Graduate study in Psychology: Alternatives in the United States

The demand for qualified professionals is projected to increase as demand for counseling services grows in colleges, hospitals, substance abuse treatment facilities, and social service organizations. Clinical psychology, school psychology, and industrial-organizational psychology are three work fields that are projected to be in high demand. Psychology majors become one of the most popular programs, especially in last decades. The reason for preference is simple. There are quite a few job opportunities. In fact, if we consider the potential of every person may need psychological help, we can call it a profession with a lot of customer potential. Considering that prejudices about psychologists have decreased in last decades, we can understand the reason for popularity more easily. Those who get counseling from psychologists are not crazy people. The modern world requires living a stressful life. In a sense, psychologists help those who have difficulties in this modern life. Or they ensure that precautions are taken beforehand. In summary, psychology majors are popular programs and I think it is a profession that is truly indispensable. On the other hand, I also must highlight that psychology major is the 5th most preferred undergraduate program among US students.

Let’s come to our recommendations for students who have graduated from psychology programs in different countries. First, it is useful to remind that a master’s or doctorate programs in the United States will easily move you to the top one percent among the graduates of the same psychology programs in your home country. As I have highlighted in my previous blogs, the quality of education offered in US colleges are superior and when it comes to the research, the US colleges always lead the cutting-edge research especially in the field of psychology. On the other hand, there are around 1.1 million international students studying in the United States and most of them come for English as a Second Language (ESL) education only. More than half of them study in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). A lot of students are also pursuing a master’s degree in business administration (MBA and its derivatives in short). The number of international students in psychology programs in the US colleges is very few.

The first thing you need to know about psychology masters is the fact that you complete more credits than other master programs. A course in graduate level programs is calculated as 3 credits (in some cases it can be 2 credits or 4 credits). This also means 3 hours course per week. A business master’s degree usually ends in 36 credits, but things change for the psychology masters. You will be required to complete at least 40 credits (usually around 50 credits). Apart from these, 300 hours of internship per semester is also compulsory. While researching a school for a student, I also saw the requirement of a 900-hour internship for 1 year at a prestigious psychology program. However, you do not have to worry, the school is arranging internship locations. The quality of education is also increasing significantly thanks to these internships. The reason why there is so much course load is simple. This is a profession that directly interacts with people. And psychology practices have methodology that is like being a doctor in a sense. On the other hand, it is not just about the excess number of credits. Laboratory studies, research, publications. Beyond that, schools are selective in admissions. They try to get good students for these psychology programs. Majority of the programs require 3.0/4.0 grade point average from undergraduate degrees. But do not worry, there are schools accepting students with 2.5/4.0 grade point average. Further, there is pricing per credit. It varies between 750-1100 dollars. Scholarship and assistantship opportunities are also available. Some schools even give scholarships to each student they accept. While in school, most master’s degree in psychology candidates serve as assistants, volunteers, or interns, both of which enable them to pay for their education. Working in their area of interest ensures the master’s in psychology students gain practical experience. You do not know how much scholarship you will receive without applying.

All psychology masters or doctoral programs are requiring the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) from applicants. This test is required for many other master programs, but it is indispensable for psychology masters. However, unlike TOELF or IELTS exams there is not minimum score requirement for this test.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of earning a master’s degree in psychology is the ability to specialize in psychology that most interests you. Students pursuing a master’s in psychology may major, minor, or double major in areas such as drug abuse, sports psychology, family/marriage therapy, and social work.

Psychology departments provide the opportunity to specialize in different fields. Let me share some of the graduate programs I have chosen for you.

Psychology Graduate (Master) Programs in the United States

Masters in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

Master of Arts in School Counseling

Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, Concentration in Drama Therapy

Master of Science Degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Master of Education in Child Studies

Master in Police Psychology

Master in Marriage and Family Counseling

Master’s in art therapy

Here are the best psychology programs offered at different schools. Source: US News & World Report.

1 Stanford University

1 University of California-Berkley

3 Harvard University

3 University of California-Los Angeles

3 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

3 Yale University

7 University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign

8 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

8 Princeton University

8 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

8 University of Pennsylvania

8 University of Texas-Austin

13 University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill)

BS in psychology degree holders will be angry, but you do not need to have a psychology degree to get a master’s degree in psychology in the United States. However, having undergraduate psychology degree is preferred but not essential. With a strong application package and timeline, you can receive acceptance letters from the best colleges with best scholarships. And such strong application requires a personalized college consulting.

Erkan Acar, PhD

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