Non-trad wanting to go back for PhD in clinical or counseling psych

Jul 21, 2020
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  1. Pre-Psychology
I'm an early 30s non-trad, with a BA in psych (decent GPA of 3.7+) who went into something outside the field and now wants to go back for a PhD in clinical and counseling psych. I looked at the masters-level professions and they just looked too limited in scope and expensive (unfunded). I had some clinical experience as an undergrad and a bit post-grad but no outside-of-class research experience except for a poster at our undergrad research day. I live in the same city as a large, R1 university.

Questions:
1. Do I need to take post-bacc classes, as my degree is older (10 years)?
2. How do I get research experience at this point? Can I just email faculty at the university as a non-student and politely ask to volunteer in their labs? Is it worth registering for classes just for possible research opportunities?
3. How much clinical experience should I have to apply?

Thanks!
 

Temperance

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May 27, 2015
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Hi. I'm an incoming first-year who is early 30s.

Your degree does not expire, so the transcripts will still be valid.

Many labs will take non-matriculated students as research assistants. If you are able, try to get a paid position, since you likely have applicable skills that will be useful to a lab. Hiring seems a tad slow right now, but I'm not sure how much of it is due to hiring season slowing down -- since labs try to hire replacements for the research assistants leaving for graduate school in the spring and early summer -- and how much of it is due to pandemic-related hiring freezes. Positions are posted via individual universities, this Nabble board, and listservs (e.g. CDS listserv tends to have postings in cognitive and developmental psychology).

If you opt to volunteer, you can email faculty asking if they are taking volunteers. Research activities may be slowed or halted right now because of the pandemic, so that may affect what opportunities are open to you at the moment.
 
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R. Matey

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Jul 15, 2014
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I was also a non-traditional student when I applied for my Ph.D. and it's definitely doable! I was in a similar position to you research-wise and took a gig at the local AMC to gain some research experience. I was interviewed for a paid position, but opted for a volunteer position because I was managing a PP as a master's level clinician and working in a community clinic (it was a busy time). Are you working in a clinical setting now with your BA?
 
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MamaPhD

Psychologist, Academic Medical Center
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Aug 2, 2010
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I agree with the responses above. You don't need clinical experience per se, but working directly with research participants is a plus.
 
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Apr 11, 2012
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Agreed with the others. Get research experience. I had to do this, as my bachelors was in a non-psychology field and I took several years off after my undergraduate degree. Look at the profs at your local university and see what work sounds interesting, and write *specific* emails to the faculty talking about their work (not just a general "Hey! I'm looking for research experience, Professor!" You'd be surprised at how many of those type of emails we faculty get). If you can, try to read one of their papers, and definitely look at their websites for information on how to apply to the lab. I get applications from students and sometimes post-baccs all the time, and the ones who stand out are the ones who have done their homework--looked at the website, looked at my work, and demonstrate interest in what we are studying.
 
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Jun 2, 2020
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I feel like applying for a Masters degree isn't too bad of an option given your scenario. If you have the resources to afford it, it might be advantageous to do an MA or MS to boost your competitiveness for a PhD application. (This is the path I took and it worked out fine. I did an MA at an Ivy League and then was accepted to a state-school/ funded PhD program). Doing a Masters will give you time to obtain more research experience, which it seems like you might need more of to be competitive for a funded PhD. Also, I'm not sure about other programs but at my school everyone who was accepted in my cohort had a Masters, except for 1 person. So in general it might be helpful.
 
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