Graduate School in Psychology and Related Disciplines

This list is not exhaustive. Additionally, information may not apply to every program or type of degree; research specific programs of interest carefully.

What are the different degrees I may be looking at for graduate study in psychology?

  • Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)
  • Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)
  • Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology)
  • M.S.W. (Master of Social Work)
  • M.A./M.S. (Master of Arts/Science)

A little about Masters degrees

Individuals accepted to doctoral level programs may or may not earn a Masters degree along the way to the doctorate. For these programs, you need to understand that you have been accepted with the expectation of completing a doctorate (not stopping at the Masters). If your goal is a Masters degree only, apply to terminal Masters programs.

Institutions offering Terminal Masters programs typically do not offer a PhD. You are accepted into the Masters program. In some areas of study, such as MSW, the Masters degree is considered sufficient and typical for most related careers. In other cases, the Masters degree allows you to engage in practice under continued supervision (MA in clinical or counseling). Finally, you may earn a Masters degree and then apply to PhD level programs (note here that not all your Masters work may transfer to a doctoral program).


Programs with more obvious links to specific careers

  • Clinical (MA, PhD)
    • Equipped to treat broadest range of disorders including the more severe disorders.  You may want to pay attention to specializations (e.g., child, substance abuse etc.) or strengths of particular programs.
  • Clinical (PsyD)
    • Typically less intensive research required but it depends on the program.  Be cautious about free standing professional schools of psychology.  If you are interested in the PsyD, look for programs that are part of universities.
  • Counseling (MA, PhD)
    • Therapy with less severe disorders.  Programs may have different areas of specialization.
  • Industrial/Organizational (MA, PhD)
    • The application of psychology to business contexts.  Areas may include human factors, personnel selection, organizational behavior etc…
  • School Psychology (MA, PhD)
    • Individuals conduct testing, work with learning disabilities etc.
  • Social Work (MSW, PhD)
    • Programs vary with some emphasizing clinical work and others emphasizing agency aspects of social work.
  • Other special programs
    • Marriage and Family Counseling (MA, PhD)
    • Specific disorders (e.g., substance abuse counseling)
    • Sports Psychology (MA, PhD)

General Masters Programs

Broad training in experimental psychology. Most emphasize preparation for going on to obtain a PhD.

Programs with less obvious links to specific careers (Doctoral Level degrees)

  • Cognitive (Cognitive Neuroscience)
    • Also programs in Linguistics; Sensation & Perception
  • Developmental
    • Concerns all aspects of development. Programs may vary in emphasis on particular age groups (children, aging) and facets of development (cognitive, social etc…)
  • Educational (EdD or PhD)
    • Theories and research concerning learning, educational practices etc.
  • Psychobiology (Behavioral Neuroscience)
    • Work with animal models and/or humans
  • Personality/Social
    • Some programs are more applied with emphasis on application to business, health, the law (some programs offer PhD/JD) etc.
  • Other programs
    • Schools/programs in Communications
      • Programs may emphasize interpersonal communication based on methods and research similar to social psychology.
    • School of Family Studies
      • Programs in gerontology and/or early child development.
    • School of Law
    • Kinesiology/Exercise Science

What graduate programs in psychology like to see in applications (i.e., considerations for building a good undergraduate record):

  • good numbers (GPA & GRE)
  • strong writing (personal statements, etc.)
  • research experience (learn more about research experiences in Elon’s psyc department)
  • internship experience (learn more about internships in psychology at Elon)
  • strong letters of recommendation (consider that having multiple experiences with a faculty allows the faculty member to write a more thorough and potentially useful letter)

Elon Courses of possible interest:

  • COE 375: Transitions Strategies for Careers in Psychology
    The majority of students who major in psychology do not go on to graduate school, or at least not right away. They may take a job or two while they figure out what they really want to do or they may launch a career. This course will focus on increasing career directedness, the ability to formulate workable career goals and act on them, by helping you assess your skills, knowledge, strengths and passions and by facilitating the acquisition of career decision-making skills (including identification of resources, job market research, networking, and marketing yourself successfully).
  • PSY 383: Graduate Studies in Psychology
    This course has been designed to provide a guided framework for exploring graduate school options in psychology and related mental health fields, and the process of successfully applying to such options. Although employment options may be highlighted at times, this is not a course about careers in psychology. This course focuses on providing information about finding programs and putting together a complete application. Students will engage in assignments that will begin their application materials. Ideally, students should consider this course in their junior year.

Other Resources