SDN members see fewer ads and full resolution images. Join our non-profit community!

What should I do? MSW with strong clinical focus or try to pursue a PHD in psychology?

Discussion in 'Mental Health and Social Welfare' started by Jwan622, Oct 29, 2014.

  1. Jwan622


    Oct 29, 2014
    Hello message board!

    My name is Jeffrey Wan and I came across your site while browsing various Psychology PHD programs and MSW programs with a strong clinical focus. I have recently been thinking about making a career transition and the idea of returning back to school to obtain either a PHD, MSW, or Psy.D in Psychology has become a more appealing idea to me. When I think back to my time at college as an undergrad, I really enjoyed my coursework in social psychology and intro to psychology. After graduation, I competed and worked as a professional poker player and derivatives trader, where human heuristics (mostly arrogance) were on full-display, and this further piqued my interest in the field. Since graduating, I have read as much as I could about behavioral psychology (Kahneman, Gilovich, McRaney among others) and the numerous heuristics that affect our decision-making and I believe I would like to spend some time further investigating these topics, and even dedicating my career to them. I also want to practice as a therapist and help people improve their mental health. Some other topics that I would like to explore further are Prospect theory, availability heuristic, familiarity heuristic, short-term vs long-term motivation and delayed-grat issues, the short-comings and excellence of intuition in making decisions involving risk, especially tail-risk.

    I want to know if someone with my background would do well in a PHD program for psychology or a MSW program with a strong clinical focus. Here is a quick summary of my academic and work background:

    -Graduate of Amherst College, cum laude in Philosophy. Honors thesis. 3.45 GPA, 3.6 Major GPA.
    -Coursework in Intro to Psych and Social psych.
    -710 GMAT, not GRE.
    -3 years competing as a professional poker player
    -3 years as a derivatives trader.
    -I am currently 28 years old.
    -I am about to attend programming school for a short period of time to learn some software development skills. I am also enjoy learning things that exhibit linear return on effort and I feel it makes me happier in some way.

    I have some questions for you all:

    1) Do you recommend that someone of my background and interests apply to a MSW or a PHD or a Psy.D? After years of working, I very much miss the rigor and experience of the classroom and I want to develop into a consummate professional. I am still looking for a discipline that holds my passion and interest, and I think an MSW with a strong clinical focus has good potential for me. But I am not sure. What might I not like about an MSW? I feel like a lot of the topics in psychology and statistics aren't well explored in MSW curriculums. Is this correct?

    2) I have enjoyed therapy in my past and believe it is something that I’d like to pursue as a profession. I enjoy helping others and I enjoy learning about the topics. Is a MSW sufficient to pursue this path? Also, if I pursue an MSW and want to pursue a PHD in psychology, is there overlap? How much psychology content will I be learning in your MSW program?

    3) Do I need research experience?

    4) For whom would you recommend a MSW and for whom would you recommend a PHD?

    5) What are the top programs?

    I would very much appreciate your answers and your insight. I am currently just looking for some guidance in my career path and I would appreciate whatever words you may have. Thanks in advance guys
  2. SDN Members don't see this ad. About the ads.
  3. My first thought in reading this is that you would best be served by pursuing your interests in the heuristics of human decision making and see where that leads. PhD in psychology can be either purely experimental or more applied clinical. I'm not familiar with the authors that you mention but you could even apply to where either they or others are conducting some of this research. Very rarely does someone become a social worker and then change careers to become a psychologist and they are two separate career paths although sometimes we can do the same thing. To get into an MSW program, don't need research experience, to get into a PhD program - yes. Some will say on this board that if all you want to do is be a therapist, then go for the MSW. I disagree with this sentiment as it is a disservice to both the field of social work and can dissuade some great potential psychologists. It is hard to make this decision because at this point you don't really know what a psychologist or social worker really does in addition to providing psychotherapy.

    Social Work: Social work is a professional and academic discipline that seeks to improve the quality of life and subjective well-being of individuals, families, couples, groups, and communities through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, crisis intervention, and teaching for the benefit of those affected by social disadvantages such as poverty, mental and physical illness or disability, and social injustice, including violations of their civil liberties and human rights. The profession is dedicated to the pursuit of social justice and the well-being of oppressed and marginalized individuals and communities. (from Wikipedia)​

    When I looked at Wikipedia for definition of psychologist it was less helpful mainly because it is such a broad field. The study of the human mind. I find it more helpful to talk about our skill set. To be a clinical psychologist (which is excluding purely experimental/academic psychologists) you would need competency in these following areas and in general we have a level of expertise in these areas beyond other mental health providers: research, psychotherapy, assessment (IQ testing, personality testing) and diagnosis, self-knowledge, interpersonal relationships, consultation, clinical supervision, organizational dynamics, ethics and law.


Share This Page