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Hi Everyone - 

I am a graduate student in a public policy program (MPP) at a very highly ranked school (top five in the country), one of the best in the country and I am hoping to move onto a PhD program in 2018. However, I am debating on what type of PhD program to pursue as my research interests are very diverse. At its core, I am currently studying public policy with two concentrations; the first is U.S. education policy in the United States and second, my degree has concentration certificates, which in my case will include computational social science and survey research methodology. Initially I thought wanted to get a PhD in public policy but my interests have since shifted to more of a psychology focus. 

My only formal experience with psychology is through my undergraduate major when I wrote my thesis, i was an English major that used psychological and cognitive theory for my undergraduate thesis. Outside of an academic setting, I have used various MOOCs (MIT OpenCourseWare, EdX, etc) for psychology classes. From what I can gather online, my primary focus would be on either developmental and/or cognitive psychology as I want to focus on learning and memory, particularly within adolescents in schools and classrooms. Over the course of my research I have also found programs in Educational Psychology, but most of those appear to be through a school's Department of Education. 

As for my background, I have participated in Teach For America, as well as worked for a Education policy non-profit  where I focused on data modeling and policy analysis. I want my career to focus on the intersection of education policy and the psychology of learning, ideally being able to use research to inform policy. This summer I am working for a highly respected research firm on healthcare policy. I am also well versed in big data tools and methods so quantitative psychology has some appeal. 

Is applying to a psych PhD program completely out of left field, at least from the perspective of an admissions counsel?

Do MOOC courses count for anything when applying to a graduate program my undergraduate degree is not related to?

Are cognitive and developmental psychology research degrees the right option for my career goals?

Any advice would be grearty appreciated, I know what a great resource gradecafe can be for people with questions, like me!




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I don't think its completely out of left field, but you do need to be sure that you really want and need to do this.  Just because you have an interest in something doesn't mean that the only way to pursue it is by going to graduate school, especially when you will already have a graduate degree.  Before you decide anything I think it is important to figure out specifically what it is you want to do.  Is there a psych department at your school?  If so chat up those professors about the fields you're considering or see if they can connect you to colleagues.  Then consider things like where these programs are/relocation, cost, overall career projections, etc.

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