Decisions, decisions: Which degree should I get?

So, you want to be a clinical psychologist—but there are still more decisions to be made! What kind of degree do you need to get to where you want to go?

The truth is, if you’re interested in practicing psychology as a clinician—that is, a therapist—there are many routes you can take to get there, including Masters programs in social work, counseling, and specialized areas of psychology (e.g., applied behavior analysis, marriage family therapy); as well as doctoral level programs, such as the traditional PhD or the newer PsyD, which is more clinically oriented (but also much more expensive!).

In my next blog series, we’ll explore these options one by one, comparing and contrasting different degrees, the career and licensure opportunities they afford you, the costs, and the admissions requirements.

The decision of what degree you choose to pursue in clinical psychology is one that can be confusing and daunting—but fear not! I aim to clarify these options for you by putting all the research that I’ve done in one place so that you can get a better idea of which path will suit you and your career goals best.

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Ultimately, the decision of which path you take is up to you, and entails a process of self-discovery. So I invite you to see this part of the process as a chance to dig deeper into your motivation to become a psychologists, understand what types of client populations you’re most interested in working with, and think more deeply about your ultimate goals and where you’d like to be 10, 20, even 50 years from now.

To give you a preview, these are some of the topics we’ll address in this series:

  • PhD vs. PsyD
  • MA vs. Doctorate
  • Social Work and Counseling Psychology
  • Specialized Programs: Neuropsychology, Applied Behavior Analysis

Hopefully, this new series will give you a better idea of all the options out there, and help you hone in on your goals in the process. The good news is, there are LOTS of options and ways to realize your dream of becoming a clinical psychologist—and finding the right fit by defining your goals from the start is an important step that will ensure that you apply to the right programs.

What other topics would you like to see addressed in this series?

Let us know in the comments section, below!

So, you want to be a Clinical Psychologist?

I remember the day I decided to become a clinical psychologist. Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 11.11.55 PM

I had recently quit my job and enrolled in community college. I knew that I was ready for a change, that I wanted to fulfill my previously abandoned dream of completing my college education, and that I wanted to help people. But I wasn’t sure exactly how to do that, much less where to start.

Fast forward a month or so, after I’d gotten into the swing of things, I was excited to be back in the classroom, but wanted to know where I was headed in the long-run. So, I went to a workshop given by my community college’s career center. There, they told us about a couple of different majors and career paths, and shared some resources on how to choose. After scouring the internet, taking a couple of personality and career tests, reading books Do What You Are, The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for Sector-Switchers, and Now What? The Young Person’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Career, I decided I that I wanted to become a clinical psychologist.

But how was I going to make that happen? I started doing my research on what that would entail. I learned about the different types of programs, learned about the admission requirements, about what it took to get in. And the more I learned, the more it started to seem like an impossible dream – 1% acceptance rate? 5-7 years of training in a PhD program? $120,000 for a shorter PsyD program?

I had no idea how was I going to get accepted into the PhD in Clinical Psychology. I had never done research before—I didn’t even know what “research” really was, beyond Googling and looking up facts for a class paper. Coming from a family of immigrants, I was the first in my family to go to college, and had nobody to guide me, or even cheer me on.

That’s when I decided: I am going to do this. 

No matter how long it takes, no matter how many obstacles stand in my way, no matter how many people tell me I can’t—I am going to do this, and nothing and nobody is going to stop me. 

That conviction arose from the sudden realization that no matter what I do in life, the time will pass. It was up to me what to do with that time. I had already spent 10 years doing various odd jobs that had led nowhere. I was tired of dead ends. I wanted to do something meaningful with my life, and I didn’t care how long it took me. 

Now, a short 3 years and many, many, classes, all-nighters, teary-eyed personal statement revisions, and grueling GRE practice tests later, I am happy to say that I have achieved my dream of getting into graduate school for Clinical Psychology. I will be matriculating this fall at a fantastic, fully-funded PhD program in Clinical Psychology at an R1 institution.

I never thought I would make it to this moment, let alone live to tell the tale! I am here to tell you that YOU CAN DO IT—no matter where you’re starting from, no matter your background—you can make your dream a reality, and I am here to help you figure out how.

I came from nothing, and had to learn everything the hard way. I want to make this experience easier for you. What follows on this blog is what I’ve learned through my experience. I have had so many fabulous teachers, mentors, and guides throughout my graduate school application process, and I’d like to pay it forward by sharing the best of their advice, tips, and tricks with you.

I am here for you as you embark on your journey towards becoming a clinical psychologist. I look forward to helping you in whatever way I can, and hope that you might find something useful in these pages. My goal is to create a community of aspiring clinical psychologists—a place for us to share our hopes, dreams, goals, failures, questions, successes, and most of all, our support for one another and our love of psychology as we embark on the daunting but inspiring journey of the application to the PhD in Clinical Psychology.

What inspired you to get into clinical psychology?

Tell us in the comments below!