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Graduate School Degree Options

Oakland University blazes the trail for students to find tailored graduate studies to enhance their undergraduate experiences and careers. Some programs at OU include the Master of Science in Psychology (MS), the Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD), the Master of Social Work, the Master of Clinical Mental Health Counseling, the Doctor of Philosophy in Education with a major in counseling, and the Master of Education in Special Education,

Continue your journey today, and allow OU’s Psychology Student Success Office (Room 107, Pryale Hall) to offer golden guidance!

Tips to increase your chances of acceptance into a graduate program

  • Gain experience in a research labs
  • If possible, try to find volunteer work in a setting that is similar to the one you may wish to work in the future.
  • Work Experience - Work in hospitals that do forensic work, clinics, prisons, and service-learning placements all look good on applications
  • Get a letter of recommendation from the right source

Master of Social Work (MSW) – This program provides students with knowledge of relevant theories, evidence-based interventions and an ethical framework for advanced social work practice with a diverse client base. Currently pursuing accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This program began in 2021.

Master in Clinical Mental Health Counseling – This degree program is suitable for those who want to work in a professional counseling role (with children, youth, adults, and families in community settings). The application for the fall semester is in early April and in early October for the winter semester. This program is fully accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and prepares students for Michigan counseling licensure.

Doctor of Philosophy in Education with a major in counseling – This program prepares students for leadership roles in the areas of advanced clinical practice, advanced school counseling practice, administration, research, and supervision. This program has received full accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Master of Education in Special Education – certification in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Emotional Impairment (EI), and Specific Learning Disability (SLD).

OTHER OPTIONS – OU Graduate Programs

Master of Science in Psychology (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD) - These programs will provide graduate students with knowledge, skills, and relevant experiences to produce scholarly research on the structures, processes, and products of the mind.  These programs are organized around three concentrations: (1) Social-Personality Psychology; (2) Behavioral Health; and (3) Evolutionary, Comparative, and Cognitive Psychology (students will select one of these areas when they apply). Students apply by mid-January and enter these programs during the fall semester

Note: These are experimental programs that do not specifically prepare students to become clinicians or mental health counselors.

The difference between a psychiatrist and clinical psychologist is pretty significant.  A psychiatrist receives a medical degree and a clinical psychologist receives a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

Medical Doctorate (M.D.)

psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has graduated from medical school, passed the medical board exam, and completed a four-year residency in psychiatry. Medical school and psychiatry residencies focus on the body and brain and medicine to treat psychiatric disorders. Psychiatrists are trained to do therapy like clinical psychologists, but many times they focus on medication management. Clinical psychologists, however, are not able to prescribe medications.

  • Licensure and Certification – License required in all states; certification may also be required.
  • Key Skills – Good social awareness, communications, and active listening skills; familiarity with psychiatric and general computer software, such as SoftPsych Psychiatric Diagnosis, UnisonCare, and UniCharts
  • Salary - $193,680 (2015 average of psychiatrists)

If you are interested in becoming a psychiatrist, check out The Mental Health and Psychiatry (MHP) Interest Group and Mental Health Advocates at OUWB School of Medicine. It is composed of medical students who are interested in the field of psychiatry. This group advocates for expanding awareness regarding mental health and starting dialogue about the need for mental health support in our community.

Doctor of Psychology or Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology  (Psy.D. or Ph.D.)

clinical psychologist has a bachelor's and a master's degree in a psychology-related field. They also have a Psy.D. or Ph.D. in clinical psychology. A doctorate program in clinical psychology is more concerned with the human mind, cognition, mental health conditions and therapy techniques. Many clinical psychologists need to get field experience for a year or two under the supervision of another clinical psychologist before getting licensed.

For more information, please see the Clinical/Counseling Degree Options Form available outside of the Psychology Student Success office (Room 107, Pryale Hall) or email Rebecca Malatesta.

Clinical Doctor of Philosophy Degree Options
  • Only 7 Clinical Ph.D. programs in MI– MSU, U of M, Wayne, WMU, CMU, UDM, EMU
  • Each accepts between 4-8 students/year; approximately 40/year with about 1500 applicants across the universities.
  • Big focus on academics (GPA and GRE), but also research experience!
  • Not many applicants have publications, but they do have significant research experience.
  • Preference for diverse (not just ethnically diverse) and out of state candidates.

