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The Masters Advantage?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by leikcaj, Mar 4, 2007.

  1. leikcaj

    leikcaj Junior Member 5+ Year Member

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    So this is where I'm a bit confused - there seems to be the idea that having a masters is actually a disadvantage (and/or unneccessary) when it comes to getting into Phd programs in clinical psych. Yet, at the interviews I was at, it seems a lot of the current graduate students (and many of those invited to interviews) did a masters in clinical or counseling psych before getting into the program. I'm wondering if certain programs (the ones I had interviews at seemed to have a more balanced clinical-research model as opposed to pure research focus) prefer students with MAs or if it just happened that most of the students I met happened to have MAs (either clinical/counseling leading to licensure and research MAs). I realise that having an MA means that your CV is a little stronger and potentially gives you more time to do research (and gain some clinical experience), but then where does the notion that 'MAs are bad' come from? Does anyone have any insight on this?
     
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  3. paramour

    paramour 7+ Year Member

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    I've heard mainly two rationales (from program profs) regarding why they consider MAs to be potential risks for admission:

    (1) If applicant has an MA in counseling/clinical, then the student may have learned techniques in opposition to the program's own preferences and may be difficult to retrain. In one program I interviewed at, there were also comments made about certain students who thought they knew everything already because they had a master's degree so, once again, they were difficult to train because they would not listen. I will have a master's after this semester, but it's with an emphasis on experimental psych so I wasn't really too worried about this particular complaint.

    (2) If applicant has an MA, then student may wish to obtain credit for prior graduate work. Makes sense. Why spend time taking identical courses again? However, some programs, particularly ones admitting small cohorts, must consider minimum enrollment . . . that is, they may need a certain number of students to take a class in order for it to be offered. If they accept students with previous grad work and give them credit for it, then there is the possibility that the class will not make the schedule. This reason I do have to worry about and it was mentioned on several occasions during one of my interview days. I had to keep reassuring them that I would re-take anything necessary but I'm not so sure they believed me. :rolleyes:
     
  4. Anon15

    Anon15 Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    Aug 14, 2006
    I think it depends on the program. Some programs prefer the "cookie cutter" 23-year-old while some (although not too many) programs will not pass over an "older" student with MA.

    Check the stats portion of the Insiders guide to see how many applicant were admitted w/ what degree. If a school admits 100% students with a BA than you may be out of luck if you already have a masters.
     
  5. MrMasterBoy29

    MrMasterBoy29

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    Since when is pursuing graduate level training a bad thing? Many people decide to obtain a Masters degree for a variety of reasons (not the bad undergraduate GPA reason that so many cite). Some people have great undergraduate records and decide to pursue a masters degree to a) obtain more research experience b) make great connections with professors that may serve to write letter of rec or just provide excellent guidance c) obtain publications d) write a thesis e) show that you can handle and excel in graduate level curriculum (especially statistical training). Overall, it can really fill in the holes in your CV that may be lacking. Is it necessary to get into a competitive doctoral program? NO. If you can obtain the same opportunities in a RA position, by all means go for it. But I have been in several RA positions prior to getting a Masters, and sometimes it is difficult to work closely with Faculty at academic institutions or be involved in paper writing. Also, it may be difficult to be involved as a first-author. If you are a diligent RA and are involved in conference presentations, work closely with a Faculty members, have the chance to submit papers to peer-review journals, then keep doing what you're doing and I'm sure you'll do just fine. But sometimes you don't get those great RA positions, and being in a Master's program might make you a well-rounded, competitive applicant. The truth is, the grades at the Masters level may only hurt you but may not necessarily help you. If you get all A's, admissions committees will be "great, he can handle it" but at the same time "big deal, maybe everyone gets A's." But if you get C's, then that may be a red flag. Sometimes you really have to bust you behind for that A, but the classes are not necessarily the selling point. AND, they most likely will not transfer. But gaining all the other experience WILL help you get into a top program. Not all Masters programs will provide these excellent opportunities, so you must do your homework and be selective in choosing. I must stress that it is by no means a necessity, but it can be very beneficial.
     
