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


Full Member
Aug 26, 2018
Reaction score

Members don't see this ad.
Hey everyone!!! I am a college junior studying biopsychology and I am trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Up until recently I have been planning on going to medical school but decided that I actually want to go into research instead. I have done really well in my research methods classes (even had a professor reach out to me to say that I have a real talent for it) and have some research experience under my belt (planning on getting as much as possible within the next couple of years). I am very interested in psychology, neuroscience, and disease. I want to research the causes of mental illness, but I'm not sure what avenue would lead me there. I have considered getting a PhD in clinical psych, but considering how competitive it is and how I am not super interested in clinical work I do not think it would be a great field for me. I have also considered getting a PhD in something like neuroscience and focusing on the neurological basis of mental illness, which seems really interesting. I have also considered taking the public health route and researching psychiatric epidemiology. I am hoping anyone can give me any advice/ insight on what kind of career I am looking for, or what any of the fields I have mentioned are like. Thank you all in advance for your responses :)


Board Certified in Clinical Neuropsychology
10+ Year Member
Feb 15, 2009
Reaction score
HeI have considered getting a PhD in clinical psych, but considering how competitive it is and how I am not super interested in clinical work I do not think it would be a great field for me.

I wouldn't discount it just yet. There may be some merit in focusing on the research oriented clinical PhDs. I am a firm believer that having some exposure to both research and clinical work is hugely important, no matter which way you go in full-time work after grad school. In the case of a research career, it would be fairly important to see how things actually work in the real world clinical settings. It'll definitely put in perspective some "groundbreaking" research findings. Such as a recent JAMA paper linking mTBI and dementia, that utilized the problem list in VA medical records. A finding that anyone who actually works in a clinical setting within the VA immediately laughs at, as they know how much of clusterf*ck that is methodologically.

You still have some time. I'd start trying to find some people who are researching and doing some things you think you'd like to do and reach out to them and see what their paths were.
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users


Volunteer Staff
10+ Year Member
Jan 7, 2010
Reaction score
My knee-jerk responses: PhD in a clinical science-oriented psychology program in a lab that focuses on your areas of interest (and probably a research-oriented fellowship), or MD/PhD with the PhD in neuroscience and residency most likely in psychiatry. Both provide for clinical career options in addition to research, which can notably improve your job prospects and flexibility. I don't know if a straight neuroscience PhD would quite get you where you're wanting to go, but I could be wrong.


The clinical science-oriented psychology track is a good option. You would get strong research training and could focus your research on biological risk factors/markers (eg, genetics, imaging, environmental factors, etc.) if you choose.

But I don't think you should overlook the option of medical school + research fellowship (or MD/PhD, though that is not a decision to take lightly). A research fellowship isn't a replacement for a PhD by any means, but if you become research faculty at an academic medical center you will most likely do "team science" with collaborators who have expertise in areas you don't (eg, statistics).


5+ Year Member
Sep 8, 2015
Reaction score
What about experimental psychology? It's research-based without clinical practice.

Example program: Experimental Ph.D. Program | Idaho State University

"Doctoral training in Experimental Psychology provides students with an education and research training in core areas of psychological science (e.g., behavioral neuroscience, behavioral pharmacology, cognition, developmental psychology, learning, personality, sensation and perception, social psychology, research methodology, and statistics). Although each of these areas is not considered a separate degree program, our mentor model does allow for individualized courses of study. Students are encouraged to select a mentor/advisor working in the student's area of interest during their first semester of study. The advisor serves to guide the student's course selections, thesis, and dissertation."

Cognition and/or neuroscience emphasis may be right up your alley.