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How much does prestige matter? School Psych PsyD


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I've been going back and forth between the two school psych programs for weeks and it's driving me up a wall. I think I've been trying to overjustify both options whenever I feel like I'm even slightly leaning more towards one. Tried the coin flip trick and everything, and I'm still indecisive. Here are the schools:

School A: Close to where I did undergrad, in a city I like. Urban environment with a relatively low cost of living, and I get to stay with my SO. Program has a solid reputation with great training and resources, and lets me graduate in 4 years, which is nice. Requires a research-oriented doctoral project, not a dissertation. Warm faculty and friendly students, although it's lacking in diversity (I'm a minority). I like the program for the faculty and students, and I feel like this will help me tremendously. At the same time, I can't help but feel that this program looks somewhat spartan compared to School B. It's a solid program, but nothing's particularly extraordinary in my opinion.

School B: Close to my parents' house, which isn't necessarily a pro for me since I like my independence. Suburban environment in an area I'm less than enthusiastic about with a higher cost of living, strangely enough. Program has a much more established reputation with rigorous training, but usually takes 5 years. Requires a practice-focused dissertation that would be publishable. Friendly and diverse faculty and students, but faculty are known to be extremely busy so I worry about how hard it'll be to build relationships with them. I think I'm still amazed that I got accepted to this program at all, and I'm thinking it would be dumb of me to turn it down. At the same time, I'm intimidated by the requirements and expectations of the program, and worried that it's more than what I find necessary. Also, a caveat is that I never got to visit the school in person, though I visited the campus in high school and hated it.

Any input would be greatly appreciated!

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First, try to arrange a visit to School B. Hating something in high school is so different than looking at a program now as an adult. Visit and then see if that helps to make your choice easier. If you still hate it, then there's your answer. 

Also, I'm confused how the research-oriented project is not a dissertation, but the practice-oriented one is. A dissertation is traditionally a research-oriented document. Granted I don't know much about school psych, but several school psych people in my area are in the same practicums as clinical psych folks. 

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I wish I had time to make a visit, but I really don't have any means between now and April 15. I'm pretty much going off of what current grad students say, which is a mixed bag depending on where they're from.

By research-oriented, I meant that the doctoral project still requires some research-related activity (like a case study or literature review) hence not a dissertation. The practice-oriented dissertation is a bit of a misnomer; it's like a PhD dissertation in the sense that it's designed to contribute new knowledge to the field, but it's structured to focus more on practical application and tends to be shorter at an average of 40 pages. It's by no means a "full" dissertation, but an empirical study nonetheless. Given that I have no desire to go into academia and no current plans to gain licensure, I'm not sure how much this matters. I'm sure this is an entirely different case with clinical psych though.

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1 hour ago, paraent said:

A recent study I read found that, controlling for everything else, prestige matters about twice as much as gender. Think about how much you think it matters for your career that you're a man rather than a woman, or vice versa. Prestige matters about twice as much as that. 

Curious if this is specific to grad school or prestige in general somehow? If it’s specific to where you get your PhD, does it say anything about the prestige of the school versus the prestige of the program. For example a prestigious school that is not known for or top ranked a particular program. In the field of study, maybe program tops school, but outside of that field, saying you went to the prestigious school could carry more weight? I’m struggling with this, so I’d love to read the article if you have a link!

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3 hours ago, paraent said:

A recent study I read found that, controlling for everything else, prestige matters about twice as much as gender. Think about how much you think it matters for your career that you're a man rather than a woman, or vice versa. Prestige matters about twice as much as that. 

I can't decide if this is being facetious or not.

I have never once asked my therapists, doctors, pharmacists, or physical therapists where they graduated from. All I need to know is 1) do they have a license to practice, and 2) are they providing me good service. And that's for private practice folks. For people working in an agency, I don't even have a choice - I get assigned to them if I choose to use the agency's services! 

For HR purposes, most of the time they're just screening to see that you graduated from a legitimate school. As long as the school doesn't raise any eyebrows (e.g. Argosy), any difference in prestige is going to be negligible (e.g. sure, Brown is more prestigious than Iowa State, but if Iowa State has better experiences, I'd hire them over Brown). The obvious caveat is if you're comparing something like Yale vs. University of the Incarnate Word [tried to pick a university y'all haven't heard of], then sure, maybe you have a marginal benefit in hiring, but any person doing hiring is going to look at more important things like your clinical skills, practicum experiences, and community involvement. 