  6. Jon4PsyD

    Jon4PsyD Go Red Sox 5+ Year Member

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    I think it totally depends on the program and what they prefer. But it also depends on the TYPE of program. If you want your Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, almost all of those programs REQUIRE a Master's degree in order to even apply. On the other hand, when it comes to a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, having a Master's in Counseling Psychology will most likely hurt your chances and even a Master's in Clinical won't be looked at as well as say, a Master's in General Psychology or Experimental Psychology.

    But if think if you're not really sure where in Psychology you want to go yet, or you just want more experience (either at a research or applied level) then getting an M.A. is a great option and like the previous poster stated, if you can excel and draw the attention of your faculty, you're going to show these doctoral programs that you can do well at the graduate level and you can connect with faculty in ways maybe you weren't able to while pursuing your B.A. so I agree, it's worth getting if you're not that lucky 10% that jumps right from undergrad into a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program.
     
  7. RayneeDeigh

    RayneeDeigh 5+ Year Member

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    Just a point of interest - in Canada, all but a couple of schools require a Master's degree before you can go on to do a clinical psych Ph.D. That's why so many Canadians apply in the US, because it's a good way to bypass the requirement.

    It seems to vary widely based on school in the US. Some prefer a "blank slate", and others seem to appreciate the extra experience.

    Applying to grad school is definitely not the precise science I once thought it was. lol
     
  8. tkj

    tkj 2+ Year Member

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  9. Ollie123

    Ollie123 10+ Year Member

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    I believe York does.

    However their website/application process is terribly unclear and their staff was a lovely combo of nasty and incompetent when I called to ask - so I never did find out for sure. I applied to the PhD program there anyways, as I didn't discover my error until afterwards, so we'll see what happens.

    Also, it definitely varies based on what school you are applying to with regards to whether its better/worse to have a master's.

    Some of the top programs (Penn is the example I've always heard used), don't like student's to have a master's for a variety of reasons, most of which were explained above. I'll also add that it is sometimes viewed as people getting them not being certain they want to follow all the way through to the PhD or aren't as focused on becoming researchers if its a clinically based master's. Not saying that's right, just saying thats what I've heard from people, and when you're trying to narrow 300 applications down to 5, I can see how those sorts of judgments might be necessary.
     
  10. RayneeDeigh

    RayneeDeigh 5+ Year Member

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    Feb 4, 2007
    Sorry if I offended you.

    What I meant was that Canadian schools require the Master's degree to be completed before you can start your PhD work, whereas at some places in the states you can go right into the PhD itself without doing a formal Master's thesis.

    I'm also fairly certain that UBC and Simon Fraser require the application to state that it's for Master's leading into a PhD rather then the PhD itself. But as the person above me said of another school, the people there were also fairly unhelpful when I asked about this.
     
  11. tkj

    tkj 2+ Year Member

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  12. thewesternsky

    thewesternsky 10+ Year Member

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    At most schools in Canada (University of Waterloo is the only exception that I've come across), you apply from undergrad to the Master's program, with the (usual) expectation that this is *not* a terminal Master's and that you will apply for the Ph.D. program (almost always at that same school) upon obtaining your Master's.

    At UWaterloo, you may apply directly from undergrad to the Ph.D. program. You get your Master's along the way to the Ph.D. there as well.

    How do things work in the States? If you apply to the Ph.D. program out of undergrad, do you still fulfill Master's requirements and get that degree on your way to the Ph.D.?
     
  13. Ollie123

    Ollie123 10+ Year Member

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    In the states, the vast majority of schools you can apply to a PhD program straight out of a Bachelor's program. At MOST you will receive a terminal master's on route to the PhD - usually after the second year.

    Some schools skip the master's. University of Vermont would be an example. It doesn't really make the program any shorter, it just let's you change the focus a little bit. I think comp exams are required for a terminal master's and Vermont wanted to get rid of them so people could spend more time writing up research or doing clinical work (which makes sense to me as those activities have far more real-world value than taking tests). At least that was my interpretation of it. Its not really intended to make anything shorter, it just lets people focus in a bit more - and probably has the added advantage of discouraging dropouts since if you leave after 3+ years you won't have anything to show for it.
     
