Online PCSAS vs. APA Accredited Degree Programs



PCSAS vs. APA Accreditation: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve looked into doctorate programs in psychology, you’ve likely noticed that not all Ph.D. programs have the same accreditation. Understanding the difference between APA and PCSAS accreditations can help you make an informed decision about the psychology program that suits your career goals.


PCSAS and APA represent two separate organizations that accredit doctoral psychology programs.  

What Is PCSAS?

PCSAS is short for the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System. It is a non-profit and governmental organization founded in 2007 by the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science. PCSAS was founded with the aim to reform the accreditation in psychology, which until that point had been dominated by the American Psychological Association and its accreditation process.

What Is APA?

The American Psychological Association (APA) is the most prominent psychological organization in the United States. It is involved in many program areas, including training, advocacy, research, and accreditation.

For decades, the APA was the only organization that managed the accreditation of psychological educational programs. According to its website, the APA has been recognized by the United States government as the “national accrediting authority for professional education and training in psychology.”

Key Differences Between PCSAS and APA

Although a program can be accredited by both organizations, there are difference between PCSAS and APA:

  • Scope. PCSAS accredits doctoral clinical psychology programs that adhere to a clinical science training model. The APA has a wider scope, accrediting programs in clinical psychology, as well as in counseling psychology and school psychology.
  • APA has been around for much longer than PCSAS, which began accrediting programs in 2009. 

These differences are reflected in the number of programs that have earned accreditation from each organization. More than 500 programs have earned APA accreditation, while fewer than 50 were PCSAS-accredited as of mid 2022.

Why Is Accreditation Important? 

Accreditation of an educational program in psychology is important for many reasons, including:

  • It confirms that a program meets minimum educational standards.
  • It helps employers ensure that an individual’s academic training is valid and complete.
  • It helps students make more informed decisions about which program to choose.
  • It makes it easier for local, state, and national governing bodies to make licensure standard determinations.

PCSAS and APA Accredited Programs

PCSAS and APA accreditation are not mutually exclusive. Many programs are certified by both PCSAS and APA. Examples include:

  • Arizona State University, which offers a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
  • Harvard University. Harvard’s clinical psychology Ph.D. is among the most prestigious globally. It has requirements and classes in an array of clinical psychology topics, including statistics, testing, and diagnosis.
  • Penn State, which has a clinical psychology program that integrates the areas of research and practice.
  • Rutgers University, which offers doctoral students an array of classes in research, clinical psychology, computer science, and more.

As you can infer from their descriptions, these psychology programs have earned PCSAS and APA accreditation because of the breadth of their curriculum. 

Do Accredited Programs Qualify Students for Licensure and Jobs?

Yes. One of the benefits of taking an accredited program is that it positions students to be qualified to take and pass state licensure exams. Completing an accredited program does not guarantee anyone a license, or guarantee passage on a licensure test. However, it does ensure that the information taught in an accredited program will prepare students for licensure tests.

Psychology Career Options

Those who are interested in pursuing a career in psychology have many career options, including:

  • An array of work in clinical psychology, including becoming a professional therapist or a specialist in many areas, such as developmental disorders, pediatric psychology, or geriatric psychology.
  • A researcher in the public or private sector, working for governments, universities, or private companies.
  • A public school psychologist who works with students and in large educational facilities to help them manage the mental health needs of their students or develop programming that can help students better care for themselves.
  • A specialized psychologist in an array of fields, including sports, industrial organizations, and forensics. 

If you’re primarily interested in professional roles in clinical science with a research focus, you might want to explore programs that have earned PCSAS accreditation. However, both PCSAS and APA provide important assessments that can help you choose a program that will prepare you for advanced roles in the field of psychology. 


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