Aug 17, 2016
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Pre-Psychology
I'm going into my senior year at Franklin & Marshall College with a major in Psychology and a minor in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. I want to get a PhD or PsyD in clinical psychology with a focus on clinical child psychopathology, and my goal is to practice as a child psychologist.
I have a good GPA but I don't have the research experience many applicants have. I'm wondering what I should do after I graduate to make myself a more competitive candidate when I apply for doctoral programs.
Should I try to get into a masters program first? If that's the right route for me, is it very difficult to get into a masters program without having work experience? If I need to work in a lab or secure some other psych-related job for awhile before I apply to masters programs, do you have any advice as to where to look? It seems many jobs require prior experience and often a masters degree. Thanks in advance!
 

ClinicalABA

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Aug 31, 2011
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It might help to narrow down exactly what you'd like to do, career-wise. "Practice as a child psychologist" can mean many different things, each with its own educational and professional path. Even "child" is a broad term- can mean anything from birth up to (in my state) age 22! I'd consider myself a "child psychologist"- I primarily conduct diagnistic assessments for young (ages 1-4) children suspected of having autism. I have colleagues who consider themselves to be "child psychologists" and they primarily do in-clinic counseling with children 5-18. I have other friends who do direct, clinic based counseling with children, and these friends have masters degrees (LICSW or LMHC). Staff in my agency provide home-based services to children with autism diagnosis, and the staff are masters level behavioral analysts (BCBAs). When I consult in schools, I often work with School Pychologists (masters level credential) who conduct testing and design interventions related to student's abilities to achieve academically. There are also masters level adjustment Counselors working in the middle and high schools. These careers have different types and quantities of training.

Whatever your ultimate goal(s), there's no harm in getting work and research experience. Lancaster probably has a local YMCA or Boys/Girls club with an after school or weekend program. Give them a call and see if you can volunteer (or-better yet- get paid; I did so as an undergrad down the road at your "rival" school in Carlisle). Approach the professor who teaches developmental or child psych at F&M and ask if there is any research you can get involved in at any level. Talk to you own academic advisor for suggestions about what you can do to narrow down and plan for your next steps while you're still in school. Keep your eyes on sites like this one for more specific advice, as well as general strategies for next steps, including things to avoid (e.g. huge debt from "pay to play" professional schools; degrees you don't need to do what you want to do).

Best of luck. Go Red Devils!
 
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bmedclinic

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I'm going into my senior year at Franklin & Marshall College with a major in Psychology and a minor in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. I want to get a PhD or PsyD in clinical psychology with a focus on clinical child psychopathology, and my goal is to practice as a child psychologist.
I have a good GPA but I don't have the research experience many applicants have. I'm wondering what I should do after I graduate to make myself a more competitive candidate when I apply for doctoral programs.
Should I try to get into a masters program first? If that's the right route for me, is it very difficult to get into a masters program without having work experience? If I need to work in a lab or secure some other psych-related job for awhile before I apply to masters programs, do you have any advice as to where to look? It seems many jobs require prior experience and often a masters degree. Thanks in advance!
Disclaimer: Shooting from the hip.
The first time I've heard of your school is in this thread; I googled it and it supposedly has 2200 students. From my perspective, that's a tiny school and I've always wondered if that actually works in your favor. Are professors there actively doing research, with labs, or did you not have that opportunity?But I've always wondered, if your application is great (sans the research lab experience) if admissions committees are a little more lenient, hoping that you can be trained to work well in the lab and be cultivated to be a great writer, a good researcher, and an active collaborator. I sense this is true, but have no data to back up what I suspect.

Curious to hear from others- perhaps I'm just flat out wrong. If that's the case- get into an awesome masters program, kick butt, move on.
 

