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MSW vs PSYD - postbacc or MSW?

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Hi there everyone,

I am 5 years post undergrad, and I've decided I really would like to pursue a PsyD. Performing research doesn't really fascinate me and I am definitely more interested in the  didactics realm of psychology and therapy. My undergraduate years were rocky, not because I slacked but due to some trauma where I really should have taken a few semesters off. I stuck with it and was able to graduate and get the piece of paper, with a cumulative GPA of 2.63.   Since graduating I have been a nanny, an intake coordinator for a children's play therapy clinic, a teacher's assistant in a preschool, kindergarten, and 4th grade class for neuro-divergent children. (For a long time I thought I wanted to work with children in either a educational or therapeutic setting, and after those experiences I realized I wanted to work with full grown individuals.)  I do not look down upon those that become counselors, I am just worried I won't learn everything I want to with an MSW. I either would want my full PsyD or eventually become an LCSW.

I know a 2.63 GPA is laughable when it comes to wanting to pursue higher education, especially a PsyD program. My question I am coming to you all with is, should I be in a psychology post-bacc program or should I just get an MSW to prove I can handle the work load and get a better GPA? I know most MSW programs require a 3.0 and University of Denver requires at least a 2.5gpa. But I feel like if I am going back to school to be a psychologist I should just to the full PsyD?

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  • 2 months later...

FWIW, you're going to have to do research in any decent doctoral program. Many PsyD programs certainly have very light requirements RE research compared to the average PhD program, but high quality, funded programs will almost certainly require some kind of significant research involvement. Programs which don't are generally not considered to be of very high quality. Part of what sets psychologists apart from other mental health professionals is the scientific expertise, which means learning how to do scientific research. 

If research is not in the cards for you, I would not recommend a doctoral program. Licensure-eligible master's programs which place a fair emphasis on interpreting quantitative research findings can offer a good alternative, as you'll get the clinical training and some of the more sophisticated research interpretation skills (not nearly the same as a doctorate, but decent enough for doing full-time psychotherapy).

That said, if you do want to do a doctorate, some kind of master's degree is pretty much going to be required in your case. A GPA of 3.0 is usually the minimum GPA for even being considered for admission, so you will have to do some GPA remediation in a master's program. An MSW is fine, but SW is an entirely different field from psychology and doesn't offer much overlap in terms of curricula--psychotherapy is basically the only place where an MSW program overlaps with a doctorate in clinical/counseling psychology. Otherwise, it doesn't really prepare you for psychology. A terminal master's degree in psychology without license-eligibility (plus research experience) is the more direct way of prepping for a doctorate program, but it carries the risk of you not getting in later and not being licensure eligible. Between MSW and master's degrees in counseling, I'd probably opt for the latter (as it overlaps a little bit more with psychology and still has licensure eligibility should you need to fall back on that later). I'd still recommend getting research experience no matter which degree you choose.

TLDR: A master's is a necessity here. A terminal academic/research master's would be the most directly appropriate way to prep for a doctorate, but other routes are fine (with caveats, namely getting research experience). If research is not in the cards for you, choose a master's licensure path and make the best of it.

Best wishes! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

A MSW gives you the most options when it comes to jobs. You can work in private practice, hospitals, non-profits, agencies, schools, VA, etc. I will likely being attending UNC-CH that has a specialized direct practice curriculum in the final year. I've heard that people have to learn modalities outside of classes... most MSW programs do not teach modalities. MSW degrees allow you to step away from private practice/therapy/counseling if you get burnt out. If you specialize in counseling, then that is what you'll stick to. 

I'd reflect on what is best for you and then proceed.

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