(Source: did hiring for a group practice and a community agency)

Also, it all depends on where you want to practice and what you want to do with your degree. I'm going to assume by your choice of a PsyD instead of a PhD that you are primarily interested in clinical practice and not trying to climb the ladder in academia. If that's the case, prestige doesn't really matter. Just make sure it's not a diploma mill. Choose the program that you feel most comfortable in and will get you the best opportunities for clinical practica/internship. So check the match rates, and ask the training directors what kind of placements students tend to get. For example, if you want to work with disadvantaged populations as a career but School X tends to only place students in high SES private schools for training, then does that really align with your values and the kind of experience you want?

1 hour ago, Psyhopeful said:

If it’s specific to where you get your PhD, does it say anything about the prestige of the school versus the prestige of the program. For example a prestigious school that is not known for or top ranked a particular program. In the field of study, maybe program tops school, but outside of that field, saying you went to the prestigious school could carry more weight?

To be completely honest, outside of academia (including academic teaching hospitals and research careers) no one really knows what the "prestige of a program" is. I worked in a large urban city at a large community agency that regularly hired psychologists and masters level clinicians. Our specialty was dual dx. When someone submits their application, I don't say, "Oh wow, they graduated from Colorado State University, I know there's a great lab there that does work on substance use disorders. That's much more relevant to the job that these two who graduated from Columbia and UChicago, I'd better hire the ColoState person!" Frankly, I don't even know what universities have strong research labs / training in substance use, nor do I really care. I look at the applicant's resume and skim for ANY experience working with substance use. If UChicago happens to have worked in 3 addictions treatment facilities and ColoState only worked in school-based settings, guess who I'm hiring, regardless of the "prestige" of their program or school?

Edited by dancedementia
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1 hour ago, dancedementia said:

To be completely honest, outside of academia (including academic teaching hospitals and research careers) no one really knows what the "prestige of a program" is. I worked in a large urban city at a large community agency that regularly hired psychologists and masters level clinicians. Our specialty was dual dx. When someone submits their application, I don't say, "Oh wow, they graduated from Colorado State University, I know there's a great lab there that does work on substance use disorders. That's much more relevant to the job that these two who graduated from Columbia and UChicago, I'd better hire the ColoState person!" Frankly, I don't even know what universities have strong research labs / training in substance use, nor do I really care. I look at the applicant's resume and skim for ANY experience working with substance use. If UChicago happens to have worked in 3 addictions treatment facilities and ColoState only worked in school-based settings, guess who I'm hiring, regardless of the "prestige" of their program or school?

My assumption has always been prestige of the school matters to administrators, bureaucrats, and the public... they don't have the expertise to judge programs so they go by 'brand names''.... to people in the know, I would imagine you are spot on. But it is one of those infernal things that inevitably seem to be the swing factor when to candidates are 'tied' or the hiring person is exhausted/incompetent and they go off arbitrary deciding factors... how many of us have been in those situations where it doesn't matter until it does, eh? 😕

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I have to be with dancedementia on this. As far as I've seen, prestige mainly matters if you're planning to go into academia and universities you're applying to would weigh your training based on your training and advisor. I'm guessing that local reputation could also be helpful if you're planning to apply for a job in the area, but that probably matters less as time goes on.

I think the reason I'm worried about prestige at all is because the reputation does tend to speak somewhat for the quality of the program. School B's program has been around for much longer and they generally seem to ascribe themselves to more rigorous standards. Perhaps their prestige hints that it would be a higher quality program? I'm wondering though if that necessarily makes it a good reason to choose it. 

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49 minutes ago, mochalattes said:

I think the reason I'm worried about prestige at all is because the reputation does tend to speak somewhat for the quality of the program. School B's program has been around for much longer and they generally seem to ascribe themselves to more rigorous standards. Perhaps their prestige hints that it would be a higher quality program? I'm wondering though if that necessarily makes it a good reason to choose it. 

