Macalester graduates pursue a wide variety of specializations, but common options include psychology, neuroscience, social work, law, medicine, public policy, public health, and education. Depending on your career path, you might pursue a Masters degree (for instance, in social work, counseling, or public health). These programs typically take two years. Your career path might also lead you to a doctoral program. Mac students often pursue PhDs in academic psychology disciplines (e.g., cognitive, developmental) as well as applied fields (e.g., clinical, counseling, industrial/organizational). Students interested in a doctoral level degree in mental health practice can also pursue the PsyD (Doctor of Psychology degree) in which clinical training is emphasized and research requirements are modest. Doctoral programs typically take 4-7 years; clinical and counseling programs also require a year of predoctoral and at least a year of postdoctoral internship training.
Your first step in thinking about graduate school may be to attend our annual information panel on graduate school, typically held in the Fall. Faculty who have recently graduated from programs talk about what it takes to get in, what happens during grad school, and what possibilities emerge upon graduation. If grad school seems right for you, your next step is to talk with your adviser or any other faculty member in the department. We can help guide you to the appropriate resources to narrow your choices and plan your applications. Please be aware that application deadlines for graduate schools are often as early as December, so you will want to get an early start. Many graduate schools require applicants to take the general GRE (Graduate Record Exam), and some also require the GRE in psychology. Students are typically advised to take the exams early in the fall in order to meet the application deadlines.
Graduate programs vary considerably in their admissions requirements, but most require strong grades, test scores, research experience, letters of recommendation, and application essays. Your advisor can help you assess your strengths and limitations as a candidate, and we highly recommend that you consult with faculty early and often if you are considering graduate school.
Many of our students ask about taking a year (or more) off after graduating before they apply to graduate school. This is the more common practice among Mac grads. While it is fine to apply to graduate school during your senior year, our alumni also have great success (often greater success) when they’ve taken some time to build additional skills and refine their career focus. Some also report that simply taking a break refreshed their energy and enthusiasm for pursuing graduate work.
APA’s grad school link: [includes FAQs about choosing graduate programs]
Psychology Degree Guide [includes a helpful guide to the subdisciplines and a state-by-state listing of psychology graduate programs]
PsychGrad.org [includes links about succeeding as an undergraduate, application tips, and life after graduate school]
Marky Lloyd’s Careers in Psychology website [includes helpful links about grad school options, and application tips]
The Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology website for students interested in clinical psychology [includes helpful info distinguishing PhD and PsyD programs, application tips, etc.]
Post-BA research assistant positions (geared toward clinical psychology but potentially useful for other subspecialties as well).