What Curriculum is Typically Offered in a Graduate Psychology Program?

According to the American Psychological Association, the curriculum offered at the graduate level in Psychology typically covers two major areas of training:

  1. Psychology as a Discipline
  2. Psychology as a Profession

Psychology as a Discipline

The field of Psychology is a comprehensive discipline of study crossing the scientific study of the mind, brain and behavior, and is delicately associated with other social sciences including sociology and anthropology, as well as the natural and physical sciences. This field of study is ideal for potential students who have an inherent interest in investigating questions about the brain and behavior so they may study and participate in ongoing research, which helps to advance the field as a whole. The curriculum included in graduate school provides individuals with foundational empirical principles of psychology, generally including study in statistics and experimental procedures. These training programs typically culminate in a research doctorate (PhD) or a master’s (MS) degree. Graduates of these programs usually pursue a career in academic or basic research, often as a professor at a college or university (usually with a PhD). Some individuals with MS degrees work for business, or teach psychology at the community college level.

Psychology as a Profession

The other major portion of graduate psychology curriculum is the direct care side of the field. Students with a strong interest in careers dedicated to providing direct psychological services to individuals and groups in need will appreciate this half of the training program. Students will be required to study basic scientific principles of psychology, but they must also gather skills and experiential learning to directly serve clients and patients. These training programs often culminate in a PhD Degree, a Doctoral Degree of Psychology (PsyD) or a Master’s Degree. Students with a desire to serve patients in a health service or educational settings typically require a license from the state to practice. In order to obtain licensure, most states require a minimum of a Doctoral Degree from an APA-accredited program (or a Canadian Psychological Association accredited program in Canada) and completion of a supervised training experience (internship and/or postdoctoral residency). There are a limited number of states that offer licensure to candidates with a Master’s Degree in Psychology. As licensure requirements vary greatly from state to state, it is highly recommend that each student research these requirement for the state(s) in which you plan to practice before deciding on which programs to apply. Even in those states where licensure is not granted to Master’s Level Applicants, Applied Psychology career opportunities are available from specialty areas of psychology such as industrial and organizational psychology and consulting psychology in organizational and business settings, neither of which require licensure. Some individuals may even choose to combine research and direct psychological services, often at a university or medical research institution.

While the curriculum in a graduate psychology program varies depending upon the degree you pursue, the area of specialization and focus of the degree, all graduate programs must fulfill several requirements. These include:

  • The basic tenets of the field of Psychology
  • The basic tenets of Empirical Research in Psychology
  • Preparation for a Career in professional Psychology
  • The basic tenets of the many specialty fields of Psychology