So you’re graduating? What’s next?
Many psychology majors choose to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. Penn State Altoona’s Career Services Office provides many valuable services for students on this path, including resume preparation help and mock interviewing.
Specific organizations within psychology can also be useful in providing resources. Consider the following:
Many psychology majors choose to continue their education in a graduate program. A graduate degree, either at a master’s or doctoral level, will provide students with more job opportunities and career paths. A doctoral degree is required to be a licensed practicing psychologist, and it is usually necessary to work at a college or university in order to teach or conduct research. Working as a full-time student, master’s degrees typically take about two years to complete, and doctoral degrees take between four and five years to complete. Unlike undergraduate school, many graduate programs provide students with tuition remission and/or a financial stipend through teaching and research assistantships. In some cases, exceptional students are awarded fellowships that pay for all educational costs and allow students to focus exclusively on their studies.
Admission to graduate school can be very competitive, especially for Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology. Students should start thinking about, and actively plan for, graduate school as soon as possible. Most graduate programs evaluate a candidate’s application on the basis of:
- GPA (undergraduate transcripts)
- Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores
- Letters of Recommendation
- Personal statement of goals/admissions essay
- Research experience (especially in research-based programs such as Ph.D. programs)
Students applying to graduate programs should have GPAs above 3.0 and preferably above 3.5 to increase the probability of being accepted. The GRE should be taken approximately a year before the actual arrival into a graduate program. That is, you should take the GRE sometime during the fall semester of your senior year. Most schools have specific application deadlines, so plan accordingly.
During your undergraduate career, interact with and get to know your professors because you will need three letters of recommendation from faculty members when applying to graduate school. In addition, research experience is highly valued in many graduate programs, and students are encouraged to actively seek out research opportunities with faculty members on campus or participate in their own independent research projects. For some clinical or counseling graduate programs, an internship working with people may be as practical as research experience. Generally, admission requirements for master’s programs are not as stringent as doctoral programs, and master’s programs may also help students decide in what area of psychology to specialize.
Do not hesitate to look nationally in your search for the right graduate school for you. Unlike some undergraduate programs and medical schools, you have the same eligibility for admission as in-state residents, and tuition remission stipends will keep the costs similar. A recommended approach is for students to identify a faculty member in a graduate program whose research interests you, and contact that individual. By making these contacts, you will learn a lot about the program, they will learn much about you, and you will probably increase your chances of being accepted, as well as finding the perfect program for your needs.
Following is some information on identifying the best graduate program for your goals and needs and links for specific information on clinical and counseling programs. Work with your advisor and instructors as well as the Career Services Office in planning your application to graduate school.
Resources for Applicants to Graduate Psychology Programs
- Graduate Record Exam
Provides useful information about the GRE.
- Overview of graduate schools in the U.S. and Canada
Norcross, J.C., & Sayette, M.A. (updated each year). Insider’s guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
- American Psychological Association Student Information
Step-by-step video tutorial about graduate school.
- General website for students
Includes a list of all accredited programs, relevant articles, etc
- General website for students
- Peterson’s Virtual Campus – Graduate Study in Clinical Psychology
This site has brief descriptions of schools and their programs offering Master’s and Doctoral training in various areas, including clinical and counseling psychology.
- All Psychology Schools
Contains advanced degree information for clinical psychology, counseling, and social work, along with other fields of study (e.g. organizational psychology, forensic psychology, school psychology, etc.).
- Clinical Psychology Graduate School Programs
Again, you can search for schools, but the nice feature here is that you can easily search by region of the country. You also can search for clinical or counseling psychology separately.
- Ranking of Psychology Ph.D. Programs
This site contains various types of rankings of doctoral psychology programs, such as by their graduates’ scores on the licensing exam.