Grad School Info

Information for Students Interested in Graduate School

Identifying possible careers

One of the most important (and difficult) tasks for any student is identifying possible careers. You must have some ideas about careers before you can know which kinds of graduate programs are appropriate for you and even whether graduate school is necessary at all. In order to help you decide on the type of career you want and the type of graduate program that will best meet your needs, it is important to have a range of experiences.

  • Take a variety of psychology courses and courses in disciplines related to psychology.
  • Get work or volunteer experience with psychology-related organizations. You might gain experience through USF's Cooperative Education program, which integrates practical, paid experience into students' academic programs. Also, check out the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement which helps link students to community service and service-learning opportunities.
  • If you are interested in research, get involved with research being conducted by Psychology Department faculty and graduate students. There are often flyers about research opportunities posted on the Student Services bulletin board and elsewhere around PCD. You can also contact specific faculty members whose research intrigues you. Find out more by checking out faculty members’ home pages. If you are a Psychology major, you can also find out about research opportunities by paying attention to announcements made through Blackboard. To find out about research opportunities at USF in general, check out the Office of Undergraduate Research.
  • Check out the Career Center (SVC 2088), which offers vocational interest tests and materials to help you identify a career that's right for you. Each semester they have job fairs, career expos, and placement seminars to help prepare you for a career and find a job. They also help students develop resumes. You may make an appointment by calling 813-974-2171.
  • Get involved in Psi Chi and attend meetings about careers. Please contact your Psi Chi USF Chapter Faculty Advisor for more information.
  • Become a student member of organizations such as the American Psychological Association or the Association for Psychological Science so that you can receive informative publications.
  • Review books in the Career Center and the main library's reference section that describe careers, average salaries, and projected availability of jobs in the future. They include:

Identifying educational paths

There are several educational paths you may take to reach most careers in psychology. In order to find out about the different kinds of programs that can help you achieve your career goals, talk to people in the community who are in the profession you find interesting. Ask them about educational requirements. You may also get information from departments on campus and from state licensing agencies.

Preparing for graduate school

The most important criteria for getting into graduate school are overall GPA, GPA in Psychology, GRE scores, and experiences relevant to the programs to which you are applying. Note that the undergraduate GPA used for admissions purposes may vary among graduate programs, with some considering overall GPA and others using your last 60 credits of upper-level coursework. Most graduate programs also expect research and/or clinical experiences, depending on the type of program. Many also expect mathematics and natural science courses as well as skill using computers. Strong letters of recommendation are also very important. Most programs require three letters and prefer that at least two of these letters come from professors who know you well. All three letters should address attributes that are relevant to the programs to which you are applying. Ideally, letters for Psychology programs should come from individuals familiar with graduate school and careers in Psychology, so you should probably ask Psychology professors and employers in Psychology-related fields to write the letters for you. It is best to request letters from those who are in the best position to comment favorably on your ability to perform at the graduate-level – and to make sure they so comment!

Graduate programs in Psychology typically require that you take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Most programs require the General GRE (with Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytic sections), and many also require the Advanced "Subject" GRE (Psychology). Some students prepare for these exams using only the free materials available when they register for the GRE. Others prepare with commercially-available study guides and software. Still others review courses sponsored by USF’s Continuing Education program or commercial companies. It is extremely important that you prepare for the GRE before you take it. Pay careful attention to the dates and availability of paper-based and computer-based testing. You may obtain information concerning test dates, locations, practice tests, ordering books, and registering for the GRE on-line (ETS GRE or USF Tests Services). Another way to prepare is to take a practice test (a "mock GRE") sponsored by a student organization on campus. Some graduate programs may require that you take additional tests.

Getting information about graduate programs

Identify professors whose research you are interested in and find out where they teach through literature searches or via the Internet. Look for programs that will offer the kind of training for the career in which you are interested. Keep in mind that not all Cognitive programs are the same and not all Counseling programs are the same, for example. Many professional organizations have information about graduate training programs on their websites. Also, look at websites for those schools that would help you meet your career goals and for which you are qualified. Other publications to consult include:

  • Graduate Study in Psychology. This book, published annually by the American Psychological Association, describes all M.A., Ph.D., and Psy.D. programs in the U.S. and Canada. It provides admission requirements for all of these programs and also indicates the average scores of the most recent entering class to give some indication of the competitiveness of each program. You may find this book in the USF library (REF: BF77 G7), at the Career Center, and in the Psychology Department's Advising Office, or you can order a copy through APA by phone at 1-800-374-2721.
  • Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology by J. Norcross, M. Sayette, and T. Mayne. This book discusses qualifications needed for admission to graduate school, provides step-by-step suggestions for applying to graduate school, and discusses the specializations of Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs in the U.S. and Canada. It can be found in the main library (REF: RC 467.7 I57) or can be ordered from local book stores (it is published by Guilford Publications). It is updated every 2-3 years so make sure to get the most recent edition.
  • For information on master's programs that have applied for and met membership standards for the Council of Applied Master's Programs in Psychology.
    • Lists all graduate training programs in I/O psychology
    • Additional useful web sites: Peterson's Guides to graduate programs, and the National Research Council Rankings of Quality of Psychology Graduate Programs.
    • The USF Psychology Department offers Ph.D. programs in three concentrations: Clinical; Cognition, Neuroscience, and Social (including an interdisciplinary Ph.D. with the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences); and Industrial/Organizational. View more information about these programs.
    • See descriptions of all graduate programs at USF. For example, check out graduate programs in Aging Studies, Applied Anthropology, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Criminology, Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling, Social Work, School Psychology, Educational Psychology, Counselor Education, Public Health, Applied Behavior Analysis, and the Neuroscience Concentration in the Ph.D. Program in Medical Sciences. Many of these programs may be more relevant for your career goals.

Applying for graduate school

Match your goals, abilities, and credentials to each program, and be realistic. Every graduate program is different. You must do your research to learn the characteristics and specific requirements for your intended programs. Doctoral programs are generally more competitive than Master’s programs, but Master’s programs may also be quite competitive. Don’t forget that the application deadline date will probably be several months to a year before the actual entrance semester, so start planning early. If possible, apply to more than one program to increase your chances of being admitted.

You may find the following sources useful.

  • The Complete Guide to Graduate School Admission: Psychology, Counseling, and Related Fields by P. Keith-Spiegel & M. W. Wiederman (2000, 2nd ed.), Lawrence Erlbaum. USF Online Resource (library)
  • Getting In: A Step-by-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology by APA (2007).
  • American Psychological Association
  • Portable Mentor - 2nd Edition

NOTE: Only after you have reviewed the sources described above, you might wish to consult faculty and other professionals about this process.


Majoring in psychology and considering different career options

On-line resources