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Choosing a Graduate Program

Types of graduate programs

There are several different types of graduation programs for you to choose from, so the first step in choosing the graduate program that's right for you is to understand the differences between these programs.

Note: Western's undergraduate curriculum has been pre-approved by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board. At graduation, our undergraduates will have completed the necessary coursework to apply to take the Board Certified Associate Behavior Analyst exam. Students will also need to supply additional documentation regarding supervised applied experience and proof of BS degree.

Areas of interest in psychology

Psychology is a vast discipline and therefore, graduate study in psychology encompasses a wide variety of topics. It is important for prospective students to identify their particular area of interest and then search for programs that have faculty members working in this area, as they will be the ones to guide and shape your graduate education. Graduate programs in psychology include:

APA Divisions explains more about these programs.

Considerations in selecting a school

There are a wide variety of considerations that one must make when choosing graduate programs to apply to.

  1. Type of program: Doctoral programs are often more competitive than master's programs, Clinical programs are more competitive than other types of programs and Ph.D. programs are more competitive than Psy.D. programs. Therefore, when selecting programs to apply to, it is best to choose a variety of Doctoral, Masters, and program types. This will increase your chances of being accepted into at least one program and will give you options to choose from when making the final decision. If you are absolutely sure you want to get a Ph.D. but are not accepted into a program, think about getting a Masters and then reapplying. The master's degree will increase your marketability as a candidate (be aware that you may need to complete certain requirements when transferring into a Ph.D. program, such as defending your thesis again).
  1. Research interests: When searching for programs, it is important to find programs that have faculty members who are doing work within the areas that you are interested in. Essentially you are searching for a professor who is a good match for you, and this requires a lot of research on your part. Find articles in your area of interest and see where the authors are working and if they are affiliated with a graduate program. Read the faculty members Web pages, descriptions of their research/clinical work, articles and books that they have written, etc.
  1. Clinical opportunities: If your interests are applied in nature, it is important to find a faculty mentor who is working within your area of interest. You will want to find out a faculty member who is practicing within the clinic you would like to work in.
  1. Theoretical orientations: It is important to determine the theoretical orientation of the graduate program you are interested in applying to as this orientation will be a large factor in determining your experience in that program. Five common orientations include:
    • Psychodynamic/psychoanalytic
    • Applied behavioral analysis/radical behavioral
    • Family systems/systems
    • Existential/phenomenological/humanistic
    • Cognitive/cognitive-behavioral.
  2. Financial aid: An important consideration in choosing a program is the probability of financial support. Some types of common aid include tuition waivers, assistantships, assistantship and waiver, and graduate fellowships in addition to student loans. It is also important to know what duties would be expected of you by receiving these certain types of aid (e.g., teaching, research, etc.). Also, some schools require additional applications to be considered for different forms of financial aid so make sure you have the proper paperwork filled out when you apply for this program.
  1. Quality of life: Consider quality of life issues (e.g., geography of the school, it's surrounding community, attractions, proximity to family, etc.) as this is an area in which you will be spending the next two to six years and you want to make sure that it is an area where you can see yourself living.

Resources for researching graduate programs

Books:

Both books are available in the psychology undergraduate advising office (2124 Wood).

Websites:

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