Alternative to Doctor of Philosophy


  • More expensive, practitioner focus.
  • Michigan School of Psychology in Farmington (newly accredited; only one in MI) – free entity (not University affiliated).
  • Recommend finding a University affiliated PsyD program– there are around 70-75 around the nation.

Doctor of Philosophy in Education with a major in counseling

  • Similar to Psychology Program but in the Department of Education.
  • Adult patient focus typically
  • MSU and WSU have a doctorate in Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology.
  • There’s an Andrews University in MI that has a Graduate Psychology and Counseling program in MI (according to APA site).

Master in Counseling Psychology

  • Based on working with healthy populations who may have life difficulties rather than those with severe mental illness.
  • Considered to be an academic degree. For students who hope to go on to get their PhD, this degree often makes them a stronger candidate due to its stronger background in academia.
  • In order to become licensed through this program, you will need to go through the American Psychological Association. Licensing requirements will vary by state. In Michigan, this degree allows for a Limited License, which means permanently practicing under the supervision of a Licensed Psychologist with a PhD or PsyD.

Master in Counseling

  • Focused primarily on overall health and well-being of the client. Do not work with people who have severe mental illnesses.
  • Considered to be a professional degree, meaning it is primarily focused on the professional aspects of the job rather than theory.
  • Licensure from this program will come through the National Board of Certified Counselors

Master of Clinical Social Work - MSW

  • Master's degree in psychology may be more advantageous if transferring to a PhD program is the goal. MSW students may have a greater desire to become clinicians and have less interest in research/theory, which is the focus of most PhD programs. In Michigan, licensure at this level allows individuals to practice independently.

Forensic Psychology is the application of psychological science to questions related to the legal system.

Forensic psychologists work in government agencies, mental health facilities or prisons as well as private practice. Common activities involve conducting psychological evaluations of individuals involved in legal matters – conducting clinical interviews, psychological testing, reviewing records, diagnosing mental health issues and evaluating competency in legal cases. Often, they provide information to attorneys and judges about psychological issues or regarding sentencing.

Some areas of forensic psychology - immigration, adoption services, family law, criminal, personal injury, worker's compensation, child protective services and disability.

MA/MS in Forensic Psychology
  • Some begin by earning a maste's degree in forensic psychology (but it is not necessary).  While you will earn a master's degree, it is not a terminal degree in this field.  Rather, it is a stepping stone to earning your PhD
Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology
  • A doctoral degree in Forensic Psychology (or clinical psychology with a forensic science emphasis) is the most common program for those interested in this field. An alternative is to earn a PsyD in clinical psychology with some additional postdoctoral work in forensic psychology.
  • Note: Forensic Psychology programs are not accredited by the APA.
  • Most degree programs also require the completion of a number of practicums and an internship or mentorship, most likely with a practicing neuropsychologist.
  • To practice as a forensic psychologist, you must obtain state licensure (each state has its own requirements).

Evolutionary psychology is a theoretical approach to psychology. It attempts to explain mental and psychological trait (e.g., perception, language and memory) as adaptations (or the functional outcomes of natural selection).

The graduate programs in evolutionary psychology are not as common as some other areas of psychology, but a few do exist.  Many enter these programs with undergraduate degrees in psychology, anthropology, and biology.

Ph.D. and Maste's in Evolutionary Psychology
  • Evolutionary psychology is research based, so candidates for graduate programs must be prepared academically and show interest in a research oriented career.
  • Places to study Evolutionary Psychology
Alternatives to Specific Graduate Training in Evolutionary Psychology
  • Evolutionary psychology is treated differently by different colleges and universities. Some offer degrees in evolutionary psychology, but:
  • It is common for students to enroll in an area program, such as developmental, social, or cognitive psychology, and then focus on evolutionary psychology as the path they choose, the courses they take, and the research they conduct for their Master's thesis and dissertation. Common evolutionary psychology courses:
    • Evolutionary psychology, personality psychology, cognitive neuroscience, social psychology.

Neuropsychologists (and behavioral neuropsychologists) investigate brain systems and functions and how they  relate to behavior. Tasks are designed to study normal brain functions with such imaging techniques as positron  emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Neuropsychologists tend to work in research and medical settings, given the emphasis on physiology. But some  do treat patients.

