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How to Choose a Psychology Program

How to Choose a Psychology Program

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One of the most frequent inquiries I receive from readers is requests to help them choose a psychology graduate program. What program will best suit my needs? Can you suggest a great social psychology program? Should I pursue a degree in clinical psychology or school psychology? Obviously, it’s not possible to offer personalized advice for each and every situation. Not only is it impossible to be familiar with every single program out there, I also have no way to fully understand your unique situation including your needs, and goals.

The best way to find the psychology graduate program that is best suited to your needs is to do the research yourself. Start by making a list of things that you are looking for in a degree program. Factors such as geographic location, cost, and degree type will all factor into your decision.

What Kind of Degree Can You Earn?

First and foremost you need to check to see that the program offers the degree that you need to work in the career you plan to enter after you graduate. For example, if you are planning to become a licensed clinical psychologist, you need to ensure that the program leads to a PhD or PsyD in Clinical Psychology.

This might sound like a fairly obvious first step, but I receive a surprising number of emails each year from students who are part-way through with a graduate program only to realize that the degree they are earning will not allow them to work in their chosen professions.

How Long Does the Degree Take to Complete?

Graduate programs can vary considerably in terms of length, with master’s programs often requiring two to three years of full-time study and doctorate programs requiring anywhere from three to five years of full-time training. Before you select a psychology graduate program, do a serious assessment of how much time you want to devote to earning your degree.

What Are the Course Requirements?

Once you have narrowed down your choices to a few possible programs, get your hands on a copy of their course requirements and class descriptions. Are there any prerequisites that you need to complete before you enter the program? Do the required classes seem interesting and related to the things that you want to study? Can you see how these courses will help you in your future endeavors? Sometimes just browsing through the course descriptions for the core classes and electives can be a great way to discover if a psychology program is aligned to your needs and interests.

What Is the Cost? Is There Financial Assistance Available?

The reality is that graduate school is expensive. Very expensive in many cases. Unless you are independently wealthy, chances are good that you will need to find some type of financial assistance to pay for graduate school attendance. A few possible options include loans, scholarships, and graduate assistantships. When you are considering a program, inquire about how many admitted students receive financial assistance.

Is There an Online Degree Option?

An online psychology degree can be a great choice for students who work full-time or who do not live near a university and are unable to relocate to attend school. If a fully- or partially-online option is available, take a look at the technology and course requirements. Do you have the equipment and software that is needed to complete the classes? Are you Internet-savvy enough to succeed in such courses? Online learning is certainly not for everyone, so you need to evaluate your own ability to manage your time and complete classwork without much direction or supervision.

Final Thoughts

Selecting the psychology program that is right for you is an important process that deserves careful thought and consideration. Don’t base your decision simply on the opinion of others or online lists of the “best schools” that you might find online. Take the time to research your options, consider your needs, and answer the above questions about the programs that you are evaluating. Graduate school is a commitment, but finding a program that is right for your unique interests, educational goals, and career interests can help improve your chances of success and satisfaction with your education.