If you’re ready for a career in psychology, you’re probably wondering if it’s possible to skip a master’s in psychology and go straight to a PhD. While you can do this, you should consider if it’s the best option for your long-term goals. Enrolling directly in a PhD or PsyD graduate program has advantages and disadvantages. After reading about your choices, you might decide that picking up a master’s degree first is the smartest plan for you.
Finish Faster by Going Straight to a PhD Program
Earning a master’s in psychology and then a doctoral degree takes longer than simply enrolling in a PhD program. Although many of your M.S. in psychology credits will transfer over, not all of them will. You will have to write a master’s thesis to graduate, but you likely won’t use the same research for your dissertation. That means starting over on choosing a project, collecting data and conducting a literature review. You can save anywhere from six months to several years by heading directly to a doctoral program.
Build Stronger Relationships with Your Professors by Skipping a Master’s Degree
Networking matters in graduate school. Your professors will help you get jobs, research grants and valuable laboratory experience. They’ll also sit on your dissertation and oral exam committees and decide whether you even graduate. By entering a PhD program right away, you’ll be able to form stronger relationships with your professors. You’ll be relying on them as mentors and fellow scholars throughout your entire graduate career. Plus, most of your professors will have doctoral degrees and a passion for academic research; if you’re just a master’s degree student, they’ll assume you have different long-term goals.
Enhance Your Learning with a Master’s Degree in Psychology
A doctoral degree prepares you to conduct research studies in the field of psychology. This means learning statistics, literature synthesis and other research skills as well as studying the history of psychological experiments. A master’s degree is less focused on research and more focused on teaching you about the field of psychology today. For some students, earning a master’s degree before a PhD offers a chance to explore an area of interest without the pressure of conducting research and writing a dissertation. You can choose one concentration for your master’s degree and a different area of focus for your PhD, giving you a broader understanding of the field.
Make Sure You Want a PhD
The average PhD takes almost 7 years to complete. That’s a significant portion of your life. Graduate school, peer-reviewed research and teaching classes are very different experiences than your undergraduate studies. Earning a master’s degree in psychology first lets you test the waters and make sure you want to commit yourself to academia. You should try to publish a peer-reviewed paper during your M.S. studies to gain experience with this style of writing and ensure you enjoy it.
Not all schools allow you to enroll in a doctoral program without a master’s degree because they want to ensure you understand the commitment you’re making. While your preferred school may not make it possible to skip a master’s in psychology and go straight to a PhD, only you can decide if that’s a positive or a negative.