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Did you get your PhD in Clinical Psychology from Fielding University? If so, was it worth it?

lisajones81

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    I am a mom of four kids. I was a teacher. I quit when I had kids. Now, like ten years later, I want pursue my PhD in psychology to fulfill my end goal of becoming a professor and/or having my own practice.

    I cannot drive to any of the schools in my southern california area because they all take 2 hours in traffic one-way and I am the main support for the kids.

    So. Fielding offers me the opportunity I need/want to do this. I can do the hybrid part in Santa Barbara or wherever else- I just can't go daily each week to a school all day.

    It's the only hybrid I know of that is APA accredited- but everyone keeps saying it's awful and going there is a waste of money etc.

    But it's go there or wait ten years before I can start anything.

    I can't find people who have actually graduated from Fielding to ask these questions. I've messaged a few people on linkedin but havent heard back.

    Please say someone here has earned their PhD in clinical psyc from fielding.
     

    YoungFrancis

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      The people that are telling you it’s awful are better sources of information than actual graduates of the program. The people on this board make hiring decisions and will toss out Fielding students’ CVs because of the poor quality of the program. I’m certain that if you look hard enough you will find someone who will rave about the program. But keep in mind that former students might also be trying to convince themselves that they made the right decision.


      ^^These outcome stats are among the worst in our field. It’s a huge red flag.

      There are other ways to achieve your goals if you are location restricted. But if you are dead set on a PhD in Clinical, you will need to look elsewhere.
       
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      summerbabe

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        I was a teacher. I quit when I had kids. Now, like ten years later, I want pursue my PhD in psychology to fulfill my end goal of becoming a professor and/or having my own practice.
        Not sure how in tune you are with the current state of affairs in academia so I wanted to throw in a warning that academia is a really, really, really competitive and changing (for the worse) landscape and Fielding is not going to prepare you for anything beyond temporary contract adjunct positions (think Intro to Psych sections at random community colleges) that will likely pay you less than what you made as a teacher 10 years ago and without any benefits.

        It’s great to pursue goals and passions but make sure your expectations are aligned with typical outcomes for any educational path you commit to, especially if it ends up costing $200,000+ like Fielding.
         
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        AcronymAllergy

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          I've intermittently worked with a Fielding trainee or two and have reviewed applications for a handful more, and can say the training (in my experiences) left a lot to be desired. Even with the highly motivated students, their opportunities and program support appeared very limited and the former of highly variable quality, and they were fighting a very steep uphill battle relative to their peers from other programs in terms of competitiveness and competency.
           
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          Temperance

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            So. Fielding offers me the opportunity I need/want to do this. I can do the hybrid part in Santa Barbara or wherever else- I just can't go daily each week to a school all day.
            Even at Fielding's hybrid program, you would be expected to go to external practicum sites for clinical training, and those sites will likely expect you to work there in person once the pandemic passes if they aren't already providing face-to-face services. If going to campus is already an issue, then I would strongly consider how much you would be able to commit to possibly driving to multiple sites throughout the week.

            I empathize with the frustration of waiting for a decade for a chance at starting a new career. You mentioned wanting to be a professor and potentially having a private practice; do you want to do that in clinical psychology specifically? There are other human services fields that can afford you the same opportunities without going through a subpar and extremely expensive program like Fielding's.

            The people that are telling you it’s awful are better sources of information than actual graduates of the program. The people on this board make hiring decisions and will toss out Fielding students’ CVs because of the poor quality of the program. I’m certain that if you look hard enough you will find someone who will rave about the program. But keep in mind that former students might also be trying to convince themselves that they made the right decision.


            ^^These outcome stats are among the worst in our field. It’s a huge red flag.

            There are other ways to achieve your goals if you are location restricted. But if you are dead set on a PhD in Clinical, you will need to look elsewhere.
            To provide context for what @YoungFrancis means by "the worst in our field": on page 4, you can see the internship placement table. In the past five years, Fielding has placed between 50% and 75% of their students in an APA-accredited internship. This is objectively terrible. For comparison, the overwhelming majority of clinical Ph.D. programs place at least 90% of their students in APA-accredited internships. At least before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were more APA-accredited internship sites available than there were applicants, so it's deeply concerning when Fielding can place only three-fourths of their students at best.

