PhD/PsyD School Psych Applicant- Which job helps my chances?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by rachel54, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. rachel54

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    Hi everyone,

    I'm hoping someone out there might be able to give some advice. I'll be applying to some apa accredited school psych phd programs come December. I'm very interested in working in a school setting, of course, but am also thinking I might wander into a juvenile detention setting further down the line.

    Here's the situation. I graduated with a BS in psychology and my GPA was about a 3.1, so nothing great. I had a few years of experience working in group homes with adults with developmental disabilities. I knew I wasn't done with my education, but wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do yet. I ended up receiving my masters in health administration from Weber State out in Utah about six months ago with a 3.9 gpa (it's CAHME accrediated, which is sort of like the APA of MHAs). In the time that I was working towards that, I had a short stint with the state of Michigan where I worked for Children's Protective Services. That was a hard, but great job. I left because there was an administrative opening out by my fiancé that was more in the field of my graduate degree. I am now, and have been for about the last year, the program supervisor for the community mental health agency in my county. I supervisor a group home, the outpatient segment of the agency as well as our work and day program for adults with developmental disabilities.

    All this while, I've been wondering if I should go back to school for psychology. I've now come to the conclusion that this is really what I want to do. So, for the next year and a half, I have the opportunity to either stay at my current job, or work again for the state of Michigan. This time, it would be in a new role that I think might really help me to be accepted into a program. I was recruited to fill the position of MYOI coordinator, or Michigan Youth Outreach Initiative. I would essentially be a sort of case manager/mentor for adolescents aging out of foster care. I would help them apply to college, counsel them financially, and basically hold trainings in all different kinds of areas that would help them transition into adulthood. These kids are often referred from juvenile justice programs or from foster care workers.

    My question is, do you think the position with the state is one that would make me a much more competitive candidate for a phd program? Or, should I just stay where I am as a program supervisor? I don't want to go through the hassle of switching jobs for not even a year and a half if it won't make a difference for my ultimate goal. My worry is that I have no research experience, and it's not really possible to get because of where I live. I do help out kids at the local school; my fiancé and I run a donation-based store where kids and their families can come and pick up clothes and hygiene products (he is a teacher). Other than that, I don't have a lot of opportunities anymore to work with children.

    Any opinions? Thanks a ton.
     
    #1 rachel54, Jan 11, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
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  3. SchoolPsycho

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    You have a very compelling work history under your belt. In particular, the experience with running programs dovetails nicely with school psychology. I don't sit on selection committees, but my hunch is that your work experience is already a nice asset on your application. I don't think that job A or job B would make a tremendous difference in this regard. So, I wouldn't weigh that too strongly when deciding which job to pursue.

    That said, doctoral programs are research intensive, and research experience is probably the single most important component of your application. You mentioned that this is not a strength for you. How can you shore this up? Can you volunteer with a research lab somehow? Do you have any background in research design and statistics that would allow you to run a small project out of your day job? Do you feel comfortable describing your research interests and how they match with programs you are interested in? Did you do any research as a part of your masters? I think any research experience you can speak to, even if it is not directly related to school psychology, would be very important for your application.

    I'm also curious what your career goals are. Most school psychologists working in schools do not have a doctorate. If obtaining research experience is going to be a significant challenge to getting into a doctoral program, and you don't need your doctorate to obtain your career goals, then it may be worth exploring what masters-level training can do for you. If your career goals do necessitate a doctorate, I think finding quality research experiences will be really important for you in the very near future.
     
  4. rachel54

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    Thank you so much for the reply! My time to make a decision is very limited.

    There is a small possibility I could assist with some research remotely. The university I received my undergrad from is about 1.5 hours away, and th masters students there do participate in research projects. I did not for my masters. We did capstone projects instead, and I actually did a sort of research paper instead because I was working for the state at the time and unable to do certain parts of the project at work. The other option is this thing called the Communities that Care coalition I've recently become involved with. They chose four grade levels within two different school districts to survey, and then based on the results of those surveys they presented what the kids in the area think about different risk behaviors, etc. They then opened polls for the community to choose two of 8 (I believe?) risk and protective factors that were identified through the surveys to try and improve the kids' resiliency to becoming involved in drugs, drinking, or experiencing certain mental health crises. The next step is to start focusing on how to fix and improve the two risk/protective factors that were selected. The two were prosocial involvement in the school domain (we are in a very rural, underprivileged area) and depressive symptoms.


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  5. rachel54

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    I realized I didn't answer when you asked what my career goals are, and this might be something you can shed some light on for me as far as qualifications. I would like to work in schools, at least for some time. I do eventually want to break into the correctional setting. I would really like to work with kids in detention centers. I dealt with that a bit when I was working for protective services and it really stuck with me. I also have some interest in eventually dabbling in academics- we're talking way down the line. Would I have the same flexibility with a masters that a doctorate would give me, or would I be more limited? I truly do want to work in schools, but I know that I'll eventually want to venture out.


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  6. SchoolPsycho

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    You could work in schools or detention centers with masters/Ed.S. level training. Detention centers have many masters level clinicians providing excellent services to kids. Having a doctorate would of course increase your clinical knowledge, and might help with moving into leadership positions. You'd have to weigh the pros and cons of what it would give you versus the considerable time and money sink of obtaining one. If you do an Ed.S. in school psychology, make an effort to get good training in therapeutic modalities, which is often not the focus.

    Academia would definitely require the doctorate, and a strong research or teaching pedigree.

    It's hard to know what the right answer is. I work in schools. I have a doctorate and am a licensed psychologist, but all my colleagues have Ed.S. degrees. I use the clinical skills I received during my extra years working on my doctorate every day. I really believe that every student and teacher I work with receives better services because of my extra clinical knowledge. But I was 22 when I started - I would personally have a hard time spending an extra 3-4 years of low/no income seeking a doctorate if I had a family depending on me financially.
     
  7. rachel54

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    Thank you again for the reply. My fiancé and I don't have a family and it isn't something we plan on starting anytime in the next few years, though this is something we have thought of when looking at phd programs. We would be fine financially, but the time investment is significant, this is true.

    I wouldn't be opposed to a masters level degree as long as it wouldn't be limiting. Most of the postings I was seeing for any type of correctional setting required a doctorate (which I thought was odd, since it's my understanding they generally have a hard time finding staff). For school settings it didn't seem to matter. I was wondering if there is any specific accreditation I should be looking for with masters/Ed.S. level programs? Would they only need to be NASP approved?

    Thank you


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  8. SchoolPsycho

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    I have only worked in one juvenile detention setting, and all the staff were master's level clinicians. I suppose it may vary by facility. For schools, you are correct that NASP approval is key for an Ed.S. or equivalent program.
     

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