Jump to content
Lindsc237

Advice from those with masters degrees?

Recommended Posts

Hi. So I got a really nice surprise yesterday; I mean that both literally and sarcastically. I got accepted to a very competitive Masters program, which is awesome. What isn't awesome is that I literally have a week to decide if I want to go there (because there is probably a waitlist for other applicants) or to a different program I have already been accepted to. I'm very overwhelmed right now as you can probably imagine.

I have applied to four programs, and have been accepted to three of them so far. I will know this Monday if I get accepted to the fourth. One of the ones I got into was a safety that doesn't really have the resources for what I want to specialize in, so I'm not considering it any further. However, I still have three to choose from, and I thought I would have time to visit all of them once I got accepted, but that's not the case now.

I know that no one on here or in my life can make this decision for me. I'm not really looking for that necessarily, but for takes on some of my personal pros and cons with each program. I'm mainly concerned about the experience of graduate school when bringing up these points, particularly in pursuing a Masters degree, so if you have one of those and can speak to the experience, I would really appreciate any input you can give me. (And, if you happened to study behavior analysis, that's what I'm planning to study.)

So here are the programs:

1. UNT - This is the program I got accepted to yesterday. Very established, tight-knit department, tons of research and clinical opportunities. I can personally say after meeting the faculty in the department, they really are dedicated to the field and investing in the next generation of behavior analysts. They really encourage you "finding your fit" in the field of behavior analysis, and so many students jump around labs to see what they like and don't like. Located in a smaller college town, which I really enjoyed the vibe of when I went there for my interview. Speaking of interviews, of the applications they received, they only invited around 30 people to interview, and only accepted around 15 for the program; in other words, this program is super competitive and I got in first wave, and that probably speaks to the quality of the program. Also located in close proximity to Dallas and Fort Worth, two major cities. Denton is also near a ton of horse farms, and horseback riding is a favorite pastime for me when I can do it.

Downsides: The program is three years long. Their rationale for the third year is to allow you to have that first year to adjust to grad school and figure out what area you want to concentrate in; this gives you the next two years to start working on your thesis. As I can get easily stressed and really want to do things to my fullest ability, having the extra year appeals to me; however, I am a little unsure of how I feel graduating with a Masters at 25, because I want to do a PhD as well. Another thing is that they expect you to get Texas residency by your second year in the program. They have offered me a scholarship to give me in-state tuition for the first year, but only for that year. I'm not really partial to where I have residency, but graduate assistantships do not count towards fulfilling the employment requirement (although they can act as a source of income); therefore, I would have to work an extra job, about 20 hours a week probably. I'm just not sure how I could balance that out with classes 4 days a week and a practicum.

2. UMBC - Got accepted off application alone. Located in Baltimore, and the practicum is through the Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI), which is arguably the best place in the country for neurodevelopmental disability research and treatment. In particular, KKI acts as a very strong practicum for severe problem behavior, which is what I'm interested in. Very close proximity to DC. Option to get tuition reimbursement through full-time employment with KKI, but that isn't a concern for me. My mentor raves about this program being one of the best.

Downsides: The two biggest ones for me are that it is an MA program (clinical degree, no thesis) and what is involved in working full-time for KKI (8:30-5pm five days a week, and although they are understanding of classes, any time you miss working there has to be made up. Also, would only be partial tuition reimbursement.). Even though it's an MA, I could do a thesis, but it doesn't seem like something there is already an infrastructure for. I also have the option of not working at KKI and just doing my practicum there. KKI is also located in a dangerous part of the city. (I don't know much about the culture or rigor of the program outside of what I've been told, but I will be visiting this week.) Another downside is that classes are held mostly at KKI, so while it's a UMBC program, I get the impression that it's a UMBC program at KKI. Not sure how I feel about being at the same building all the time for two years. Maybe that's a little stuck-up of me to think, but I know myself well enough that I would probably get sick of it really quick. Also, I hate Maryland. I have been there several times and my sister goes to school there. It's really not my kind of place. Some love it, some hate it, and I fall in the latter category.

3. USC - Have not been accepted there yet, but I will know on Monday, so I want to prepare for the possibility. The SoCal area has perhaps the largest concentration of behavior analysis services in the entire country. USC is a great school from what I'm told. The program is 2 years and there is an option to do a thesis or a capstone project at the end; I was told in my first interview that they encourage students to do the latter. The capstone project is an "independent project, consisting of practical treatment, evaluation, program development, or literature review." The thesis is there if you are interested in a PhD later down the road, so I would probably go for that. Practicum is considered a paid job with wherever I work, but must be pre-approved by the department. I interviewed with the director of the program over Skype and he seemed very knowledgeable and interested in my goals for myself in a Masters program. Also, although I'm not a city person, I do like the beach.

