What comes next after a B.A. in psychology? Our alumni have pursued a wide range of careers and gone down many different paths. See what some of them have to say about their positions on our Alumni Page. Also be sure to check out Pathways for more information on the careers of our majors.
Many students decide to continue studies in psychology and pursue either a master’s, a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) or PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) in any of the many psychological fields. Before applying, it is important to research different programs: a great place to start is the American Psychological Association (APA) website, where you can find information on different schools, sources of funding, GRE testing, and other information to help you feel prepared and supported during this process.
Master’s Degrees in Psychology and Related Fields
Most full-time master’s programs are two years in length, including summers. Generally, students pursuing a master’s degree are simultaneously preparing for a certification and/or licensure examination, which is a separate process from the degree. Certification/licensure is typically done by State governments and permits a person to practice (e.g., as a teacher or a social worker) in that state. It is important to learn about the level of preparation for these exams provided by your academic program. In general, there are very few practical differences between a Master of Arts (MA) and a Master of Science (MS) degree.
Psychologists with master’s degrees are found in many of the same settings as psychologists with bachelor’s degrees (e.g., community and social services, human resources, residential care, management and business, student services, probation/parole/law enforcement, education, and scientific research) as well as in two-year colleges as faculty and researchers. Accredited Schools Online gives an overview of many different programs and program types that you may find helpful.
In general, doctoral degrees are the standard for independent research and teaching at the university level and are required for students interested in being licensed as clinical or counseling psychologists. The highest paying jobs are available to doctorate-holding persons. Doctoral programs typically take from 4 to 6 years to complete. Here is a list of top psychology grad schools.
Doctoral Degrees: PhD or PsyD?
There are two prevalent training models for doctorate study in psychology: PhD and PsyD. PhD programs are more prevalent than PsyD programs. The difference between the models lies in the extent to which the program focuses on research.
- PhD programs (The Boulder Model): This model focuses on preparing students to be scientist-practitioners, with firm competencies in both research and applied practice. PhD students are simultaneously trained for the academic/research world and the clinical/professional world. In other words, the degree is intended to train students to be professors and researchers at the university level, and to train and license students as clinical, counseling, and school psychologists. PhD students can be thought of primarily as producers of research. PhD programs in counseling, clinical, and school psychology are (almost) always found in psychology graduate departments of universities, never as separate schools or institutes (as is the case for medicine and law).
- PsyD programs (The Vail Model): This model is explicitly professional; it prepares students to become practitioners of psychology. That is, there is far more emphasis on applied practice than on research (of course, students’ practice must be aware of and informed by research. In this case, students study others’ work rather than doing their own independent research). PsyD students can be thought of as consumers of research. PsyD programs are readily available in clinical psychology but are sparse in counseling psychology. PsyD programs can be found in three settings:
- Psychology graduate departments at universities
- University-affiliated psychology school (e.g.: Rutgers, Adelphi)
- Independent, free-standing universities (e.g.: Alliant University, Argosy University)