Graduate School

Master’s Programs in Psychology

  • PsyD Programs: PsyD programs are doctoral programs in psychology with a focus in clinical or counseling psychology and do not include a large research component.
  • Doctoral programs in most of the sub-disciplines of psychology (cognitive, developmental, industrial/organizational, social) and neuroscience prepare students for careers in academia and/or research. Clinical, counseling, and social work PhD. programs are research-focused and prepare students for work in therapy, college teaching, and research.

Steps for applying to Graduate School in Psychology

  • Psychology students should begin to plan their graduate school applications in their junior year. Applications for graduate schools are typically due in the fall or early winter.
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • All graduate programs in psychology require letters of recommendation, and most ask for three letters of recommendation.
  • At least two of the letters should be strong academic letters written by professors who know you well and can speak to your writing and/or research skills.
  • You should request letters of recommendation before you graduate, even if you do not plan to apply to graduate school for several years. This will allow your recommender to write a draft letter for you while their memory of you is still fresh and they can provide specific examples of your work.
  • For master’s or clinical/counseling programs, students may choose to ask an internship supervisor or someone that has seen their work in an applied setting for their third letter.
  • When requesting a letter of recommendation, students should provide their recommender with a list of the programs they are applying to and due dates for applications, a copy of their CV or resume, transcript, a list of the courses (and grades) or work completed with the recommender, and a copy of their personal statement/letter of purpose (see below).
  • For online recommendations, all links should be sent to recommenders at the same time so none of the links get lost in your recommender’s email.
  • Students should complete a release of educational records form for each recommender.
  • Personal Statement/Letter of Intent
    • Master’s Programs: Master’s programs typically ask the student to reflect on their reasons for pursuing a career in that field, including life experiences that may have inspired their choice.
    • Doctoral Programs: Doctoral programs prefer letters of intent that lay out the student’s research interests and how those research interests reflect or compliment the research already taking place at that university. Students should therefore search for PhD programs with one (or preferably more) faculty member(s) doing the type of research that the student would like to pursue in graduate school. This can include searching on departmental websites or on PsychNET to see what the faculty member(s) have published recently. These letters should not include personal information or stories about the students’ lives.
  • The Graduate Record Examination General Test is similar in design to the SAT, in that it includes assessments of reading, vocabulary, writing, and mathematics.
  • The GRE is usually NOT required for master’s programs, but it is best to check the applications for the schools you are interested in beforehand in case one of your schools requires the test.
  • Doctoral programs typically require the GRE General Test, but some schools also ask that students who did not major in psychology also take the GRE Psychology subject test.
  • It is recommended that students study for and take the GRE shortly after graduation, while college content is still fresh in their minds. GRE scores are good for 5 years.

Online Resources for applying to graduate school