Chances for ex-lawyer to enter clinical psych PhD?
August 25, 2008 9:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm a lawyer from a top law school with a year of work experience. I want to become an academic clinical psychologist (professor + therapist). After 9 months in a master's program, what will my admissions chances look like?

I have no formal psychological background, thus my plan to enroll in a master's degree program before going for the Ph.D. Assuming the masters starts this spring, and I apply to PhD programs in the fall of 2009, how competitive will I be?

-my undergrad grades are from a top-25 college and are excellent and my law school grades are only average (though from a top-5 law school)
-that I do very well in my psychology master's courses
-that I do very well on the GRE general and psych subject tests
-that I get some reasonable research experience in my 9 months, but it's limited by the fact that it's only been 9 months
-that I get good letters of recommendation from my psych professors (though again, whom I've only known for 9 months)
-that I have a good personal statement
-that I have maybe some internship experience, though this might happen after during the master's program after I apply and before I actually attend the PhD program

1. Would I be a:

-very strong (>75% admission chance to a top program)
-strong (40-75% chance)
-not so strong (<40% chance)

candidate to clinical psych programs? If I'd be average or below-average, is there anything else I could do to improve my chances?

2. Also, how much does the quality of the master's program influence your chances of admission into doctoral programs? If there's a serious influence, is there any good set of rankings I could use to decide which master's program to attend?

3. If I could attend a master's program which would give me a very strong "pipeline" into the school's doctoral program, would I be a fool not to attend that master's program, even if the school might be somewhat more expensive than alternatives?

4. Are there any good discussion forums where psych students or soon-to-be students talk about this stuff?

posted by shivohum to Education (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I went through the psych grad school application process three years ago and finished my masters in Dec, so take this for what it is worth. I would apply to both PhD programs and masters programs if I were you. There is no reason not to despite the fact you have a limited psych background. You have already proven that you are able to succeed in a graduate level course of study.

1. I don't know how the JD would play but given the rest I would say very strong to strong.

2. The program would matter but not as much as the quality of work and your experience while in a masters program. If you had the choice between a top tier masters program and a mid to upper level program with a ton of research experience and a lot of publications, that is probably a push with the experience being key.

3. You know the answer to this. Yes. Every bit helps.

4. I would like to know this as well.

Getting a masters in clinical psychology in 9 months is pretty ambitious to, dare I say, impossible. You won't have time for a thesis, to really get involved in research, or an internship. Two academic years is a much more realistic. Even if you kill yourself, it takes time to actually conduct the research.

The other thing to consider, is that while getting into a good program is important, it isn't nearly as important as it is in law. Don't get me wrong, it is never going to hurt you. But in my experience psychologists are judged on their research and publications more than any other factor.

YMMV. Good luck! I applaud your decision to pursue your dream.
posted by Silvertree at 6:02 AM on August 26, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you very much, Silvertree. Just to clarify, I wouldn't try to complete my master's program in 9 months, just apply to dotoral programs after having been in a master's program for 9 months. I'd be hoping to finish my master's program in 1.5 years (starting spring of 2009 and ending BEFORE the Fall of 2010 when my PhD program would start).
posted by shivohum at 7:57 AM on August 26, 2008

LJ's applyingtograd community is probably a better place to ask this question. There are lots of clinical people in there as well.

The JD... well, IMHO, they might wonder why you changed your mind after all that law school training.
posted by k8t at 8:11 AM on August 26, 2008

I am sure that you would be an interesting graduate candidate. The easiest way to get into graduate school would be to take some of the prerequisites at the undergrad level at your favorite school. Those professors would then write your recommendations for the doctoral program. Most probably wouldn't teach at the graduate level but they would know the graduate faculty. I would not recommend trying to do a master level program first. Most programs want you to do their master's level courses. You would end up having to transfer credits and possibly losing credits.
posted by lfeather at 3:33 PM on August 26, 2008

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