            If you scroll down to the last page, then you'll see the licensure table. Only 75% of Fielding's graduates are passing the licensure exam. Why? To my recollection, they may explain this as many of their alumni not "needing" to take the licensing exam due to other careers, but, as noted by @summerbabe, Fielding graduates are, by and large, not becoming academic researchers (and even academic researchers are strongly encouraged to be licensed so that they can conduct clinical research).

            Don't let desperation cloud your judgment.
             
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              I've intermittently worked with a Fielding trainee or two and have reviewed applications for a handful more, and can say the training (in my experiences) left a lot to be desired. Even with the highly motivated students, their opportunities and program support appeared very limited and the former of highly variable quality, and they were fighting a very steep uphill battle relative to their peers from other programs in terms of competitiveness and competency.

              Seconded. I've worked with a few and have been generally unimpressed by training. I've heard there are coursework tracks depending on whether you psychoanalytic, cognitive behavioral, or humanistic/existential. Someone can verify, but I think that speaks volumes.
               
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              WisNeuro

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                Seconded. I've worked with a few and have been generally unimpressed by training. I've heard there are coursework tracks depending on whether you psychoanalytic, cognitive behavioral, or humanistic/existential. Someone can verify, but I think that speaks volumes.

                I have had two experiences personally with work experiences of Fielding grads at training levels. Both clinical products were absolutely terrible.
                 

                Therapist4Chnge

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                  Don't do it. Many never finish. Fewer get licensed. Then you need to convince someone to hire you bc most don't view Fielding as a real program (myself included). APA-acred is a bare minimum and states are getting stricter w requirements.
                   
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                  Sanman

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                    Don't take our word for it. Look at the CVs/resumes of faculty at universities you would like to be employed by in the future. Pay attention to their graduate programs, internships, and post docs. Look at how many times they moved. Look at the number of publications each has. Then think about whether you will be competitive for that job coming from Fielding. Are you ready to put in that kind of work?
                     
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                      I have had two experiences personally with work experiences of Fielding grads at training levels. Both clinical products were absolutely terrible.

                      Were these practicum students? I heard they had to look for their own prac sites, which can take them out of state sometimes.
                       

                      WisNeuro

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                        Were these practicum students? I heard they had to look for their own prac sites, which can take them out of state sometimes.

                        One was a prac student, one was a practicing "clinician" I came across in record review.
                         

                        PsyDr

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                          You should spend some time learning how the job works.

                          Professors get hired because they publish research. That publication history starts in undergrad, gets solidified in grad school, and leads to professorship. Most research requires an "institutional review board", per federal rules. You'll notice that "qualitative research" rarely requires an "institutional review board". And that most online schools talk about "qualitative research".

                          TL; DR: The school format is grossly incompatible with becoming a professor.

                          caveat: The only SDN action I have been threatened with a lawsuit is related to talking about online schools. And I talk a LOT of smack. Notice how Harvard doesn't threaten to sue? That should tell you something.
                           
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                          foreverbull

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                            So what if I only go into private practice. Does any of it matter then?

                            If I can get the internship - even with Fielding's program- can I go into private practice on my own and pretty much I do not have to worry about someone hiring me?
                            Not right after graduate school, no. You need to do your postdoc hours in California, so you’ll be applying to postdocs while on internship that are usually a year long fulltime. After you accrue 1500 postdoc hours in CA, you’ll need to apply for/pay for/study for for the EPPP and apply for/study for/take the CPLEE, and possibly take a few online courses if your program doesn’t offer the topics (chemical dependency, etc.—I think there are like 4 courses you need). Licensure will cost an upwards of $2000-$2500+ in California depending on cost of study materials, which courses you still need, licensure fees, exam fees, etc.

                            After that, if you have the funds to pay for your own business startup costs and have marketing savvy, then yes, it is possible to go into private practice.

                            As far as APA match rate, I’d go by the 5-10 year average match percent rather than one year. My program in another state got hit by a rough year of folks who chose not to apply to a broad range of sites across the US, but other years it was fine.

                            Other folks are being pretty blunt, but if you’re willing to drop dreams of academia, are you SURE you need a doctorate at all? You could get licensed at the master’s level after 2 years of fulltime coursework and a year or two of supervised practice beyond and then go into private practice as an LCSW or MFT.
                             
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                            lisajones81

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                              I don't want to drop dreams of academia, but I am trying to gauge what I can accomplish.

                              The closest university to me is Fuller Theological Seminary. They require a reference from a pastor etc. I'm actually from a very religious background so that is fine, but I was still hoping that Fielding would be doable for me.

