medapple

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Hello,

I've been invited to an interview for neuropsychology. (I don't even know yet if I'm in, so maybe I'm overstepping myself) but my concern is that it's not one of the best schools and is in the lower fourth of the list (after applying I looked it up on national research council rankings).

Let's say I'm accepted and go to this school. How hard will it be for me to find a post-doc? How hard will it be find a job after going to this school? I understand that will a research-only PhD, its really important to go to a top-ranked school. Is this also very important for a clinical PhD as well?

Related to that, what are your prospects after getting the clinical PhD? What is the process involved in looking for a job? Does this depend on whether you want a clinical job or an academic job?

Let's say I am accepted for a clinical PhD to a program that I am not-really interested in or is lower-ranked, is it better to wait next year for me to apply to a school that I really want to go to or is it better to just take an offer?

The reason I ask all these questions is because I've been talking to alot of graduate students this year, mostly research PhD, and I've heard alot of stories about how people have been burned by their supervising professor while doing their PhD or how it's been difficult to find a job after their post-doc. So I'd really like a realistic assessment of things to come.

Thanks so much for your help.
 

Pia Getty

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These are all good questions without simple answers. There are a lot of factors that come into play here. I say go to the interview with ears and eyes wide open and find out as much as possible about the site. First of all, do you know if you want to be researcher or clinician? Does the program your considering lean to one side or the other? Does it train individuals to be both academics and clinicians or just one or the other? If your goal is to become a licensed practitioner, you will complete your 4 year program, apply for a 1 year predoc. internship., then complete a 2 year postdoc. At that point (and after passing the EPPP) you will be eligible for the independent practice of psychology. If practicing as a clinician is your ultimate goal, I don’t think your program’s name is the whole enchilada.
Though I think rankings are somewhat informative, in many ways they are a beauty contest of sorts and can only take you so far. More important is to find a program that is a good match for you, one where you feel comfortable and sense a good chemistry between you, your advisor, and program in general. As far as future implications, my impression is that internship, postdoc, and job opportunities do not hinge on program name, though, of course it would be misleading to say it has no influence. More importantly, it is your clinical and research experience and productivity as a graduate student that is scrutinized. If you feel strongly about doing research at a research 1 institution in the future, then I think it is important to find a similar program that will prepare you for the momentum of research productivity required. I suppose the main point is don’t look at rankings so much. Find a program that works for you. Consider the financial costs, find out where current graduates from the program end up (e.g. internships, post-doc, jobs etc.), Keep in mind that it’s not just a four year time span to licensure, more like 7+ years. In that sense, if you feel the program is a good fit for you and will promote your productivity, yet sits lower on the beauty scale, why wait? Chip one of those training year off. Of course, if you find it’s not a good match for you and it won’t take you to where you want to be, time to look for another open door.
 

Squarepants

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I'm not (yet) in grad school, but I heartily agree that finding a good match might be the single most important factor in choosing a grad school. At this stage of the game, ratings mean little. If you're going to spend the next four years of your life working in rather demanding conditions underneath/beside someone, take the time to make sure all your knots are tied securely. Ratings won't matter when you're spending hours in a research lab. Ratings won't matter when you're drawing up a food budget. Ratings won't matter when you're learning the good and bad sides of Professor X. Nah. I've seen first-hand good and so-so examples of relationships between grad students and advisors (within the *same* uni), and it leaves little doubt in my mind how important it is to find somewhere where the next several years won't be a living hell to wake up to each morning. Because there's very little point in going to a misfit school for a spot or two higher on a chart made by a bunch of pollsters who never had to earn a PhD in the conditions you just threw yourself into.
 
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