Questions Frequently Asked by Psych Majors

Subfields of Psychology
Undergraduate Coursework
Opportunities as an Undergraduate
Resources at UMD
Graduate School

Subfields of Psychology

Who can I talk to here at UMD to know more about experimental psychology?

Any of the professors are great resources, but the professors who teach the Psy 3021-3022 series could be very helpful.  They are, Dr. Gordon, Dr. Durgunoglu, Dr. Taylor, Dr. Lloyd, or Dr. Slowiak.


Can you work in educational psychology with a school psychology degree and vice versa?

Educational is more research-oriented with application in the schools (developing educational methods) whereas school psychologists do more assessment with individual students.  They may consult each other for ideas, but most likely will not work in the other’s position.


What are some I/O psychology resources?


Undergraduate Coursework

I am currently enrolled in Psy 3020 and would like to make sure that I am guaranteed to get into 3021 with the same professor because I have had problems getting into the classes I need before.

You do not need to take Psy 3020 and 3021 with the same professor.  However, you do have to take Psy 3021 & 3022 with the same professor.  Once you are in Psy 3021, your professor will give you an override number to register for 3022.  No one else can register for 3022 with that professor.


How can I fit in a double-major and/or a minor?

Plan ahead! You need 48 credits to complete the psychology major, but many credits double for lib eds.  You need at least 120 credits to graduate, so after major requirements and lib eds, there is plenty of room for a minor or a second major.


Can I request a specific psychology advisor?

Yes.  You can fill out a change of advisor request form (available from CEHSP in 120 BohH), and have the new advisor sign the form before you return it to CEHSP.


Opportunities as an Undergraduate

Is it more important during undergrad to focus on doing research, being a TA, etc. or getting practical experience in the field?

This depends on what you want to do when you graduate.   If you want to do research, research is important.  If you want to teach, being a teaching assistant is important.  Getting practical experience in the field will always help you if you want to get a job.  However, no matter which extracurricular activity you choose, any activity other than school will look good on a resume or vita.


Does our research for Psy 3021 & 3022 count for research experience?



What is a UROP?

A UROP is an undergraduate research opportunity project.  You can find more information at:


How do I apply for UROP?

You can apply online at


When is a good time to start thinking about doing a UROP?  Is it mandatory to get into grad school?
Students generally do UROPs after they have completed the research methods series (Psy 3020, 3021, & 3022).  UROPs are not required to get into graduate school, but research experience is highly desired among applicants.


Can you do a UROP more than once?



When doing a UROP, do you have to present your project?

No, but this would help you add to your vitae.


Is the McNair program free or do you have to pay tuition?

Actually, they pay you to do the McNair program.  There is a $2800 stipend that you can get in payments as you complete parts of your research project. For more information on McNair, go to their web page.


If I want to be a TA, when is a good time to ask the professor?

Usually the semester before you want to TA. That way they know that you want to do it so they don’t start looking for anyone else.


How much time does a TA position take up?

This depends on the class, but usually TAs are expected to do around 10 hours a week.


What is better, a research assistantship or a teaching assistantship?

Most often, research assistantships are stronger components of a grad school application than a teaching assistantship.


How do I do an internship?

Within the psychology department, you must first take Psy 3010, Ethics.  The semester following this course, you can take Psy 3011, Internship for 3 credits. For every credit, you are expected to do 3 hours at your intern site per week.  You can take additional credits if you so desire.


What are the benefits of doing an internship versus working on research (like a UROP) during your time as an undergrad (or vice versa)?

Doing an internship provides you with real-world job experience that you cannot get from within the university.  The research projects shows that you are willing to go beyond your coursework and work on a project of interest.  Luckily, both of them usually last one semester, so you don’t have to choose between them.


Can I do an internship in the Twin Cities as a UMD student?

You can, but this is generally on your own instead of through the psychology department here at UMD.  You will have to apply for internships versus getting placed in Psy 3011.


Does study abroad interfere with psychology courses?  Would I have to be in school longer if I studied abroad?

A lot of students that study abroad finish in four years, as long as they plan it right.  Most students take their lib ed credits while abroad, but some programs offer other classes that can transfer to your major or minor.


Resources at UMD

Where is Career Services, and do I need an appointment?

Career Services is located in 22 Solon Campus Center, and you can walk in if you have general questions, but you will want to make an appointment for career counseling sessions.


Can Career Services help with grad school applications or help you find a job?

They will help with applications and help you find a job, but they will not place you in a job after graduation.


Is there a psych masters or Ph.D. program at UMD?

Not currently. There used to be a masters in counseling here, but it has since been discontinued.


Where do I access Grad Planner?


Where can I get information on interviewing?

