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First post here. I intend to apply to either an MSW or PsyD program in the fall. My personal therapist is an LCSW and she has cautioned me away from seeking a MSW in favor of the PsyD for the following reasons:

1. Over-saturation of MSW/LCSW's (especially in CA)
2. Diminished rigor of clinical training in MSW
3. Lesser pay and job satisfaction (burn-out inability to attain certain positions etc)

I was shocked when she shared this with me, however I am partial to the PsyD because I feel like it might carry more weight than the MSW. I would only consider a reputable PsyD programs such as Pepperdine, Palo Alto-Stanford Consortium, or the Wright Institute. Are these viable options? I am not too averse to research as I currently work as a Research Coordinator, but I feel that PhD level research would drive me crazy.

My GPA is lower (3.1) due to a traumatic experience that I explain in my statements. I haven't taken the GRE yet but I plan on knocking it out of the park (fingers crossed.) I have a wealth of research experience, including two conference appearances and Volunteer work for a suicide hotline. I am also a certified mental health advocate.

I want to avoid debt, but I am not afraid of a price tag if I can have the most positive impact on the field and on my patients. Thoughts?
 
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R. Matey

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but I feel that PhD level research would drive me crazy.

Can you say more about this? A Ph.D. would be the most financially responsible option and offer you the greatest flexibility in your career. There are a few Psy.Ds that offer partial funding but I don't think there are any in CA that do this.
 
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I'd wager that the psychologist oversaturation is just as bad as the SW oversaturation in CA. Due to the lax standards for programs and licensure out there, there is a reason that a great deal of the diploma mills live there. As to what you should do, depends on your career goals. Only want to do therapy? Stick with a SW degree.
 
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Can you say more about this? A Ph.D. would be the most financially responsible option and offer you the greatest flexibility in your career. There are a few Psy.Ds that offer partial funding but I don't think there are any in CA that do this.
Truthfully, I am afraid that my GPA will rule me out of consideration for the PhD programs that I am interested in. Additionally, I currently work with Clinical PhD's who have shared with me that the exhausting rigor of the research in these programs should be something you commit to wholeheartedly. I'm not sure I can say that confidently just yet. I don't want to be lazy, but I also know that I require a balanced (or heavily clinical) PhD program to thrive. I eventually would like to be the owner of a private practice and director of my own clinic which would conduct research in partnership with the under-served communities that my clinic would serve. I want to be able to add to the field when I am able to while primarily focusing on clinical practice. (As I am writing this out I am realizing that PhD is ideal, I just feel my GPA is holding me back)
 

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I would only consider a reputable PsyD programs such as Pepperdine, Palo Alto-Stanford Consortium, or the Wright Institute. Are these viable options?

I want to avoid debt, but I am not afraid of a price tag if I can have the most positive impact on the field and on my patients. Thoughts?

Those are viable options. Expensive as you know, but respected well enough in CA. I think U San Francisco also has a newish PsyD program. Stay away from online programs!
 
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I'd wager that the psychologist oversaturation is just as bad as the SW oversaturation in CA. Due to the lax standards for programs and licensure out there, there is a reason that a great deal of the diploma mills live there. As to what you should do, depends on your career goals. Only want to do therapy? Stick with a SW degree.
Thank you for your feedback. I want to be a GREAT clinician and I want all the training I can possibly get to become that. I eventually would like to be the owner of a private practice and director of my own clinic which would conduct research in partnership with the under-served communities that my clinic would serve. (Looking at efficacy of EBP's with different cultural identities and exploring new treatment practices) I want to be able to add to the field when I am able to while primarily focusing on clinical practice. I love research as a means for pushing the field of psychology into the future, I just struggle with impatience with the process. I am afraid that LCSW licensure would limit my ability to accomplish these goals.
 

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Thank you for your feedback. I want to be a GREAT clinician and I want all the training I can possibly get to become that. I eventually would like to be the owner of a private practice and director of my own clinic which would conduct research in partnership with the under-served communities that my clinic would serve. (Looking at efficacy of EBP's with different cultural identities and exploring new treatment practices) I want to be able to add to the field when I am able to while primarily focusing on clinical practice. I love research as a means for pushing the field of psychology into the future, I just struggle with impatience with the process. I am afraid that LCSW licensure would limit my ability to accomplish these goals.

