Indiana University

Graduate School Decisions & Preparation

Graduate programs prepare students for a specific career such as psychologist, licensed mental health care provider, lawyer, doctor, entrepreneur, social worker, or teacher.

So, the only really good reason to go to graduate school is because you have a true interest and commitment to a specific career and you must to go to graduate school to be employed in that field.

How can you know if your commitment to a career is strong enough to make going to graduate school the right decision for you? A big part of your graduate school decision-making process should focus on career development for three reasons:

  1. You need to actively explore careers that interest you, meet with professionals, and try out the career via internship experiences to know whether a career that sounds interesting will really be a good fit for your work-related values, interests, personality and skills.
  2. Graduate schools want to know that you've thoroughly investigated the career for which their program will prepare you. You'll have to address this issue in the personal statement that you submit with your application.
  3. The answers to most important questions that undergraduates have about how to prepare for graduate school differ depending on the career path and graduate degree that they want to earn. Which courses should you take? How much do GPA and entrance exam scores matter? How much research experience should you get? What kind of internship experiences will be valuable? The sooner you can clarify your career and degree goals, the sooner you'll be able to find accurate answers to your questions about how to impress selective graduate programs.
  • No. Nationwide, a majority of psychology majors (about 6 out of 10) will complete their education with a Bachelor's degree. Students who major in psychology go on to work in law, business, human services, education, criminal justice, information technology, marketing, and medicine & health care. Our majors have gone on to work in pharmaceutical firms, children's museums, major corporations, universities, and hospitals.

    Neuroscience majors can enter a similarly broad array of careers with their Bachelor's degree and are especially well-trained to obtain research-related positions in biotechnology, the life sciences, or the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Yes. No matter whether your goal is to become a psychological scientist, a clinical or counseling psychologist, a forensic psychologist, a sport psychologist, or some other kind of psychologist you will have to go to graduate school. An undergraduate degree in psychology provides you with broad knowledge of the field. A graduate degree will provide you with training for a career in a specialized area of psychology.

  • No. Psychology and neuroscience majors enter a wide variety of graduate programs.

    • Psychology majors who go on to earn a Master's degree (2-year program) are most likely to enter programs in counseling psychology, school psychology, education, business or health - but some enter other fields.
    • Of those psychology majors who later earn a Doctorate degree (4-year program), about 75% will earn a degree in psychology, but others will earn degrees in medicine, law, business or other fields.

    If you want to major in psychology or neuroscience and attend a graduate school in a different discipline, you should explore graduate programs in that discipline to find out what they recommend you do to prepare.

The earlier you start thinking about how to prepare for graduate school and learning a bit about the application process, the more likely it is that you'll reach your goals.

In the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences:

  • See our Graduate School Roadmap and talk with a PBS Academic Advisor.
  • You're welcome to borrow a guidebook from the Academic Advising Library in PY229.
    • Preparing for Graduate Study in Psychology: 101 Questions & Answers. Important, commonly asked questions and concise, to-the-point answers that bring students up to speed on the process of applying for graduate study. Provides additional practical tools in the appendices such as a timetable, a worksheet for comparing graduate programs, and ranking information on graduate programs in psychology.
    • Getting In: A Step-by-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology. Useful timelines, tips, and tools break tasks into manageable steps and help readers define their goals, select programs, and navigate the application process. Learn what criteria admissions committees use to evaluate applicants, how to improve your qualifications, and showcase your talents in your application. Addresses the costs of a graduate education and financial aid.
    • Applying to Graduate School in Psychology: Advice From Successful Students and Prominent Psychologists. This in-depth book provides prospective graduate students with the insider knowledge needed to bolster their confidence and gain a competitive edge. Personal accounts from both peers and experts, practical advice, and encouragement. Renowned psychologists share their academic and career development stories and provide meaningful insight into the rewards and challenges of the field.
    • Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning an M.A. or a Ph.D. Is graduate school right for you? Should you get a master's or a Ph.D.? How can you choose the best possible school? Based on interviews with career counselors, graduate students, and professors, it's packed with real-life experiences. Includes instructions on applying to school and for financial aid and all the advice you'll need to thrive in graduate school.

On campus:

If you're considering graduate school in psychology or neuroscience, see:

You've actively explored careers, met with professionals, and gained experience? You've informed yourself about the variety of career paths in your desired field and the type of graduate training that will prepare you for each?

If so, then you're ready to explore at graduate schools. Before you start searching, we encourage you to think about the factors you'll need to consider to make your decision:

  • Getting In: Finding Your Fit in a Graduate Program (Eye on Psi Chi: Summer 2008)
  • Some Pointers for Students Interested in Applying to Graduate Programs in Clinical Psychology (Eye on Psi Chi: Winter 2002)
  • Will you be attending a research-oriented graduate program to prepare for a career as a scientist or practioner?

    If you're applying to a research-oriented graduate program in psychology or neuroscience, your biggest task in graduate school will be to complete research projects and publish your results. You aren't just applying to a graduate program, you're applying to work with one particular faculty member who will be your research advisor for the next 4-6 years.

    If you plan to attend a research-oriented graduate program, your graduate school selection process should begin by conducting a literature search to find scientists whose research fascinates you. Ideally, you'll find a graduate program with more than one faculty member whose research interests you so that you can collaborate with more than one mentor while you are a graduate student.

    Once you've identified a list of schools with potential graduate mentors that match your research interests, you'll take all of the other criteria by which graduate programs are measured into consideration (such as program emphasis, accreditation status, ranking, admission requirements, practica and special resources, tuition and financial aid, location).

    P.S. Why would someone who is interested in becoming a practitioner plan to attend a research-oriented graduate program? The eventual career goal of students who want to go into practice is to work with clients to help solve personal problems, improve school performance, navigate the legal system and so forth. Why would they consider attending a research-oriented graduate program? If you want to keep a foot in both worlds -- to teach at a college or university and practice, then you'll want to investigate research-oriented graduate programs. Also, most research-oriented graduate programs provide their students with substantial financial support in the form of research or teaching assistantships and grants.

Psychology Graduate School Directories: Graduate Study in Psychology & Insider's Guide

Psychology and neuroscience majors are welcome to drop by PBS Academic Advising (PY229) to browse or check out the directories below. They include all accredited psychology graduate schools - some online directories do not.

  • Graduate Study in Psychology 2014. The primary source of information for graduate programs in all specialties of psychology - clinical, cognitive, developmental, social, neuroscience.... The book is available in PY229 or you can access it online. It includes:
    • orientation and emphasis of departments and programs
    • number of applications received and individuals accepted by each program
    • dates for applications and admission
    • types of information required for an application (GRE scores, letters of recommendation, resumes etc.)
    • tuition costs and availability of internships and scholarships
    • employment information of graduates
  • Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology: 2014/2015 Edition. The premiere source of information about graduate programs in clinical and counseling psychology. It provides step-by-step advice to help undergraduate students prepare for graduate school by completing prerequisite coursework, accumulating clinical experience, and preparing strong application materials. The volume provides current data on 308 clinical and counseling psychology programs including:
    • program specializations or tracks
    • theoretical orientations of faculty members
    • a rating for each program on a continuum of practice-oriented (1) to research-oriented (7)
    • clinical opportunities and research areas
    • admission requirements (GRE, GPA) and acceptance rates
    • advice on financial assistance and loans
    • information required for an application (sample forms, personal statements, etc.)

Continue to Applying to Graduate School: Timeline & Tasks