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There are two main reasons to attend graduate school. One is that a graduate degree is required to be professionally employed in many areas of psychology. For example, a master’s degree in clinical or counseling psychology is required to become a licensed therapist. A Ph.D. is necessary to become a full-time college professor. The second reason to attend graduate school is to increase your earning potential. According to the American Psychological Association, the median salaries for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral/professional degree holders in 2019 were $50,000, $60,000, and $90,000, respectively.
At present, the Psychology Department at MSU Denver does not offer graduate degree programs. However, many of our students attend graduate programs at other universities. This website is designed to provide prospective applicants the information and resources necessary to gain admittance to these programs.
Trying to decide which graduate programs to apply to can be a daunting task. Remember that your goal is to identify the best graduate programs for you, the programs that are most likely to help you attain your academic and career goals. You may not know exactly what you want to do, but you should have at least a good hunch. To find what you want, you need to know what you are looking for.
What to look for: There are several factors to consider when searching for graduate programs. These will vary depending on the type of program you are interested in (e.g., counseling psychology, social psychology, industrial/organizational psychology), what you hope to get out of the program, and what is feasible given the other demands of your life. That said, many of the factors listed below will be relevant to your decision:
For clinical and counseling psychology, there are additional factors to consider:
Resources: Many resources are available to help you identify and select graduate programs. These include the following search engines and data bases:
Graduate Study in Psychology – American Psychological Association:
http://gradstudy.apa.org. This is the most comprehensive search engine for psychology graduate programs in the United States and Canada. It provides program descriptions, degrees offered, admission requirements, application information, financial aid, and deadlines. There is a fee to use this service, but it is by far the most extensive search engine available.
APA-Accredited Programs: https://www.accreditation.apa.org/accredited-programs.This is a free search engine for APA-accredited doctoral programs in clinical and counseling psychology and in school psychology.
APA Division Search Engines: Some divisions of the American Psychological Association (see https://www.apa.org/about/division/join for a list of these divisions) offer free search engines for doctoral graduate programs in their area.
Psychology Grad School Wiki: http://psychgradsearch.wikidot.com/. This is a powerful, free resource that posts advertisements from programs and faculty in different areas of psychology that are actively recruiting graduate school applicants. You should definitely consult this site; however, know that it does not provide a comprehensive list of programs that are accepting applications for graduate school positions.
The Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology: This book provides in-depth profiles of doctoral programs in clinical and counseling psychology, including specialization areas or tracks, admission requirements, acceptance rates, financial aid, research areas, and clinical opportunities.
Other search engines: Several free graduate program search engines are available online (e.g., http://www.gradschools.com, https://gradsearch.alleydog.com, https://www.princetonreview.com/grad-program-search). But use these with caution as they are difficult to vet, provide incomplete listings, and often target online programs and private for-profit institutions.
The Application Packet
Every program you apply to is different, so be sure to provide the information requested by each program. However, most graduate programs require similar materials as part of the formal application process:
The application form: You will complete a separate application form for each program you apply to. (Unlike undergraduate college applications, graduate programs rarely use a common application form.) Fill out each form completely, be sure that it is free of errors, and submit the form before the deadline. Deadlines vary by program; some programs have early application deadlines. Each program will charge an application fee.
Transcripts: You will be asked to provide transcripts from the colleges/universities you have attended. MSU Denver transcripts can be ordered online from the Registrar’s office at LINK.
Personal statement: Virtually every graduate program requires you to write a formal application essay or personal statement (sometimes called a personal essay, statement of purpose, statement of goals, statement of intent, or something similar). A personal statement typically includes information regarding your reasons for applying to the program, your background and experience, and your future career goals. Most programs will provide instructions as to what you should include in the letter; however, every statement should be well-written and tailored to the program.
Make a compelling argument that you are a good fit for the program. There are two components to this argument: 1) Why the program is uniquely suited to your academic and career goals (e.g., areas of specialization or concentrations offered by the program, unique aspects of the curriculum, program faculty, training opportunities, resources and facilities), and 2) Why you have what it takes to succeed in the program (e.g., your skills and expertise, specific coursework, research and/or clinical experience, professional and/or volunteer work, conference presentations, your determination to succeed).
For more information and advice about writing personal statements, see:
Preparing your Personal Statement for Graduate School Applications – American Psychological Association
Writing the Personal Statement – Purdue Online Writing Lab
Mitch’s Uncensored Advice for Applying to Graduate School in Clinical Psychology
Curriculum Vitae: Most graduate programs ask for a curriculum vitae or CV. A CV provides a synopsis of an applicant’s academic and professional experience, including educational background, honors and awards, teaching, research and/or clinical experience, publications, presentations, grants, professional and volunteer positions, and membership in professional organizations. Tailor your CV to the specific positions you are applying for. For example, if you are applying to a program that focuses on research, you would emphasize your experience conducting research and place this information early in the document. Make sure the CV is clear, concise, well organized, easy to read, and free of errors.
For more information and advice on developing a CV, see:
Build a better CV – American Psychological Association
How to write a strong CV – Association for Psychological Science
Letters of Recommendation: Nearly all graduate school applications require letters of recommendation from individuals who can discuss your background, skills, experience, and personal character. Graduate programs typically ask for 2-4 of these letters. The letters usually are written by professors and/or professional supervisors.
How do you obtain these letters? You ask. Here are some guidelines for choosing who to ask for your letters of recommendation. Select people who:
Provide your recommenders with the information that will help them write you a strong, personalized letter:
For more information and advice on obtaining letters of recommendation, see:
Rockin’ Recommendations: How to Make Sure You Get the Recommendation Letters You Deserve – American Psychological Association
Asking for Letters of Recommendation for Graduate School – Association for Psychological Science
The Graduate Record Exam (GRE): Many programs, especially those with a strong emphasis on research, require applicants to take the GRE General Test. The best source of information on the GRE comes from the Educational Testing Service: LINK. Here you will find information on test content, test locations and dates, registration, when and where the test is offered, and test scores (how to obtain them, how to interpret them, and how to provide them to the programs you are applying to). The site also provides free practice tests and other test preparation materials in accessible formats. The current test fee is $205; see LINK for information on fee reductions.
Assume you will take the GRE once and give it everything you got. Study a lot, take practice tests, and utilize other test preparation materials. Identify and focus on your weak areas. If for some reason you take the test more than once, you can use the ScoreSelect option to decide which score(s) you will send to the programs you designate.
Additional information and resources regarding the application process and how to develop a strong application:
Preparing and Applying for Graduate School video series
Strategies for Applying to Graduate School (Even During a Pandemic) webinar presentation
Kisses of Death in the Graduate School Application Process
A Guide for Underrepresented Students Applying to Graduate Programs in Clinical Psychology
Use the following link to view an updated list of psychology graduate programs and degrees offered in Colorado. This list is specific to graduate programs in psychology; it does not include programs that offer graduate degrees in related areas. For an index of these programs, look at the “Graduate Programs Outside of Psychology” button on the main page.
Departments outside of psychology also may offer graduate programs that can help you achieve your career goals. For example, many social work programs provide the necessary training and credentials needed to become licensed therapist. Click here for a list of programs in other departments that are related to different areas of psychology.
Paying for Graduate School
Applying to and attending graduate school can require a significant financial commitment. It is important to understand what you are getting into and what support is available.
Costs associated with the application process
Financial assistance for the application process costs
Costs associated with attending graduate school
Financial assistance for attending graduate school
MSU Denver offers support to students who are applying to graduate school.
Clinical / Counseling degrees and associated work, selecting graduate schools, and information on licensing and employment: Students Interested in Clinical Psychology.