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Graduate Paths for Different Helping Professions

Post Baccalaureate Level:

Certification in Substance Abuse/Addiction Counseling

Master's Level:

Master of Social Work

  • Typically 2-3 years, programs accredited by Council on Social Work Education
  • Versatile degree. Can lead to license in clinical social work
  • Different areas of social work: social, medical, school, clinical, administration/management, social policy
  • Work might involve case management, needs assessments, therapy in private practice, mental health care settings, developing/overseeing assistance programs

Master of Counseling (aka Clinical Mental Health Counseling)

  • Typically 2-3 years, programs accredited by Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
  • Graduate programs in counseling are usually housed in a university's education or counseling department, while psychology graduate programs are typically housed in psychology departments
  • Different areas of counseling: addictions, career counseling, clinical mental health, community counseling, couples and family counseling, school counseling, student affairs and college counseling, counselor education and supervision
  • A Masters degree in marriage and family therapy is another option

Master of Science in Clinical or Counseling Psychology

  • Typically 2-3 years
  • Different specialization options
  • Provides an opportunity for further education in psychology, and for research experience
  • May be a good option if you want to get into a doctoral program but your undergraduate academic GPA is low, or if you need more research experience

Doctoral Level:

Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Counseling Psychology

  • Different than being a counselor
  • Potential work options: private practice, counseling centers, college counseling centers, community mental health clinics, in academia as a professor or clinical supervisor
  • Slightly less research focus than clinical psychology
  • Less likely to work with severe mental illness or in hospital settings than clinical psychologists
  • 4-6 years, programs accredited by American Psychological Association
  • For a more detailed explanation of the differences between Counseling and Clinical Psychology: Counseling Psychology vs. Clinical Psychology

Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology

  • Potential work options: practicing clinician, in academia as a professor, as a researcher, consultant, supervisor.
  • Trained as both a researcher and a practitioner
  • Some clinical psychology programs offer specialization in child/adolescent psychology, adult psychology, health psychology, forensic evaluation and assessment, behavioral health, neuropsychology
  • 5-7 years, programs accredited by American Psychological Association

School Psychology (most often, a doctoral degree is needed)

  • Focused on helping children succeed in a school setting
  • Work could involve assessments, consultation with children and families, program development, crisis management
  • Typically a doctoral program, but there are some programs that offer a masters degree in school psychology.
  • See this page from the National Association of School Psychologists for more details on graduate programs in school psychology.

Ed.D. in Psychology

  • An Ed.D. is a doctorate in education. Ed.D. programs are often in school psychology and counseling psychology
  • Can be a good option if you plan to work in an educational setting
  • Often focuses on counseling, developmental, and educational psychology.
  • Note that the American Psychological Association does not accredit Ed.D. programs.


This resource was created by Dr. Amber Norwood.

Contact the Department of Psychology

Franklin Science Center 114 1871 Old Main Drive, Shippensburg, PA 17257 Phone: 717-477-1657