8 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Psychology Graduate Program
Choosing to pursue a graduate degree in psychology is a smart move for advancing your job prospects in the field. Depending on the type of degree you complete, a graduate program can expand your career options to teaching, conducting research, or working in independent practice. Whatever you do, you’ll be prepared to make a direct contribution toward improving people’s lives in a significant way.
But of course, earning your degree means finding the right program to meet your needs—and there are many factors to consider. When you’re comparing graduate schools and program features, be sure to ask these important questions.
1. What Types of Degrees Does the Program Offer?
There are several ways to earn a graduate degree in psychology. While the length of time and content will vary for each option, your career goals should be the key thing to consider when choosing which degree to pursue. The level and concentration of each degree will prepare you for a somewhat different career path.
Setting long-term plans can help you choose the academic program that’s right for you. If your ultimate goal is to be fully licensed as an independent psychologist, you’ll need to take the steps that are necessary for earning your doctoral degree.
2. Does the Program Offer the Specialization I Want?
While general psychology degrees can prepare you for many types of roles, most students choose to specialize their degrees. There are so many options in the field of psychology that no school can possibly offer everything. It’s important to figure out which sub-fields of psychology interest you so you can choose the program that offers that kind of coursework.
Popular areas of concentration or specialization include:
3. What Type of Training Model Does the Program Follow?
Graduate programs in psychology typically fall into one of three standard training models. Knowing a program’s structure can help you determine whether it’ll be a good fit for your preferences and goals. While individual programs vary, here’s a general overview of your choices:
Type of Program
Best preparation for…
Research under a mentor
Careers in research and academia
Balance of clinical training and mentored research
Careers in clinical research or program design and evaluation
Mostly clinical with little research
Careers in clinical practice
4. Is the Program Ac
Ensuring the school and program you want to attend are accredited is an important step in choosing a grad school. Accreditation verifies that the quality of education you’ll receive meets the standards defined by the U.S. Department of Education and the psychology profession. Accreditation is also necessary if you wish to earn your license, qualify for federal financial aid, and transfer any credits to or from another institution.
To verify school accreditation:
The American Psychological Association (APA) and Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) have directories of doctoral programs that they have accredited.
Bachelor’s and master’s degrees
In the U.S., there are six regional accrediting agencies that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as reliable authorities for quality postsecondary education, including colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in psychology.
Consult this chart for a directory of schools that offer a bachelor’s or master’s program in psychology that are regionally accredited.
5. Is the Program Compatible with My Lifestyle?
You’re going to be spending several years in your graduate program, so it’s important to make sure the two of you get along. While you’ll likely find several schools that offer the degree and specialization you seek, there are other factors to consider when determining the right fit.
6. What’s the Student Success Rate?
When evaluating a specific program, consider its track record of student success. A solid graduate program should set students
Internships are a key requirement for APA-accredited doctoral-level programs and for obtaining your state licensing. However, every year, the total number of applicants exceeds the number of psychology internships available. It’s a simple problem of supply and demand, but one that can delay your career. Missing out on an internship can postpone your degree and leave your professional plans in limbo.
If your program is APA-accredited, it must list its match rates to APA-accredited internships on its website. The Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Center (APPIC) also publishes match rates by program. A consistent history of strong match rates can give you an idea of how internship programs regard applicants from your potential program. In many cases, this success can also indicate the support of astute advisors who help students identify the types of internships where they’ll have the best chance of acceptance.
Exam pass rates
To be eligible for a psychology license in your state, you’ll need to pass the appropriate licensing exam. A program with high pass rates has proven to be successful at providing students with the well-rounded knowledge they need to legally enter the field.
While school psychologists need to pass the Praxis subject exam, all other psychologists need to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB).
Psychology Exam Passing Scores
Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology
Praxis School Psychology Exam
7. How Much Does It Cost to Apply?
You’ll increase your chance of admission if you apply to as many programs that meet your criteria. However, it’s important to consider whether the time and cost involved is worth it. Don’t limit your options but, if finances are an issue, choose wisely.
If you’re unable to meet a specific program’s non-refundable application fee, which can range from $50 to $100 or more, contact the school. You might qualify for a fee waiver with proof of financial need or by meeting other criteria.
Admission requirements vary by program, and some are more affordable than others. Here’s a list of the typical costs involved when applying to a graduate program in psychology:
Psychology Grad Schools Fees
GRE practice materials
Varies from free online resources to hourly rates for private tutor
GRE score reports
Four free reports; $27 for each additional report
Varies widely, but averages about $70 per school
Varies depending on distance and length of stay; School-based interviews might include meals or other assistance
Costs vary by school, but averaging between $3 and $10 per transcript
8. How Much Will It Cost to Attend?
There’s nothing worse than finding what seems like the perfect graduate program and realizing that you can’t afford it. You can minimize this type of disappointment if you plan a realistic budget and look at programs that meet these criteria. Determining the cost of a graduate psychology program includes several factors.