You're not wrong. There is some connection between high prestige and a good quality program, but I don't necessarily think that the opposite is true (e.g. just because a program is not considered "prestigious" doesn't mean you'll get a poor quality experience). That said, I'd like to remind everyone of the lovely Pareto principle (where are my I/O folks when I need them) - 80% of results comes from 20% of the effort. Put simply in the context of a doctoral program (with the intent to practice) - all you need is "enough". You need your 2-3 years of practicum, your 1 year of APA internship, your 1 year of postdoc (or whatever postgrad hours are needed to get licensed in your state). The difference between a person who publishes 5 papers vs. the person who publishes 1 is practically negligible when it comes to hiring for practice. It doesn't matter if your lab was ranked 1st or ranked 30th - you got the research experience and the dissertation nonetheless. (If we're talking about a career in academia, all of this goes out the window, of course.) Keep in mind that everyone who finishes a program and passes the EPPP (not sure if school psych has another exam, I don't know the name) gets licensed. EVERYONE. Doesn't matter if you graduated from Harvard or from Oklahoma State. And as the years go on, if your intent is to stay in clinical practice, your education slowly becomes less and less important as you advance.

It's inaccurate to say that prestige doesn't matter at all - because let's face it, we're human beings and there is an inherent to signal and to seek out signalling in others. However, I think that as you go deeper and deeper into clinical practice you'll learn that there are diminishing returns.

You'll be in this program for 4 years. That's actually a pretty long time. Pick the one that you feel comfortable in :)

55 minutes ago, Fantasmapocalypse said:

My assumption has always been prestige of the school matters to administrators, bureaucrats, and the public... they don't have the expertise to judge programs so they go by 'brand names''.... to people in the know, I would imagine you are spot on. But it is one of those infernal things that inevitably seem to be the swing factor when to candidates are 'tied' or the hiring person is exhausted/incompetent and they go off arbitrary deciding factors... how many of us have been in those situations where it doesn't matter until it does, eh? 😕

I think you underestimate the capability of hiring folks, haha. If anything, I think their lack of expertise actually works in your favour in the context of clinical practice. As I mentioned before, I don't have the time or the care to look at university names, lab names, PI names. I skim the resume and look for a job that looks similar to the one I'm hiring for. I'm hiring for a "school psychologist"? Well, better make sure this person mentions schools and psychology somewhere in their resume. You'll also find that a lot of the "first cut" goes through automatic keyword screeners first, and those automated programs definitely don't care what school you went to - they just want to know whether your degree matches and whether you have the license haha.

As for administrators, bureaucrats, and the public, you have a point. Although that could work either for or against you. For example, in my field (eating disorders), here are some of the top schools: Drexel, Temple, Miami, FSU,  SUNY Albany, Michigan State. Here are some of the NOT top schools: Harvard, Yale, Columbia. So if you went to Drexel - great for hiring, sucks for public perception. If you went to Yale - sucks for hiring, great for public perception. At that point it's kind of a "pick your battle" - do you want to be well known in the inner circle of eating disorders, or do you want to signal to the public that you went to a prestigious school? Someone hiring at an ED treatment facility may be "in the know", but someone hiring at a community mental health agency may have no idea.

As a P. S. -- I don't intend to give any "do this or die" advice in my replies, I'm just sharing some n=1 anecdotes in hopes that it sparks some conversation. Thanks :)

Edited by dancedementia
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23 hours ago, dancedementia said:

 

To be completely honest, outside of academia (including academic teaching hospitals and research careers) no one really knows what the "prestige of a program" is. I worked in a large urban city at a large community agency that regularly hired psychologists and masters level clinicians. Our specialty was dual dx. When someone submits their application, I don't say, "Oh wow, they graduated from Colorado State University, I know there's a great lab there that does work on substance use disorders. That's much more relevant to the job that these two who graduated from Columbia and UChicago, I'd better hire the ColoState person!" Frankly, I don't even know what universities have strong research labs / training in substance use, nor do I really care. I look at the applicant's resume and skim for ANY experience working with substance use. If UChicago happens to have worked in 3 addictions treatment facilities and ColoState only worked in school-based settings, guess who I'm hiring, regardless of the "prestige" of their program or school?

I should’ve clarified that I was asking in terms of academia. That was why I was interested in reading the actual article.

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21 minutes ago, Psyhopeful said:

I should’ve clarified that I was asking in terms of academia. That was why I was interested in reading the actual article.

Short answer: both are important. I don't know about the actual article, but based on my familiarity with how faculty are hired at my department, both program prestige and university prestige are considered by different people. The faculty within the department focus on applicants' supervisors (whether they are people our faculty know of and how well our faculty know them) and publications. However, as hiring has to go through the college, the dean has the final say on who should be interviewed or hired. One applicant did not get an offer despite recommendation from the department because they did not go to a "tier-1 school" (whatever it means). I'm sure there are departments with more autonomy in who they hire, but you never know how your applications are evaluated by different people in the process.