                              The bluntness is fine. I am gambling a lot here. I've already invested about 6k in this goal by attending a university that has enabled me to work with a PI and his lab. I am first author on a poster we will present soon. He's going to let me pursue research topics of interest to me.

                              My GPA from undergrad was 3.9 and I minored in Psychology.

                              I'm an extremely resourceful person which is why I think maybe I am blinded to the possibility that I can't do something or that it isn't an option for me. I've been working crisis lines for over a year now and cannot think of anything else I would rather do more than this sort of work.

                              I do not want to be a marriage and family therapist. at all.

                              I want to work with children and adolescents within the realms of depression and suicidology.

                              I want to be able to diagnose mental illnesses and personality disorders.

                              So. if I can go to Fielding- get the internship- do the postbac hours locally and get research done with the fielding professors- and publish my research- then am I still doomed?

                              I appreciate these thorough answers. I do not want to waste time and money.

                              I would love to hear more of what you mean about requirements and how the APA accreditation is becoming insignificant etc. I'm not aware of the current hiring situation.
                               

                              summerbabe

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                                So. if I can go to Fielding- get the internship- do the postbac hours locally and get research done with the fielding professors- and publish my research- then am I still doomed?
                                For academia, almost certainly. The best way to build up a CV is to work with a PI who has a super active lab where you’d have access to data they have already collected, the infrastructure to collect new data, and access to colleagues such as other grad students in your program or PhD collaborators at other institutions who can loop you into publishable projects. And the Fielding model is not set up to provide this to the degree you'd need to pursue academia.

                                For reference, I looked up the CV of a grad school friend who was a research machine and is now a prof and was also successful in getting a gig near their childhood home. Before being hired, they had 11 or 12 peer reviewed articles (including 4 or 5 1st author), multiple book chapter contributions, and 30+ posters. She’s a rock star and published with some big names in that subfield so she’s probably not the median candidate but you’ll be competing against super qualified people nevertheless.

                                I have other friends who ended up ‘settling’ for clinical jobs rather than continue to pursue academia beyond grad school due to some combination of realizing they weren’t competitive enough and uncertainty if they wanted to continue that lifestyle (keep moving to random places for training/jobs, not having set work hours, poor pay for the profession).
                                I do not want to waste time and money.........I'm not aware of the current hiring situation.
                                Get really aware ASAP and figure out if the 'ideal' of what you want to do lines up with the average experience and what market realities one would realistically face. IMO, self-funding a private doctorate to seek a shrinking pool of tenure-track professor's gigs that almost certainly starts with a well below average salary for the field is a horrible financial decision even if you're successful in landing one of these gigs.
                                how the APA accreditation is becoming insignificant
                                APA accredited internships are 100% significant and not going away. @foreverbull was encouraging you to look at 5-10 year trends for how well programs match students to APA accredited internships. If you are geographically restricted and don’t match, you’ll have to decide if you will wait another year to re-apply or try to do an non-APA internship that will qualify for CA licensure. You'd be able to get licensed and can work in private practice but if you ever decided you wanted to stop working for yourself, a lot of agency-based jobs that pay set salaries and have solid benefits may be closed off permanently as many require an APA internship (hospitals, VAs, prisons, etc) so it's a gamble.
                                I want to work with children and adolescents within the realms of depression and suicidology. I want to be able to diagnose mental illnesses and personality disorders.
                                You do not need a PhD as LCSWs, licensed counselors, and MFTs all do these tasks clinically.
                                 
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                                foreverbull

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                                  I agree with @summerbabe. I wasn’t saying APA internship match rate wasn’t important, I was only saying one bad match year isn’t always indicative of a bad program—look at the past 5-10 years and average out the APA internship match rate.

                                  I’m wondering if you have a misconception about MFTs and what a master’s in it will prepare you to do, perhaps? Plenty of MFTs I know work with children and adolescents (or adults only, and not necessarily couples work), and I know several MFTs in private practice. As far as personality disorders, you will have to make sure you have a practicum (clinical work) or internship or postgraduate hours in a setting in which your supervisor specializes in a/some personality disorder(s) for you to get appropriate training as a specialty if that’s what you’d like to work with regularly (are you JUST wanting to diagnose it often as in providing formal personality assessments and reports but not providing ongoing therapy? Then that’s a different ballgame entirely that would require a doctorate to provide formal assessment services. You can, however, diagnose personality disorders with a master’s degree if it’s clearcut and there’s no ambiguity in the client’s presentation). Inpatient settings might be a good bet for more experience with personality disorders should you hope to specialize. But it’s partially on you to make sure you get that experience as part of your training if you want that skill.

