PhD or MA?

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.


Full Member
7+ Year Member
Mar 10, 2014
Reaction score
I'm stuck. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to apply to PhD programs to have the opportunity to study the field more in depth and have more career options than the MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Now that I finally finished my BA in Psych (I am in my early 30's) and working as a psych tech, I am ready to apply to grad schools. I also am recently married and trying to start a family in the near future. My husband is extremely supportive and will stand behind either path I choose. I do know how hard it is to get into doctoral programs. Does the competitiveness just lay with the clinical programs or is it for counseling too? Any advice on MA vs. doctoral for someone my age? (I am a bit hung up on this). I have not yet taken the GRE or MAT, but have finished my personal statement and had my former advisor who is also a psychologist review it. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks :)

Members don't see this ad.
Hi Shamrock4. First of all, don't worry about your age, it is not far from the norm, so don't let that sway you one way or the other. Having kids during a PhD program is a challenge, but I know of several individuals who have done so successfully. My recommendation would be think about what you want to do with your life and look at whether or not you need a PhD. If the answer is yes, then I would encourage you to give it a shot. If the answer is no, then I would recommend not going for it. Doctoral training is too difficult to go into unless you need it (no one writes a dissertation for fun). I hope that helps some.
Wow! Is this THE Irish80122!?! So happy you're back on SDN (I'm pretty sure we began this journey at same time!). :)

So, this is apropos...Shamrock4, as you can see from Irish's title (assisting professor) and mine (doctoral candidate)...we started the application process at the same time but i'm still chugging away...most likely because I had a couple of kids starting the process and had a couple more during graduate school. It is doable but your spouse better be the type that wants to be a hands-on Dad or I just don't know how you could swing it. It does take a village to raise kids and I have had A LOT of help with my bambinos (spousal support, extended family, nannies, afterschool programs, etc.). Search old threads about parenting while attending a doctoral program. It is certainly challenging, requires a lot of organization and planning, but you learn your own family-work balance and it becomes exponentially rewarding IMO.

I concur with Irish's post (ask yourself the important questions and age won't matter as much if you are a stellar applicant). Study hard for those GREs, so it compliments your application and see if you can get some research experience if you decide to go the PhD route.

Good luck! :luck:
Last edited:
Members don't see this ad :)
Thanks so much!!! That helps :) I am SO hung up on being 32 and just now in the spot to look into grad schools but am elated to be able to do so. Is it true also that with many PhD programs, you get your tuition waived in exchange for research assistance.
Yes, look for 'funded' programs in which you receive tuition remission and stipends in exchange for research & teaching assistantships. For this reason, I believe PhD programs are so competitive because some programs will take anywhere from 4 to 15 students since university-based programs usually want to cover the tuition (either partially or fully) for each of their students.
Last edited: