What are the Differences between Ed.D.’s, Psy.D.’s and Ph.D.’s?


This gets pretty confusing and requires clarification.


While state Boards of Psychologist Examiners have licensed persons with these three degrees as psychologists, the Ed.D. is no longer accepted as adequate preparation to become licensed as a psychologist.


Holders of any these degrees have the rights, privileges and honors to be addressed “doctor.”


More importantly, this is a credential by degree not by licensure.  Hence, it can never be taken away—unless there are grounds for revocation, such as plagiarizing.


The Ed.D. or “Doctor of Education” was first offered in 1920 and is a much older degree than the Psy.D.  It is sometimes recognized as a clinical degree but with a scope limited to counseling, education or development.


Holders of Ed.D.’s are generally not licensed today by state boards as psychologists.  Those Ed.D.’s who are psychologists today have been licensed for many years and were grandfathered in.


The Psy.D. is a recent development.  The American Psychological Association (APA) played a major role in developing the Psy.D.; however, shortly after its proposed inception in 1973, few students elected to pursue Psy.D.’s.  The degree was avoided as inferior.


Both Ed.D. and Ph.D. require a dissertation—an original contribution the body of scientific knowledge.  Whereas, the Psy.D. does not require a dissertation but a project comparable to a master’s level thesis.


Only those who have completed dissertations are qualified to sit upon dissertation committees and confer degrees upon doctoral candidates.


This is an important distinction:


Only those who have earned Ph.D.’s or Ed.D.’s are qualified to sit upon dissertation committees.


Thus, Psy.D.’s do themselves a disservice by cutting themselves short.


Because of the lack of a requirement to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge, to give to society and to the field, some regard the Psy.D. as unacceptable preparation to become licensed as a psychologist.


As a result Psy.D. graduates are thought of as lacking the training necessary for critical thinking & original thinking which are crucial in providing competent mental health treatment.  Furthermore, the Psy.D. is a “cheap” degree and is typically completed in significantly less time than a Ph.D.


The Psy.D. became popular at about the time of the DSM-IIIR (1987)—after the Medical Model had usurped the lead role in mental health away from psychology in approximately 1983.


Then the field of psychology went astray.


The “eclectics” who were regarded as “undisciplined” because they endorsed no particular school of thought began to dominate psychology and continue to dominate the field with their “touchy feely” approaches eschewing American Behavioral Psychology.


As a result, psychiatrists moved ahead of psychologists in the leading role for providing mental health services.


Psychology has yet to recover.


When the “professional schools” or “diploma mills” began cranking out Ph.D.’s, there were not enough clinical internships to accommodate them.  Each year the schools were graduating between 250-400 more doctorates in psychology than there were internship settings.


Those graduates went without the training necessary for licensure and were deprived from the marketplace.  To remedy this, the APA changed its accreditation processes and many institutions were relegated to issuing only Psy.D.’s in order for their programs to maintain their APA accreditation.


Most of those programs “agreed” to cease offering their Ph.D. and downgraded to the Psy.D.  However, this only served to further flood the field and diminished psychologists’ earnings because supply far outstripped demand.


Prior to the advent of the Psy.D., it often took six years for a Ph.D. doctoral candidate to graduate, that is, after earning a masters degree.  Today, that time has been diminished in some cases to merely two years.


The Ph.D. is the oldest of the three degrees.


With more than four centuries of history it is the true “Doctor of Philosophy.”


It is impossible for a Ph.D. to know everything there is to know in the field.  What it means hopefully is:


The Ph.D. understands the philosophies undergirding the discipline.


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