                                  MFT degrees provide a background in therapy with a little coursework in family/couples therapy and family systems, as far as I know, but they also still train you in general counseling skills and diagnosis so you have flexibility. It’s the most common counseling degree in California (an MA in Counseling is less popular in the state), but in practice is not much different from an MA in counseling or a clinical SW degree (except LCSW’s have more flexibility in terms of roles and settings they can work in and a different training foundation).
                                   
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                                  NeuroJaguar

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                                    Sounds like you would be a good fit for a Master's in Social Work to become an LCSW. As an LCSW, assuming you get clinical experience in the settings you want to work in during your training and unlicensed supervised years, you will be qualified to work with children and adolescents with depression and suicidality, as well as to diagnose conditions in the DSM. You may also then be qualified to teach as an adjunct professor at Social Work programs. Since you don't have geographic flexibility, I really don't think a clinical psychology doctorate is going to work out for you. To get good training, you need to be able to move around the country various times. Fielding is not going to prepare you for the career you want to have. It will be a waste of money and time. I don't hear anything that you want to do that you can't do as an LCSW, except be deeply involved in academia, which in my experience inherently involves geographic flexibility. You can certainly work with the populations you want to work with, in the ways that you want to work with them as an LCSW, all with your geographic limitation.
                                     
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                                    Mindfulpsych22

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                                      Yes. I have worked in settings that primarily treat suicidal youth and the clinicians are a mix of master's level and doctoral level providers. They do the exact same clinical duties. I did a google search of DBT programs in the LA area (these will be programs that specialize in treating suicidal youth and personality disorders) and you can see that many of the staff are masters level clinicians: Therapists – Westside DBT CBT California. I think getting some sort of professor gig with a Fielding Doctorate and the limitations you mentioned will be far-fetched but you can have the exact clinical career you want by going to a reputable master's program and being strategic with your practicum and post-degree training opportunities. IMO, this is the best use of your time and money.
                                       
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                                      lisajones81

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                                        Thank you everyone. This is a wealth of information for me.

                                        One thing I don't think I fully understand is-- why does the training for academia require moving about the country? I've seen this mentioned a few times in this thread and I don't think I've accepted and/or understand it.

                                        So let's say I earn my PhD and license from Fielding and then what? Those postdoc hours of training require moving to different places?
                                         

                                        lisajones81

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                                          Also- what do you think about this?

                                          Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) and clinical psychologists both have the goal of helping patients with their problems through evaluation and treatment. The main difference between LCSW and psychologist job duties lies in the authority that clinical psychologists may have to prescribe certain specific medications and to perform psychological testing. These in-demand counseling occupations also differ in the type of graduate degree needed and expected wages. Clinical psychologists have a doctoral education that leads to a higher salary than what LCSWs make, while LCSWs have slightly better career prospects in terms of job growth and ease of entry into the occupation.

                                          This is obviously a cut/paste, but my motivation is decreased with the thought of pursuing a LCSW rather than a PhD for many of the reasons listed above.
                                           
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                                          lisajones81

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                                            Also- what do you think about this?

                                            Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) and clinical psychologists both have the goal of helping patients with their problems through evaluation and treatment. The main difference between LCSW and psychologist job duties lies in the authority that clinical psychologists may have to prescribe certain specific medications and to perform psychological testing. These in-demand counseling occupations also differ in the type of graduate degree needed and expected wages. Clinical psychologists have a doctoral education that leads to a higher salary than what LCSWs make, while LCSWs have slightly better career prospects in terms of job growth and ease of entry into the occupation.

                                            This is obviously a cut/paste, but my motivation is decreased with the thought of pursuing a LCSW rather than a PhD for many of the reasons listed above.
                                            Also- I am aware that only psychiatrists or doctors can prescribe medication in California.
                                             

                                            summerbabe

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                                              why does the training for academia require moving about the country?
                                              Academia and becoming an expert in a subfield of psychology is a really specialized training process/career, as opposed to becoming a social worker or mechanic so people end up relocating to attend funded programs and work with PIs with aligned interests and a track record of mentoring students who go on to find jobs in academia rather than whatever program is closest.

