How do I Choose the Best Psychology Graduate School?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
A psychology graduate school might offer the chance to focus on becoming a marriage counselor.
A psychology graduate school might offer the chance to focus on becoming a marriage counselor.

A number of considerations go into choosing the best psychology graduate school. Since each applicant may rank these differently, there is no single best school. Students may want to consider degrees offered, specializations and focus, professional reputation, types of programs (online, in person, part-time), requirements for entry, and issues like cost and convenience.

Psychology graduate school refers to numerous colleges with different types of degrees. Many programs have Master in Arts or Master in Science degrees (M.A. and M.S.) and might offer doctorates classified as PhDs or Psy.Ds. Some schools have specific areas of focus. A master’s program could be intended for psychotherapy training and have a marriage and family therapy (MFT) or a licensed professional counselor (LPC) focus. A straight psychology M.A. or M.S. isn’t always adequate training for a person interested in psychotherapy, though it could lead to other work.

Many interested in a non-counseling field seek a psychology graduate school with a PhD program, and they may be interested in specializations of the school, such as degrees in forensic or school psychology. Others want to be psychotherapists and they may be most interested in a Psy.D, which is really geared toward therapeutic work. Defining career goals helps narrow down best schools and programs.

The professional reputation of a psychology graduate school is vital. Anyone seeking a licensed position as a doctor of psychology, or an MFT or LPC, must attend a program that is recognized by regional licensing boards. It’s best to determine in advance which schools are approved by organizations like regional boards of behavioral science.

Some school applicants need flexible scheduling, and may be able to find this in certain programs. Behavioral science boards authorize few online programs at the psychology graduate school level because most programs have a working or practicum component that is difficult to satisfy if people live in a remote location. Many standard colleges do have flexible schedules allowing students to attend school part time, and/or primarily on evenings or weekends. These may be the best option for some students.

Most applicants must compare psychology graduate school programs based on the likelihood of being accepted. Many universities accept students with reasonably decent grades, good scores on tests like the GRE, and acceptable letters of recommendation. Other colleges are so competitive they take very few students and usually only from the best schools. Applicants have to decide where they fit in this schema before determining which schools are the best; the goal is to get in and complete a program, and that sometimes means lowering standards.

Lastly, students will have to think about whether they want to relocate to attend school, and figure out the likely costs of each program. Since graduate scholarships and grants are fewer in number, many students finance their degrees with student loans. For doctoral work, students might end up with heavy loans, which can be challenging. Finding those schools with scholarship programs or lower prices is the best choice for some applicants.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent 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.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent 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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    • A psychology graduate school might offer the chance to focus on becoming a marriage counselor.
      A psychology graduate school might offer the chance to focus on becoming a marriage counselor.