The first step on the path to becoming a professional psychologist is completion of a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Once this degree has been earned the next question is whether to pursue a Master’s Degree or a Doctoral Degree?
Why Pursue a Master’s Degree?
A Master’s Degrees in Psychology is considered to be a stand alone or terminal graduate degree. There are some doctoral programs that allow students to earn their Master’s Degree as part of the work required for the doctoral thesis. Those students who plan to enter a terminal Master’s Degree Programs typically have one of two goals:
- To gain the necessary training and skills to enter a doctoral program
- To gain the skills and knowledge base to advance further in a specific career or work environment
Upon completion of a Master’s Degrees Program students can pursue employment in a wide variety of settings including private business, governmental agencies, schools, hospitals or mental health settings. If you are considering pursuing a terminal Master’s Degree in Psychology, you should evaluate each program and consider which career path most graduates of the program pursue upon degree completion and how the program prepared them for that career. It is also very important to understand the licensure information for the state in which you plan to work. While some states offer licensure for counseling and psychology with a Master’s Degree, others require a minimum of a Doctorate.
Why Pursue a Doctoral Degree?
Doctoral (PhD) programs train students with a greater depth of knowledge and skills, typically in a more specialized area of psychology. This degree is ideal for students who have an interest in the creation of new data through scientific research by way of designing experiments, gathering data, comparing experimental groups and learning statistical and analytical techniques. Some PhD programs, offer both training in providing direct psychological services and the scientific exploration of new research. Programs that offer the option of a PsyD degree are designed to train students more specifically in the application of psychological science to providing a direct service to individuals or groups. If you are considering a Doctoral Degree in psychology, it is critically important that you look into what training and education the program provides so you know which skills and knowledge you will gather and how that skill set will prepare you for the career you hope to enter after you earn your doctoral degree.
How Do I Know Which Degree Program To Choose?
While there is no easy answer to this question, there is a list of questions you can ask yourself to help arrive at the best option for you. Some of these include:
- Will the state I live in allow me to apply for a license as a professional counselor or therapist with a Master’s Degree?
- Do I plan to enter the field of Psychological Research?
- Do I want to pursue a specialized area of psychology?
- Do I need to receive additional skills and information before I am ready to apply to a doctoral program?
By asking the right questions and understanding the goal of each degree option, you can better understand which degree program is the best fit for you.