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Does a psychology major absolutely have to do something in research or work on an experiment before moving on to graduate school?

I've heard my professors say things about doing research or getting involved with a professor who is doing research. I want to know if it is a requirement before I can graduate; does it depend on what my interests are; or is it an option? #psychology #clinical-psychology


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Linda Ann’s Answer

Working with a professor on a research program serves several purposes:




  1. The professor can get to know you outside of the classroom setting and can thus be in a position to evaluate your "soft skills" and other personal characteristics. Letters of recommendation are important in the evaluation of applications to grad school. Many of those "soft skills" and personal characteristics are the focus of those letters of recommendation. Unless the professor has worked with you outside of the classroom, s/he is not in a position to evaluate you adequately and therefore cannot provide a STRONG letter of recommendation.




  2. The student develops skills that are important in grad school that cannot be obtained with didactic courses, e.g., the informed consent process.




  3. The student learns about problems conducting research AND the types of research they might wish to persue in grad school themselves (note: you will be conducting your own research in a PhD program....that is what a dissertation is about). IF you are not interested in research, then you should not even consider a PhD program. Perhaps a masters level program in counseling psychology would be better for you IF you have NO interest in research.




I cannot answer a question about the graduation requirements for your school! Those requirements are generally spelled out on the school's website and/or course catalog. I strongly encourage you to speak with your advisor soon to get clarity about your school's graduation requirements.


Also be advised that doctoral level programs in clinical psychology are very competitive. The percent admitted is between 2 and 10 percent. For other specialties, e,g., experimental psychology, the acceptance rate is generally higher.
SO, this is the reason you will need at least 3 STRONG letters of recommendation AND a very high GPA and GRE scores that are at least 1.5 standard deviations above the mean.


I hope what I have laid out above doesn't discourage you. My intent is to inform you of the reality of grad school admission for the discipline of psychology. The level of competition has gone up in the past 10 years as the popularity of the psychology major has gone up!


Thank you very much. Your answer has helped me a lot as I did not know how important a letter of recommendation was and I didn't realize how popular the field was becoming either. Angela A.

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