                                              Then, people will relocate again to attend internship and potentially a research postdoc before heading out on the job market. Some may move again within a few years after getting their initial assistant professorship in search of better opportunities (salary, research funding, geography).

                                              I was raised in the Bay Area and did my PhD at a state school in the deep south. Of the 25+ professors in our various psych PhD programs, I think only like 3 or 4 were originally from the state or region. Everybody else was a transplant and came there for the job and then settled (or were looking to move on elsewhere for a better gig).
                                               
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                                              Therapist4Chnge

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                                                One thing I don't think I fully understand is-- why does the training for academia require moving about the country? I've seen this mentioned a few times in this thread and I don't think I've accepted and/or understand it.
                                                Around 90% of PhDs are clinicians...most by choice, but there are some who *want* to be paid to be full-time researchers, but they weren't competitive and/or there were no openings for their area of research. They may still be able to "volunteer" w a uni affiliated project or less likely get paid a bit from the grant that is funding the research....which let's them so some research, but it's very diff than running your own lab/group.

                                                Most faculty positions are recruited within a specific area of research, though some are advertised as "open"....but to snag an open spot you need to have a stacked CV amongst stacked CVs. A psych dept may have an opening, but they are looking for someone who's research is related to substance abuse. So the ppl applying would be working in that area, AND should already have grant funding or have shown a history of being able to secure the right kind of grants (there are numerous).

                                                Securing a grant is hard, but it's even more competitive now. A big piece that most prospective students don't know is how important grants are in the grand scope of things if you want to be an academic. Those dollars pay for their spot. Almost all faculty positions prioritize grant funding and publications above teaching. Some unis don't even pretend that teaching is in the top 3-4 things they want. Smaller liberal arts colleges may emphasize teaching more, but they are competitive for ppl who want that foci.
                                                 
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                                                  I do not want to be a marriage and family therapist. at all.

                                                  I want to work with children and adolescents within the realms of depression and suicidology.

                                                  I want to be able to diagnose mental illnesses and personality disorders.

                                                  Get an LCSW. So the clinical things you mentioned. Easiest path. Some higher ed places in that state let mid levels adjunct teach. You can join a PI's lab and help with research but that would be a commitment and you wouldn't have the skills to do it independently. Probably get paid with their grant money here and there. Being connected to a college/uni will set you up for this and making connections.

                                                  One thing I don't think I fully understand is-- why does the training for academia require moving about the country? I've seen this mentioned a few times in this thread and I don't think I've accepted and/or understand it.

                                                  Grad school is extremely competitive. Less than 10% acceptance rate to good programs. In traditional models you don't apply based solely on location. You apply for research labs/PIs whose work you are also interested and involved in. That could be anywhere.

                                                  Internship is a national matching system done by a computer. You have a say but you also do not.

                                                  Postdoc is more in your control, dependent on many factors.

                                                  On the job market, clinical work gives you flexibility in location choice. In academia, if you are fortunate enough to even get a job talk or job offer, it could be anywhere. If you want a job, you take it. Many do no get academic jobs and have to do additional postdocs, research type gigs, adjunct work, or other types of things to continue to build their research base, grant funding, and teaching evals. The importance of all these things depends on the type of academic instituion one is applying to (e.g. RI, SLAC)
                                                   
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                                                  PsyDr

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                                                    ***** You have not spent enough time learning about how the profession works. This is a HUGE mistake that will affect you. This is almost a 10 year commitment, with a median debt load of ~100k. If you cannot be bothered to commit 20 hours to learning how things like internship works, you will likely be unable to commit the time needed to successfully complete a program*****

                                                    1) You might benefit from reading about the required career path. Internship is more like residency for physicians. You cannot graduate without an internship. This is not like a college "internship", where you get someone in your city to make one up. This is a highly formalized process, where there are places that have spent hundreds of hours and tons of money to become an internship site, that is registered with the formal educational body that accredits internships. There are a limited number of internships sites, and those places get their pick of the litter. You apply to one of the available sites, interview, and get "matched" to one of those on "match day". After you complete internship, you graduate. But you're not licensed. So, once you graduate, you have to complete a post doc to get licensed. If you specialize, there are formal training requirements for those as well.

