Graduate study is important to prepare you to work as a psychologist. Though you can work as a research or psychological services assistant with a bachelor's degree, to work as a psychologist typically requires graduate training. Therefore, many psychology majors choose to pursue graduate or professional education after completing their bachelor's degree in psychology. At URI, 22% of psychology majors in the class of 2010 were accepted into graduate programs. Graduate study builds on the competencies of the undergraduate education and trains students for more advanced roles in clinical, research, and/or academic settings. Some programs prepare students to provide psychological services as licensed professionals. Some prepare students for an academic teaching and research career. Others prepare students for an applied research career outside of a university setting. Many graduate programs attempt to bridge these goals.
Most graduate programs offer both master's (M.A., M.S.) degrees and doctoral (Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D.) degrees in a number of specific areas of psychology. The most common types of psychology graduate programs are experimental, developmental, social, biopsychology, cognitive, clinical, counseling, school, and industrial-organizational (I/O) psychology. Clinical, school, and counseling psychology are considered to be professional programs that should be accredited by the American Psychological Association. Programs vary widely, depending on their purposes, emphases, focus areas, and specializations within all of these categories. Many universities will have more than one type of psychology graduate program in their psychology department. For example, here at URI, graduate programs in behavioral science (experimental psychology), clinical psychology, and school psychology are available. Lastly, in addition to graduate and professional education specific to psychology, students can pursue professional education in related fields such as human development and family studies, education, law, clinical social work, and psychiatry.
With so many options, choosing one can be confusing. For example, many students want to work with kids. You can do this with a master's or doctorate in school psychology, a doctorate in clinical psychology, a Psy.D. in clinical psychology, a master's in human development and family studies, an MSW (Master's of Social Work) or other degree programs. See the links below for help in sorting out the many options. It is also important to meet with an advisor and attend career workshops.