Advice For Undergraduate Students Seeking A MS In Psychology

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A master’s in psychology can open many doors for prospective students looking to establish careers as professionals within this field. This qualification is often a minimum requirement for anyone who wants to register as a practicing psychologist, although students often don’t know much about graduate school before they sign up. Having a good idea about what to expect from a master’s course will not only give individuals the opportunity to deal with the challenges ahead, but it will also give them the chance to determine whether or not it is the right option for them.

Get To Know Your Options

There is a very wide variety of master’s in Psychology programs available at the moment. Some of these programs will allow students to choose from a broad range of positions once they have qualified, while others will narrow down their options quite a bit. In order for students to be able to make sound decisions about their future, including what they want to do and how they are going to be able to accomplish their goals, they need to know what options are available to them in terms of the available courses.

Students should take the time to find out about the differences between the PhD and the master’s programs, so that they have an idea about how they want their studies to progress. The experts also recommend speaking to licensed professionals within those fields that appeal to an individual to find out how they were able to accomplish their career goals. This sort of advice can go a long way in helping an individual pick their own educational pathways, as well as prepare them for some of the obstacles that they will come across along the way.

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Manda Coupe and Gladys Calderón, Psychology students from Indiana University-Purdue University of Fort Wayne give insight into a career in Psychology.

It’s a Full Time Job

Most people assume graduate school to be a lot like their undergraduate years, or possibly even their high school years, but this isn’t the case. Students should see this more as a full time job because it will require that sort of commitment. Students no longer have the option of studying for tests at the last minute, or sleeping late and missing classes; they will need to dedicate themselves to their studies completely in order to build a firm basis on which they will then establish their careers.

Many students find it difficult to cope with the challenges that are thrown at them during the first couple of months of graduate school, and this is particularly clear when it comes to those students who are looking to work or complete an internship at the same time. They will usually be required to dedicate every last waking moment to the course.


There are very few masters students who find that they simply glide right through their course. Perfection isn’t something that students will want to strive for in their undergrad years. Prioritizing, on the other hand, is imperative because it allows individuals to focus on what is important as they go about tackling some of the most challenging and rewarding obstacles of their educational careers.

Don’t Give Up

There are many times when a master’s student will feel like giving up, but the trick is to just keep going. While the end might not be in sight, scholars should focus on the reasons behind their entering grad school when things get tough because this will help them find the motivation to continue pushing forward, even when things get very difficult.

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Students often forget to take care of themselves when they are confronted with the pressures of grad school, but this is one of the most integral facets of succeeding at this level. Students who take care of themselves ensure that they eat properly, sleep enough and exercise, and all of this allows them to get more out of themselves than they would if they had neglected their health and well being. While many people assume that they can go days, weeks or even months without proper food, sleep and exercise, this often leads to these individuals struggling to cope further down the line.

Believe in Yourself

There are many students who struggle with what the experts have called the “imposter phenomenon”. This is basically a feeling that some students experience where they feel as if they aren’t quite as intelligent or deserving of a place within a graduate course as the other students. Many students spend a great deal, or all, of their graduate years worrying that they will be “found out” and this causes them a great deal of discomfort. Students who believe in themselves are usually much more likely to enjoy their graduate years, regardless of how challenging they might be.

Make Yourself Aware Of The Financial Implications

Anyone who is going to be attending graduate school will want to make sure that they understand what will be expected of them in terms of the financial requirements. While many students feel that the price they pay is worth the qualification they receive at the end of the day, many struggle to keep up with the financial obligations because they didn’t take the time to get to know what was required of them before enrolling in graduate school. Some aren’t sure about the associated expenses until they are required to pay their first bill.

Get Experienced in Research

Anyone who is looking to further their career in psychology will want to consider getting as much research experience as possible, because this could end up becoming a major facet within their careers further on down the line. Many students wish that they had spent more time participating in research projects while they were in graduate school, because all of this builds up the experience necessary when applying for posts, such as a PhD candidacy. Many students feel a bit intimidated by the concept of research, which is why they tend to stay as far from the subject as possible until they have no other option, but this could be putting them at a disadvantage.

See a Therapist

Not many graduate students attend therapy sessions as they go through their training, but they could end up missing out because of this. Undergoing therapy actually helps a person see what their clients will go through once they start offering sessions of their own. What is more, therapy helps individuals become aware of their own needs and this is integral for anyone looking for a career in this field.

Pay Attention to Your Advisor

Working with your advisor over the next few years isn’t easy if you don’t get on, so make sure that this is a priority as you go through your interviews. You will need to pay attention to the way that your personalities intermingle, and it might even help to ask about how they see their role as advisor. These sorts of questions will go a long way in helping students pick an advisor that they can trust, as well as someone that they respect.

Are You Passionate About The Subject?

Many students progress from their undergraduate years to their master’s without considering whether they are actually still passionate about the subject. When the going gets tough, it is often those individuals who weren’t passionate to begin with who end up dropping out, and this could end up being a waste of the student’s time, as well as the institution in which they are enrolled. Students should take some time before applying to graduate school to find out whether this is really what they want, and whether they will be happy committing to the field for the next few years at least.

It is also important that individuals think about their long term goals and what they want from their careers in the coming years. The sort of course a grad student will apply for should be a stepping stone in the right direction, otherwise they might end up regretting the time they spent within these classes. This is where it becomes important for students to be realistic about what they can achieve with a particular course, and the advice obtained by more experienced professionals can really come in handy for those making these sorts of decisions.

Be Aware of The Licensing

In order for students to fulfill the requirements to be licensed within their state, they will first need to be aware about what these requirements are. In some states, for example, master’s graduates aren’t required to have taken a substance abuse counseling class to be able to obtain their license, but they will in others. Being aware of the state’s licensing requirements will also inform students of accreditation organizations that will determine whether the university of their choice will allow them to obtain their license to practice.

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Those students who are looking to obtain their master’s in psychology should ensure they are prepared for the challenges ahead, but they should also make sure they enjoy this period of their lives, since it will very likely usher in the next exciting period of their educational and professional lives.


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About the Author: Ann Steele

This website is co-authored by Ann Steele, a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego with extensive experience with children and adolescents. Ann Steele attended American School Of Psychology & Argosy University Online. She especially enjoys using music therapy for mental and emotional well-being.

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We are an open forum for articles, manuscripts, unpublished thesis, and letters as well as a guide for job, career and program advice from like-minded Graduates. We are seeking submissions that will be of interest to the community.