Graduate School in Counseling and Related Fields
For general information about graduate school and graduate study options in Human Development and Psychology, you should refer to the links under "General Information" on the right of this page. They cover everything from deciding whether to apply to lists of potential graduate programs.
Many of our students express interest in becoming a counselor, psychologist, social worker, or marriage and family therapist. These career options typically require a graduate degree. Note that your undergraduate degree (e.g., Psychology) does not necessarily have to be in the same field as your graduate degree (e.g., Social Work). Programs may have prerequisites and desired coursework, however, so it is important to plan ahead. Please refer to the Careers in Counseling page for additional information on these occupations.
There are many different graduate school options if you wish to become a therapist. You might, for example, pursue a master's degree in counseling, psychology, social work, or marriage and family therapy (MFT). It often takes about 2 years to complete these degrees, during which you typically take classes specifically related to your chosen field and get supervised counseling experience (called "practicum" or "internship"). In some programs, you may also complete a master's thesis. After graduation, you may have to finish additional requirements to become licensed to practice (again, refer to Careers in Counseling). The various types of programs (e.g., counseling, social work) may have different levels of marketability, different training philosophies, and different areas of emphasis, and it is important to research your options. You might also find interesting this Eye on Psi Chi article regarding some common misperceptions of the Master's degree.
To become a clinical or counseling psychologist, you would earn a doctoral degree, which may take about 5 years of study after your bachelor's degree (often about 3 years of classroom study and practicum, 1 year of dissertation research, and 1 year of full-time internship). In many programs you do not have to earn a master's degree first to pursue doctoral studies. Again, you would likely have to complete licensure requirements after you graduate. There are two types of doctoral programs (Ph.D. and Psy.D.) in clinical and counseling psychology..
If you are interested in highly specialized types of therapy (e.g., art therapy, play therapy, forensics), you may need to pursue specialization and additional credentials after finishing your general graduate studies in counseling, counseling/clinical psychology, social work, or related fields. You can find additional resources related to these specializations on the Careers in Counseling page.
Keep in mind that there are graduate school and career options related to counseling (e.g., Student Affairs or College Student Personnel programs) that can also lead to interesting and very rewarding work in areas like career services or college admissions.
As you research programs, you may find information about "accreditation." Graduate programs in applied areas may be "accredited," which means they have been evaluated and found to meet specific education/training standards set forth by the accrediting body (e.g., the American Psychological Association). Programs may choose, however, not to pursue accreditation for a variety of reasons. You can read more about the possible benefits of accreditation on the websites of the following accrediting organizations: APA (Psychology); CACREP (Counseling), and NASP (School Psychology), as well as in an Eye on Psi Chi article. The implications of accreditation may differ from field to field and from state to state. Be aware that institutions (e.g., UW-Green Bay) may also be accredited (e.g., by the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities). The process described above relates to accreditation of a specific graduate program, not the university.
You can find lists of non-accredited and accredited programs in many different places, including some of the "General Information" links on the right side of this page. Links to specific lists of accredited programs in different fields can be found under "Accredited Programs In." Keep in mind that the lists provided are not necessarily exhaustive. Note that school psychology has two lists. The American Psychological Association accredits doctoral programs; NASP accredits doctoral level and educational specialist (similar to a master's degree) level school psychology programs.
The Application Process
Applying to graduate school takes time and careful planning. You typically apply to graduate school almost a full year in advance (e.g., applications may be due in November to begin study the following September). You will likely need several months before the application deadline to study for and take the GRE, research and select schools, prepare application materials, request letters of recommendation, and so on.
Make sure you research programs and their faculty very carefully. With any program, you would probably want to obtain information about the faculty, curriculum, acceptance rates, minimum qualifications, and financial aid. When considering programs in the helping professions, you may also want to learn more about things like the theoretical orientations of faculty members, available practicum sites, and any specializations or "tracks" (e.g., substance abuse counseling).
Applications will vary from school to school. However, many programs will consider the following in the application process: GPA and educational background, test scores, personal statement/letter of intent, letters of recommendation (see link and FERPA release form), research experience, and applied/internship experience. Admission is not just a matter of meeting minimum qualifications, however. In many cases, admission committees will be looking for a good "fit" between your accomplishments and goals and their particular program. In addition, programs will often receive many more applications than they have slots available. Note that programs vary considerably in their acceptance rates. Some doctoral programs in clinical or counseling psychology may accept fewer than 10% of applicants, but others are much less competitive. Some master's programs may accept 75% of applicants, but others are much more competitive than that. Doing good research about programs and applying to a range of different schools can be very helpful in this process. Career Services has compiled a list of some of the graduate programs in counseling, psychology, and social work attended by UW-Green Bay graduates that may be of interest to you.
You can find out more about specific graduate programs by using some print resources that can be found in MAC C311. They include:
1. Graduate Study in Psychology
2. Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and
3. Graduate and Undergraduate Study in Marriage and
If you have additional questions, please consult with your academic advisor.