Pursuing Graduate Education

Graduate Training in Psychology. Becoming a professional psychologist requires graduate training in one of many areas of psychology. Traditional research areas include Cognitive, Developmental, Quantitative, Sensory and Systems Neuroscience, and Social Psychology. Persons interested in these areas usually pursue a doctoral degree. Applied areas include Clinical, Community, Industrial/Organizational, Counseling, Educational Psychology and School Psychology. Careers in these areas are usually possible at the master's or doctoral levels. Graduate programs in the last three areas may be offered in Education or Educational Psychology Departments instead of traditional Psychology Departments.

The American Psychological Association publishes a book entitled Graduate Study in Psychology. This book contains useful information about every institution in the United States and Canada offering graduate study in psychology. The information includes each department's areas of specialization, stipend allowances, number of faculty and graduate students, number of degrees granted in recent years, tuition costs, application deadlines, and addresses for admission applications. A limited number of copies occasionally are for sale in the Newcomb Hall Bookstore. Copies also may be obtained from the Order Department, American Psychological Association, P.O. Box 2710, Hyattsville, MD 20784-0710, or by calling 1-800-374-2721. Other excellent books are available in the Bio-Psychology library.

For additional, useful information about the graduate school process see:

Psychology-Related Careers with a Bachelor's Degree. Those who are not ready or interested in going to graduate school often enter the job market and find work in areas that are relevant to their undergraduate training. Many of these jobs are in human service delivery areas, for example, youth counselor, recreation assistant, or rehabilitation advisor. Other jobs may involve analytical or research skills. The federal government, for example, hires Psychology Technicians with a bachelor's degree in psychology. Good books with useful information about the types of job opportunities are available in the Bio-Psychology library.

For additional, useful information about careers with a psychology degree see:

Graduate Training Outside Psychology. Psychology majors are not limited to graduate training in psychology. Some majors use their background to pursue careers in Social Work and Education. In Education, psychology majors can do a combined program with the Curry school and get a Masters degree in 5 years. The Early Childhood & Developmental Risk program is an example (see http://curry.edschool.virginia.edu/ecdr/). Other students go on to Medical School or Law School. University Career Services (UCR) has directories of graduate programs in a wide variety of fields. Careful preparation will ensure the proper background. Those interested in pursuing Medical or Law School should contact the appropriate advisor (Pre-Professional) at UCR in Bryant Hall at Scott Stadium (see http://www.career.virginia.edu/students/resources/handouts).

General Liberal Arts Careers. Many employers seek graduates with a general liberal arts degree, and psychology majors compete successfully for many of these jobs. These jobs may include, for example, management trainee or salesperson. UCR has information about job opportunities for liberal arts majors interested in pursuing a variety of careers. Psychology majors, along with other majors, participate in resume drop-offs that are conducted throughout the year. If you have not visited UCR already, you are urged strongly to do so to take advantage of the tremendous amount of information they have available.

Letters of Recommendation

Regardless of whether you plan to get a job or go to graduate school following graduation, you probably will find that you need letters of recommendation. Because the majority of lower-level courses in the psychology program are large lecture courses, many students reach their fourth year and find they have not established close relationships with faculty members. No matter how good a student you are, a letter written by an instructor who can only discuss your in-class performance will not be as strong or convincing as a letter written by someone who knows you better. You must plan ahead! Some tips: Take your relationship with your major advisor seriously. Schedule an appointment outside class with an instructor whose class you really enjoy. Sign up for an independent research project. Finish your lower-level requirements so you can sign up for smaller classes sooner. This can really make a difference.

When you identify faculty members who agree to write letters for you, it is helpful to organize a neat package that includes information about you (e.g., grades, personal statement) and all recommendation forms. Fill out all of the information about you at the top of each form, and include stamped and addressed envelopes. (For UCR forms, include an addressed envelope so they can be sent to Garrett Hall through messenger mail.) A checklist with deadlines is extremely helpful for multiple schools. Finally, please be sure to allow sufficient time (at least three weeks is recommended) for the faculty member to complete the letters.

At the beginning of the fourth year you can start a credentials file at UCR for your letters of recommendation. This service provides students with a means of collecting confidential references that then can be forwarded to schools of interest for up to five years (or longer by special request) after graduation. This is especially useful if you plan to go to graduate school after a one- or two-year delay.