硕士学位 vs 博士学位
While many students may think that studying psychology as an undergraduate student will automatically train and qualify them to work in a clinical setting, that is far from the truth. The undergraduate major in psychology serves more as an introduction to the different areas of the field but does not train a student to work as a psychologist. Those interested in Psychology as a career typically must pursue masters or doctoral degrees, with the masters degree being the ‘first step’ to advanced studies in the field. Many doctoral programs in psychology will include the non-terminal masters, meaning that the student will acquire the masters and automatically continue into the doctoral program at that institution. It is important to note that states have different laws about who can call themselves a psychologist — in some states you can do so with a masters degree while in others, you need to have a doctorate to call yourself a psychologist.
Masters Degrees versus Doctoral Degrees
In all states, various types of masters level degrees are available for those interested in working with patients in a clinical setting. Less training is required so your client base may be limited due to your lack of specialized training and knowledge, but if the population you intend to work with is less ‘severe’, a masters degree will provide you with the training you need. In all states, licensure would be required to ensure that practitioners are skilled and have the appropriate educational training.
Working with Patients
Clinical or Counseling Psychology are the two more popularly thought of graduate degrees to pursue if the goal is to work directly with patients and prescribing therapeutic treatment (not including medication, which falls to the purview of psychiatrists who have a medical degree). The American Psychological Association accredits various programs in these areas of study and to pursue the doctoral degree in this area requires anywhere from four to six years of postgraduate study. Graduate work will consist of classwork, supervised clinical training hours (with patients), a thesis and dissertation, and students are often required to undertake therapy for themselves as well. Depending on which state you would want to practice in, there will be specific licensing requirements that you must regularly maintain in order to continue to practice.
Other Areas of Psychology for Post Grad Work
Various other areas of postgraduate studies in psychology are also popular, including Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Neuroscience, School Psychology, Sports Psychology, and Forensic Psychology. These various fields differ from clinical psychology in that they may be more research oriented, and lead to careers that do not always involve direct patient treatment. For example, social psychologists study social interactions and group behavior influences, contributing to our understanding of social dynamics; you may find such psychologists in academia or the private sector helping to understand how to create better work environments (which is also the purview of Industrial/Organizational Psychologists).
What to Consider
As you begin to consider postgraduate studies in psychology, it is important to think about how much time you want to spend on your advanced degree. If six years does not seem daunting, then the doctoral track would provide you with more training and skills (you would also be able to command a higher salary). However, if you are ready to work with a specific, less complex population and would like to spend less time in school, the masters is a viable option. Both will require written work but only the doctoral degree will require a dissertation from original research that you design, conduct and analyze. If you are pursuing a doctoral degree, make certain that you carefully research the faculty who would mentor you; going to the best “name” school does not necessarily mean you are getting the best mentor in your field…for psychology doctoral studies what is more important is to have faculty mentors who are renowned for their research rather than just the school name alone.