                                                    2) Academia is a ridiculous profession, where your real worth is publishing research. Teaching is more of an additional duty. To get hired, you have to show that you have a history of publishing research. But, you also have to get grant money to finance your research. Guess how grants determine who to give money to? How much the applicant has published. The universities, therefore, hire established researchers who stay in those positions forever unless they are offered awesome gigs in cool places. And then grad students teach. Because everyone wants to live in the cities, the job openings are in like... IDK...northern Idaho. And community colleges pay almost minimum wage.

                                                    3) I would be VERY concerned if you thought you could work full time during grad school.

                                                    4) Private practice is running a small business. It's not a simple matter. There are start up costs, gaps in your schedule, and variability in pay. The entire, "I'll only see patients while my kids are in school" thing is nonsense.
                                                     
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                                                    WisNeuro

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                                                      4) Private practice is running a small business. It's not a simple matter. There are start up costs, gaps in your schedule, and variability in pay. The entire, "I'll only see patients while my kids are in school" thing is nonsense.

                                                      Maybe if the OP only wants to see elderly, retired individuals on Medicare, they could make a "school schedule" practice work. Otherwise, yeah, almost everyone wants appointments 3PM or later.
                                                       

                                                      PsyDr

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                                                        Maybe if the OP only wants to see elderly, retired individuals on Medicare, they could make a "school schedule" practice work. Otherwise, yeah, almost everyone wants appointments 3PM or later.

                                                        Some of my cohort REALLY hated me asking about how a practice could work, if they only had 2-3 billable hours per normal work day. The professor who taught me about the business of psychology thought it was very funny.
                                                         
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                                                        WisNeuro

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                                                          Some of my cohort REALLY hated me asking about how a practice could work, if they only had 2-3 billable hours per normal work day. The professor who taught me about the business of psychology thought it was very funny.

                                                          Hey, 2-3 billable hours could work. Well, if the provider wanted to barely clear overhead costs.
                                                           

                                                          Therapist4Chnge

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                                                            Some of my cohort REALLY hated me asking about how a practice could work, if they only had 2-3 billable hours per normal work day. The professor who taught me about the business of psychology thought it was very funny.
                                                            Hire some mid-levels to do the heavy lifting and spend most of the biz hours running the day to day?
                                                             
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                                                            NeuroJaguar

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                                                              Also are there reputable online master's programs online?
                                                              The thing about learning counseling/clinical skills is that you need to learn them face to face. If you want to work with suicidal adolescents, you will need to train in a setting that has this population, like an inpatient unit or a partial day program or a residential program - and work with the clients and receive supervision in the setting. Even for a MSW program, if the classes were online, I'd expect that you'd need to go in person to a practicum site 2-3 days per week for full days to gain this clinical experience. (Reputable clinical psychology doctoral programs are going to have even fewer remote days/opportunities, because many aspects of research will need to be in person.)
                                                               
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                                                              foreverbull

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                                                                To summarize what folks are saying: academia is EXTREMELY competitive, even for folks from far more reputable schools than Fielding, and usually the end result is living wherever the job is in the US. It will be difficult if not impossible to become a tenure-track professor with a Fielding degree.

                                                                Private practice can take YEARS to build (mine took a few years to fill up a small part-time practice), and you may lose money initially given the costs to start (insurances, office, furniture, marketing/websites, etc.). It’s expensive if you start out without another job as a cushion for sure, and will require another source of income initially (ie a spouse). It’s doable, but only if you’re patient and willing to spend a lot of unpaid hours researching as you go.

                                                                The other important point that folks are making regards the difficulty of graduate school in terms of investment of time, energy, and money, and aptitude. Online programs in our field are, to put it bluntly, willing to take pretty much anyone for money without a care for what happens on the other side. Which is a problem. That means no quality control in terms of who should and shouldn’t be practicing, and possibly harm to clients and our entire profession at the other side. Acceptance rates shouldn’t be high for graduate school because it requires a special subset of skills and aptitudes. People don’t work full-time during grad school because grad school IS the focus. Part-time work is common, but definitely not full-time in reputable programs, regardless of whether they are masters or doctorates.

                                                                You aren’t the first person in here who wants to get a graduate degree and wants to sort of do it on the side while life is happening because why shouldn’t we have it all?Unfortunately, that isn’t how grad school works when people take it seriously. It takes sacrifices. For folks not prepared to make those sacrifices, they get a rude awakening when they actually realize how much time, money, and energy it will cost them. Not to mention the delay of waiting several years before making a decent income between grad school, supervised practice before licensure, and then being paid less as an early career professional once you get out.