Clinical neuropsychologists are trained to evaluate and treat people (help them live normal lives), and this is  important given the increase in the number of survivors of traumatic brain injuries.

Prospective neuropsychologists typically earn their bachelor's degrees in psychology, biology, pre-medicine, neuroscience or a similar field of study.

MA/MS in Neuropsychology

Some begin by earning a master's degree in neuropsychology (but it is not necessary). While you will earn a master's degree, it is not a terminal degree in this field. Rather, it is a stepping stone to earning your PhD.

Ph.D. in Neuropsychology

A doctoral degree in neuropsychology (or clinical psychology) with a neuroscience emphasis is the most common program for those interested in neuropsychology. An alternative is to earn a PsyD in clinical psychology with some additional postdoctoral work in neuropsychology.

Most degree programs also require the completion of a number of practicums and an internship or mentorship, most likely with a practicing neuropsychologist. 

To practice as a neuropsychologist, you must obtain state licensure (each state has its own requirements).

Alternatives to Graduate Training in Neuropsychology

Neuroscience, or the study of the brain and nervous system, is a multidisciplinary major (chemistry,  biology, physics and psychology, for example). It is the closest degree option for students who are interested in neuropsychology.

The difference between Master’s and PhD training is not in the specific career options you will have once graduating, rather, it is in the approach to training.

  • I/O PhD’s are trained to advance science in the field AND help organizations solve problems (Scientist-Practitioner Model).  Master’s students are trained to practice I/O psychology. PhD students are also trained to conduct research in the field.
Ph.D. in I/O Psychology
  • In a PhD program, you are training to become a scholar.  An I/O scholar will do the same tasks as the I/O professional, but will also use those experiences to advance the field through research.
  • An I/O psychology Ph.D. will typically have more responsibility than an I/O Master’s recipient.
  • If you want to become a professor, the only option for a degree is a Ph.D.
MA/MS in I/O Psychology
  • In a Master’s program, you are training to become professional in I/O.  An I/O professional will apply the principles of I/O psychology to solve specific organizational problems.
  • Thus, I/O professionals (Master’s) are trained specifically to help organizations.
  • The I/O professional with a Master’s will assist in the implementation of or conduct background research.  Since many organizational problems are at the forefront of our current understanding of organizations, a person with Master’s level training will generally not be prepared to conduct research within the organization to help answer these questions.  There are many I/O professionals with Master’s degrees that start their own consulting agencies or work as the only I/O psychologist in an organization – but this is based on experience and personal drive.
Alternatives to Graduate Training in I/O Psychology

MBA in Human Resources

All I/O training, regardless of level, centers on the scientist-practitioner model

A major difference between an MBA in Human Resources and a degree in I/O Psychology is that, while the MBA will make informed decisions, they usually base it on reasoning from case studies and their own experience as managers (e.g., anecdotal evidence and recommendations from experienced business people).  I/O psychologists, however, will reference the current research literature and use scientific evidence to make this same judgment.

Social psychology studies how people affect and are affected by other people and how they are influenced by  their social and physical environments. Social psychologists study how group dynamics influence our choices  and behaviors. It addresses social perceptions and the influence they have on our interactions with other people. Social psychologists study such topics as group dynamics, interpersonal relationships, prejudice, bullying,  conformity, leadership, and aggression.

Personality psychology studies individual differences in thinking, feeling and behaving. The study  of personality focuses on (1) understanding individual differences in personality characteristics (e.g., narcissism) and (2) understanding how the various parts are tied together, as a whole.

Most social-personality psychologists go into teaching or conduct research at a college or university.

Ph.D. in Social Psychology

A doctoral degree is usually required to become a professor (at a college or university). However, it may be possible to teach at a community college with only a Master’s degree.

Most begin with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and, although some focus on earning a master’s  degree, most seek a doctoral degree. 

PhD programs in social-personality psychology typically take five+ years to complete.

MA/MS in Social Psychology

Employers outside of academia may accept a master’s degree as sufficient in some cases. Most Master’s programs take about two to three years to complete.

They are employed in such roles as researchers, statistical analysts, marketing directors, managers, political strategists and consultants. While many work in the private sector, social psychologists also work in government and not for profit organizations (e.g., conflict resolution and environmental protection).

Department of Psychology

Pryale Hall, Room 111
654 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
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(248) 370-2300
Fax: (248) 370-4612