Graduate School in Psychology

Program Types and Areas

Generally speaking, graduate programs in psychology can be divided into either master’s (MA, MS) or doctoral levels (PhD, PsyD, EdD). Master’s level programs typically require two or three years to complete, enable graduates to move on in a variety of career settings, or can serve to further prepare students for doctoral study. Doctoral level programs typically require approximately four to six years of study, and they prepare students for careers in academic, applied, or other professional settings. Both types of degrees are considered vocationally beneficial and prestigious, but students should take not e that there are certain professions (i.e. university/college professor) that tend to require or favor one type of degree over the other.

In general, there are various program areas at both the master’s and doctoral level. Specifically, the University of Florida offers degrees (keep in mind that not all are available at both MA and PhD levels and not all are offered with the Department of Psychology) in areas such as: Clinical Health, Counseling , Developmental, Social, Behavior Analysis, Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience, Marriage and Family Counseling, Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling and Guidance, and School Psychology, just to name a few. There are many other institutions that offer graduate degrees in additional areas. Students are encouraged to pay attention to positive experiences in coursework and/or research/volunteer involvement in order to better define their personal areas of interest. One way to get a comprehensive look at different specialties in psychology is to examine the official APA Divisions and independently investigate possible careers (and corresponding degrees) for any area that strikes you as interesting. More information on the Divisions of the APA can be found here: http://www.apa.org/about/division/index.aspx.

Useful Websites

Information about graduate school opportunities in psychology:

Graduate School Preparation

Psychology Advising Office Workshops:

Dr. Greg Neimeyer has generously provided his PowerPoint presentations from various workshops that are relevant to graduate preparation. Specific topics are shown below and are recommended highly to those entering into the application process:

Getting Letters of Recommendation

We have prepared a packet of information for requesting letters of recommendation that we hope you find helpful. To view the packet, click here. You will also need this accompanying release form.

FAQ: General Graduate School Questions

Q: Who can I talk to if I have questions about graduate school in Psychology?
A: If you have questions about graduate school in Psychology, you can visit the undergraduate advising office in Rm. 135 of the Psychology Building. All advisors are current UF graduate students in the Department of Psychology and can help to answer your questions about the graduate school process. Additionally, you may also visit the UF Career Resource Center to speak with an advisor about graduate school options.

Q: Research or applied psychology?
A: Broadly, there are two paths in psychology: the research path, which focuses on generating scientific knowledge about human behavior, and the applied path, which uses this psychological research in applied settings. People who go into research generally become PhD level professors or work for private companies. There are many areas of psychology in which to conduct research: social psychology, developmental psychology, applied behavior analysis, behavioral neuroscience, clinical psychology, counseling psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, cognitive psychology, school psychology, etc. People in applied psychology do a variety of different jobs, such as therapy, business consulting, psychological assessment, teaching, etc. If you want more detailed information about different areas of psychology, click here.

Q: Masters versus doctorate?
A: This can be a complex and difficult question. Masters level counselors can work in community settings and open their own private practices. They cannot become licensed psychologists, but in some cases they can be more competitive than psychologists because they are less expensive. Masters level degrees are good for people who want to start practicing as soon as possible and have no interest in research. Some Masters level careers include school counselors, mental health counselors, career counselors, rehabilitation counselors, substance abuse counselors, and marriage and family counselors. See the Bureau of Labor Statistics for details: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos067.htm.

Applied doctorates take more time but give you more flexibility in career choices. With a doctorate in an applied setting, you can conduct assessments, teach, and do research. You would also make more money than a Masters level clinician. Depending on the program, it may be easier to secure funding for a doctorate program than a Master’s program. See the Bureau of Labor Statistics for details: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos056.htm.

Q: Clinical versus counseling psychology?
A: The difference between these two fields reflects different historical developments. Clinical psychology has a historical emphasis on psychological dysfunction, rehabilitation, assessment, and diagnosis. Clinical psychologists tend to work in medical and hospital settings with people who have serious mental illness and use cognitive-behavioral techniques. Counseling psychology has a historical emphasis on vocation, multiculturalism, social justice, and optimal human functioning. Counseling psychologists tend to work in university and community counseling centers with people without serious mental illness. They tend to use more humanistic and person-centered approaches. That being said, there is actually more overlap between these two fields than there are differences. A PhD in either area provides substantial flexibility in career choice. For more information on these programs, check out our detailed guide.

Q: Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD) or Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD)?
A: PhDs and PsyDs reflect different philosophies on what makes a good clinician. PhDs come from the “Boulder Model,” which believes that clinicians should be scientist-practitioners (i.e. professionals who generate scientific knowledge as well as apply it). As a result, PhD programs require students to complete dissertations and conduct research projects. PsyDs come from the “Vail Model,” which believes that clinicians should be practitioner-scholars (i.e. professionals who focus on clinical practice and applying scientific knowledge). Therefore, these programs focus on clinical skills, rather than scientific practice. Practically, PsyD programs have higher acceptance rates, but PhD programs are 3 times more likely to provide full financial assistance (Norcross et al., 1998). People with PhDs are more likely to be employed in academic settings.

FAQ: Applying to Graduate School

Q: When are applications for graduate school due?
A: Applications for doctoral programs are generally due in early December, approximately 9 months before you would start the program (i.e. December 1st, 2013 to attend in Fall 2014). Masters programs may have later deadlines. Again, always check with the individual program for specific deadline and application requirements.

