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eorenta2

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I am currently a junior in college majoring in Psychology and I've wanted to become a clinical psychologist since I was about 15. Before coming to college, however, I had no idea how competitive clinical psychology PhD programs are and the time commitment and amount of work they require.
Knowing that my chances of getting in to a PhD program (especially right out of undergrad, which is what I would ideally like to do) are so small, i'm starting to really question what direction I should head in. Here are my options that I've been considering:

- PhD in clinical psychology (which is my top option only because the cost is so much lower than that of PsyD programs)
- PsyD (which is what makes the most sense for me, considering I want to go into practice, but i'm hesitant because they are so expensive)
- LCSW (which seems like a good alternative to getting a PsyD but I know that I really don't want to go into social work)
- master's in human resources (because it would take only 3 semesters and I could probably earn a higher salary than i ever could as a psychologist, based on what I've heard)
- master's in speech pathology (I really don't know much about this career, it's just another option I recently thought of)

My problem is that I really really really would love to do the work that an applied clinical psychologist does, I just don't know if the amount of stress, time, and money it requires will make me miserable in the process of reaching my end goal. I also need to be able to go to a school where my boyfriend can find a job if I go into a doctoral program because signing up for 5-7 years of long distance basically feels like certain death.

The work that I really want to do would involve assessment, diagnoses, and treatment of mental disorders. I picture myself in a hospital setting (or maybe a substance abuse rehabilitation center), but I would also be open to private practice. I want to work with populations who have mental disorders more severe/debilitating than "everyday" problems (divorce, stress in school, etc.). I'm leaning away from social work because I know they get paid so little and I don't really like the "strengths-based" approach to treatment (for reasons I won't get into here).

Should I do whatever it takes to get into a doctoral program and tough it out so that I can have the career I know I really want? Should i settle for getting an MSW so that my work can be similar to that of a psychologist without all the time and money, knowing that I'm going to feel like i'm settling? If I go into HR, will the amount of money I could make (over $100,000/year, according to my school's program's stats) make up for the fact that I didn't pursue my dream?

I'm sorry this is so long but I really appreciate any and all help!
 

SmallTownPSY

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My $0.02 is that if you have ZERO interest to do research I would obviously look at other options besides the PhD. I can't really comment on the other options because I'm research focused and don't know much about them. If you do have some interest to do research, then I don't think you should count yourself out before you've even applied. It's tough to do it right out of undergrad, but it's tough no matter when you apply. Only you can decide what you are willing to do, but if you truly want a PhD in clinical psychology and you don't make it right out of undergrad, spending one to two years strengthening your application will be well worth it in the long run.
 

PeterAnthony9254

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I am currently a junior in college majoring in Psychology and I've wanted to become a clinical psychologist since I was about 15. Before coming to college, however, I had no idea how competitive clinical psychology PhD programs are and the time commitment and amount of work they require.
Knowing that my chances of getting in to a PhD program (especially right out of undergrad, which is what I would ideally like to do) are so small, i'm starting to really question what direction I should head in. Here are my options that I've been considering:

- PhD in clinical psychology (which is my top option only because the cost is so much lower than that of PsyD programs)
- PsyD (which is what makes the most sense for me, considering I want to go into practice, but i'm hesitant because they are so expensive)
- LCSW (which seems like a good alternative to getting a PsyD but I know that I really don't want to go into social work)
- master's in human resources (because it would take only 3 semesters and I could probably earn a higher salary than i ever could as a psychologist, based on what I've heard)
- master's in speech pathology (I really don't know much about this career, it's just another option I recently thought of)

My problem is that I really really really would love to do the work that an applied clinical psychologist does, I just don't know if the amount of stress, time, and money it requires will make me miserable in the process of reaching my end goal. I also need to be able to go to a school where my boyfriend can find a job if I go into a doctoral program because signing up for 5-7 years of long distance basically feels like certain death.

The work that I really want to do would involve assessment, diagnoses, and treatment of mental disorders. I picture myself in a hospital setting (or maybe a substance abuse rehabilitation center), but I would also be open to private

Both licensed psychologists (PhD or Psy.D) and Licensed Clinical Social Workers can provide both long term and short term treatment for various mental health issues. If you want to ultimately work as a psychotherapist then either route would provide you with the training necessary for reaching this goal. The main difference would be the salary. However, only licensed psychologists can conduct formal testing and assessment procedures.

The amount of time it would take to become licensed to provide psychotherapy is similar for both professions, regardless of the years spent in school. Clinical social workers are required to complete between 3 to 6 years of supervised training after earning their master's before they can take the licensing exam. Psychologists tend to have 4-5 years of clinical training throughout graduate school plus 2-3 years of post-doctoral training.

It really depends on what you are interested in ultimately doing as a professional. As you stated, Clinical Psychology programs are extremely competitive. Factors such as GPA, GRE Scores, and research experience tend to be emphasized more strongly than other graduate/professional programs.
 