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22 hours ago, dancedementia said:

I think you underestimate the capability of hiring folks, haha. If anything, I think their lack of expertise actually works in your favour in the context of clinical practice. As I mentioned before, I don't have the time or the care to look at university names, lab names, PI names. I skim the resume and look for a job that looks similar to the one I'm hiring for. I'm hiring for a "school psychologist"? Well, better make sure this person mentions schools and psychology somewhere in their resume. You'll also find that a lot of the "first cut" goes through automatic keyword screeners first, and those automated programs definitely don't care what school you went to - they just want to know whether your degree matches and whether you have the license haha.

As for administrators, bureaucrats, and the public, you have a point. Although that could work either for or against you. For example, in my field (eating disorders), here are some of the top schools: Drexel, Temple, Miami, FSU,  SUNY Albany, Michigan State. Here are some of the NOT top schools: Harvard, Yale, Columbia. So if you went to Drexel - great for hiring, sucks for public perception. If you went to Yale - sucks for hiring, great for public perception. At that point it's kind of a "pick your battle" - do you want to be well known in the inner circle of eating disorders, or do you want to signal to the public that you went to a prestigious school? Someone hiring at an ED treatment facility may be "in the know", but someone hiring at a community mental health agency may have no idea.

As a P. S. -- I don't intend to give any "do this or die" advice in my replies, I'm just sharing some n=1 anecdotes in hopes that it sparks some conversation. Thanks :)

 I not bitter with my own experiences with bureaucracy and administration at all! <-< lol

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On 3/23/2019 at 1:29 PM, dancedementia said:

You're not wrong. There is some connection between high prestige and a good quality program, but I don't necessarily think that the opposite is true (e.g. just because a program is not considered "prestigious" doesn't mean you'll get a poor quality experience). That said, I'd like to remind everyone of the lovely Pareto principle (where are my I/O folks when I need them) - 80% of results comes from 20% of the effort. Put simply in the context of a doctoral program (with the intent to practice) - all you need is "enough". You need your 2-3 years of practicum, your 1 year of APA internship, your 1 year of postdoc (or whatever postgrad hours are needed to get licensed in your state). The difference between a person who publishes 5 papers vs. the person who publishes 1 is practically negligible when it comes to hiring for practice. It doesn't matter if your lab was ranked 1st or ranked 30th - you got the research experience and the dissertation nonetheless. (If we're talking about a career in academia, all of this goes out the window, of course.) Keep in mind that everyone who finishes a program and passes the EPPP (not sure if school psych has another exam, I don't know the name) gets licensed. EVERYONE. Doesn't matter if you graduated from Harvard or from Oklahoma State. And as the years go on, if your intent is to stay in clinical practice, your education slowly becomes less and less important as you advance.

It's inaccurate to say that prestige doesn't matter at all - because let's face it, we're human beings and there is an inherent to signal and to seek out signalling in others. However, I think that as you go deeper and deeper into clinical practice you'll learn that there are diminishing returns.

You'll be in this program for 4 years. That's actually a pretty long time. Pick the one that you feel comfortable in :)

I think you underestimate the capability of hiring folks, haha. If anything, I think their lack of expertise actually works in your favour in the context of clinical practice. As I mentioned before, I don't have the time or the care to look at university names, lab names, PI names. I skim the resume and look for a job that looks similar to the one I'm hiring for. I'm hiring for a "school psychologist"? Well, better make sure this person mentions schools and psychology somewhere in their resume. You'll also find that a lot of the "first cut" goes through automatic keyword screeners first, and those automated programs definitely don't care what school you went to - they just want to know whether your degree matches and whether you have the license haha.

As for administrators, bureaucrats, and the public, you have a point. Although that could work either for or against you. For example, in my field (eating disorders), here are some of the top schools: Drexel, Temple, Miami, FSU,  SUNY Albany, Michigan State. Here are some of the NOT top schools: Harvard, Yale, Columbia. So if you went to Drexel - great for hiring, sucks for public perception. If you went to Yale - sucks for hiring, great for public perception. At that point it's kind of a "pick your battle" - do you want to be well known in the inner circle of eating disorders, or do you want to signal to the public that you went to a prestigious school? Someone hiring at an ED treatment facility may be "in the know", but someone hiring at a community mental health agency may have no idea.

As a P. S. -- I don't intend to give any "do this or die" advice in my replies, I'm just sharing some n=1 anecdotes in hopes that it sparks some conversation. Thanks :)

Hi, thanks for sharing. It really sheds light on some of my confusions! 

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