Advice would be appreciated.

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Sep 18, 2007
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I've posted a couple of posts tacked on to other people's threads and thought it'd make sense to just start my own. I just need general advice, if anyone has any...

To try to make a long story short. I joined this board about 2 years ago. I have a bachelor's double major in Communication and English. During the last year I realized psychology is what I wanted all along, as that is one subject that truly interests me and I have a strong passion to help people, pretty much only as it applies to emotional and psychological suffering. So, in some form or another, psychology is where I want to be. I even look up sites about psychological-subjects in my spare time because it interests me, and it's almost always the psychological or mental slant of any subject that interests me.

So, that being said. I have about 15 credits in psychology (unfortunately a little too late for a minor). 4.0 for all those classes, overall GPA 3.94. However I have very little experience, and no research experience. 2 years ago I began looking into Ph.D. and P.syD programs but...felt a tad overwhelmed seeing people who were more qualified than me were getting rejected. So I while trying to sort it out, I got a job as an assistant to the PR department at a mental health hospital (also getting involved in some of the hospital's admin functions). While that put me in the right setting, my role did not involve any patient interaction, etc. I hope it still counts for something (as far as showing dedication to the field)...

So that's where I stand. Have not taken GREs yet. I am rethinking attempting to jump right into a Ph.D or doctorate. I feel at this point I'm really underqualified and don't want to waste a year applying to places that I have no chance with.

I think a more bite-size and reasonable route would be for me to go for a Masters in some sort of psych, and then use that time to catch up on what I that I will have a stronger resume for getting into a doctorate later. I'm assuming I'd have a stronger chance of getting into one of those programs, so it gives me somewhere to start!

Thoughts? Advice? I'm not sure what the MA/MS should be in either...someone suggested general/experimental psych to me today. I've begun looking at programs in the area and want to start calling some of these places soon. But I thought I'd ask for some advice from y'all kind people as well. :)

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I think it’s good that you are thinking carefully about what you want to do. Taking advanced psychology courses can only help you, but some schools do not admit/may not admit many students with a Master’s degree. But getting a degree in Experimental Psychology will help you as far as research experience goes and it will also show adcoms that you are serious about the field.
I think it's good that you are thinking carefully about what you want to do. Taking advanced psychology courses can only help you, but some schools do not admit/may not admit many students with a Master's degree. But getting a degree in Experimental Psychology will help you as far as research experience goes and it will also show adcoms that you are serious about the field.

I think you're thinking along the right lines. IMO, an MA is the appropriate place for you at this time. If I were you, and our stories are similar in many ways, I'd begin looking for MA programs in either counseling psych, counseling, or experimental psych.

If you know you want the doctoral level credential the primary characteristic you want to look for in an MA program is success rate of their recent graduates who chose to apply to the types of PhD programs that are interested in now - since the best predictor of your future success is the current and past success of similar people.

You should know that your story is not at all uncommon in psych, and not at all looked down upon. Many fine psychologists did not do undergrad work in the field - and many MA programs will not take issue with this (though some will). In my experience programs will tell you, in the form of some FAQ, what level of psych coursework is expected and appropriate as pre-req for their program.

Do keep in mind that your cohort at an MA will often include a great many students with a strong psych background. What this means for you is that you will need to work harder than them in many classes. For instance, I had MA classes where knowledge of Freud, Drive theory, etc were assumed. Those without these and similar knowledge backgrounds were essentially told to do extra reading -- so not really a bid deal at all.

In terms of applying, you're going to want to build some sort of concrete narrative that explains why you were not a psych undergrad and yet have come to want to do grad work in the field. You need some concrete way to elucidate the reasoning behind the switch.

With a 3.94 undergrad, a clear and lucid narrative, and a GRE cumulative >1100 you will have little trouble securing a spot in an appropriate MA cohort.

Once you're in there - it's a clean slate in terms of PhD. Get involved in a lab immediately, get your GRE >1250 if it's not already, get to know professors personally and seek them out for consult early and often letting them know from week 1 that you intend to matriculate to a PhD and off you go.

Hope this helps and let me know if you have other questions.
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PsychPoet, thank you very much for your response! I've been getting some interesting responses to the basic same question over on the Ph.D./Psy.D. thread as well (it begins as a thread asking about clinical vs. counseling). Some suggest the general psych master's a a good choice (like suggested earlier on here) while others suggested (similar to you) a clinical or counseling master's which would allow me to at least maybe get licensed or have some open doors in case I don't get into Ph.D. right away. So far there seem to be more votes for a clinical/counseling master's so...I'm thinking of leaning that way. I do want to get research experience, but also some clinical too. And who knows, I might talk to/look at all the programs that seems possible just to get a feel for what I need to do.

And thanks, your words are comforting in that a lot are in my position! Looking at the insider guide, it seems a lot of clinical programs have a higher percent of BA admits than Master's...but that just might be that more with BA's applied than Master's, not that they shoved the master's aside. Either way, to know that I'm not the only one is nice.

AND you definitely gave useful advice on me having to be prepared for an answer why I started out English/Comm and then switched to Psych. The answer off the top of my head is that all along psych is what interested me, I just didn't follow my gut for some reason starting out. I'll find a way to better express where I'm coming from...thanks for that heads up.

And, I feel ya' on the last part. I'm already so full of vigor to do this, and now that I know what it takes to get into a Ph.D., I want to jump all over that, soaking up as much from the Master's experience as I can, such as networking with professors and getting advice from them etc., trying to find research/clinical experience where I can, thinking ahead with my every step...all that!

So again, thanks! :) I feel encouraged by your post and have some more things to be prepared about. I'll let you know if I think of more questions...
Just because you finally decided to do psych does not mean you can't do it. I know quite a few students on both master and doctorate levels who came to psychology later in their careers.

I'd agree with the previous advice that you definitely need to have a good answer of why you want to do psychology. This will come out in your personal statement and your interviews.

Honestly the issue of programs not accepting students with master's is odd to me. I've heard the statement too, but I'm pretty sure that opinion is becoming less and less popular.

As for the application process, depending on your GRE score and letters of recommendation, it might not hurt to apply to a mix of schools. Your GPA is very good and provides an edge. The lack of psych classes and major experience does hurt you a bit in the PhD end of it. However it may not hurt to apply to some less competitive PhD programs in clinical/counseling. When it comes to your master's applications, I'd suggest a wide range of a few competitive reach schools, a few safeties, and then the majority in between.

If you had a choice, I would maybe try to apply to a master's program in clinical or counseling psychology that provides both practicum and research opportunities. FYI, some programs claim to be scientist practitioner models, but tend to lean in one direction or another. Future PhD programs will like the mix of applied and research, making you very competitive.