Check out Career Services. They have a lot of resources for interviewing.


Graduate School

How can you tell if you are ready for grad school?

Read this:


Where can I find information about graduate schools?

You can generally find programs in your field by doing a Google search, or using a grad school search program like  One you find a program you are interested in, you can then go directly to that program’s web site to find more detailed information.  Another really good resource for psychology programs is the APA Graduate Study in Psychology.  This book is printed yearly and lists all APA accredited programs.  You can search by degree or by location.


At what point do you select your area of interest?

This is usually done prior to applying to graduate school programs.  Most programs have specific specialties, and you will most likely apply to work with one or more faculty members at that school.  It is generally a good idea to have a major area of interest prior to graduating with your B.A.S.


When should I start planning for and applying to grad school?

You should start planning for graduate school as soon as you know you want to go.  It takes time to develop relationships with faculty members, to do research projects, and to prepare yourself for the type of work required in graduate school.  Students usually apply in the fall or winter before they want to attend (students are usually only admitted for the fall semester).  Ph.D. programs usually have deadlines in December/January whereas Master’s programs are later.


Is it a bad idea to take a year off between receiving your B.A. and beginning grad school?

That really depends on the person.  If you decide to take a year off, you may want to do something that will increase your chances of getting accepted into graduate school (working on research or psych related job).   If you continue to work in retail or food service, you won’t gain any related experience.  Taking a year off my be good for those who are burnt out from school and need time to figure out what they really want to do.  Others may never go back to grad school if they take the year off.


What is the average number of schools that students apply to?

Students usually apply to anywhere between 6 and 15 schools depending on the types of programs they are applying to (competitive vs. non-competitive).


How time consuming is putting together all your graduate school applications?

It is very time consuming, and the work increases with the number of schools you apply to.


Why should I apply to a variety of graduate school programs?

 Applying to a diverse range of programs increases your chances of getting in, because these programs are very competitive.  There are a limited number of spot for the number of people that apply.


What is more important - GRE or GPA?

Both are looked at very highly by graduate schools, but some say GREs are more important because there are known means and standard deviations.  GPA averages vary from school to school, so it is harder to compare them between applicants.


What do I do if my GPA or GRE scores are not very high?

You can explain this in your personal statement and show that you have matured or you can go to a master’s program that does not have a high GPA or GRE requirement.


How do I know who to ask for letters of recommendation?

Ask a professor who will write you a STRONG letter of recommendation.  They should know more about you so they can write more than, “he/she got an A in my class.”


Are advisors considered a faculty who can write you a letter of recommendation?

Students are usually assigned to faculty advisors in their sophomore year, so you be able to ask them for a letter of recommendation.


What are some extracurricular activities I can do to be prepared for grad school?

You can join Psychology Club and Psi Chi, become a T.A. or R.A. (research assistant), do a UROP, or do an internship?


What kind of work experience should I get if I want to apply to a M.A. or Psy.D. program?

You should try to find work that relates to what you want to do in grad school or beyond.


Why do Psy.D. program accept more students?

Psy.D. program are typically housed in private professional schools that do not receive government funding. That means your tuition is covering the cost of running the school  They accept more students so they can cover those costs.


How likely is it for students to get into a Ph.D. program without obtaining a masters degree?

Less than 10% of those who apply to Ph.D. programs get accepted to one.  A masters may improve your chances of getting in, but Ph.D. programs generally look for bachelor’s level admits.


Would it be better to skip a masters and go right to the Ph.D.?

If you are a planning to get a Ph.D., most schools allow you to get your masters along the way.  If you get a masters and transfer into a Ph.D. program, you might have to redo some coursework, and it could take longer.  Some people go to a masters program first to increase their GPA, which would then let them get into a Ph.D. program.


Can you clarify the difference between Ph.D. & Psy.D.?




Types of schools

Universities and colleges

Professional schools (some universities offer it too)

Time to completion

Typically 1-1.5 years longer than Psy.D. programs.

3-5 years

In clinical psych?






Number of graduates



Prescribe meds?





Should I major in psychology if I want to be a psychiatrist?

Yes. Medical schools accept students from all majors (with psychology being one of the top majors of students accepted into medical school).  You just have to make sure that you take all the prerequisite courses (see the Pre-Med track in the UMD course catalog.


If my main goal is to deal with counseling/therapy, would it make sense to pursue psychiatry?

Psychiatrists do not normally do therapy.  They are trained as medical practitioners, so they will most likely spend 10-15 minutes with a patient to prescribe medications.


Who has to take “the boards” (psychiatrists vs. psychologists)?

Psychiatrists take the medical boards; clinical or counseling psychologists take licensure exams.