  14. psychanon

    psychanon 7+ Year Member

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    At the vast majority of Ph.D. programs in the US, you earn a master's along the way. You are admitted as a Ph.D. student, and must complete (typically) three major requirements: master's thesis, comprehensive exam (which sometimes takes the form of a paper), and dissertation. Most schools (but not all) give you an MA once you finish your master's thesis. It's pretty meaningless, since it will soon be trumped by your Ph.D., but it does have some advantages (such as being eligible for certain practica, and for the gentle thrill of finally have some letters after your name). You do not have to reapply for the Ph.D. after your masters, you are admitted from the start.
     
  15. RayneeDeigh

    RayneeDeigh 5+ Year Member

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    Saskatchewan does that too, where you apply to the PhD program. I think those are the only two but I'm not 100% sure on that one.

    I'm fairly sure that U Iowa's Master's requirement is optional but I could be wrong, it's been a while since I looked into that.
     
  16. tkj

    tkj 2+ Year Member

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  17. tkj

    tkj 2+ Year Member

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  18. leikcaj

    leikcaj Junior Member 5+ Year Member

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    Jul 24, 2006
    Haha thanks. Yes, I definitely got a range of opinions! Still not sure what the best route is... this process is tough and confusing!!
     
  19. WaitingKills

    WaitingKills Rockstar 5+ Year Member

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    From what I remember you actually have to apply to the Ph.D program at UBC, after you finish your masters requirements. You are not guarenteed into the Ph.D program, though I'm thinking as long as you are progressing well, you should have no problem. When I was looking into other schools (sorry, I can't be bothered to re-check which ones they are) there are a few more across canada that you have to apply for the Ph.D after your fninish your masters. They will not admit you into the masters unless you want to complete a Ph.D, but I guess this is there way of having a way to get rid of students that they don't think suit the program/profession after having them around for a few years.
     
  20. tkj

    tkj 2+ Year Member

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    madison, wisconsin
  21. tkj

    tkj 2+ Year Member

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  22. MrMasterBoy29

    MrMasterBoy29

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    Yes, I agree it does depend on what type of psych doctoral programs you are applying to and what the MA emphasis is. I was speaking from the perspective of applying to clinical Ph.D programs and having a Masters with an experimental psych/research focus. True, it could be a red flag if you apply to a research oriented clinical Ph.D. program and got an MA in counseling or applied clinical. My point, as I mentioned before, is that the MA is not a necessity, but it can serve to boost up your CV. The grades at the MA level will not replace your undergrad GPA, but the reality is, the grades are an after thought. Research, publications, connections, improved letters of rec, thesis writing, conference presentations are the big things. Doesn't mean you can get all C's and gain everything else, but the A's aren’t necessarily the selling point. As for MAs being potential know-it-alls...well...people are know-it-alls independent of degree. I know a lot of know-it-alls with just a high school education. I'm just not sure if I agree with MAs generally being frowned upon by admissions committees. Some profs want the young ones straight out of undergrad, some want older ones. What they do want are experienced students to work in their lab, but that are still malleable and not resistant to change or learning.
     
  23. NextCandidate

    NextCandidate

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    From my experience, the professors really bottom line (as MrMasterBoy posts) just want students who are capable and enthusiastic to conduct research in the advisor's area of interest. So if getting a masters degree helps you to develop your skill set further and prepares you more thoroughly for doctoral programs, then it can be helpful. You can obtain similar skill set/experience by having a good research assistantship that encourages publications, presentations, and autonomy. Or if you are one of the lucky ones that got an amazing research assistantship as an undergraduate, maybe that's enough. I think above all, the match of interest with your advisor is key (with everything else being somewhat equal in terms of experience, score cutoffs, etc). You can have all the skills in the world, but if you are not interested in schizophrenia research and want to work with a schizophrenia researcher, they'll probably pick up on that and perhaps choose someone who is less experienced but genuinely excited by this area of research.
     

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