I will add that it is exceedingly difficult to meaningfully engage in research while in private practice. I can honestly only think of one person who does it without having an accompanying university position. Also, I would really crunch the numbers. If you are private practice, you do not qualify for most types of loan forgiveness. If you go the PsyD route without funding, that level of debt will limit what you can do. For example, you will definitely not have time to conduct research as it will be uncompensated. Honestly, with loan payments and overhead (rent, billing support, EMR costs, etc), you may find your budget being pretty slim, even with a full clinical load.

In the end, you'll have to figure out what you want to do, and how feasible it is given the path you take. Additionally, run the numbers. Most do not, and they are very sorry for that fact when the bill comes due.
 
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I think you might be right, I can pursue an LCSW and have much less debt than a PsyD. Then if I want more research opportunities/ find it necessary for financial reasons I can go back and get my PhD in Clinical Psychology or DSW. I know I will have a better GPA in grad school anyway and I should be able to open a private practice upon receiving my LCSW, which is halfway to my goal. Thank you all so much!
 
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I would encourage you to pursue a degree that sets you up to be able to practice what you would like to practice.

There are so many options, this might not be helpful, but this is accurate.

A Doctorate in Clinical Psychology allows you to become a Clinical Psychologist. As a Clinical Psychologist you can become an expert witness in a courtroom, you can perform forensic diagnosis, you can administer some tests and measures such as the MMPI (that you cannot as a Master Level Clinician), but as far as your ability to work with clients in any other setting - it is the same. You are paid the same, but likely with a lot more debt.

As a Social Worker in the Healthcare field, I have the honor and the privilege of working with patients who have medical concerns and I enjoy helping them with adhering to their treatment plan provided by their Physician. As a Medical Social Worker, I don't give medical advice. I just help my patients meet their medical goals through case management and light psychotherapy. Medical Social Workers bridge gaps and help patients realize that they got this.

Usually these patients would need psychotherapy to cope with what they were facing in their medical situation. As a Licensed Social Worker, I could just provide Mental Health counseling myself as a Master's Level Clinician. Sure, it is in my scope of practice, but I already have a niche in that I am here to help in managing complex medical cases, often with co-morbid conditions. I leave the psychotherapy to another master's level clinician who is a part of the team.

Case management can be done by a physician - if they have the time (which they usually do not). It can be done by another mental health professional technically, but I have never heard of an Intensive Care or Primary Care Psychologist.

This is not to say that Healthcare Social Workers are superior to anyone, I just LOVE being one.
 
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Case management can be done by a physician - if they have the time (which they usually do not). It can be done by another mental health professional technically, but I have never heard of an Intensive Care or Primary Care Psychologist.

There are a lot of psychologists working in primary care settings. However, their roles tend to be a little different. They are not providing much case management, and they are often involved in family medicine residency programs where they serve as teaching faculty. (I know some doctoral level social workers who serve in this type of role too.) They also provide patient care and supervise trainees.

There are only a handful of psychologists working in the ICU setting, and their roles tend to be focused on direct patient care and not case management.
 
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as far as your ability to work with clients in any other setting - it is the same. You are paid the same, but likely with a lot more debt.

Absolutely not true at all. I speak from experience. I worked several years as a licensed master level clinician before going back for my doctorate. Your ability to work with clients is not the same at all. The level of depth in theoretical frameworks, case conceptualization and intellectual growth that you gain in a doctoral program is much more rigorous than master level training. The pay is higher (40-50K average MA vs 90-100K average Doc), and there is of course a tittle that comes along with it, which will make you a lot more marketable especially if you plan to go into private practice. You also have more flexibility, i.e. therapy, testing, research, teaching, consulting, etc. As far as debt goes, there are many accredited doctoral programs all over the county that provide funding. Good luck!
 
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Absolutely not true at all. I speak from experience. I worked several years as a licensed master level clinician before going back for my doctorate. Your ability to work with clients is not the same at all. The level of depth in theoretical frameworks, case conceptualization and intellectual growth that you gain in a doctoral program is much more rigorous than master level training. The pay is higher (40-50K average MA vs 90-100K average Doc), and there is of course a tittle that comes along with it, which will make you a lot more marketable especially if you plan to go into private practice. You also have more flexibility, i.e. therapy, testing, research, teaching, consulting, etc. As far as debt goes, there are many accredited doctoral programs all over the county that provide funding. Good luck!
Thank you for this response, this is exactly what I was most concerned about. I figured that the level of rigor and focus on EBP's was just not not equivalent to Doctoral Programs. I have been looking to pursuing a MS in Counseling and Mental Health Services from UPenn. This program is a spring board into Doctoral Psych programs and I feel it could give me some of the extra prep I'm looking for before applying to Clinical Psych or Counseling Psychology programs. I could also apply for my LPC license if I decide to take a break in between programs. I am drawn to the flexibility a doctoral degree provides and I don't want to end up frustrated with the limitations of a Masters level degree. I understand that with an MSW I can seek out additional training to increase my competencies, but I would prefer to enter the work force fully equipped.
 
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As someone said above, which degree you seek really depends on what you want to do. If you want to do primarily or exclusively clinical work (as mentioned above, research is difficult in private practice because it is entirely uncompensated- i.e., you're working for free) and you want to do therapy (not assessment) in a rather specialized niche, you may be able to find a master's level program that focuses on that area and then also seek out additional EBP training as a much more sound decision financially and with respect to time/sweat/tears. A good social worker, especially with a specialized area of expertise, is (in my experience) just as well-respected as a good doctoral-level practitioner. In my area of work, master's level folks do almost all of the ongoing therapy, and psychologists do almost all of the diagnostic assessments (because there are many measures you must have a doctoral degree to administer/interpret, and the insurance reimbursement for assessment is substantially higher than for therapy). If you want to do things like IQ tests and get reimbursed by insurance, in most (not all) states you need to be a licensed psychologist. But if it's primarily ongoing therapy you are interested in, you might still consider social work. The best piece of advice, if you are willing to hear it, is to be geographically flexible so you can get the best training in your area of interest regardless of which path you take, and to be willing to consider moving to areas that are less over-saturated. Most of california is over-saturated with both masters- and doctoral-level folks (see above comment about the diploma mills in CA). Don't put yourself in crippling debt, no matter what path you take, because the emotional toll (and physical, if you must work longer hours or multiple jobs to make ends meet) will certainly detract from your ability to be a good therapist (and one who is also able to maintain a workable work/life balance). Good luck!
 
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I think you might be right, I can pursue an LCSW and have much less debt than a PsyD. Then if I want more research opportunities/ find it necessary for financial reasons I can go back and get my PhD in Clinical Psychology or DSW. I know I will have a better GPA in grad school anyway and I should be able to open a private practice upon receiving my LCSW, which is halfway to my goal. Thank you all so much!

Why not become an LPC and get a masters degree? They're much better trained to be a therapist than MSWs
 
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Why not become an LPC and get a masters degree? They're much better trained to be a therapist than MSWs
I've heard this both ways. From what I've read in the forums, masters level clinicians vary greatly. It really seems to depend on the individual's willingness to seek out supervision and supplemental learning opportunities. I am interested in possibly going the LPC route, as I have been looking to pursuing a MS in Counseling and Mental Health Services from UPenn. This program is a spring board into Doctoral Psych programs and I feel it could give me some of the extra prep I'm looking for before applying to Clinical Psych or Counseling Psychology programs. I could also apply for my LPC license if I decide to take a break in between programs.

What makes you say LPC's are better trained in therapy than MSW's?
 

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Why not become an LPC and get a masters degree? They're much better trained to be a therapist than MSWs

This is highly program dependent. There are also better opportunities for social workers than there are for LPCs. Even if you do get better training at a quality master's in counseling program, no one is going to care enough to pick you out of a sea of LPCs who received either the same or worse. If you just want to do therapy and that's it, it's better to stick with a MSW program and seek out specialized training while you're accruing hours for licensure.
 
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This is highly program dependent. There are also better opportunities for social workers than there are for LPCs. Even if you do get better training at a quality master's in counseling program, no one is going to care enough to pick you out of a sea of LPCs who received either the same or worse. If you just want to do therapy and that's it, it's better to stick with a MSW program and seek out specialized training while you're accruing hours for licensure.

I received the opposite advice from someone with a Masters in Social Work. Having a MSW may make you eligible for other areas in the field; however, if you only want to do counseling, you're better off doing LPC.
 

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I've heard this both ways. From what I've read in the forums, masters level clinicians vary greatly. It really seems to depend on the individual's willingness to seek out supervision and supplemental learning opportunities. I am interested in possibly going the LPC route, as I have been looking to pursuing a MS in Counseling and Mental Health Services from UPenn. This program is a spring board into Doctoral Psych programs and I feel it could give me some of the extra prep I'm looking for before applying to Clinical Psych or Counseling Psychology programs. I could also apply for my LPC license if I decide to take a break in between programs.

What makes you say LPC's are better trained in therapy than MSW's?

Because LPCs spend 2 years focusing fully on therapy. Social work is not nearly as focused on therapy because the field is very broad. As a general rule, LPCs are better prepared for therapy. That's not only been true for me both as a patient and a clinician, but I've had social workers who work in therapy tell me this too. It's obvious as a masters in social work doesn't focus primarily on therapy. Sure, there will always be outliers in terms of both individual clinicians and programs, but as a general rule, all things become equal, LPC > MSW for therapy. There are certainly other things to consider, like career flexibility if you're burned out on therapy as well as reimbursement. Medicare doesn't pay for therapy with LPCs. This doesn't make sense given their more extensive training in therapy. One has to look at the pros and cons of both.
 
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I received the opposite advice from someone with a Masters in Social Work. Having a MSW may make you eligible for other areas in the field; however, if you only want to do counseling, you're better off doing LPC.

Lol. I'm an LPC. What does that do to your qualitative sample?

Because LPCs spend 2 years focusing fully on therapy. Social work is not nearly as focused on therapy because the field is very broad. As a general rule, LPCs are better prepared for therapy. That's not only been true for me both as a patient and a clinician, but I've had social workers who work in therapy tell me this too. It's obvious as a masters in social work doesn't focus primarily on therapy. Sure, there will always be outliers in terms of both individual clinicians and programs, but as a general rule, all things become equal, LPC > MSW for therapy. There are certainly other things to consider, like career flexibility if you're burned out on therapy as well as reimbursement. Medicare doesn't pay for therapy with LPCs. This doesn't make sense given their more extensive training in therapy. One has to look at the pros and cons of both.

It's true that the classroom education is more focused on psychotherapy, but it's also true that social workers have a better lobby and better access to opportunities to desirable therapist positions than LPCs namely hospital and outpatient clinic positions. Take it from someone who's been an LPC in a highly desirable city and felt the limitations. Social workers also make more money than LPCs.

Talk to most LPCs that did an undergrad in psych and they'll tell you that the training received in LPC programs is highly redundant to what they received in undergrad. This is because many programs don't require undergraduate coursework in psychology to apply for the master's program so they have to somehow catch their students up and training them to be therapists--all in two to three years. What this looks like practically is some basic training in reflective listening and a casual understanding of psychotherapeutic systems (some of which are pretty suspicious anyways). I'm not saying that there are not good master's programs out there, but programs don't have to be nationally accredited to obtain licensure in many states leading to varying degrees of quality in the training. And the accreditation system that does exist (e.g.: CACREP) has not been able to justify that its graduates do any better on the NCE or any other metric than non-accredited programs. Because of this, the reputations that LPCs have among healthcare providers is not good with the general perception that: "there are some good ones out there, but most aren't." Don't just take my word for it, search the psych forums and you'll see for yourself. This perceptions is what leads us to being kept out of many positions where good training may occur.

So, if I'm 22 years old and want to help people and not spend forever in school, I'd opt for the degree that gives me the most options including a better chance to receive quality training in psychotherapy once I'm done.
 
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Lol. I'm an LPC. What does that do to your qualitative sample?



It's true that the classroom education is more focused on psychotherapy, but it's also true that social workers have a better lobby and better access to opportunities to desirable therapist positions than LPCs namely hospital and outpatient clinic positions. Take it from someone who's been an LPC in a highly desirable city and felt the limitations.

When I was deciding which route to go (LCSW vs LPC) I was frustrated by all this. One has seemingly better training, the other a better political lobby. I knew I wanted to deal in health psychology, so only clear option in the state we were moving to was LCSW. I felt it would be necessary to bill Medicare in my case too. Also LCSW seemed to have better reciprocity between states and this was also a concern (at the time hahaha).

So we move, and a long time friend of the family sits me down and starts lecturing me about I NEED to get an LCSW and don’t worry it’s not too late to switch. She is an LBP (similar to LPC in our state). I said, “uh, I’m already enrolled in the MSW program...” She was so ready for the fight she didn’t even stop to ask about where I was going hahaha. She outlined all the things you did R. Matey.

Then when I was in my MSW program, I had a cohort member who was married to an LPC. Every time we started complaining about a perceived fault in education he would remind us it wasn’t always greener on the other side :) his wife was the one who advised him against an LPC.

I really do think opportunities in each state are highly variable like OP mentioned, and one should really research licensing laws in the state they want to practice in.

Unpopular opinion: I ended up with and MSW and actually enjoyed my jack-of-all-trades curriculum. I love love love the perspective. I don’t think it’s a better route for everyone, but the profession is definitely a great compliment to a well rounded team.
 
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If you're a mid-level clinician whose formal education did not emphasize psychotherapy e.g. many MSW programs, and want to further your psychotherapy skills, if you live in a metro that has multiple hospitals there may be a psychoanalytic institute where you can learn and hone your talk therapy toolbox. There are also online sites like psychwire that offers classes in various modalities like CBT, ACT and DBT. There may also be in-person training for DBT or other therapuetic modalities through your local univeristy that has yearly programs or fellowships for working mental health professionals. Add in play therapy programs too. The training doesn't stop after you graduate.

With relavent experience and quality supervision an MSW can become a skilled psychotherapist and rightfully earn those letters of LCSW.
 
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Absolutely not true at all. I speak from experience. I worked several years as a licensed master level clinician before going back for my doctorate. Your ability to work with clients is not the same at all. The level of depth in theoretical frameworks, case conceptualization and intellectual growth that you gain in a doctoral program is much more rigorous than master level training. The pay is higher (40-50K average MA vs 90-100K average Doc), and there is of course a tittle that comes along with it, which will make you a lot more marketable especially if you plan to go into private practice. You also have more flexibility, i.e. therapy, testing, research, teaching, consulting, etc. As far as debt goes, there are many accredited doctoral programs all over the county that provide funding. Good luck!
I am an MSW earning well in excess of the figures you quote.
 
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Lol, this thread is a year old and now we have optometry students weighing in on it. Go to the highest quality, lowest cost program you can get into with your CV. The truth is that salaries range and money has more to do with client payment method (medicaid/medicare vs private insurance vs cash pay) than with skills or degree. I always suggest MSW over LPC because being able to bill Medicare means you will not starve. Beyond that, a good MSW from a solid program that is well trained and given more opportunities can easily earn as much as a PsyD from a middling to poor program. It has more to do with the opportunities you are given and how you use them.

If you want to stay in California, I would speak to people and consider whether mental health overall is a field you want to pursue given the current cost of living there and mental health paying poorly overall.
 
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Lol, this thread is a year old and now we have optometry students weighing in on it. Go to the highest quality, lowest cost program you can get into with your CV. The truth is that salaries range and money has more to do with client payment method (medicaid/medicare vs private insurance vs cash pay) than with skills or degree. I always suggest MSW over LPC because being able to bill Medicare means you will not starve. Beyond that, a good MSW from a solid program that is well trained and given more opportunities can easily earn as much as a PsyD from a middling to poor program. It has more to do with the opportunities you are given and how you use them.

If you want to stay in California, I would speak to people and consider whether mental health overall is a field you want to pursue given the current cost of living there and mental health paying poorly overall.
Wow, I'm surprised this thread is still a thing haha. Since my original post I have applied to MSW, Masters in Mental Health Counseling (UPenn enroute to a PhD in either Counseling or Clinical Psychology) a Masters in Research Psychology program and PhD programs in Clinical Psychology. I have let go of PsyD route, as I refuse to go into that level of debt. I am still hopeful for a career in California, but I am aware of the rising cost of living compared to a psychologists salary. (My partner will be going to law school so hopefully I can lean on him as I try to get on my feet?) If I am accepted into one of the masters programs I have applied to, would it be wise to enroll if my end goal is a PhD? I have been a research assistant for 2 years and I have a good amount of research experience, however my undergrad GPA was a 3.2. I think the Masters could put me in play for a top PhD but I don't want to waste money or time.:confused:
 
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Wow, I'm surprised this thread is still a thing haha. Since my original post I have applied to MSW, Masters in Mental Health Counseling (UPenn enroute to a PhD in either Counseling or Clinical Psychology) a Masters in Research Psychology program and PhD programs in Clinical Psychology. I have let go of PsyD route, as I refuse to go into that level of debt. I am still hopeful for a career in California, but I am aware of the rising cost of living compared to a psychologists salary. (My partner will be going to law school so hopefully I can lean on him as I try to get on my feet?) If I am accepted into one of the masters programs I have applied to, would it be wise to enroll if my end goal is a PhD? I have been a research assistant for 2 years and I have a good amount of research experience, however my undergrad GPA was a 3.2. I think the Masters could put me in play for a top PhD but I don't want to waste money or time.:confused:

IMO, there is no good answer to this because it really depends on what you want. A PhD is a long path and not always a financially fruitful one. No idea if you are married to your partner or what your life goals are. However, I always tell people to sit down and think about how much effort they want to put in to their career. My wife and I both have grad degrees and professional careers. In order for both of us to have good paying jobs, it has meant a move to an area that is not the first choice for either of us. One reason I moved to a government job is because my wife has more salary potential and that means I am picking up the slack at home more sometimes. This means leaving some potential money on the table at work.

Bottom line, think about what is important to you and how much you want to sacrifice. Will your partner be willing to move 3-5 times for you to settle into your permanent job with your PhD (this masters, PhD, internship, post-doc, real job)? Will that be something you want if their job is the one that covers the bills? If you feel like you may always be the second income, would you prefer less hoops to jump through or do you want to accomplish this. If you want to put career first go for it. If you have other goals in life that might come before career (having kids, staying CA, moving close to family, etc.) you may want to opt for the more straight forward path with less headaches.
 
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I have been a research assistant for 2 years and I have a good amount of research experience, however my undergrad GPA was a 3.2. I think the Masters could put me in play for a top PhD but I don't want to waste money or time.:confused:
Was the research experience in a psych lab? What was the balance between managing studies/entering data versus design and analysis? Did you get attached to any posters or publications? Have you gotten PhD interviews? That would suggest a bare minimum level of competitiveness to be considered. Your GPA is likely fine for a lot of programs if you have a strong research CV that aligns with a PI's research program.

If you aren't successful getting admitted to a PhD program this cycle, you might be better off getting independent research experience. And IMO, getting into a 'top' PhD program primarily matters if somebody wants a career in academia.

Looking over the curriculum for the 1 year UPenn MSed, I'm not really sure if that would boost your chances. It could potentially help for a Counseling Psych PhD but it doesn't look like there's built-in research and the coursework basically replicates what one would take during the first 2 years in a PhD program.

a Masters in Research Psychology program
This can potentially be an excellent option but if it's 2 years full-time, requires significant debt and/or other personal sacrifices, I would strongly consider independent research opportunities that will shore up pubs or further refine your research interests.
My partner will be going to law school so hopefully I can lean on him as I try to get on my feet?
Has your partner been admitted somewhere already? I'll echo @Sanman on the need to be geographically flexible. Unfortunately, I knew a number of peers in grad school who spent part of or their entire PhD apart from their partner. Good luck!
 
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Was the research experience in a psych lab? What was the balance between managing studies/entering data versus design and analysis? Did you get attached to any posters or publications? Have you gotten PhD interviews?
The research project I worked on was independent, however I was supervised/mentored by two grad students from a psych lab where I also worked entering data and transcribing interviews. My independent research required design, however I graduated before I was able to get IRB approval to actually conduct my study. However, before I graduated I was able to convert my proposal (and planned research design) into a poster that was accepted into a couple conferences. I only applied to one PhD program and it was a long shot, so I haven't had any interviews. I originally believed that I could only get into a masters with my stats but I was encouraged to try to see what might happen.

The masters in research psychology is appealing because its at a state school with pretty low tuition and I already know one of the professors (Potential Mentor) from my undergrad institution. It is 2 years full time. I liked the masters from UPenn because it is one year and then I can go on to a PhD in Counseling Psych which aligns with some of my research interests. My partner hasn't been accepted to law school yet haha so maybe that's wishful thinking.
 

summerbabe

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However, before I graduated I was able to convert my proposal (and planned research design) into a poster that was accepted into a couple conferences.
Did you discuss continuing the project despite graduating? In my lab, my PI would continue to work with undergrads who finished honors theses after they graduated if they wanted to try to publish.
The masters in research psychology is appealing because its at a state school with pretty low tuition and I already know one of the professors (Potential Mentor) from my undergrad institution.
Manageable tuition and a personal connection is definitely a plus. Since there's no guarantee that getting a MA/MS degree would assist in getting admitted to a PhD, definitely put some thought into how you'd feel if you completed this program but didn't get a PhD offer, especially since this is not a clinical degree.
I liked the masters from UPenn because it is one year and then I can go on to a PhD in Counseling Psych which aligns with some of my research interests.
Without knowing anything firsthand, I would be concerned whether this program can fit your needs. It sounds like additional research productivity is what's needed to boost your competitiveness, which would be outside the scope of this program. This would likely help your CV but perhaps not to the degree you think it would and I'm sure nothing at UPenn comes cheap.

If you got into these 2 programs as well as your MSW programs, which one would you choose since they each would accomplish pretty different objectives?
 
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I considered seeing my project through after graduation, but I studied abroad in the summer after grad and the lab couldn't guarantee that they would be able to accommodate me when I returned from my trip.

I am leaning toward the research psychology masters, as it is the most affordable option and the PI that I am familiar with is really dedicated to getting his masters students into PhD programs. I just worry about earning potential if I am not able to get into a PhD straight after my program. I probably could run a lab with a research psych masters. However, with an MSW I know I will have the opportunity to build extensive clinical experience if I am not accepted right away, but the MSW lacks the research focus that I would need. UPenn sounded good to me because of my interest in Counseling Psych, but I won't even consider if I am not funded well.
 
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It depends on what your career goals are! MSW can be limiting if you are looking to do assessment/testing. PsyD/PhD will provide you with a more multifaceted career! Again, it depends on your interests and aspirations. -- I should also add that I completed my MA in mental health counseling and practiced for a couple of years before going back to school to pursue my PsyD
 

summerbabe

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I am leaning toward the research psychology masters, as it is the most affordable option and the PI that I am familiar with is really dedicated to getting his masters students into PhD programs. I just worry about earning potential if I am not able to get into a PhD straight after my program. I probably could run a lab with a research psych masters.
Agreed. And one could also potentially change their mind on future career paths, which would likely make this degree less valuable. For example, I know multiple people in my PhD program who changed to a terminal Master's degree because their priorities changed during grad school.
However, with an MSW I know I will have the opportunity to build extensive clinical experience if I am not accepted right away, but the MSW lacks the research focus that I would need.
From my limited experience, it feels like the pathway from MSW to a PhD is more challenging than a LPC/LMHC to PhD and maybe even more so than undergrad + research experience --> PhD (I think due to biases on differences between these fields). And you won't be any closer to gaining research competitiveness, unless you take on significant independent projects so it might be wise to think of this as a different career path. Good luck!
 
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