ClinicalABA

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Aug 31, 2011
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Disclaimer: Shooting from the hip.
The first time I've heard of your school is in this thread; I googled it and it supposedly has 2200 students. From my perspective, that's a tiny school and I've always wondered if that actually works in your favor. Are professors there actively doing research, with labs, or did you not have that opportunity?But I've always wondered, if your application is great (sans the research lab experience) if admissions committees are a little more lenient, hoping that you can be trained to work well in the lab and be cultivated to be a great writer, a good researcher, and an active collaborator. I sense this is true, but have no data to back up what I suspect.

Curious to hear from others- perhaps I'm just flat out wrong. If that's the case- get into an awesome masters program, kick butt, move on.
My undergrad experience, at an equivalent sized school, was that there was some research and publication going on, an the total absence of graduate student minions made it potentially easier for undergrads to get involve. Alas, I was to busy researching things like the best cheap beer in Central PA to avail myself of the opportunities to get involved, but more focused and goal oriented students had the opportunity to do so. There may not be the quantity of research that you'd see in a university setting, but there are likely tenure requirements that involve some sort of dissemination. It's a very good school, with some stringent academic requirements, so my guess is there are some oppotunities. Maybe not big grant funded labs, but the profs are probably doing more than just teaching a few classes.
 
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Justanothergrad

Counseling Psychologist
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Mar 2, 2013
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Disclaimer: Shooting from the hip.
The first time I've heard of your school is in this thread; I googled it and it supposedly has 2200 students. From my perspective, that's a tiny school and I've always wondered if that actually works in your favor. Are professors there actively doing research, with labs, or did you not have that opportunity?But I've always wondered, if your application is great (sans the research lab experience) if admissions committees are a little more lenient, hoping that you can be trained to work well in the lab and be cultivated to be a great writer, a good researcher, and an active collaborator. I sense this is true, but have no data to back up what I suspect.

Curious to hear from others- perhaps I'm just flat out wrong. If that's the case- get into an awesome masters program, kick butt, move on.
I went to a school slightly larger (apx 3k) and ran into exactly the problems you describe with my first round applications not having the research experience of larger schools. Although it was a good school with great personal involvement from the faculty who were open to a lot of healthy theoretical/professional discussions in class and out, they didn't push research involvement because it was such a strong teaching-focused college. I went the terminal masters route and that benefited me greatly in terms of building research skills, getting involved in projects, and (importantly) publications/products. I'm sure that if your numbers are high enough you may be considered, but I think its pushing a stone uphill because you are competing without the products to prove your capacity (e.g., posters, manuscripts, research teams with well published professors, etc.) whereas others have that stuff clearly ticked off. Personally, I've found that the terminal masters that emphasize being phd feeders are really effective at helping you build those skills because that outcome of getting folks into programs is the meat/heart of what makes their programs successful; I don't regret doing mine.
 

psychrat

licensed psychologist
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Mar 24, 2009
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Psychologist
Disclaimer: Shooting from the hip.
The first time I've heard of your school is in this thread; I googled it and it supposedly has 2200 students. From my perspective, that's a tiny school and I've always wondered if that actually works in your favor. Are professors there actively doing research, with labs, or did you not have that opportunity?But I've always wondered, if your application is great (sans the research lab experience) if admissions committees are a little more lenient, hoping that you can be trained to work well in the lab and be cultivated to be a great writer, a good researcher, and an active collaborator. I sense this is true, but have no data to back up what I suspect.

Curious to hear from others- perhaps I'm just flat out wrong. If that's the case- get into an awesome masters program, kick butt, move on.

I actually read an article that said the majority of PhD graduates in both the humanities and sciences started out at small liberal arts colleges. I went to one and did a thesis and then went on to earn a PhD. Had some research experience as well as presentation experience :)
 
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OP
M
Aug 17, 2016
3
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Status
Pre-Psychology
ClinicalABA, Thanks for your input!! You are absolutely right, I should refine my goals as well as get more research and work experience.

