How do I Choose the Best Postgraduate Mental Health Program?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Choosing the best postgraduate mental health program depends on present level of training, definition of postgraduate, goal of the individual, and interest in specific areas. Cost, program length, and reputation are vital considerations, too. There are many programs that are labeled as postgraduate and these may have very different foci, so postgraduates interested in any program will need to do some homework to find the best one.


The reason that present level of training is important when selecting a postgraduate mental health program is because programs can have specific admission criteria that are highly variable. Sometimes students with bachelor’s degrees in mental health or health fields are welcome to apply. Alternately, many programs only admit students with master’s or doctorate degrees in fields like nursing, public health, social work, or psychology. Arguably, a psychiatry fellowship, open only to MDs is also postgraduate training. When looking over postgraduate mental health programs, applicants should start with admission information to make sure they’ll qualify for a program or are not overqualified for it.

Searchers for the right postgraduate mental health program must assess goals in seeking additional training. Some postgraduate programs merely fulfill the requirements professionals have to earn continuing education units (CEUs), and this may be all a person wants. For professionals like doctors, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, counselors, therapists, and social workers, there are usually abundant opportunities to earn CEUs locally or in attractive distant locations. Interest or need to update certain types of knowledge typically drives choice.

Some professionals want to gain expertise in a specific area or to garner another degree that might translate to more work opportunities and greater professionalism. These programs exist too, and definition of postgraduate might then mean after a bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate or MD. Interest in specific areas is often a primary consideration, as many people seeking a postgraduate mental health program, especially one of some length or ending in a degree, may want to specialize. There are programs that emphasize certain therapy schools like psychoanalysis, focus on the treatment of children, or explore topics like forensics. The type of program chosen should align with interest.

Cost, length of studies, and reputation helps narrow down the best programs. Some programs are fellowships, providing training and a stipend. Others charge a tuition, which can vary from reasonable to expensive. Programs ending in a degree may be partially funded by things like student loans, if accredited universities offer them. Applicants also need to consider if the program length is acceptable and a fair trade for the knowledge offered.

Certainly, reputation of a postgraduate mental health program is important. Professionals should inquire from the program and possibly from surrounding employers how the training is perceived. Applicants ought to know whether any program leads to better employment opportunities and truthfully represents the level of expertise its participants acquire. Interviewing program directors and participants is a good way of determining the likelihood the program will be beneficial.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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