At Marietta College and elsewhere, only a portion of psychology majors go on to become psychologists. Those who do must earn graduate degrees; only people with graduate training in psychology, typically at the doctoral level, are referred to as psychologists. Some students pursue advanced psychology training in applied areas such as clinical, counseling, and industrial/organizational psychology. Others prepare for careers in research and/or college-level teaching.
An important point: You don’t have to major in psychology as an undergraduate in order to attend graduate school in psychology, but it is a very good idea. Many graduate programs require specific courses in psychology as a prerequisite, and advanced courses in psychology or related fields are definitely a plus. However, depending on what area of specialization you choose, additional coursework or minors in other areas – mathematics or biology, for example – might be seen as just as valuable. Relevant research experience may be as important as relevant coursework for entry to many graduate programs.
Extensive information on graduate study in psychology is available from the American Psychological Association.
Learn More About Graduate Studies
Students who hope to pursue graduate studies in psychology are in a fortunate position. The path you want to follow is the one your professors know the most about because it is the one they have followed themselves. If you are interested in graduate study in psychology, be sure to consult with members of the psychology faculty about your plans.
Graduate students in our department can also be a valuable source of information, as well as good sounding boards for your ideas, since they have so recently gone through the process of choosing an area of specialization, deciding where to apply, and preparing their graduate school applications. They can also provide you with inside information on what life as a graduate student is like. A useful online resource is the website of the American Psychological Association.
Areas of Specialization
Students planning to do graduate work in psychology must choose an area of specialization. You indicate your preferred specialization on your graduate school applications, and the decision about whether to accept you to a program is typically made by faculty members in that particular area. The American Psychological Association has compiled descriptions of some of the main areas within psychology. Here is a partial list:
- Biological Psychology
- Clinical psychology
- Cognitive psychology
- Counseling psychology
- Developmental psychology
- Educational psychology
- Environmental psychology
- Forensic psychology
- Health psychology
- Industrial/organizational psychology
- Neuropsychology or Neuroscience
- School psychology
- Social psychology
- Sports psychology
- Pre-Professional Programs
In many of these subfields, some psychologists work primarily as researchers, others work primarily as practitioners, and many do both. Indeed, one of psychology’s most important characteristics is its coupling of science and practice.
Research experience is very important for anyone considering graduate work in psychology. In many graduate programs, much of your time will be spent doing research. Admissions committees for such programs want to know that research is something you have already done, something you are good at, and also something you enjoy and want to continue.
Remember, the people who decide which applicants to admit are the faculty members in the specific area to which you are applying. When they make admissions decisions, they are choosing people who will be not only their students, but also their research associates, for the next few years.
One plus of doing research as an undergraduate is that you can ask the faculty member for whom you work to write a letter of recommendation for you. A letter from someone who already views you as a valued member of his or her research team can be an important component of your application package.
Another plus of doing research as an undergraduate is that it lets you learn if this is something on which you would like to spend a lot of your time — a good thing to find out before you choose a particular graduate school program! Some graduate psychology programs are less research-oriented than others. If you want to pursue graduate studies in psychology, but you would prefer not to spend a large proportion of your time on research, consider these options. Even for these programs, however, research experience as an undergraduate is likely to be an important credential. See the research opportunities section of our website to learn more about ways to get involved in research as an undergraduate psychology student.
No matter what area of psychology you choose for further study, your application to graduate school is likely to include at least the following:
A statement of purpose in which you explain who you are, what you want to do, and why you want to do it. Think carefully about your interests and goals before you write your statement and about how attending a particular school will help you to meet your objectives. You need to explain why you and the school are a good “fit”; your philosophy, goals, and research interests should be compatible with those of faculty members in the department to which you are applying. Remember, it is those faculty members who will decide whether or not to accept you. Talk about your statement of purpose with faculty members here at Marietta College and with graduate students in our department. Be sure to have one or more faculty members read over your statement and give you feedback before you submit it.
An academic transcript showing courses taken and grades received. Admissions committees will want to see that you have challenged yourself by taking upper-level courses and that you have done well in your coursework. For some areas of psychology, a strong background in math and science is important. However, for many admissions committee members, very high grades are less important than such factors as research experience and strong letters of recommendation. While a GPA of 2.8 may exclude you from consideration, it may not matter at all whether your GPA is 3.6 or 3.7. Don’t pass up research opportunities, meaningful volunteer activities, or the chance to get involved in musical or theatrical experiences that provide welcome breaks from academics in order to obtain a slightly higher GPA.
Test scores. Most schools require the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) general test, some require the subject test in psychology, and a few require scores on the Miller Analogies Test. One good source of practice materials, as well as other information about both general and subject tests, is the GRE website. In deciding when to take these tests, keep in mind that application materials for many graduate programs are due during the year preceding the year in which you plan to enter.
If you will be taking the subject test in psychology, you may find it very helpful to carefully review the information in an introductory psychology textbook in the weeks before you take the test.
Letters of recommendation. Students hoping to enter graduate or professional schools after graduation from Marietta College will typically need to submit letters of recommendation from three faculty members.
Important dates. Applications to graduate programs in psychology are typically due sometime during the fall or winter before you plan to attend. Specific due dates vary from program to program; some are in December and some are a month or two later. Be sure to check the due date for each program to which you are applying and to make sure that all your materials are in on time. Make sure that professors writing recommendations for you know when they have to be received, and request transcripts from the Registrar’s Office in plenty of time also.
Most graduate programs will notify you of your acceptance or rejection before April 15. Schools that accept you will typically give you until April 15 to let them know whether you plan to attend or whether you have decided to reject their offer.
BA/MA Program @ MC
The Marietta College Master of Arts in Psychology (MAP) Program offers an academic curriculum in general psychology, as well as offering students the opportunity to pursue research in the areas of: clinical, cognitive, social, physiological or developmental psychology. The primary goal of the program is to provide students with a strong graduate level foundation in general psychology. The program is designed to prepare students to pursue further education in psychology at the Ph.D. level or to seek employment at the master’s level in a related field.
The program is designed for successful completion over the course of two academic years. Additionally, a five-year combined Bachelor/Master of Arts degree program is offered. The program consists of thirty-six hours of courses composed of: A twenty-four hour core of traditional academically oriented graduate courses in psychology, six hours of experiential electives related to a professional experience in psychology, six hours of empirical thesis research, including a successful thesis defense to a two-member committee.
Interested in the 5-year BA/MA Program? Please discuss it with your faculty academic advisor, and contact Dr. Christopher Klein, Director of the MAP Program, with any questions.