                                                                OP, I’d suggest that you take some time to reflect on how many years you’re willing to sacrifice to your future career prospects and consider which path will make the most sense for you.

                                                                Bottom line, online programs are not the way to go. Most of us wish they'd be shut down to protect students, the public, and our profession as a whole, but because they aren’t regulated, they prey on “busy” people who want to get an advanced degree but don’t know the ropes of how the system works (and allow folks who wouldn’t otherwise get into grad school at all because they lack the aptitude, ethics, drive, etc.).

                                                                California is also a state completely saturated with master’s level therapists and psychologists. Attending a terrible program will immediately make you less competitive out of the gate even before the interview stage of getting a job (when they see your resume/CV). And I say that as a psychologist who had some difficulty getting an adjunct teaching gig in this state coming from a reputable APA-accredited program out of state. I was shocked by the number of applications that never even received a response.

                                                                As I said, give things some more thought (consider the costs and benefits and sacrifices), and perhaps that will help you decide the best path for yourself?
                                                                 
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                                                                cara susanna

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                                                                  Academia and becoming an expert in a subfield of psychology is a really specialized training process/career, as opposed to becoming a social worker or mechanic so people end up relocating to attend funded programs and work with PIs with aligned interests and a track record of mentoring students who go on to find jobs in academia rather than whatever program is closest.

                                                                  Then, people will relocate again to attend internship and potentially a research postdoc before heading out on the job market. Some may move again within a few years after getting their initial assistant professorship in search of better opportunities (salary, research funding, geography).

                                                                  I was raised in the Bay Area and did my PhD at a state school in the deep south. Of the 25+ professors in our various psych PhD programs, I think only like 3 or 4 were originally from the state or region. Everybody else was a transplant and came there for the job and then settled (or were looking to move on elsewhere for a better gig).

                                                                  Yes, I did my internship in a large metropolitan area in SoCal and pretty much everyone there was originally from California but had gone out of state of training. A few of us, myself included, were not even from California originally.

                                                                  It's hard enough to stay in the same state for all of your psychology training, but especially difficult in that region, which is crazy competitive.

                                                                  Edit: This is a little late, but it wasn't actually my internship - it was my post doc.
                                                                   
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                                                                  DynamicDidactic

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                                                                    If you really want to get into the field of mental health, start with a master's program. Find a flexible, part time program near you. Once you have finished the program and get licensed you can start working in the field. You can come back and continue onto a doctoral program later in life. You can even find work teaching as a master's-level instructor. This would be the safer route to start out with. It gets you back into school, it will get you acquainted with the mental health field, and it helps you avoid potential major pitfalls.

                                                                    Remember, the posters on this board have little reason to dissuade you (so, if they are you should take stock of that). People that work or have attended these programs are going to be much more biased by their experiences.
                                                                     
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                                                                    iheartbacon

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                                                                      One of my friends graduated from Fielding and is a licensed psychologist. She seems to be doing okay. She was also relatively limited in her options (also a mom), and was looking at only online programs; I think Fielding is the only APA-accredited one, so it was her preferred option. You might be able to search for students of the program on LinkedIn to connect and ask their experience if you are having a difficult time finding people who attended the program to give you feedback. Otherwise, perhaps if you contact Fielding directly, they would know of students willing to speak with you. I am older, with multiple children, and it has definitely been a challenge. This year has been the hardest actually, with spending a lot of time working on my dissertation and internship applications, as it is the most time I've had to give up spending with my kids, and next year will be even harder at a full-time internship (assuming I match). I believe California offers some part-time internships. Otherwise, as many others before me have noted, there are other avenues to pursue the same goal if you think a doctoral program would not work at this time. Wishing you the best with your journey!
                                                                       

                                                                      theSteppenwolf

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                                                                        I would like to stress that the feedback you’ve received thus far is grounded not only in providing reasoned guidance to you but playing a gate-keeper function for the profession. I think everyone can understand the constraints that people sometimes have in their lives and how they can make shortcuts seem reasonable and attractive. I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find respected professionals in this field (or those of us in process) who will validate or even loosely support a decision to take a shortcut. Such paths shortchange the student, the clients they potentially serve, and anyone else to whom they offer professional services. It can be difficult to see all the factors at play from the outside looking in where training is concerned. You’ve made a smart choice by seeking out input from those who have already traversed this path.
                                                                         
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