Q: What goes into a graduate school application?
A: Applications generally include a curriculum vitae, a personal statement, GRE scores, all university transcripts (i.e. coursework and GPA), and three letters of recommendation (preferably from people with PhDs or advanced degrees). Be sure to check with your targeted programs for individual requirements because since all programs are different and may have unique requests.

Q. Do graduate school admissions require a resume?
A: Typically, graduate schools will require a resume OR a curriculum vita (CV). You should check with the admission requirements for your prospective school(s) to make sure. There are critical differences between a resume and a CV, so it is important to know which one is required. Please click here or visit the advising office in PSY 135 for more information about structuring these documents.

Q: What do I include in my curriculum vitae?
A: This website is a great resource for guidelines in crafting a CV: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/career-minded/200806/writing-your-ciriculum-vitae. We are also available to help edit your CV with you in the psychology undergraduate advising office.

Q: What courses are recommended if I am interested in going to graduate school?
A: Students interested in attending graduate school in psychology should take a wide range of psychology courses to demonstrate breadth of knowledge in the field. You can also try to tailor your upper division courses to your area of interest (e.g. social, developmental, clinical/counseling). Students are also encouraged to do a senior thesis if interested in applying to doctoral programs since this demonstrates research interest and experience.

Q: What goes into a personal statement?
A: Personal statements are among the most challenging pieces of any graduate school application. A strong statement should synthesize the high points of your academic and applied experiences into a concise essay that conveys a clear message of ability, passion, and “fit” to the selection committees and/or potential mentors at your targeted programs. Statements usually include career goals, previous research experience and interests, clinical experience, etc. However, it’s important to note that your statement should not be a narrative regurgitation of your CV; it needs to convey subjective evidence for why those objective details make you such a wonderful applicant. There are many online resources available to help write a strong statement (e.g. http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/gcallaghan/graduate/winningstatement.htm, http://www.kon.org/bottoms_nysse.html). Also remember to have as many people read and revise your statement as possible. Assistance with statement guidance or revision is available in the psychology undergraduate advising office.

Q: What is the GRE?
A: The Graduate Records Exam (GRE) is a (approximately) 4-hour computerized exam required for admission to graduate school. There are three sections to the GRE: the Analytical Writing, the Quantitative Section, and the Verbal Section. After a revision in August 2011, the maximum score on the GRE, which is a combination of the Quantitative and Verbal sections, is 340. For more information, visit http://www.ets.org.

Q: When should I take the GRE?
A: When you should take the GRE depends on the application deadline of the school to which you are applying to and if you think you may need to take it more than once. Generally, it’s recommended that applicants take the GRE no later than 3 months before applications are due to graduate programs. Utilizing the summer before applying to fully prepare and sit for the exam is highly recommended. The GRE is given year-round in testing centers all across the country. Consult the admissions offices of your prospective schools about their schedule.

Q: Can/should I take the GRE again if I didn’t do so well?
A: Depending on your initial score and the requirements of your targeted programs, you can and might strongly consider taking the GRE again in order to strengthen your application. The only restriction is that you may not take the GRE more than one time in any calendar month, even if you have taken the test and canceled your scores.

Q: Should I take the GRE Psychology subject test?
A: Most graduate programs do not require the subject test. However, applicants should contact their targeted programs in order to determine whether the subject test is recommended or required. Note that the subject test can be useful for applicants who do not have an official background or degree in psychology prior to applying.

Q: When should I start accumulating research experience for graduate school?
A: If interested in applying to doctoral programs, students should ideally begin preparation for graduate school the second semester of their sophomore year. It is still possible to be competitive for graduate school if students delay preparations until their junior year. If students wait until their senior year to consider preparation, however, it’s much more likely that they will either A) have to try to become highly involved in research very quickly, and/or B) consider taking some extra time following graduation to build additional experience in order to make their applications more competitive.

Q: Where can I get information about specific graduate programs?
A: Students should look at the useful websites at the top of this page. They should also directly research and/or contact institutions regarding their specific program offerings. Many bookstores in Gainesville or online retailers offer books that contain useful information about graduate programs and applying to graduate school. For example, The Insider’s Guide to Clinical and Counseling Psychology Graduate Schools is an important guidebook for students interested in applying to clinical and counseling programs. Other recommendations include: The Virtual Advisor: Successful Strategies for Getting Into Graduate School in Psychology; Applying to Graduate School in Psychology: Advice from Successful Students and Prominent Psychologists; and Getting In: A Step-By-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology.

Q: Who should I ask if I need a letter of recommendation?
A: Many supervisors, especially instructors, are used to being asked for letters of recommendation, so don’t consider it a burden to ask. Seek out people who are appropriate for the type of position to which you are applying.
For an internship: Past/Present employer, past/present professor, past/present supervisor, etc.
For grad school: Instructors with a PhD who can attest to your research, teaching, and/or writing abilities are strongly preferred.

Q: What information should I provide to faculty writing letters of recommendation for me?
A: Providing your personal statement, CV, unofficial transcripts, as well as addressed and stamped envelopes are very helpful. You can also include anything else that would help your recommender to write a strong letter on your behalf such as reminders about the types of professional capacities in which he or she knows you best. Remember, the more organized and appreciative you are, the more able your recommenders will be to compose and send glowing reviews.

Q: What if I have more questions?
A: Our advisors are happy to guide you through any stage of your application process to the very best of our ability. Come see us during our office hours or email us at psych-advising@ufl.edu with any questions or advice you may be seeking during this exciting and challenging process! Best of luck!