A doctorate in psychology can be a crucial step to a career in psychology research or clinical practice since many positions are only available to candidates with a doctoral degree. For example, if you want to work as a counseling or clinical psychologist, you will most likely need to earn a doctoral degree in addition to holding a license to work in your state.
The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in psychology is not the only terminal degree in the subject. Some schools also offer a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree program that is geared more toward practitioners than researchers or academics. While graduates who earn a Psy.D. typically find a job in a clinical setting working directly with patients, those who earn a Ph.D. in psychology generally focus on research and teaching at the university level.
That said, however, professionals with a Ph.D. in psychology can still work with patients in clinics, and those with Psy.D. degrees may still be able to find a career in teaching and research. Both types of doctoral degrees can give you the framework you need to be successful in either segment of the field. When picking between the two types of psychology doctoral programs, it comes down to what you want the focus of your studies and future profession to be: research or clinical practice.