Can I Apply To A Graduate Program in Psychology If My Undergraduate Degree Is Not In Psychology?

Reviewed by Sean Jackson, B.A., Psychology; M.S. Counseling

masters in psychology without bachelors in psychology

When you started your undergraduate degree program, you may or may not have had a clear plan for your future. Perhaps you wanted to pursue an entry-level job. Or maybe you had plans to continue your education in a graduate program. So, what happens when you complete an undergraduate degree in one area and want to pursue graduate training in another?

In some fields, this leap can be challenging. But what if you want to get graduate training in psychology and have an undergraduate degree in another field? The simplest answer to this question is that, yes, you apply to a graduate psychology program even when your bachelor’s degree is in another area.

This guide explores a few common questions for students like you who want a graduate education in psychology but might not have undergraduate experience in this field.

Do I Need To Complete an Undergraduate Psychology Program Before I Apply to a Graduate Psychology Program?

No, you do not need to complete an undergraduate program in psychology before applying to a graduate psychology program. Some undergraduate degrees provide an easier transition to psychology than others, though. For instance, someone with a bachelor’s degree in sociology might have an easier time transitioning into a graduate psychology program than someone with a degree in library science.

However, while most graduate psychology programs don’t require a bachelor’s degree in psychology to apply, some might require a minor in psychology or a significant number of undergraduate psychology credits as prerequisites for applying (e.g., 12-18 credits).

I Don’t Have an Undergraduate Degree in Psychology. Do I Have to Take Prerequisites Before Starting a Graduate Degree in Psychology?

Yes, most people with an undergraduate degree in an area other than psychology need to complete minimum courses to apply for graduate training in psychology. Some of these requirements may be specific coursework such as Abnormal Psychology, Developmental Psychology, or Psychological Statistics. There may also be a certain number of required courses in Liberal Arts.

Additionally, some graduate programs mandate that you complete a certain number of math or science courses before applying. Fortunately, many courses in these fields are required for graduation in most undergraduate programs of study.

How Can I Get Caught Up With Prerequisite Courses for a Graduate Psychology Program?

Fulfilling the program requirements before applying to a graduate psychology program can be surprisingly easy. You might apply to a school as a non-matriculating student and complete the courses on campus or fulfill the prerequisites through online learning options. Alternatively, some graduate psychology programs accept students who need to take a small number of prerequisite courses. For example, if you only lack two undergraduate courses, you might be provisionally accepted to a graduate program while you complete the necessary undergraduate requirements.

Will I Get Accepted Into A Graduate Psychology Program?

After you’ve completed the prerequisite courses and you are ready to apply, the obvious question is whether or not your application will be strong enough for admission.

While some schools give preferential treatment to candidates with a bachelor’s in psychology, others do not. In fact, some schools look for students outside the area of psychology to diversify the students in their graduate psychology programs. For example, students who have completed an undergraduate degree in a science such as biology or physics have an advantage in science and math skills. These skills can benefit work in experimental psychology, biological psychology, and psychological statistics.

Ultimately, whether you’re accepted to a graduate program in psychology may depend on factors like:

  • Your undergraduate GPA
  • The quality of recommendations from former instructors
  • Your performance on the Graduate Record Examination (if required; many programs no longer use the GRE for making admissions decisions)
  • Relevant coursework, volunteer work, or work experience
  • Relevant life experience (as discussed in a personal essay)

Many psychology graduate programs also require personal interviews with faculty, either in person or online. Your performance in this situation might be factored into the admissions decision as well. However, a factor that is not typically considered is the content and substance of your undergraduate program. Whether your bachelor’s degree is in education, history, communications, or something in between, it is possible to pursue graduate training in Psychology!