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Applying to Graduate School


Is a Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program Right for Me?

Attending a clinical psychology Ph.D. program is quite a commitment. For those looking to conduct clinical research and provide scientifically-informed clinical practice, this training may be exactly what you are looking for. However, there are several other types of degree programs that provide the training necessary to offer mental health services. The following link from the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology (CUDCP) provides information on what you are able to do with a clinical psychology doctoral degree. It also provides a brief overview of types of graduate programs that train in mental health services.

CUDCP’s Is Clinical Psychology Right for You? (

More information on choosing between types of graduate programs can be found through the following links:

Master’s vs. Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (

Ph.D. vs. Psy.D. (

Transitioning from a Master’s to a Doctoral program (

These resources just provide a brief over view of some of the differences between programs. It may also be helpful to reach out to people who have the degrees that you are considering. Find out what they do on a daily basis, what do they like about the degree they received, what do they find challenging about having their degree? Some programs, particularly Master’s and Psy.D. programs, have admissions coordinators who are happy to answer questions you may have about a particular program before applying. Finally, knowing what you ideally would like to do within the field can help guide you to particular programs. This may be more relevant than the specific degree.

Costs of Graduate Training

The cost of graduate school is determined by many factors. Individuals attending graduate school may pay tuition, fees, and the costs of books and related supplies. Most individuals attending graduate school live in apartments off campus and must pay for rent, food, and transportation to and from classes. Some schools require that graduate students also have health insurance. Thus, the cost of graduate school can be more than just yearly tuition. Many programs provide information on the cost of living, or will put you in touch with current students willing to answer questions about rent, transportation, and other costs. When considering graduate programs, consider the total costs offset by the types of financial assistance available to graduate students (including federal loans, grants, scholarships, fellowships, teaching and/or research assistantships, and tuition remission). There is wide variability in the amount of debt students incur during graduate school. Before applying, seek guidance from your undergraduate advisor and professors about factors to consider in choosing a graduate program, including cost.

Many graduate programs offer direct assistance to help cover the costs of graduate school. These usually come in the form of Teaching Assistantships and Research Assistantships. Teaching Assistantships provide funds in return for teaching services. Research Assistantships provide funds for working on a research project, usually in the lab of one of the program’s faculty; the length of promised funding can also depend on the research grant funding a specific student. Finally, Teaching Assistantships and Research Assistantships often come with tuition remission — which means the department or programs pays for your tuition. When researching programs, you should ask about the specific types of assistance available to graduate students, how much funding they provide, and whether there is tuition remission. See below for useful cost/funding-related questions to ask programs when applying to a graduate program.

According to a 2016 APA survey of individuals who completed master’s or doctoral degrees in psychology in the past 10 years, 76% reported debt from graduate training, with a mean debt of $99,000. See summary data below or view the article at There can be wide differences across PhD and PsyD programs, as well as university-based and free-standing programs. Make sure to look specifically at each program’s website which is required to include data on the costs for that specific program. Note that debt includes costs of living as well as tuition. Finally, as you think through the costs of graduate school along with the rewards of a psychology career, consider the salary ranges for psychologists available from APA at this link: In addition, be aware of various loan repayment programs that may be available to you after you attain your degree available HERE.

Mean debt upon graduation is $99,023 (median $80,000):

  • Master’s only: $59,550
  • Ph.D.: $78,526
  • PsyD: $146,251

Mean debt by subfield (clinical doctorates):

  • Clinical Psychology: $113,598
  • Clinical Neuropsychology: $108,916
  • Health Psychology: $98,300
  • Child Clinical: $90,919
  • Counseling: $87,389

Mean debt by subfield (non-clinical doctorates)

  • General: $75,400
  • Industrial/Organizational: $71,733
  • Educational: $68,062
  • Social: $60,200
  • Developmental: $51,750

Cost/Funding-Related Questions

When deciding to apply to or accept an offer from specific graduate programs, consider the following questions to determine your overall cost and the financial assistance you may be able to receive:

  1. What is the general cost of living in this city?
    1. What is the typical cost of rent in the city?
    2. What transportation costs would you expect (e.g., car, public transportation)?
  2. What is the tuition cost for the program?
    1. Is there tuition remission?
      1. If yes, partial or full remission?
      2. If yes, for how many years?
    2. What other fees are you responsible for? (i.e., course fees, health care costs, additional student fees)
  3. Are there TAships available?
    1. Does it come with a tuition remission?
    2. How are TAs chosenwhat is the selection process?
    3. Number of hours/week?
    4. What is the salary per quarter/semester?
    5. Over how long of a period?
  4. Are there RAships available?
    1. Does it come with a tuition remission?
    2. How are RAs chosenwhat is the selection process?
    3. Number of hours/week?
    4. What is the salary per quarter/semester?
    5. Over how long of a period?
  5. What are summer funding options?
    1. Do stipends cover the summer?
    2. Are there other sources of income for the summer? (i.e., teaching, working in a lab)
    3. How do students typically cover the summer if stipends do not cover it?
  6. Are there scholarships available
  7. What are summer funding options?
    1. Are students permitted to take outside jobs during gradaute training?
    2. Is there a maximum number of hours that the student is allowed tow ork outside the program?