What degree is preferred for social work: Ph.D. or Psy.D.?

Actually, social workers don’t need a doctoral degree.  Most social workers have a masters in social work, or M.S.W.


What is the difference between a masters degree and a terminal masters degree?

A terminal masters degree is intended to be a step into the job market.  These programs generally do job placement on the program is complete. This does not mean that some with a terminal masters cannot continue on to get more education.


How long does it take to get a masters degree?

Generally, about 2 years.


Do you have to go to graduate school for psychology if that is your major?

No.  Most graduate programs only request that you have completed the prerequisite courses prior to applying to their program.  You usually do not have to have an undergraduate major in that subject area.


Would it be recommended to go on to a masters degree?

This depends on the person.  If you are not satisfied with the job opportunities available at the bachelor’s level, then getting more education can open more doors.


What sort of research do you do in a Ph.D. or Psy.D. program and is that where stats, experimental design, and applied methods & measurement come in handy?

You do research based on your area of study (e.g., clinical psychology may do research on a mental disorder).  Yes, that is where stats and research methods will benefit you.



What is the GRE?

Graduate Record Exam, similar to ACT or SAT, but for graduate school.


Should students going to medical school take the GRE?

No, because it is more likely that you will need to take the MCAT.


When should I start preparing for the GRE?

You should prepare for at least 8 weeks before taking the test.


What is the best way to study for the GRE?

There is no “best way” to study for the GRE, but there are a few suggestions from students who have taken it:


What is the most difficult part of the GRE?

This is relative to each person’s strengths, but many people say the verbal section is the hardest.  You are asked to know many words that are not in your everyday vocabulary, and then relate them to other words that are not used regularly.



What types of jobs are available for psychologists with just a bachelor’s degree?

The term “psychologist” is used for someone with an advanced degree (usually Ph.D. or Psy.D.). 

These are some bachelor’s level job titles:


What can I do to get a job/specialize in chemical dependency rehabilitation?

You need a bachelor’s degree in a social science field and a license in alcohol and drug counseling.  This is a certificate that is not offered at UMD, so you will have to do some continuing education to get licensed.


What is a psychiatric technician?


Do you make more money as a psychiatrist or a psychologist?

Generally, psychiatrists make more money.


What do research psychologists do?

Research psychologists develop ways to test hypotheses in their area of interest.


What does it mean to “practice” as a masters or Ph.D. or Psy.D.?

Usually, “practice” means doing some sort of applied psychological services, such as providing therapy or doing assessments.


What is the difference between a medical doctor (M.D.), psychiatrists, and professors (Dr.)?

Medical doctors go to medical schools.  Psychiatrists go to medical school, then specialize in psychiatry in their residency.  Professors have usually gone to graduate school and have a doctorate in philosophy (Ph.D.).


What is the difference between a masters in clinical social work and a masters in clinical psychology in terms of job duties?

A masters of clinical social work is considered a “terminal degree” so that you would be prepared to get a professional social work job upon graduation.  One important issue to be aware of is whether various degrees will allow you to bill for third party (insurance) reimbursement.  If you will not be recognized by insurance companies or Medical Assistance (state issued insurance), you will be limited to seeing clients who can pay out of pocket.  Go to the Minnesota Board of Social Work for more information:


Regarding masters degree in clinical psychology, currently the state of Minnesota’s Board of Psychology only provides licensure as a Licensed Psychologist for those with a Ph.D. or Psy.D. There is an alternative Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy that currently provides licensing for those with masters degree in counseling related fields as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).  However, currently these professional titles are not consistently allowed to bill for third party reimbursement with insurance companies and cannot bill for Medical Assistance reimbursement.  They are lobbying to change this, with no success yet.  The ability for a person to practice independently with a masters degree in clinical psychology is determined on a state to state basis.


How can I get a human resources position with a psychology degree?

After searching for human resources job on LandIt!, it looks like most jobs required a bachelor’s degree and related experience.  You can get this experience through an internship, or a job in a related field.


With a developmental psychology degree, can you still work in a clinical setting?

A developmental psychology degree is generally research oriented.  You will need a clinical degree to work in a clinical setting.


What’s the difference between clinical and counseling psychologists?

The major difference is the population they work with.  Clinical psychologists are more likely to work with severely mentally ill individuals, and counseling psychologists will work with populations that are having trouble adjusting to some aspect of their lives.  This, however, isn’t set in stone and can overlap.  Also, counseling psychology programs are often housed in educational departments, and clinical psychology programs are housed in psychology departments.  


What is the highest paying psychology career?

Usually, I/O psychologists make the most money.


What degree do you need to be a high school counselor?

Generally, you need a masters degree.  This web site was helpful: