Sep 1, 2015
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Hi Everybody,

I currently have a BA in Psychology and research experience (RA work in a health psych laboratory and contributed to a publication). I graduated in 2014 and took time off to get some field experience since I was heavily interested in public health. I currently work as a program coordinator who helps support health education initiatives at a local university (which I love doing).

There is currently a strong chance that I will eventually apply to a PhD program in health psychology, as I would eventually like to research health behaviors, health disparities (particularly mental health disparities), and culturally competent preventative interventions/policies (particularly within Latino communities).

I do not currently feel prepared to commit to an academic PhD at the moment and would like to pursue a professional degree before in order to gain marketable job skills and additional research methods knowledge/experience. I have narrowed down my choices to either an MPH or an MSW with a specialization in community mental health.

I'm weighing the pros and cons of each degree and this is how I feel about both:

The MSW is a slight front runner because it will give me the option to practice psychotherapy (which is not my ultimate career goal, but would be a very useful skill set to have heading into both a PhD program and the current job market), and would be a more affordable degree. My concern, however, is that this degree may not be as research-intensive as I would like. I also am a little afraid of becoming burnt-out by clinical work and of the salary that an MSW would grant me.

An MPH aligns more with my current interests and honestly seems more fun and exciting to me, however, I think that the path to employment with an MPH would be much less clear if it ends up being my terminal degree since I would be choosing a specialty such as community health/health education. I have also noticed that MPH students do not receive as much financial support as MSW students.

If my ultimate goal is research and teaching, does anyone have any suggestions as to which degree would be a better stepping stone for me at this time? Any input is much appreciated!
 

PsychMajorUndergrad18

Future School Psychologist
Jan 27, 2015
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Pre-Psychology
Maybe also look at doing a psych masters? If you get into a research heavy program, you could conduct more research to prepare yourself for a doctoral degree. Also keep in mind that most health psychology programs are under clinical psychology.
 
Mar 24, 2014
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Rural Area Medical Facilty
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Psychologist
My opinion is that obtaining a PhD in psychology would provide you with more marketable job skills and research knowledge experience than either MPH or MSW so am not sure why you would not go directly toward that. When you say not ready for an academic degree, it makes me think that you might not realize that clinical psychology PhD programs prepare you for both an academic and/or applied career.
 

PsychScience

right hand on green
7+ Year Member
Feb 21, 2010
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Psychologist
Hi Everybody,

I currently have a BA in Psychology and research experience (RA work in a health psych laboratory and contributed to a publication). I graduated in 2014 and took time off to get some field experience since I was heavily interested in public health. I currently work as a program coordinator who helps support health education initiatives at a local university (which I love doing).

There is currently a strong chance that I will eventually apply to a PhD program in health psychology, as I would eventually like to research health behaviors, health disparities (particularly mental health disparities), and culturally competent preventative interventions/policies (particularly within Latino communities).

I do not currently feel prepared to commit to an academic PhD at the moment and would like to pursue a professional degree before in order to gain marketable job skills and additional research methods knowledge/experience. I have narrowed down my choices to either an MPH or an MSW with a specialization in community mental health.

I'm weighing the pros and cons of each degree and this is how I feel about both:

The MSW is a slight front runner because it will give me the option to practice psychotherapy (which is not my ultimate career goal, but would be a very useful skill set to have heading into both a PhD program and the current job market), and would be a more affordable degree. My concern, however, is that this degree may not be as research-intensive as I would like. I also am a little afraid of becoming burnt-out by clinical work and of the salary that an MSW would grant me.

An MPH aligns more with my current interests and honestly seems more fun and exciting to me, however, I think that the path to employment with an MPH would be much less clear if it ends up being my terminal degree since I would be choosing a specialty such as community health/health education. I have also noticed that MPH students do not receive as much financial support as MSW students.

If my ultimate goal is research and teaching, does anyone have any suggestions as to which degree would be a better stepping stone for me at this time? Any input is much appreciated!
If the ultimate goal is research and teaching, I would never recommend pursuing a terminal masters program first. It will cost you more money than it is worth, while simultaneously preventing you from having enough time to save money and gain the practical experiences necessary for the Clinical PhD.

If, however, you could see yourself doing the doctorate in social work or a doctorate in public health, the masters first might be a more viable pathway. Less familiar with that process though.
 
Aug 9, 2016
5
0
Status
Psychologist
I do not think an MSW program would serve your best interests. The MSW programs are focused on the social functioning of the individual and how that contributes to their reported difficulties. Psychology is focused on the individual and how their psychological makeup influences their reported difficulties. It sounds as though you are interested in the individual factors that contribute to someone's health/psychological status.

You may look into applying for a Masters in Psychology and complete that terminal degree. Once you have completed that terminal degree and have more clinical and research experience you can then apply to a PhD program in COUNSELING psychology. Counseling psychology programs require you to already have a Masters in Psychology before applying to their program. Counseling psychology programs are a little different in that they focus more on multicultural issues and overall behavioral functioning rather than focusing more on mental illness. Some counseling psychology PhD programs will also have health psychology as focus and you will want to do many of your practicums on those settings. Counseling psychology doc programs are funded just like clinical programs and many counseling psychologists work in medical/community/clinic settings.[/QUOTE]
 

entitlement

7+ Year Member
Apr 16, 2011
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Psychologist
If you strongly believe that your eventual goals are to go onto a PhD for an academic/research career, my choice would be the MPH over the MSW. Getting a MPH from a R1 (UCB, Hopkins, Harvard, UNC, etc.) will expose you to many research opportunities, which PhD programs (particularly the clinical science/research heavy ones) will value more than clinical experience.

To be quite honest, you may want to consider PhDs in PH and in Community Psychology as they seem more aligned with your interests, in which case a MPH will be highly valued. Not to say a clinical psyc degree won't get you where you want, especially if you attend a program that focus on health disparities in Latinos work like ASU, DePaul, etc. Clinical work just seems like a means to an end for you (based on your post) so you might consider some of the options I mentioned above. Clinical psyc will be the most versatile out of those degrees though, even if you go the straight research route, and especially if your plans include D&I work (which it sounds like they do).
 
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Aug 16, 2016
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The MSW is a slight front runner because it will give me the option to practice psychotherapy (which is not my ultimate career goal, but would be a very useful skill set to have heading into both a PhD program and the current job market), and would be a more affordable degree. My concern, however, is that this degree may not be as research-intensive as I would like. I also am a little afraid of becoming burnt-out by clinical work and of the salary that an MSW would grant me

An MPH aligns more with my current interests and honestly seems more fun and exciting to me, however, I think that the path to employment with an MPH would be much less clear if it ends up being my terminal degree since I would be choosing a specialty such as community health/health education. I have also noticed that MPH students do not receive as much financial support as MSW students.
You are spot on. The benefit of having a clinical degree is that, in the very real chance that you can't get a position with an adequate income, you can do clinical work independently or in an organization. A MSW could land you in a research institution doing clinical work, using your clinical hours to support yourself while you apply for grants for research that uses the patient base you can access through your institution.

If you pursue a PhD in psychology that does not have a clinical component, your potential income and employment opportunities are limited. You will need to work with someone with a clinical patient base if you want to do human research with patients. In the area of community health, there are some very good jobs (like the Institute of Medicine) but they are very competitive. Teaching jobs in Psychology are competitive at any level. Grant-based research position opportunities are limited; grants are very competitive, especially if they are not clinically oriented.

You need to get more information about the different career paths that interest you. Where do you most want to work? Identify a place that you would like to work and make an appointment to talk to someone from there.

The MPH
 

AcronymAllergy

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Quick take--looking just at the possibility of moving on to a Ph.D. in clinical/counseling (health) psychology, the MPH will likely be more useful than the MSW, particularly given what seem to be some of your clinical/research interests. If you're leaning toward doctoral study (i.e., >50% sure), that'd be the route I would take.

It's not exactly my area, but I also can't imagine that finding a job with an MPH would be exceedingly difficult. You might need to cast a wider net in terms of job titles and responsibilities, but I'd imagine the degree would provide you with some fairly useful skills. No clue what the pay differential might be, though.
 

entitlement

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Apr 16, 2011
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Yeah, a MPH is an extremely versatile degree and I wish I had known about it when I decided to pursue a terminal master's in psyc after undergrad. Who knows, my path to a PhD might have been shortened by a few years. I will echo again what others have said about the MSW - if you are looking to do clinical work, then for sure, the MSW trumps the MPH without a doubt. But based on your post, I am not hearing that clinical work is especially alluring to you, and in my interpretation, it sounds like you are only interested in a MSW because you think it will bring more opportunities. One suggestion is to take some time to look at websites like indeed.com, and look at the entry-level positions for MSWs vs. MPHs, and then decide which of those positions are more intriguing to you (you can also look at the salaries, since many positions list the range).
 

entitlement

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Apr 16, 2011
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Also, for what it is worth, I've never met anyone in clinical psychology who entered with a MSW, but know many who entered with MPHs. I think the primary reason for this is that if you are pursuing a PhD to become an academic/researcher, going the Social Work/Welfare Ph.D. route will be much, much shorter than the clinical psychology route since many of the Social Work PhDs require you to come in with a MSW already (thus shortening your time to 3-4 years in the program, vs. the 6-7 in clinical psyc PhDs). Actually, that is something else you might want to also consider - the MSW to PhD in Social Welfare/Work route.