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ShiningInShadows

Value of Experience

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Here's a question for all of you out there in internetland that may have been through this (or are going through this)...

 

I suppose you could say I am a non-traditional student. I am in my post-late-20s (interpretted early 30s and in denial) and finished my (painfully ridiculously long 3.5 year) Master's degree in 2008. I took a break from school because I just couldn't stomach it much any more and an awesome job opportunity openned up for me. I work in prison rehabilitation and you can often do this kind of work with a Master's degree so I jumped at an opportunity to work at a internationally-esteemed program in New England (even though I hate it up here, it's that good of a job).

 

So now I'm five-ish years later with more clinical experience than I otherwise would have (I did two years working full-time in a counseling program last time I was in school) had if I went straight from my (hellish) Master's program to a PhD, and a few publications as well. Now many of my senior collegues are insane about experience over credentials, but then again some of them are (on the extreme end) anti-research and all stopped at the Master's level (in the state I am working in you can still become a licensed psychologist without a doctoral degree).

 

The question I've been wondering is how much does this clinical experience give me an edge/advantage/hope/snowball's chance in you-know-where? As part of my interview strategy I have been planning on this balancing out my less than stellar psych gre scores (because the structure of the eye has almost no bearing on what I do, for instance!).

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I'm just a lowly prospective candidate myself right now, so I don't know if I can really help you. However, I hate seeing a thread ignored, so I'll give it a shot!

I do think experience helps, and here's why: a PhD program is not just school, but also a job. Your (I assume successful) on-the-job experience shows that you can handle bosses, coworkers, time management, clients, and so on. I imagine clinical programs would especially value the fact that you have so much clinical experience. After all, schools don't want to invest in someone who may decide a year or two in that they actually hate clinical work. Since you've done so much, it indicates you know what the job is really like and want to keep doing it.

 

That being said, when are you applying? Because if you're really worried about the psych GRE, maybe you should retake it. Also, are there any clinical people out there who know what they're talking about (unlike me) who want to chime in?

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your experience is invaluable and SOME program will rate it and admit you for it... BUT, you need to find that right program!  that's your challenge... find the program whose profs are studying what you want to study and reach out to those profs NOW... don't wait until you've decided to apply, reach out and inquire now, start a relationship and see "who bites"... you are just young enough and just experienced enough to offer a program a great balance of openness and mastery... i think this balance is one of your calling cards.  good luck!

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Thank you both for your input. One of my goals was to try and not make too many assumptions going into my PhD since that caused many headaches when working towards my Master's degree, and in the last few days I've begun to wonder about my assumption that my professional clinical experience will be of benefit. Okay, in fairness, as I approach my upcoming interview at my first choice school I've found myself self-generating all kinds of doubts, many of which are unfounded I know.

 

Fortunately I have been using time at conferences to start some networking and my current supervisor is super connected so he's been a good resource to know who would be a good fit for me. My top school choice may not bring very much prestige, but the person I want to work with seems to be a really good fit as an advisor for me.

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