on research regarding the way human minds work. Psychologists do important and innovative work, but in order to become a full-fledged psychologist or psychiatrist, a person must first dedicate several years, thousands of dollars, and countless hours to completing a doctorate in psychology.
Earning a Doctorate Degree in Psychology
Doctoral psychology programs are competitive, because there are so many undergraduate psychology majors who find that they can do very little work with their degree without attending some sort of graduate school. Once a person is admitted to a graduate school of psychology, he or she will dedicate (generally) at least five years of his or her life to completing all of the curricular requirements and the research component of a doctoral degree. Every school is different, but courses will usually be very small and will focus heavily on reading, original writing, and discussion. Students who enroll in doctoral psychology programs are expected to have some background knowledge in psychology before they begin their studies.
The dissertation is an important part of a doctoral student's course of study. It will likely include original research through a study that they design and execute themselves or in conjunction with a professor at their university. Often, a person will spend several years completing their dissertation, which they then have to defend before a panel of professors, deans, and community members. Usually, this is the last requirement a student fulfills before graduating with his or her doctorate degree in psychology.
Using a Doctorate Degree in Psychology
The vast majority of people who pursue doctoral degrees in psychology do so because they are interested in working as counselors or psychiatrists, for which it is generally required that a person complete a doctorate. For these individuals, completing their doctorate is only one of several steps that are required to work in their dream profession. It is is also required for psychologists and psychiatrists to become licensed by taking a state-mandated exam and by participating in an apprenticeship program (depending on a person's state of residence.)
A person with a doctorate degree in psychology is also eligible to work as a professor or researcher at a university or college. These positions are extremely competitive, especially at top universities where research money is precious and there are many people longing to use it. However, for individuals who do land tenured jobs at universities, a doctoral degree in psychology can lead in to original research topics that have yielded some of the most interesting information about society that we have. Generally, these professors are also required to teach and will likely work with graduate students. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)