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Master's: Clinical vs. Experimental


Suraj_S

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Let's say that ultimately, I would like to enter a doctoral program for either experimental or clinical psych. (Not sure which, yet, which is the source of my dilemma.) While I see both of the types of Master's listed in this thread's title as relatively viable, given my interests, I'm wondering how choosing one over the other might affect either 1) my future prospects for admission into a Ph.D. program, or 2) the practical opportunities I would have available for me outside of academia.

 

My question, really, is whether going for a Master's in clinical psych--let's say school psych, just for specificity's sake--will limit my prospects for admission into a pure-research Ph.D. program, later on. This question is significant since I'm wary of what could happen if I do the Master's in experimental and don't (immediately, at least) get into a Ph.D. program. I believe this would leave me with considerably fewer options than the alternative where I go for the school psych Master's, don't get into a Ph.D. program, but still have sufficiently happy prospects for a decent position elsewhere.

 

I know that the vast majority of clinical psych Ph.D. curricula are based on the science-practitioner model, though I'm less sure of how many such Master's programs are also like that (where a science-practitioner Master's would be ideal, if I can find enough of them to apply to).

 

Thoughts/suggestions/relevant data or experiences?

Edited by Suraj-X
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I just finished applying to Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology, and I applied to a couple Master's programs as well. I decided to apply to Master's programs in counseling psychology, and I found that the majority of those programs have a lot of research opportunities. I think that if you wind up in a clinical/counseling psychology Master's program, that you will still have a good chance of getting into a purely research-oriented Ph.D. program as long as you conducted research as a Master's student. I don't think that the program will focus as much on the type of Master's program that you came from as much as they will pay attention to what you actually did in the program (poster presentations, publications, lab work...etc...).

Edited by kara.spinney
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The short of it is that I don't think it matters, as long as you get research experience in grad school; and in fact, if you were going to get a master's (and pay for it), I am highly in favor of getting one that you can put to work for you like in school psych.

 

I do want to say that school psychology is not a type of clinical psychology, per se.  A master's degree in clinical psychology is completely different, and will not allow you to practice.  They're mostly research-based MAs that have as a goal training for PhD programs in the field, and the career options are about the same as an experimental psych MA.  A school psychology MA will allow you to practice, if it is a specialist-level program (not necessarily a specialist's degree, just specialist-level) and accredited by NASP.

 

Scientist-practitioner is a model that was developed specifically for PhD programs, so I doubt many master's programs will explicitly describe themselves as such - but it IS true that many master's programs pride themselves upon teaching their students both tenets of research and practice.  So yes, you can go to a practice-oriented master's program like school psychology and still learn how to do research while getting licensed to practice.  This is especially true if you go to a department in which a PhD is also offered.  And so no, getting a master's in a practice field doesn't have to disadvantage you; you just need to make sure that you join someone's lab and do research in grad school.

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Many thanks for the replies.

 

I do wish I could find some Master's that were more research-oriented, but still afford their students the training and certification needed to practice upon licensure/graduation.

 

Something like clinical neuroscience, but perhaps more cognitive and still practice-based. (Maybe more along the lines of CBT...)

Edited by Suraj-X
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