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PhD in Community Health Sciences or Social & Behavioral Sciences with MA in Psychology?


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I recently completed my MA in psychology and am finalizing my application list for the Fall, 2019 semester. The research that I've done in my MA, and which I'd like to expand upon at the doctorate level, focuses largely on reproductive health, and doesn't fit squarely into the focus of most psychology programs. I've found the faculty interests of those at public health programs to be more resonant with my research interests, but given my background, I'm not sure if I'm a competitive enough candidate for public health-oriented PhD programs.

I have solid research experience, six conference presentations during my master's (ranging from psych conferences to conferences focused on behavioral medicine), received full funding to present a paper at an international conference focused on reproductive health, will have two papers submitted and two papers in prep by the time applications are due. 3.97 GPA, a range of teaching and programmatic experiences at my former university (all in psych, though),  volunteer experience in a healthcare/clinical setting, and am anticipating great letters of recommendation. I applied to a small handful of clinical psych programs last year, and had interviews and an offer that I turned down (once I realized that my interests were guiding me more toward research), so I'm fairly confident in the merits of my application.

So that's all well and good, but the research I've done in my former lab, which all falls under the umbrella of "gender and health" has been exclusively qualitative, and the journals I'm submitting papers to are either feminist psych or health psych oriented. I have a basic (quite basic) understanding of statistics (and did receive an A in the only stats class I took at a graduate level), am basically proficient in SPSS, but not in any software more useful than that.

As much as I would like to think of the work I've done thus far as public health oriented, in essence, I think, what my expertise really is in is: feminist, qualitative psychological perspectives on topics relevant to public health concerns. A mouthful!

Health psych programs seem like a good solution, but I haven't found many with faculty who focus on reproductive health. An MpH would also be a great solution, but I need to be funded. As such, I've been looking at Behavioral Health Sciences and Social & Behavioral Sciences programs, all of which sound ideal, but require either an MpH or something comparable. I'm just not sure if my MA is comparable enough?

I'll also note that I'm currently interviewing for public health-oriented research positions, so I may be able to speak to that on my applications (though obviously will not have held a position for long). 

Any insights or advice would be appreciated. Thank you!

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  • 7 months later...

I'm in a similar situation, but with way less experience than you! What did you end up doing? Did it work out? Do you have any advice for a fellow psychology major who wants to go into social and behavioral sciences?

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