Which Psychology Graduate Program Is the Best?

Things you should consider before you choose a program

Graduate standing under an arch
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So you've decided to pursue a graduate degree in psychology, but you cannot decide which program is best. Choosing a graduate program is a big decision, but the number of options available within psychology can make the choice particularly difficult. 

Should you apply to a social psychology or clinical psychology program? Should you earn a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree? As you begin to make a plan for graduate school, it is important to consider these basic questions in order to find the right program.

Consider Your Needs and Interests

Psychology is a broad field that draws upon a number of different topics, including science, philosophy, and statistics. Because of the diverse nature of psychology, it is impossible to say that one area of study is better than another. Your individual interests and talents should dictate which psychology graduate program is best suited to your needs.

If you are passionate about conducting research, then a program focused on professional practice would be a poor fit. Spend some time thinking about what you are interested in and what you plan to do with your degree after you graduate. For example, if you hope to start your own psychotherapy practice one day, then you should focus on finding a psychology graduate program centered on professional practice.

Be careful to check the accreditation status of the programs you look at as well as whether or not completing the program will allow you to become licensed to practice in your state.

Psychology graduate programs vary widely depending upon the type of degree, area of study, and intended career goals. For example, a program might be focused on a specific sub-discipline such as social psychology, educational psychology, or clinical psychology. Each program offers an education uniquely tailored to providing knowledge and skills in a particular area of interest.

Look at the Program's Theoretical Focus and Teaching Philosophy

Different graduate programs also vary considerably in theoretical focus and educational philosophy. Before you choose the graduate program that is best for your needs, spend some time researching and comparing different psychology graduate programs. Talk to program advisors, visit each campus if possible, and try to meet with faculty members.

It is also a good idea to ask about student outcomes, such as where graduates of the program typically find employment. These factors can all play an important role in determining which psychology program is best suited to your needs and interests.

Evaluate Your Educational and Professional Goals

Before you choose which psychology graduate program is best for you, it is important to take stock of your personal, educational, and professional goals. You can learn more about your own interests by researching different subfields of psychology. Consider which areas of psychology you find the most interesting. Talk to your academic advisor about possible career options and plans for graduate study.

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.