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A Guide to Getting a Psychology Master's Degree

written by: John Garger•edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch•updated: 7/25/2010

Before you start any psychology Master's degree program, you need to consider two important aspects. Learn about taking the right GRE exam and choosing an APA accredited university when applying to psychology graduate programs. Learn more about how to obtain a Master's degree in psychology.

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    If you want obtain a Master's degree in Psychology, you need to make two important decisions that can have a lasting effect on your success with the program and with your career once you finish. Unlike other Master's degrees, taking the right standardized test and choosing the right school can make all the difference when it comes to meeting your goals.

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    GRE vs. GRE Psychology Standardized Test

    Almost all universities offering graduate degrees require you to submit recent standardized test scores during the admissions process. Except for some special standardized tests such as the GMAT for management schools, most graduate programs require submission of a GRE score.

    The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is published by ETS, the same organization that publishes the SAT taken by high school students and a number of other standardized tests. According to ETS:

    "The GRE tests measure skills that assist graduate schools, business schools and departments with admissions activities, guidance and placement, program evaluation and selection of fellowship recipients."

    Essentially, the GRE helps admissions committees determine a student's potential to complete graduate level work. However, ETS also publishes a number of subject tests, one of which is in psychology. This specialized GRE can help you demonstrate to an admissions committee that you are already knowledgeable in psychology and that you are ready for advanced study. Taking the GRE Psychology subject test can give you an advantage over someone who submits only general GRE scores. However, before you decide which test to take and which scores to submit to a Master's in psychology program, check with the admissions requirements of your chosen school(s). Make certain whether the GRE Psychology subject test is accepted and whether it would or would not give you an advantage over the general GRE.

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    APA Accreditation for Master's in Psychology Programs

    The American Psychological Association (APA) is a professional organization made up of 150,000 members. According to the APA website:

    "The mission of the APA is to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives."

    Among its many endeavors, the APA accredits doctoral and internship programs to ensure that standards are met when it comes to training people in the various psychological disciplines. Currently, the APA recognizes four major specialties: clinical, counseling, school, and industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology.

    Although more important to those wishing to pursue doctoral degrees, APA accreditation may have important ramifications for the student obtaining a Master's degree in psychology. First, if you do think you may want to go on to a doctoral program in psychology, obtaining a Master's degree from an APA accredited graduate program ensures the doctoral admissions committee that your program met at least the minimum requirements for accreditation.

    Second, APA accreditation is not easy to obtain; schools have to subject themselves to several years of scrutiny and changes to not only become accredited, but remain accredited as well. This is not to say that non-accredited psychology Master's degree programs are automatically inferior to those that have APA accreditation; it simply means that with APA accreditation, there is no question in your mind that you are obtaining a good education in psychology. The same is true to your future and potential employers.

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    This guide identifies two important aspects of obtaining a Master's degree in psychology. First, consider whether the GRE subject test in psychology will or will not give you an edge over other students. Second, consider whether applying to and attending an APA accredited school is a wise move when it comes to future educational and employment opportunities.