Jump to content

Masters programs as a bridge to the PhD


Recommended Posts

Although it is still early, it is looking as though I am not going to be accepted into any PhD programs. I want to stay optimistic but I'm also one who feels the need to be rational and if I'm not admitted I want to have a valid plan-B in place. 
As of right now, the plan is to re-apply. I'm looking to try more Masters programs (and only re-apply to three or four of the PhD level programs that I really love). However, I am completely overwhelmed by this and currently have no idea where to start. I'm just not sure what I'm supposed to be looking for in a good Masters program if my goal is to move on to a PhD after. So my questions are as follows:
1. Is anyone able to throw out a few good programs as a starting point?  Obviously I'm not asking anyone to do my job for me... but I'm feeling a bit crazy to start over all over again and I think having a few things to start me off might help me get myself back together. :P
2. I am looking for programs that would give me more research experience and the chance to get published. Obviously this means I'll be looking at what research the professors at each school are doing, trying to figure out if it matches my own interests... however, how important is this for the purpose of the applications? Is it important to include a POI that I'd want to work with?  And how important is it, for Masters level, that I share the research interests of any of the professors? By that I mean, is it important that research interests line up for a "good fit" or would a more general shared interest still be workable?
3. Finally, where is the best place to get started looking? So far my searches have pulled up plenty of clinical/counseling Masters programs but I'm having more trouble finding anything for general/social/experimental psychology programs. This is probably the most frustrating part of the entire experience!  -.- 
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's a lot of threads on here about good, funded master's programs. William and Mary, Wake Forest, Villanova, and NYU all have good experimental programs, and William and Mary is fully funded, Wake is at least partially funded (not sure, but I think some people are fully funded).


I can't speak for the other programs, but the focus of the W&M program is do research, get published, get into a PhD program. I think including a POI is a good idea on a Masters app, but I think that the research fit is a little more flexible than in PhD programs. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 11 months later...

Same here, trying to figure out what to do in case I don't get accepted anywhere. There are a lot of masters programs and I can't seem to figure out if they are good or bad schools (I don't care about ranking but I don't want to study another two years at a school that won't get me anywhere). It's really overwhelming!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If all of you are considering Master's programs to help you get into a PhD program, then the suggestions above to search threads here on Master's programs is a great starting point.  You can also just do a broad Google search and find all kinds of listings that way, this was my preferred method when I was looking for programs.  Now I'm assuming all of you know what kind of PhD you want to get, so when you find Master's programs that interest you and *might* help you reach your goals then contact the program and ask them.  Tell them what your research interests are, what skills you're interested in developing, and what type of PhD program you're aiming for in the long run.  Then directly ask them how their program can assist you on that path and about past students that moved on to PhD programs.  They might even be able to connect you with recent graduates or offer to introduce to current students on their way to PhD's during a visit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Same here, trying to figure out what to do in case I don't get accepted anywhere. There are a lot of masters programs and I can't seem to figure out if they are good or bad schools (I don't care about ranking but I don't want to study another two years at a school that won't get me anywhere). It's really overwhelming!

Rankings mean very little. You might want to e-mail faculty with whom you share research interests (just like you would PhD programs, and (among other questions) ask whether their students get into PhD programs, and if so, where.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

People always mention threads about Masters programs, but if you go through all 50 something pages on the forum you discover that there is actually very little information regarding your type of question.  There were a few threads about funded masters programs, and the usual suspects were provided (W&M etc). In my humble opinion, I care more about quality and less about funding.  I think, look at quality first and then we can consider funding.    


I think there should be a thread solely focused on qualities of Master/specialist programs and what their potential rankings are since these are relatively non existent online.  For example, you could use scholarly productivity as a guideline for programs but if the publication is only looking at APA schools than this would exclude (a lot of) schools that only offer MA programs (not apa accredited).  Furthermore, besides examining which professors/schools align with your interests it can be hard to determine which school is better rated if you get accepted to a number of programs.  In a sense masters students usually have less matured interests (which is why they are choosing masters!) so I find it frustrating and a cop-out when people respond to this question by saying "pick a school that aligns with your interests" because one of the very tenets of this path is for students who don't have clearly defined interests yet.


I think in the end, grad cafe could work to help potential master students navigate which school is better ranked objectively and then allow students to make personal choices using that information.  Part of this personal choice would stem from your research/academic interest and then another part might be your end goal (in your case Phd)


I know it is frustrating when people keep saying "look at google" "look at past threads".  I can tell you I have read through all of those sources and each leaves much to be desired. I have also gone through hundreds of threads on SDN which provided slightly further insight but yeah..It sucks!


Perhaps people applying to masters programs could list the programs and say why they chose this program.

List school and reason with personal factors (I doubt this will catch on as a "movement" but I wish!) I'll start with one of mine:


*All schools in this list should be NASP approved because that is widely understood as a basic starting point*


For example:


  • Program:  School Psychology (MA)
  • School:                                           Plattsburgh (NY)
  • Objective Positive Qualities:              thesis requirement- financial assistance- Accepts up to 12 credits from another grad program- leave program with comprehensive portfolio
  • Personal Influence:                           POI studying topic of interest/Family in area
  • Objective Negative Qualities (if any):   NA


On another note, I have found STUDENT HANBOOK to be really helpful and also reading about the faculty research will give you an idea of what's going on at the school.  Also look at what the practicum sites could be, if the campus has a Family Center (many do) where you could gain experience or any other training certificates you might leave with (for example play therapy).  Schools that have PhD programs could take less time to finish if you obtain your masters there (so in your case this would be a factor to investigate).  I wouldn't really email professors until you exhaust all other options because it can seem like you didn't do the leg work/didn't read their publications/wasting their time by asking questions you could problem solve on your own.  If you have a specific question though, it would be okay.


I hope other people add to the list!!    *crosses fingers*  :D 

Edited by baunlee
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest joshw4288

I will repost this from information I sent to someone recently:


If moving to NYC, I highly recommend taking a look at the MA General Psychology program at Hunter College, CUNY. I will be graduating from there in May. I believe it is an excellent program and has definitely helped me gain the attention of many excellent doctoral programs that have interviews with this year. It has excellent statistical training, freedom to concentrate your courses in what interests you, requires a thesis. Research starts your first year with a first year project. I will be leaving the program having completed a thesis, 2 conference talks, a conference poster, and a publication. Not to mention the program helped get me my internship at the United Nations with the International Council of Psychologists and my internship as assistant editor to multiple psychotherapy journals. 

There are others in NYC including an MA at NYU, City College, New School for Social Research, Queens College, and likely some of the other CUNY schools. Fordham also has a program, I believe. Many to look into. I can only speak to Hunter College, but truly believe it is an excellent program to be in, with small size and focused attention on the MA students because there is not a corresponding doctoral program at Hunter. Lest I forget Pace University--my supervisor at the UN is the former chair of the Pace Psychology department and I work with a number of students and faculty from that program. They have good things to say so you may look there as well. I'd be happy to answer questions you might have so please feel free to message me. 


You are welcome to message me with questions. 

Link to comment
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
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use