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The work that I really want to do would involve assessment, diagnoses, and treatment of mental disorders. I picture myself in a hospital setting (or maybe a substance abuse rehabilitation center), but I would also be open to private practice. I want to work with populations who have mental disorders more severe/debilitating than "everyday" problems (divorce, stress in school, etc.).

This describes the work done by the majority of people who get a Ph.D. In Clinical Psychology. The whole "Ph.D= Research, Psy.D. = Practice" things is a myth- a misapplication of the symmetric property (yes, it's largely true that researcher/academic= Ph.D, but not true that Ph.D. = Researcher). It seems to be the genera observation around here that university based Ph.D. programs are much less expensive and lead to better training and career options than Psy.D. programs.

Also- take a deeper look at some clinical social work programs. You may find that there are some that will prepare you to work with individuals with more than "everyday" problems. Ultimately, a doctoral degree will likely give you more options (and higher pay, as long as it nots going to $1500/month loan payments), but don't rule out masters level programs without doing some more research.
 
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Social workers do regularly work in hospitals and the other settings you mentioned- including as ClinicalABA said above, places where you'd work with folks who have much more than everyday sorts of problems. (I've worked with fantastic social workers on organ transplant teams and in autism clinics, and in inpatient psychiatric hospitals for example). Find out more about what an LCSW would open as far as options (and realize different programs in social work may have different emphases). Realize the PhD/PsyD distinction is largely moot (depending, of course, on where you go, because some programs are more research heavy, but all are heavy in clinical work since you need that to match for internship). But if you are already questioning whether a PhD or PsyD would be too much work, then that is probably true. If you're not willing to put in 60+ hours (and often more) per week regularly, it's not going to be a good fit. Also don't be afraid to take a year or two off after undergrad to do something interesting while you figure out what you want to do (but stay involved in the field somehow during that time).
 
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Therapist4Chnge

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Agreed. Doctoral (Ph.D/Psy.D) training is quite a bit different than MA/MS training. Many would argue the time commitment for doctoral training is excessive compared to the typical salary...and they would probably be right.

If you aren't willing to dedicate a minimum of 6 yrs (4-5yr classes+research, 1yr internship, 1-2yr fellowship) of full-time work to training, then doctoral training is likely not a good fit.
 
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bmedclinic

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I am currently a junior in college majoring in Psychology and I've wanted to become a clinical psychologist since I was about 15. Before coming to college, however, I had no idea how competitive clinical psychology PhD programs are and the time commitment and amount of work they require.
Knowing that my chances of getting in to a PhD program (especially right out of undergrad, which is what I would ideally like to do) are so small, i'm starting to really question what direction I should head in. Here are my options that I've been considering:

The work that I really want to do would involve assessment, diagnoses, and treatment of mental disorders. I picture myself in a hospital setting (or maybe a substance abuse rehabilitation center), but I would also be open to private practice. I want to work with populations who have mental disorders more severe/debilitating than "everyday" problems (divorce, stress in school, etc.). I'm leaning away from social work because I know they get paid so little and I don't really like the "strengths-based" approach to treatment (for reasons I won't get into here).

Should I do whatever it takes to get into a doctoral program and tough it out so that I can have the career I know I really want? Should i settle for getting an MSW so that my work can be similar to that of a psychologist without all the time and money, knowing that I'm going to feel like i'm settling? If I go into HR, will the amount of money I could make (over $100,000/year, according to my school's program's stats) make up for the fact that I didn't pursue my dream?

I'm sorry this is so long but I really appreciate any and all help!

the work you want to do describes what a clinical psychologist and a social worker both can do (to some extent, less so for the social worker with the assessment part).
I think T4C is right above, if you dont like the idea of dealing with school that long, clinical psych is probably not for you.
Also, I'm not a speech pathologist (I'm a clinical psychologist who stayed at a holiday inn last night) but my wife is a SLP and they have a pretty broad job. Minus working (aside from autism) with mental disorders, on the whole they work in a super wide variety of settings and, dependent on setting, but have a WIDE variety of pay depending on the setting (rehab - good pay, high demands; school- less demand, much less pay). My wife previously worked in a Level 1 Trauma center as an SLP, which was a pretty freaking awesome job. I've worked in a state hospital with people with very serious mental problems- that's a tough gig FYI. Maybe doing some shadowing would be a good next step for you.
 
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eorenta2

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Update: I'm really not hesitant to put in the amount of time it takes to get a doctorate; I think I'm a very hardworking and ambitious person and I really do more than anything want to be a psychologist. Basically what I'm saying is if I knew for certain right now that I would be accepted to a PhD program, I would do it in a heartbeat. I just don't know how wise it is to wait a few years and then apply to PhD programs all over again if I don't get accepted right out of undergrad. Again, I myself would be fully willing to do that, I am just worried about what that would do to my personal life (my relationship with my boyfriend, being of the right age to start a family after earning my degree, the possibility of moving multiple times in the next few years, etc.)

Anyway, the most attractive part of applied clinical psychology to me is doing assessments, and as far as I can tell I wouldn't be able to do that as a LCSW. Is that right?
 

