CAREERS IN PSYCHOLOGY:
Master's versus Ph.D.
What is the difference between a Master's degree and a Ph.D. degree?
A Master's degree is generally 2 years of study, with perhaps an Internship, culminating in a Master's thesis. You may receive either an M.A., Master of Arts, or M.S., Master of Science. A Ph.D. is a doctoral degree of at least 4 years of study and involves the completion of original research. It also involves internships if you are in the clinical or counseling field. Some clinical doctoral programs also offer a clinically-oriented doctoral level degree, the Psy.D., which does not emphasize original research. A Ph.D. degree usually takes from 4 - 6 years.
Generally, any Master’s work that you bring in to a Ph.D. program must be repeated; Master's work does not usually count toward a Ph.D., although sometimes it can help you get into the program.
See this Board of Behavioral Sciences site for 2007 data on numbers of California licensed Master's level therapists, social workers, and educational psychologists.
What graduate programs offer Master's or doctoral degrees in psychology?
See the following sites for organized information on graduate programs in psychology across the US. For grad programs in Psychology and all related fields, see this site or this site. For a listing of Psychology graduate programs and admission requirements, see this site. For a listing of clinical and counseling programs and related career information, see this site.
Where do I get information on Master's or Ph.D. degrees?
See the sites above for information on the programs available, and visit the school and program websites. You may also conduct an internet search on your particular interest area in psychology, along with the search words "Master's" or "Ph.D." Your search will yield particular programs available in your field. Note the prerequisites of the programs you're interested in, and make sure you take the classes necessary to apply.
The Psychology Department maintains a small library on graduate programs in psychology, along with a collection of catalogs from selected schools. Ask in the Psychology Office for more information. Individual advisors also have information about graduate programs.
The APA publishes Graduate Study in Psychology, which lists over 550 graduate psychology programs throughout the United States and Canada. The book includes information on programs and degrees offered, admission requirements, degree requirements, financial aid, tuition, deadlines, and internships.
Every school has a Web site with information about the programs they offer. Use a search engine to find the Web sites of the schools you’re interested in, and print out the information you find useful.
A list of APA-accredited Doctoral programs in clinical, counseling, and school psychology is published yearly in the American Psychologist. The APA also publishes a guide to humanistic and transpersonal graduate programs. Call the APA Office at 202-336-5979 for more information, or check out the APA Web site, www.apa.org.
And finally, talk to students and faculty and find out which schools offer programs in the field you’re interested in. Then call the school and ask them to send you more information.
Do students earn a Master's degree before applying to doctoral programs?
Students interested in gaining experience in research often choose to obtain a Master's degree focusing on research from one of the CSU campuses, such as San Jose State, CSU Long Beach, San Francisco State and Chico State. This is excellent preparation for doctoral work in psychology, which often requires research experience. Master's programs sponsor research in the areas of social psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and so on. Other students who've received research training in their undergraduate major may apply directly to doctoral programs.
What are alternative schools or programs?
Graduate programs that incorporate a transpersonal, spiritual, depth, or Jungian approach into their curriculum are considered alternative programs. These may be located in public or private universities, or private graduate institutions. The primary alternative schools are located in California. They are California Institute of Integral Studies, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, John F. Kennedy University, and Saybrook Graduate School. Sonoma State's Depth Psychology Master's program may be considered an alternative program.
Alternative schools may provide Master's and Doctoral programs in clinical and counseling psychology, as well as programs in transpersonal psychology, depth psychology, mythological studies, women's spirituality, consciousness studies, expressive arts, and transformative leadership. Not all of the alternative schools offer APA-accredited clinical training programs, so you're advised to investigate this if you're interested in alternative clinical training.
What can I do with a Master’s degree?
People with Master’s degrees work in a variety of settings. Many conduct research and work with interviewing, data collection, and data analysis in university, medical, government, and private settings. Others work in health settings, businesses, and schools. Many people with Master's degrees and state licenses work as therapists in community clinics and medical settings, or as counselors, supervisors, and administrators of residential treatment facilities. Some work under the direction of a Doctoral psychologist, especially in clinical, counseling, and school settings, where they may be involved in testing and assessment. Still others work in organizations with jobs in personnel selection, training, and job satisfaction.
According to the APA, only about 1/3 of those with a Master's degree in psychology find work in the field. Generally, work with a Master’s is not as highly paid as work with a Ph.D. degree. See the APA's website for the data from See the APA's website for the data from the 2003 survey on Master's level positions and salaries; the 2003 survey on psychology positions at many different levels and in different areas, including the yearly salaries of Doctoral level and Master's level practitioners, sorted into many interesting categories. See this Board of Behavioral Sciences site for 2007 data on numbers of California licensed Master's level therapists, social workers, and educational psychologists.
Can I get financial support for Master's work?
Financial support for Master’s work is hard to come by. Most internships are not paid, and most programs do not offer paid teaching or research positions. Many students find that they take out loans and work at a second job to support their Master’s education. You should bear this in mind if you are thinking of receiving the M.A. or M.S. first, and then going on for a Ph.D. later; your educational loans could be sizable.
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