So you're convinced that Psychology is for you. Let's go through a short checklist to ensure you have considered all that is graduate study in Psychology. How far will you go? Will a master's degree suffice, or do you want to pursue the PhD or the Psyd? What are the pros and cons of each? A terminal master's degree can usually be accomplished in approximately two years, after completion of comprehensive exams and/or a thesis. Therefore, one pro is the length of commitment. Two years is much less a haul than the 4+ years of a PhD program, and this does not include time spent during internship or post doctoral study. However, the con comes in limited job preparation. Entry level Psychology jobs are hard to come by and none too glamorous. It is usually by attaining the title of doctor, that one is issued real responsibility and sufficient compensation. That is not to say that jobs cannot be found with a terminal master's degree, they can; it is simply that when most people consider psychology jobs, they are usually thinking doctoral level positions.

If you are settled on the 4+ year degree understand that this is a serious undertaking and one requiring a significant amount of study, preparation, and dedication. This is NOT a part time degree. Although students may have assistantships issued by the school, many programs prohibit students from working outside of the university. You really lack the time to do so and simultaneously focus on your graduate work. Now, which is for you: Phd or Psyd? There is currently a division in the field of Psychology between Doctors of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD) and Doctors of Psychology (Psyd). What is the difference? The difference can be hard to discern, but the division initially began as a split regarding the relative value of research and practice. Research is what Psychologists do when they send out likert scale questionnaires, test subjects in a clinic, or publish qualitative findings. This research is done to advance the practice of Psychology, open up tests and scales to new demographics, and establish psychological correlations with seemingly societal benefit. Practice is what it seems: you and client(s) in a room coming to conclusions about a particularly distressing problem or life event. Now in both PhD and Psyd programs you will do research and practice. You will write scholarly papers based on your own hypotheses and conclusions, but the focus is skewed toward research in a PhD program and practice in a Psyd program. When I applied to my Psychology PhD program, I was asked during my interview where my research interests fell; actually I had to mark on number line where my research interests fell. My program did not want total clinicians they wanted researchers. Think about this as you decide where to apply.

About the Author

Timothy P. Lisagor

Timothy Lisagor is a former psychology graduate student currently pursuing an M.A. in English (Literature). His main interest is to help students make informed decisions about school and career.

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