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Knowing the right questions to ask a program about a master’s in psychology is critical to finding the best fit for you. When it comes to choosing a school, preparing intentional questions can simplify your decision-making process. With answers to these questions in hand, you’ll be able to better identify and focus your efforts on programs that align with your learning style and career goals.
What to Consider When Reviewing an MA in Psychology Program
When deciding among psychology master’s programs, make sure to visit each program’s website to gather basic information. Use this information to narrow down your list of potential programs based on your personal needs and values.
For example, you might consider each program’s financial aid offerings; whether the program provides online, hybrid or in-person learning options; typical program length and whether you meet the university’s admissions requirements.
Unsure where to start? To help guide your search, consider these questions to ask a program.
What are your career goals?
Graduate psychology programs are diverse in their offerings and specializations. Make sure to apply for programs that align with your goals for a career in psychology. The programs you apply for should offer courses that are relevant to your career path. For example, some schools focus on preparing students to work with clients, while others’ emphasize research and academia.
Where do you want your graduate school to be located?
If you plan to pursue a career that requires licensure, keep in mind that licensing requirements vary by state. Many graduate programs in psychology tailor their curricula depending on their respective states’ standards for licensure. It might make things easier to attend graduate school in the same state where you plan to start your career.
Is the APA or CACREP program accredited?
Accreditation is crucial when selecting an MA in psychology graduate program. APA (American Psychological Association) accreditation is the gold standard for psychology graduate programs. This designation indicates that a program provides top-quality education.
CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs) is the top accrediting body for counseling-specific programs. Attending a school with one or both accreditations can help you stand out to future employers and simplify the licensing process.
Top Questions to Ask About an MA in Psychology Program
Once you’ve gathered basic information on prospective programs, you can start to ask more in-depth questions. Consider speaking with faculty, program staff and alumni. These conversations can help you determine whether a program would be the right fit for you.
If you attend an on-campus interview or open house, take that opportunity to ask your most important questions. Otherwise, schools often publish contact information for admissions counselors who can put you in touch with faculty and alumni.
Keep in mind that faculty may have a say in your admission to their program. The questions you ask will help you determine your program of choice and may even improve your chances of admission.
Consider asking the following questions:
‘How would you describe the program’s theoretical orientation (s)?’
Graduate programs may follow a variety of theoretical orientations, or psychological theories. One of the most common evidence-based psychotherapy orientations is cognitive behavioral therapy. Other modalities include dialectical behavioral therapy, narrative therapy, internal family systems and play therapy. Make sure to research the spectrum of orientations before selecting a program.
Psychology programs often focus on only one or a few theoretical orientations. Asking this question of a faculty member — especially if you want to work with clients — can tell you whether the program teaches a theory that interests and resonates with you.
‘What training methods does your program offer?’
Some psychology programs only train students to provide individual therapy. Others, such as marriage and family or child and adolescent programs, train students in couple, family and group therapy settings.
If you want to receive training in relational and group counseling, make sure your program offers these methods and opportunities.
“How does clinical training take place?”
Responses to this question will vary by program. Many programs offer one-on-one or group consultations with faculty members. Some begin training students in practicum groups during their first year of graduate school, while others may wait until the second year.
An internship is the most common method of hands-on clinical training. Depending on the program, a school might assist you in securing an internship for you or require you to find one on your own.
An internship supervisor may oversee your clinical training along with a faculty member. Some MA in psychology programs require interns to film or record their therapy sessions with clients for learning purposes.
Your graduate school’s internship program should fit your personality and learning style.
‘What research opportunities are available for students?’
This is one of the most important questions to ask if you aim to pursue academia or a research-based career in psychology. Research opportunities vary based on a program’s current faculty members, faculty and student interest in a subject and whether there is an opening to join a new or existing study.
Some schools focus on counseling and therapy practices, while others emphasize research. Speak with a faculty member about your specific interests to determine whether a program offers suitable student research positions.
‘Do students work with multiple faculty members or a single advisor?’
One indicator of a successful MA in psychology program is collaboration among faculty. If you can work and interact with more faculty members, you will be able to build a more diverse skill set, whether that means performing research or sitting one-on-one with a client.
Ask how many students participate in individual or group research studies. Also inquire about opportunities to attend conferences alongside faculty and the number of recent publications of faculty studies.
‘What types of psychology careers do alumni pursue after graduation?’
Alumni success is a direct indicator of your future success following graduation. It’s also a sign that a program may be right for you based on the most common types of careers alumni pursue.
You may find one program produces the most counselors who begin their own private therapy practices while another may produce more research-minded graduates. The question also provides insight into job placement rate and how long it may take you to find a job in your preferred setting.
Next Steps: Choosing the Best MA in Psychology Graduate Program for You
For many individuals, graduate school is one of the biggest decisions and investments they will ever make. What’s right for you may not necessarily be the most prestigious or top-rated school. Asking questions will ensure you choose the psychology graduate program that best suits your needs.
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Frequently Asked Questions About MA in Psychology Programs
How long is an MA in psychology?
The length of time it takes to earn an MA in psychology degree varies by program, credit requirements and enrollment status. Most graduate programs require 30 to 40 credits and take two to three years to complete. If you attend part-time, however, it may take longer to earn your master’s.
How do I prepare for an MA interview?
A great way to prepare for an interview for acceptance into an MA in psychology program is to write out possible questions ahead of time and practice saying your answers out loud. The more you practice the more natural your responses will feel during the interview. Be careful not to script your answers, however, as you will want to appear natural and comfortable as you respond to questions.
Do you have to interview for an MA program?
Yes, most MA in psychology programs require candidates to participate in an interview. Depending on the interviewers and program, you may interview either with a group of prospective students or one-on-one with a faculty member or admissions counselor. Group interviews allow interviewers to observe your relational skills, such as how well you listen to and interact with other applicants.