PhD or Professional Doctorate


Hi everyone,

I have been trying to do some research into what postgraduate path to take. I have two Master's degrees - Cognitive Neuroscience and Social Work - one in the UK and one just finished elsewhere in Europe. I currently work as a research support officer in a psychology-based research centre.

I am interested in pursuing Clinical Psychology or Psychotherapy and am trying to research my eligibility. However, in looking at PhDs or Professional Doctorates I get confused.

Am I right in saying that they are very similar in terms of qualifications; PhDs have a heavier focus on research and thesis; both facilitate professional, clinical practice but PhDs also offer the option of working within academia / pursuing career as a professor.

Is anyone able to tell me if this is right or any further distinctions between them?

Thank you!

Avatar for rewt

Hi Rose1,

The distinction between a PhD and Professional doctorate is very muddy and varies a lot between university and course. At some universities there are no differences while other professional doctorates can allow highly specialised non-academic industry related research. I think there is somewhat more flexibility with professional doctorates about what you can include in your thesis and what is relevant research. However, I think to get the most out of a professional doctorate you need some experience in industry.


Hi Rose1,

I have to say both are quite different in the UK. As someone that received an offer for both the doctorate in clinical psychology and a PhD. As mentioned the PhD is more research focused and would generally be looking at an academic career unless you gain some additional clinical qualification etc (doing the clinical doctorate, an MSc in CBT, DBT ...). In order to meet the minimum criteria for applying for the clinical doctorate, you need an undergraduate degree in Psychology (or a conversion), clinical work experience (preferably under supervision of a clinical psychologist- which is a protected title)- you can check the bps for more info with this you can register with the HCPC and conduct clinical work privately, NHS etc...
PhD on the other hand can allow you to register with the BPS as a chartered psychologist but not HCPC and thus no clinical work. Unless as mentioned you gain additional training. This does not mean that you can't work with patients but this will be limited to research, teaching purposes etc not treatment.

Hope this helps.


Rewt and Ola89, thank you so much for your replies. These are really helpful and the most clear guidance I have had with this so far.

I will use the BPS guidance for some more information and look at some specific university courses.

Thanks again!


Although they might seem pretty similar, but I usually prefer the standard degree over "non standard" degrees. I do not like it when I have to explain my degree if it is not standard. Also the standard PhD gives you mobility outside the UK also if you want to shift the field a bit.