Getting an Advanced Degree in Psychology

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Signing up for Graduate School

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Congratulations: You've earned your bachelor's degree in psychology. Your four years of undergraduate study has paid off. Now the question may be, should you go on to graduate school? An advanced degree in psychology (or in most any field) opens up more career options and makes it easier to advance professionally.

However, graduate study is intensive, time-consuming, and expensive, so don't jump into a commitment without weighing your options.

Questions to Consider Regarding an Advanced Degree in Psychology

To help you home in on the path that's right for you based on what aspects of psychology you want to focus on, what you hope to achieve in your career, and so forth, ask yourself these key questions.

Are You Clear About Your Professional Goals?

If you're truly passionate about the subject matter and are certain you want to pursue a career in psychology that requires an advanced degree, then grad school is for you. You can move on to considering the pros and cons of pursuing a master's degree, a Ph.D. (which stands for doctor of philosophy), or a Psy.D (doctor of psychology), and exploring specific graduate school programs.

But if you're not really sure what you want to do in the field of psychology, or even if you want to pursue a career in this area, take time to establish some clear goals before you commit to grad school.

Talk to your adviser, professors, and, if you can, people who are already working in the field, such as therapists, researchers, social workers for guidance.

Do You Have Time for Graduate School?

Earning an advanced degree in psychology requires a serious commitment of time—two to eight years in graduate school. Most graduate programs follow a traditional schedule, so if you can't go to school full-time, your options may be limited.

That said, some graduate programs offer part-time, evening, or weekend options. If you have your eye on a specific school, look carefully at the requirements to make sure you can manage the course load and study obligations.

Do You Have the Skills Needed to Succeed?

Motivation and commitment are just two of the characteristics that are essential for successful grad students. Strong academic abilities and great study skills are also necessary. The majority of graduate programs require at least a 3.0 GPA, but some programs have even higher standards.

Be realistic about your abilities and your desire to succeed before you take this major step.

Have You Considered All of Your Options?

Once you decide to go for an advanced degree in psychology, you'll need to figure out which type of degree to pursue. For example, you might start out with a general goal of becoming a mental health therapist, but there are lots of options here.

You could study to become a clinical psychologist, a counseling psychologist, a social worker, or a psychiatrist, for example. Each of these has different educational requirements that will determine the type of advanced psychology degree you go for.

It's a huge decision, but by putting in the effort to weigh all pros and cons you can be certain you've made the right one for you.

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