Common Qualifications for Graduate Education in Psychology

Background in Psychology

  • Over 70% of Ph.D. recipients also received their bachelor's degree in Psychology

Past and Current Work and Research Experience

  • Work experience relevant to the field
  • Research experience demonstrating ability to interpret, design, and conduct research
  • Creating a picture of you as a worker--your character, reliability, and judgment

Letters of Recommendation

  • 3 faculty members who can write more about you than, "This student got an A in my class..."
  • Insight into your potential as a graduate student and professional in your field
  • Capacity to withstand rigors of graduate education and conduct independent projects

Personal Statement

  • Who you are, why you want that degree, and why you chose that specific program over the rest

High Grade Point Average

  • According to the APA, the median GPA for applicants accepted into master's degree programs is roughly 3.5; doctoral programs 3.65.
  • Many master's programs require a 3.0 GPA just to apply; many doctoral programs a 3.5 GPA
  • The more highly ranked the specific program, the more competitive the GPA and other qualifications will be. For example, a graduate degree at USC will be more competitive to be accepted to than the same degree offered at a California State University.
  • Certain general programs are also more difficult to get into than others. A Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, for example, often requires at least a 3.7 GPA, along with other additional demands.

GRE Scores

  • The GRE is an essential piece of the graduate application. Even over 80% of master's programs now require the GRE.
  • Everything you need to know about the GRE here and how to sign up at ETS

Writing Sample

  • Many graduate programs, especially Ph.D. programs, will want you to provide an academic writing sample as proof of your ability to write an APA style, graduate level research paper.

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  • Department of Psychology
  • University of Southern California
  • SGM 501
  • 3620 South McClintock Ave.
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061
  • Phone: (213) 740 - 2203