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Researching programs and schools

Knowing where to begin looking for graduate programs can feel overwhelming. This article discusses the first steps into starting the application process. First you will need to decide what type of degree you want, and then find a program that fits your interests. Lastly, you will want to find an admissions counselor and gather their contact information.

Deciding on your degree

This will largely depend on what you want to do with your degree. Most counselors obtain a master’s degree while researchers need to have a Ph.D. or Psy.D.    

Masters- A masters is typically two to three years long depending on the school. A few careers possible for those with a master’s degree include mental health technicians, social work positions, and counseling. 

Ph.D.- Ph.D. programs are typically five to six years long and have a research focus. Individuals who obtain this degree often become professors, clinicians, researchers, or sometimes all of the above.

Psy.D.- A Psy.D. is similar to a Ph.D. but it has a clinical focus and takes less time to complete. This degree typically takes four to five years depending on the school. Since these programs follow a scientist-practitioner model graduates of this degree usually go on to do both clinical and research oriented work.

M.D.- An M.D. is a medical degree. This degree typically takes four to five years depending on the school and three to eight years residency depending on the specialty.

If you want to become a psychiatrist, this is the degree to pursue. 

Finding a program

Once you have decided on the type of degree you would like to pursue, the next step is to find a program that fits you.

Fine tune your interests- If you’re interested in research, it’s important to know what kind of research you would like to pursue. If you’re interested in counseling it is important to understand the population you are interested in serving

Pick programs- Utilize your resources by talking to faculty and peers about your interests for recommendations and use the internet to search for programs. For example, the Social Psychology Network (SPN) website ranks psychology Ph. D programs by area of study. 


Research schools

GPA and GRE scores: Look at the average student admitted and how many students accepted per year.

Research faculty: If you’re applying to a research oriented program, most schools will ask you to provide the top three faculty members you would like to work with. Thus, it is important their research interests match your own.

Know the prerequisites and research admission requirements: Some programs have prerequisites or recommended courses, it is important to complete these prior to your application.

The whole picture- Take into account the cost of living, tuition, housing, location, and financial aid options. Ask yourself, is the whole a good fit? Do you think you could be successful living and working towards your degree for the duration of the program?

 Start application process!