Is It Hard to Get a PhD in Psychology? Learn More

If you are interested in the science of understanding the human’s mind and behavior, you most probably have also thought about whether you should pursue an academic qualification in psychology and follow a career in this field. The reason why you are only thinking about it and haven’t yet decided, is perhaps that you don’t know what qualification you need, how hard it is to get, and what career opportunities are available to psychologists

You need a PhD which is for many hard to get. To practice as a licensed psychologist, most states and countries require a PhD in psychology. To assist you with your decision, we’ve looked at what a PhD in psychology involves, and whether students regard it as a qualification hard to get.  


We’ve also explored what your career options might be. There are a diversity of fields available and we hope that the guidelines we’re giving you will help you discover your specific interest.

Is It Hard to Get a PhD in Psychology? Learn More

What Is Psychology?

Psychology is an academic discipline, seeking on the one hand to understand the properties of the brain, and all the phenomena linked to it, and on the other hand, aiming as social science to understand the dynamics of individuals and groups.


What Does a Psychologist Do?

Psychologists look at individuals’ social behavior and try to determine the role of their mental functions. They also explore the physiological processes causing these functions and behaviors. Although this “learn-to-understand” phase is ongoing, the foundation is laid during the academic studying phase. 

After graduating, the psychologist has to implement this knowledge and assist individuals and groups to overcome behavioral issues. This implementation of acquired knowledge could be done as a therapist in contact with the people being treated, or by being a researcher finding new insights and research results.

Why Must I Get a PhD in Psychology?

Most states and countries require that you have a license before you are allowed to practice as a psychologist, whether as an employee or in private practice.  To be licensed, most countries require that you have a PhD in psychology. 


If you want to teach psychology at a college or university, you are also required to have a PhD. To do reliable research at university-level, you’ll also need a PhD.

How Long Do I Have to Study and What Is the Content?

The highest degree you can earn in the field of psychology is a PhD. It is a long journey to get there. A bachelor’s degree takes three to four years of study. Your master’s degree requires an additional two to three years, and the PhD can take two or three years to complete.

Depending on the university, the PhD generally consists of different types of tuition, like core content classes and relevant research projects.  Then there are oral examinations, presentation of papers, practicum, internships and your doctoral dissertation. 

Is It Hard To Get a PhD?

Like with any academic qualification, you will encounter difficult parts, but also enticing and easier parts during your studies. We had a look online on what students and ex-students had to say about the level of difficulty of a PhD in psychology. We summarized some of the comments.

Some students experienced difficulty getting accepted in the study program. Most universities’ programs are receiving so many applications that they can afford to take only students with excellent undergraduate and master’s results. 

As compulsory classes are part of the curriculum it is hard for students who are not full-time students. Many students also have to repeat certain modules, as the pass qualification is a B, and this is often hard to achieve. 

For many, the dissertation process is very hard. Some students never pass the dissertation phase. There is actually a name for these students – the ABDs – All But Dissertation.

Work Opportunities

Work opportunities include therapeutic work like practicing in a clinic environment or counseling in a private capacity. Some psychologists are also employed by industry for human development. Psychologists are even involved in forensic investigations. 

The more academic inclined psychologists enter teaching careers at universities or form part of research teams.

Is It Hard to Get a PhD in Psychology? Learn More


Yes, it is hard to get a PhD in psychology, but if it is your passion and you can afford it, go for it! After all, it’s the passion one needs to study deeper and swim in the vast knowledge of the subject.