Should I Apply to a Master’s Degree Program or a Doctoral Program in Psychology?

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Once the decision has been made to pursue a graduate degree in psychology it is necessary to ask the question of whether a master’s degree or a doctoral degree is right for you. Choosing between the two options is a balancing act between the career path that you would like to achieve and the constraints of both time and money in earning a degree.

What Career Path are You On?

The biggest consideration to make is what career path you hope to take. If you have visions of an academic career, teaching at the collegiate level, a doctoral degree will be a must. If you would like to work in a mental health facility rather than a private practice, a master’s degree may be sufficient. For each career path within the field of psychology, there are minimum requirements that mandate what degree is necessary. Typically, individuals who plan to conduct research, teach at the collegiate level, or practice privately, will need to achieve a doctoral degree. While, individuals who plan to provide direct care in a facility, work in a government agency, practice in a drug rehabilitation center or work in early childhood education can become amply employed with a master’s degree in psychology.

How Much Time Will It Take to Earn a Psychology Degree?

If you hold a bachelor’s degree it typically takes between four and seven years to earn a doctoral degree of psychology. A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program is between five and seven years while a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) program is between four and six years. A master’s degree in psychology can typically be earned in approximately two to three years.

How Much Will it Cost to Obtain my Graduate Psychology Degree?

There is a wide range in tuition costs across various colleges and universities. Factors like region, online versus traditional education and accolades or national ranking of the school are major factors in how much you can expect to spend on a graduate education in psychology. According to the American Psychological Association, the median tuition cost for a state resident of a public university is $7,104 in 2008-2009. This number more than doubles for out of state costs at $16,966. The median annual tuition for state residents in master’s degree departments at public universities was $5,343 in 2008-2009. This number almost triples to $13,088 for out of state applicants. **SAME LINK

Which Psychology Degree is Right for Me ?

In order to decide which degree is the ideal fit you must ask yourself the following questions:

1. What career path am I on?
2. How long do I want to spend earning my graduate degree?
3. How much do I want to spend (or borrow)?
4. What will be my return on investment (ROI)?
5. What are the regulations in my state on licensing and certification?

By answering these questions you can better arrive at your answer. If you plan to pursue one of the careers that require a doctoral degree than a PsyD or PhD would be the appropriate degree. If you do not want to spend that much time or money, a master’s degree would be a better option. If the RIO is not enough with a master’s degree you might want to consider a doctoral degree. If your state mandates that you must have a doctorate in order to practice in the field you hope to pursue, you will then need a doctoral degree.

If you are aware of these very important factors and you weigh your options thoughtfully you should be able to determine whether a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in psychology is the ideal degree for you.

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