In terms of experience, at F&M I've done one collaborative research course (cognitive psych) so far, for which myself and two other peers conducted a study with students as participants (no significant results, but it was a learning experience). In my stat course in our lab we conducted two studies (ours were online, survey based) in small groups. I guess I'm just not confident that these constitute good "research experience". I'm doing one more collab research course this fall in psychopathology. This summer I was a lab intern at the Child's Play, Learning & Development Lab at the University of Delaware (8 weeks). I'm going to be a preceptor (professor's assistant) this semester for a freshman year seminar class (it's a law-based course).
My cumulative GPA is 3.62. F&M professors are harsh graders and actually mention in their letters that the grading system is harder here and a lower GPA at F&M is better than higher GPAs at some other schools.

I'm thinking that I will apply for masters programs this fall. I'm considering going for a masters in counseling because I could become a certified counselor if I decide I don't want to go for a PhD, but that option would still be open. Does that seem like a good idea? I would also apply for clinical psych masters programs to keep my options open.
 

ClinicalABA

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Aug 31, 2011
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Sounds like you've taken advantage of a lot of different opportunities to get involved outside the classroom. I'm more on the practice side of things and can't really say how your experiences compare with other prospective phd applicants or if it's "researchy" enough, but I'm sure others here can be of some help.

A masters in counselor can be a relatively quick and effective path to a clinical career. Just be aware that, should want to continue on later to get a clinical PhD, much (most?all?) of the masters coursework won't count towards the PhD. You may get to waive a course or two. Sometimes people think that it'll get them "halfway" and they can just do the second half later to get the doctorate.

If you refine and define what you want to do, and it seems like a counseling masters will allow you to do that, go for it! If, on the other hand, it turns out that your goals really require a doctoral degree, you might be better served putting some time and resources into getting the experiences you need to be an attractive candidate for a PhD program. The counseling masters may do that, but not necessarily, so do your homework on this.
 
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OP
M
Aug 17, 2016
3
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Pre-Psychology
Sounds like you've taken advantage of a lot of different opportunities to get involved outside the classroom. I'm more on the practice side of things and can't really say how your experiences compare with other prospective phd applicants or if it's "researchy" enough, but I'm sure others here can be of some help.

A masters in counselor can be a relatively quick and effective path to a clinical career. Just be aware that, should want to continue on later to get a clinical PhD, much (most?all?) of the masters coursework won't count towards the PhD. You may get to waive a course or two. Sometimes people think that it'll get them "halfway" and they can just do the second half later to get the doctorate.

If you refine and define what you want to do, and it seems like a counseling masters will allow you to do that, go for it! If, on the other hand, it turns out that your goals really require a doctoral degree, you might be better served putting some time and resources into getting the experiences you need to be an attractive candidate for a PhD program. The counseling masters may do that, but not necessarily, so do your homework on this.
Thank you so much for your advice!
 
Dec 4, 2014
785
511
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Psychologist
I went to a school slightly larger (apx 3k) and ran into exactly the problems you describe with my first round applications not having the research experience of larger schools. Although it was a good school with great personal involvement from the faculty who were open to a lot of healthy theoretical/professional discussions in class and out, they didn't push research involvement because it was such a strong teaching-focused college. I went the terminal masters route and that benefited me greatly in terms of building research skills, getting involved in projects, and (importantly) publications/products. I'm sure that if your numbers are high enough you may be considered, but I think its pushing a stone uphill because you are competing without the products to prove your capacity (e.g., posters, manuscripts, research teams with well published professors, etc.) whereas others have that stuff clearly ticked off. Personally, I've found that the terminal masters that emphasize being phd feeders are really effective at helping you build those skills because that outcome of getting folks into programs is the meat/heart of what makes their programs successful; I don't regret doing mine.
I had a very similar experience (although went to an even smaller school- fewer than 2k- very involved and wonderful faculty, went terminal master's route and very happy with the decision, and appreciative for my small-school background also). No regrets although it has taken me longer to get to the post-PhD point than others in my program due to the detour.