Indiana_Jane

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Update: I'm really not hesitant to put in the amount of time it takes to get a doctorate; I think I'm a very hardworking and ambitious person and I really do more than anything want to be a psychologist. Basically what I'm saying is if I knew for certain right now that I would be accepted to a PhD program, I would do it in a heartbeat. I just don't know how wise it is to wait a few years and then apply to PhD programs all over again if I don't get accepted right out of undergrad. Again, I myself would be fully willing to do that, I am just worried about what that would do to my personal life (my relationship with my boyfriend, being of the right age to start a family after earning my degree, the possibility of moving multiple times in the next few years, etc.)

Anyway, the most attractive part of applied clinical psychology to me is doing assessments, and as far as I can tell I wouldn't be able to do that as a LCSW. Is that right?

Some of those hesitations are definitely valid, but I think you ultimately have to decide if it's worth it to you no matter what (e.g., the wait to get accepted, the multiple moves you'll likely make, etc.). Those are all par for the course (for most)! I was recently married when I applied, and made sure that my husband fully understood the process and what that might entail. I also shadowed virtually every conceivable role in mental health (and medicine, pharmacy, etc) to make sure I knew I was making the right decision. Sometimes that takes some time (I didn't apply right out of undergrad for the above reason).

I'm also a first year and expecting my first child in 2 months, so it's definitely possible to balance the desire for the degree and other "life" stuff, IF it's what you truly want!


Sent from my iPhone using SDN mobile
 
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wtfook

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Update: I'm really not hesitant to put in the amount of time it takes to get a doctorate; I think I'm a very hardworking and ambitious person and I really do more than anything want to be a psychologist. Basically what I'm saying is if I knew for certain right now that I would be accepted to a PhD program, I would do it in a heartbeat. I just don't know how wise it is to wait a few years and then apply to PhD programs all over again if I don't get accepted right out of undergrad. Again, I myself would be fully willing to do that, I am just worried about what that would do to my personal life (my relationship with my boyfriend, being of the right age to start a family after earning my degree, the possibility of moving multiple times in the next few years, etc.)

Anyway, the most attractive part of applied clinical psychology to me is doing assessments, and as far as I can tell I wouldn't be able to do that as a LCSW. Is that right?

You do have to learn about assessments in order to interpret the results but no. Generally speaking administering assessments is the job of the doctoral level licensed psychologist. It's not impossible to get into a clinical program out of undergrad but generally speaking, most competitive applicants have a couple of years of research somewhere under their belts. It's not a bad thing to take a few years off, really beef up your resume with a good RA position that will allow you to publish and present, get some clinical experience on the side, and really solidify a clear identity for yourself as a researcher. Unless your boyfriend is looking to find employment in a very rural area, there is probably a major university where ever you are going where they will have labs that are looking for research coordinators and lab managers. While major metropolitan areas like Chicago, Philly, NYC, LA, etc... are the most competitive for PhD programs, there is a possibility you wouldn't have to relocate at all from a research job to a PhD program. And if you do, the long distance might suck but if you lurk around these forums long enough you'll see testimonials from many individuals who have been doing it throughout the doctoral process and have been married and even had kids while doing so.

If you and your partner are serious and committed, then you'll get through it. After all, what's 5 years compared to the rest of your life together in careers you love? For me personally, I have friends who have done graduate school (med school mostly) while married and separated by a plane ride of 2-3 hours. They got through it and are the stronger for it. If you're really passionate about getting your doctorate then go for it. You're still young and your relationship will be fine if you're committed to working on it.
 
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MAClinician

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The work that I really want to do would involve assessment, diagnoses, and treatment of mental disorders. I picture myself in a hospital setting (or maybe a substance abuse rehabilitation center), but I would also be open to private practice. I want to work with populations who have mental disorders more severe/debilitating than "everyday" problems (divorce, stress in school, etc.). I'm leaning away from social work because I know they get paid so little and I don't really like the "strengths-based" approach to treatment (for reasons I won't get into here).

Should I do whatever it takes to get into a doctoral program and tough it out so that I can have the career I know I really want? Should i settle for getting an MSW so that my work can be similar to that of a psychologist without all the time and money, knowing that I'm going to feel like i'm settling? If I go into HR, will the amount of money I could make (over $100,000/year, according to my school's program's stats) make up for the fact that I didn't pursue my dream?

I'm sorry this is so long but I really appreciate any and all help!
For what it's worth, the field of mental health/psychology/human services, whatever you want to call it, has been moving towards a strength-based approach for at least 2 decades if not longer and will continue to do so. Whether you choose MSW, PhD, MA, PsyD....you will be asked to look at your clients from a strength perspective. While it's true that severe disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar will never go away, the field encourages on helping individuals reach their potential, which is difficult to accomplish if one focuses only on "deficits" or "symptoms" or "problems ". Some individuals have higher thresholds for potential than others. Just something to consider whatever you decide.
 
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