Psychology graduate programs seek to provide a comprehensive understanding of human behavior through a combination of coursework, internships and independent research. Earning a graduate psychology degree could prepare students to play an active role in advancing the field by conducting studies, treating patients and more.
Psychology graduate programs may provide an in-depth exploration into the human mind and behavior patterns, as well as the opportunity to delve into an specific area of research. Students in psychology schools might explore topics like behavior therapy, pathology and neuropsychology. Or they might concentrate on a subsection of psychology, such as applied behavioral psychology, organizational psychology or clinical psychology.
Psychology is one of the fields where advanced study may translate into a range of potential career paths. Why? One reason is that in order to actually call yourself a “psychologist” you need to be licensed.
Licensing laws vary by state and the type of position you are looking into. But, consider this: Most clinical and counseling psychologists need a psychology doctorate, to complete an internship, at least 1 to 2 years of supervised professional experience,and to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.i
Graduate psychology programs encompass masters and doctorate degrees in general psychology, as well as specific branches of psychology. Some students may enter a psychology graduate program after earning a bachelors degree in Psychology, but others may have a foundation in another field.
Now, maybe the type of career you aspire to doesn’t require a PhD or PsyD. But, it may require a Masters in Psychology. So, take a look inside a range of psychology schools to see what your options are. Explore which graduate psychology degree might lead you closer to your academic and vocational goals.
Psychology is an extremely broad field. Your undergraduate years may have brought you into contact with some foundational subjects. However, graduate programs in psychology allow you to get more focused, more experienced and research a field that really draws you in.
For instance, do you have a passion for sports? If so, you might choose Sports Psychology Graduate Programs. On the other hand, do you know if you would like to work within an organization? Then, you might choose an Organizational Psychology Graduate degree program. Forensic Psychology Graduate Programs might be the right fit for someone interested in the criminal justice system, or in working with victims of crime.
We recommend you spend some time browsing the specialties listed in the menu to determine where your interests lie. The information on each page may also provide insight into the academic path to practicing in that field.
For many prospective students, it may come down to choosing between a clinical psychology graduate program or a counseling psychology grad program. Consider whether you are more of a researcher or aspire to a professional practice. Then check a few options out.
The American Board of Professional Psychology awards specialty certification in 15 areas of psychology, such as clinical health, couple and family, or rehabilitation.iii
We gave you a hint up top, but that only skims the surface. In addition to exploring a variety of specialties, graduate psychology schools offer programs at three main levels: the masters, doctorate and graduate certificate. Below is a brief intro to each type of psychology degree to help you narrow down your choices.
Psychology masters programs are typically 2 to 3 year programs of study beyond the undergraduate degree. Masters programs in psychology commonly offer either a Master of Arts (M.A.) and the Master of Science (M.S.) degree. While typically they cover similar topics, a MS in Psychology may have a stronger focus on research and science. MA in psychology graduate programs, on the other hand, may take a liberal arts approach.
A Masters Degree in Psychology could prepare students to pursue their doctorate, or certain careers, such as a mental health counselor or organizational psychologist. Thesis and non-thesis options are offered depending on your intentions.
Do you plan to study at the doctorate level? Then, completing a thesis might be a good choice. Do you plan to enter the workforce right away? If so, a non-thesis option might be fine.
Some Psychology masters programs you might encounter include the following.
Aiming higher academically? A Ph.D. or Doctor of Psychology is one of the highest-level degrees achievable in the field of psychology. Students might also choose a Psy.D. or Doctor of Psychology degree at this level.
The main difference is that the Ph.D. in Psychology focuses on the scientific model, emphasizing research. In contrast, the Psy.D. in Psychology focuses on the practitioner model and emphasizes clinical practice.
In either case, a psychology doctorate degree might take between four to six years of additional graduate study after earning a bachelors degree. This may depend on enrollment, program requirements and the amount of time it takes to complete a dissertation.
Some of your options might include:
A graduate certificate in psychology is designed to help you develop skills sets and knowledge in a particular area of psychology. They may be available at the masters or post-masters level.
While not a full degree, a certificate may be a great way to gain additional expertise and explore a topic in depth. Certificates are often shorter and may be completed in 1-2 years of full time study. Programs vary.
Some potential certificate programs include:
One of the ways to approach your search for a psychology graduate program is to determine whether you prefer to study on a college campus or in an online format. Some graduate schools for psychology may actually offera hybrid or blended format, allowing you to take advantage of the potential benefits of both.
You want to consider whether you have time to commute to class. You may also want to think about whether you need to schedule studying at your own pace. Also, you might want to factor in whether you prefer the hands-on and social learning atmosphere, or the independence of a distance-learning format.
Use the on page menu to filter psychology programs by the the format you prefer. Or search by location, if you have always wanted to study in a specific city, state, or country. And remember to look for accredited psychology graduate programs!
Students should ensure they choose an accredited institution, and learn whether, for their career purposes, they need to look into an APA-accredited psychology graduate program. The American Psychological Association (APA) accredits[ii]:
Be aware that the APA does not accredit psychology schools, or programs at the bachelor’s or master’s levels. The U.S. Department of Education should have a list of legitimate psychology masters programs.
And, you should always contact a prospective graduate school directly to discuss requirements, pre-requisites and whether their program might help prepare you for licensure.
Now you're equiped with the information you need to start your search for a graduate program for psychology. The academic path you choose may depend largely on what you plan to do after you complete your degree. To a certain extent, you want to not only prepare yourself with an education but also the ‘right’ education for the type of career you want to lead.
The easiest way to whittle down your choices is to use the menu bar. Search by degree level, specialty or format and location. Follow listings links for additional information.
And don’t be shy to reach out to a psychology school. Just fill out the on page form to make sure you understand the ins and outs of their program.
Why wait? You future psychology graduate program could be one click away!
Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm | [ii] www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/about/index.aspx | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm
Building upon the rich, more than 30-year tradition of graduate-level psychology programs at our American School of Professional Psychology, our degree programs are led by clinical practitioners with advanced degree credentials and years of applied knowledge and field experience to provide you with an education that reflects contemporary practices.
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