Downsides: USC is the only program I applied to that is not ABAI accredited. What that is for those who don't know, is an accreditation that basically says that your program is stellar and exceeds the expectations of the certification board (BACB). Knowing that the thesis isn't something that many of the students there do is a little concerning to me. Also, I've never been to California, but friends who grew up in SoCal tell me that the area around USC is not very safe, which means I would have to live a little ways away and drive there. I hear the traffic is super congested, and public transit is unreliable...that might pose a problem. Not really looking to live in a big city again (did my undergrad in one), but I will if I have to.

 

So, that's all folks. I will be meeting with my mentor next week (hopefully) to also discuss how these programs are received in the professional community, but I know he can only give me one perspective. I would really appreciate any feedback on my concerns, if they're reasonable or not considering the culture or structure of grad school, or if there are other things I should look into thinking about for myself moving forward. Thanks everyone in advance!

Edited by Lindsc237

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few quick notes.

- Plenty of people start their PhD in their 30s. So I'm not sure that it matters whether you do a 2 year or 3 year master's, provided you get valuable experience in the program.
- A master's thesis is ideal if you plan to apply to PhD programs in the future.
- From what you've written, you sound most interested in and excited about UNT.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to agree that it really seems like you are most excited about UNT and I think excitement about the research and environment can go a long way in making grad school enjoyable and worthwhile.

20 hours ago, Lindsc237 said:

The program is three years long. Their rationale for the third year is to allow you to have that first year to adjust to grad school and figure out what area you want to concentrate in; this gives you the next two years to start working on your thesis. As I can get easily stressed and really want to do things to my fullest ability, having the extra year appeals to me; however, I am a little unsure of how I feel graduating with a Masters at 25, because I want to do a PhD as well.

As someone who has taken 3 years to get my Master's I think their rationale of having that first year to adjust and figure out research concentration is a solid one. I knew I wanted to do grad school and that first year really was an adjustment for me. While my program wasn't built for 3 years necessarily there is flexibility in finish date and since I took a bit to figure out how to adjust to grad school I was able to do that my first year and then concentrate more on my thesis my last 2 years when I knew what I was doing better. Also having the 3 full years means that I have really done a lot to make my thesis very thorough and (hopefully) highly publishable. I also will be getting more publications than planned because of my extra year at my Master's institution. I will be graduating with my Master's at 25 and I don't really think that is old at all for that degree, especially since my program cohort had a majority of students who were older than me. I applied and have been accepted to PhD programs for this fall and I doubt I will be that much older (if older at all?) than other students who will be starting. So if you have any more questions for doing a 3 year Master's and finishing it around 25, feel free to ask me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is your goal in the field of Behavior Analysis? If it is research you should look for a program that allows you to do a thesis to make you more competitive and waive the 2-year thesis of the PhD. I think UNT would be great for this route for two reasons: small cohort allows you to get good mentorship/research experience and finding your fit in behavior analysis is important since at the PhD levels there are various specific theoretical orientations for behavior analysis/paths you can take. 

If you just want to be a Board Certified Behavior Analysis (BCBA) and practice, you don't need a PhD/thesis and should focus on getting supervision hours so you can sit for the board exam. The PhD for this route is just a title for attracting clients. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it’s odd that you have to become a Texas resident at UNT.   I checked their website and found this which has an out of state waiver for graduate assistants that I would check to confirm you are not eligible for (along with other options).   Did they tell you needed an outside job to get residency and therefore in state tuition?   I am a native Texan and I know we have a lot of laws in place to recruit out of state students by waiving their out of state tuition in various ways and we have many out of state students because of this.  If you aren’t 100% certain about what you need to do get in state tuition and check because it doesn’t sound right.  It doesn’t make sense that an out of state student with an assistantship would have to get an outside job and establish residency to get all of tuition covered even though it’s a masters program. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, rising_star said:

A few quick notes.

- Plenty of people start their PhD in their 30s. So I'm not sure that it matters whether you do a 2 year or 3 year master's, provided you get valuable experience in the program.
- A master's thesis is ideal if you plan to apply to PhD programs in the future.
- From what you've written, you sound most interested in and excited about UNT.

After reading this and other replies to this post, and talking to friends, I think I agree that UNT is probably where I'm leaning towards. I'm still keeping an open mind with USC since they haven't accepted me yet. If they offered me some kind of elaborate funding, that might shake things up for me.

9 hours ago, FishNerd said:

I have to agree that it really seems like you are most excited about UNT and I think excitement about the research and environment can go a long way in making grad school enjoyable and worthwhile.

As someone who has taken 3 years to get my Master's I think their rationale of having that first year to adjust and figure out research concentration is a solid one. I knew I wanted to do grad school and that first year really was an adjustment for me. While my program wasn't built for 3 years necessarily there is flexibility in finish date and since I took a bit to figure out how to adjust to grad school I was able to do that my first year and then concentrate more on my thesis my last 2 years when I knew what I was doing better. Also having the 3 full years means that I have really done a lot to make my thesis very thorough and (hopefully) highly publishable. I also will be getting more publications than planned because of my extra year at my Master's institution. I will be graduating with my Master's at 25 and I don't really think that is old at all for that degree, especially since my program cohort had a majority of students who were older than me. I applied and have been accepted to PhD programs for this fall and I doubt I will be that much older (if older at all?) than other students who will be starting. So if you have any more questions for doing a 3 year Master's and finishing it around 25, feel free to ask me.

