Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

Preparing for Graduate School in Psychology

Right: Drs. Francisco Gonzalez-Lima and Timothy Schallert

Left: Drs. Francisco Gonzalez-Lima and Timothy Schallert

Degrees and Areas of Psychology

Graduate Degrees in and Related to Psychology

So you want a career in Psychology....

First, you will need to determine what type of graduate degree will best fit your goals; there are several different types of graduate degrees in Psychology. 

A Doctorate (Ph.D.) may required for the independent practice of psychology and for college and university teaching jobs. A Master's degree (M.A., M.S., M.Ed., M.S.W.) is needed for many industrial positions and for clinical or counseling positions in settings. An Medical Doctorate (M.D.) is necessary to become a Psychiatrist and prescribe medications. 

Area of Psychology

At the graduate level, you must decide on an area of specialization within psychology (e.g., clinical, counseling, social, biopsychology, industrial, cognitive, etc.). Use the "Index of Programs by Area of Study Offered" in Graduate Study in Psychology and Associated Fields to find departments that offer training in your area of interest.

NOTE: There is often more than one name for an area: biopsychology programs can be called biopsychology, psychobiology, physiological, etc., and a cognitive program might be called cognition, cognitive, human experimental, etc.

Clinical or Counseling?


If you are wanting to practice (see clients), then you will be choosing between counseling, social work, and clinical psychology; there are various Master's degrees and Doctoral degrees for each of these areas. You will want to figure out which one is the right fit for you before you begin applying to graduate programs.  

Interested in Clinical Psychology Grad School? Here's What You Need to Know!

Left: Dr. Cindy Meston, Professor of Clinical Psychology


Admission to Graduate School

Getting Admitted

Getting into a Psychology Graduate Program may feel a little overwhelming, but there are some steps you can take to begin, which you can learn about here

Once you have your programs, you will want to look at each program's website for their admissions requirements; you can see the UT requirements here.

Common requirements to look for are: 

  • GRE scores- many schools will not require this for 2021 admissions*
  • Resume/CV
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose
  • GPA minimums
  • Transcripts from all universities previously attended
  • 12-15 hours of Psychology coursework (usually upper-level)
  • Some programs have additional specific course requirements.

You may be asking, what can I do to help me chances of being admitted into a gradate program? While there is no way to guarantee your acceptance, there are things that will help your application stand out!

  • Keep grades high
  • Research Experience- as much as you can get! PSY 420M and PSY 357 are good places to begin.
  • Statistics courses- PSY 317L, 420M, PSY 458, etc.
  • Join Psychology organizations on campus, like TSPA, WIP, Psi Chi, etc.
  • For those wishing to practice, internships or volunteer experience in relevant areas are great.
  • Cultivate relationships with faculty/grad students in your area for recommendations/mentoring.
  • Begin your program research and corresponding with potential supervisors well ahead of time.


Information Resources

Use the websites of the governing professional organizations that govern your chosen area:


Admissions Deadlines

The admission deadline for most major universities is December 1 for admission for the following fall. (Most Ph.D. programs only admit students in the fall.) Some programs have earlier deadlines; carefully read the information you get from the programs. Deadlines for Master's programs are usually somewhat later, January-March. 

Financial Assistance

Even if you are highly qualified for admission, you will find that the financial support from different schools will vary. Most major universities support their new students by a combination of teaching assistantships (T.A.'s), research assistantships (R.A.s), and fellowships. Support varies from school to school and even from area to area within a department. If you do not need financial assistance, you should state that in your personal statement; it may make a difference in the admission decision. Regional universities and universities with only M.A. programs generally provide less financial assistance. Even if you receive assistance, and especially if you do not, you should contact the institution's financial aid office for information about graduate student loans.

Related Links

Preparing for Graduate School

*check out links in article for tools to help you throughout this journey

Learn More about Graduate School in Clinical Psychology


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    The University of Texas at Austin
    SEA 4.208
    108 E. Dean Keeton Stop A8000
    Austin, TX 78712-1043