How To Prepare For a Graduate Degree Program in Psychology

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Updated: March 8, 2024, Reading time: 7 minutes

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Graduate school is an investment that requires time and money. It’s only understandable that students worry about making the right decisions leading up to enrollment. In this guide, prospective students will find everything they need to know to prepare for Psychology graduate school.

We cover everything from preparing for challenges to learning all about the most popular specializations in the field of Psychology.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Is It Worth Pursuing a Psychology Graduate Program?

According to the American Psychological Association, there is an increasing trend in the number of awarded Psychology degrees across all levels between 2012 and 2021. In 2021 alone, US institutions had awarded about 32,270 Master’s in Psychology. This makes this particular graduate program a popular choice among undergraduates. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 6% growth on the job outlook for psychologists in the country between 2022 and 2032. Psychologists have a median pay of $85,330 per year. To pursue this profession, one will need at least a master’s degree in Psychology while meeting the licensing requirements. The latter often varies depending on the state and position. 

For those who plan to advance their knowledge and skills in the field of Psychology, boost their earning potential, and improve their career prospects, a graduate degree in Psychology can be a good starting point.

Preparing for a Graduate Program in Psychology

Graduate programs are often competitive. An advanced degree in Psychology is no different. To help boost interested students’ chances, of acceptance, the following tips and tricks were gathered. 

Do a Thorough Research 

Many careers in Psychology require a graduate degree, but some do not. This means you have to carefully consider your options by learning more about graduate Psychology programs and the possible career benefits you can gain should you choose to pursue it. While many choose to advance their education even further after earning a master’s degree in Psychology, you may find that you are better served working your way up the professional ladder.

Don’t Rush, Take a Break

Many students will complete their bachelor’s degree earlier in their twenties. Regardless of when you do, it is important to remember that academic fatigue is real. You need to go enter a graduate program with zeal and zest. It is best not to sell yourself short by rushing into a program directly after earning your bachelor’s if you not yet fully prepared to take on the challenges of graduate school. 

Don’t lose your momentum.

On the flip-side, it is equally important to not let your momentum die out. If your drive for success is strong, you might be someone who will do better by directly enrolling in graduate school right after earning your undergraduate degree. This will bring you closer to your career and personal goals. 

Choosing a specialization.

In order to prepare for graduate school, you may need to explore various specializations in the field of Psychology. This is because your preparation can also depend on your desired route and areas of focus. 

Here are some of the most popular specializations in the field of Psychology: 

Applied PsychologyBehavioral PsychologyClinical PsychologyConsumer PsychologyCognitive Psychology
Counseling PsychologyDevelopmental PsychologyEducational PsychologyForensic PsychologySports Psychology
Personality PsychologyPsychology of ReligionSocial PsychologyNeuroPsychologyGeneral Psychology
Health PsychologyHealth PsychologyIndustrial Organizational PsychologyIndustrial Organizational PsychologyIndustrial Organizational Psychology


On the other hand, you can boost your admission chances in a school Psychology specialization by seeking out an internship within the department

Choose a graduate school.

The quality of education you will get from your graduate degree in Psychology often depends on the institution you attend. It is important to look at the following:

Consider the location.

Be sure to also factor in the geographical location of each graduate school in relation to the industry you want to work in. While some specializations can be pursued from virtually anywhere, students in some specialized programs will largely benefit from being located in close proximity to thriving professional networks.

Therapists and counselors located near the type of area they want to work in can be a huge advantage. A counselor wanting to focus on rural community work will want to find an appropriately located graduate school. Salary-motivated individuals may need to compare the cost of living in an area to the average salary packages of their desired position. 

Evaluate the cost of graduate school.

According to the Education Data Initiative, earning a master’s degree will cost you somewhere between $56,000 to $75,000 depending on various factors such as the school, program duration, and major. The cost may also between in-state and out-of-state students. 

The median annual tuition cost for public colleges and universities is $12,394, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). On the other hand, private schools have a median annual graduate tuition cost of $26,621. 

It is important to keep in mind that on top of tuition, you will also need to sustain the costs of your online or on-campus graduate program. These elements include transportation, housing, miscellaneous fees, and other associated costs that attending a graduate school may entail. 

Explore financial assistance.

To mitigate the expenses associated with graduate studies, you may want to check the availability of financial aid options in online and traditional graduate program in your school of choice. Financial assistance may come in the form of a student loan, private loan, scholarships, grants, and fellowships. 

Many graduate schools offer specific scholarships that are designed to reward certain areas of research and/or achievement. You can leverage your proposal in applying for these scholarships. 

You can also consider targeting research grants to complete during graduate school. Often, this research can double as a thesis project or in another capacity that conveys program credits counted toward graduation. 

Build your network.

Psychology graduate school emphasizes an productive collaboration with mentors and professionals. You should consider building your network early. You can start by building a significant relationship with at least two faculty members of your school’s Psychology department, for example. 

They will be instrumental in providing you with shining letters of recommendation, which you will need in the admission process. Ask your faculty members for help in setting up opportunities that might increase your odds of success in graduate school, including research projects, internships, work-study positions, or community service.

Ace your personal essay.

Most admission proceedings require aspiring Psychology graduate student to submit a personal, giving you an opportunity to say the things that cannot be communicated by your transcript of records and resume.

If your grades do not accurately represent your ability, then explaining your valuable work experience and events you have participated in can make a difference to your chances in graduate school. You may also think about some life event, achievement, or personal characteristics that you can use to make a great impression. 

Your essay must demonstrate your drive and commitment to reaching your goals in the field of Psychology.

Additional Resources:

We’re certain of one thing—your search for more information on picking the best graduate degree or school landed you here. Let our experts help guide your through the decision making process with thoughtful content written by experts.