That's good to know that you benefited from taking three years to complete your degree. There are some schools that insist on you finishing in two years, and even though I see the reason for that, I think if you are trying to develop yourself as a professional in a field, you should give yourself the time you need to become well-versed in that field. You brought up a very good point though about making your thesis publishable. Of course, since I'm at the other end of the process (haven't even begun grad school yet), that's something I probably wouldn't have thought of. Also glad to know that it isn't unusual to graduate at 25 with your Masters. I should probably explain that I go to school in Florida, and because of dual enrollment (start community college while in high school), a lot of people graduate a year or two earlier than usual from their undergrad. Thanks for your input!

8 hours ago, insert Psychologist said:

What is your goal in the field of Behavior Analysis? If it is research you should look for a program that allows you to do a thesis to make you more competitive and waive the 2-year thesis of the PhD. I think UNT would be great for this route for two reasons: small cohort allows you to get good mentorship/research experience and finding your fit in behavior analysis is important since at the PhD levels there are various specific theoretical orientations for behavior analysis/paths you can take. 

If you just want to be a Board Certified Behavior Analysis (BCBA) and practice, you don't need a PhD/thesis and should focus on getting supervision hours so you can sit for the board exam. The PhD for this route is just a title for attracting clients. 

I'm definitely interested in doing research down the line. I know it isn't much, but I'm completing a Senior Honors Thesis at my undergrad institution right now and although right now it's stressful (presenting in a week and submitting the paper in two weeks), I definitely don't see myself just being a BCBA with clinical work (though, after I graduate, I may or may not spend a few years practicing in a clinical environment). So the Masters thesis is important to me (also, as an aside, didn't know that there was a 2-year thesis for a PhD; I thought you just wrote one at the end of the program!).

If it means anything though, I don't think that I will be looking to get a PhD in Behavior Analysis. To get the BCBA-D credential, it's just a few more classes on top of a PhD program, while the BCBA credential requires more intensive coursework to earn. I really don't know what I would get a PhD in for certain, but considering the population I work with, Experimental Psychology seems like a good choice. I also have an interest in healthy policy because I think IDD advocacy is like half my job, so maybe an additional Masters or PhD will manifest itself later on.

45 minutes ago, Bayesian1701 said:

I think it’s odd that you have to become a Texas resident at UNT.   I checked their website and found this which has an out of state waiver for graduate assistants that I would check to confirm you are not eligible for (along with other options).   Did they tell you needed an outside job to get residency and therefore in state tuition?   I am a native Texan and I know we have a lot of laws in place to recruit out of state students by waiving their out of state tuition in various ways and we have many out of state students because of this.  If you aren’t 100% certain about what you need to do get in state tuition and check because it doesn’t sound right.  It doesn’t make sense that an out of state student with an assistantship would have to get an outside job and establish residency to get all of tuition covered even though it’s a masters program. 

Yeah...when I went to interview there, that was something they spent a lot of time explaining. You don't have to become a Texas resident, but it would definitely save you a lot of money in the long run (and personally, my residency is still in New York where I grew up, but I don't have any attachments to that). I was given that $1,000 scholarship for the first year (towards the bottom of that chart in the link you gave me), so that would give me the time to establish residency. I did some more research about the residency requirement and found this pdf outlining residency requirements (I think from the state of Texas, not UNT) that reads, "...employment conditioned on student status, such as work study, the receipt of stipends, fellowships, or research or teaching assistantships does not constitute gainful employment." I really curious that other out-of-state students (at least from what you tell me) don't run into this problem. Many of the grad students I met at UNT stressed to me how frustrated they were that working as a graduate assistant didn't count towards residency. I know other states don't have that criteria.

In any case, I could easily work doing at-home ABA, which is what I already do. Hours are pretty flexible and it gives me additional opportunities to practice what I learn in class and at my practicum. I'm not thrilled that I have to do this to establish residency, but the department is pretty understanding of that, and other students have been able to make it work for them, so it's possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hm, I agree with post from insert Psychologist. If you dont want to do research long term, a thesis and such doesn't really matter.

I actually got accepted to UNT for behavior analysis for this fall as well! But... I sent a decline of acceptance. I needed an ABA program rather than behavior analysis. Simply because it is SO research focused, and I left the field of clinical psychology because all I have done the past 5 years (3 undergrad years in research labs and thesis, 2 post bacc years) and I am burnt out and hate it and just want to work with kiddos with ASD and be a BCBA. For these reasons, UNT was a hard pass for me, although that decision was hard as it is a VERY good program. But if you like hands on work more then research and that's what you would want to be doing long term, I would take into account how happy you think you would be in grad school doing a bunch of research.

 

Then again, maybe don't listen to me as I'm in the same boat and haven't even decided where I'm going haha. Either a small private school here in OK, FIT, or FSU. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.