Degree In Sight

Man's silhouette in front of a maze

Psychology features many brands of training models, ranging from bench-science to mostly practice-based. While any program should theoretically equip you to take any job in the balance of practice and research, what constitutes a good fit varies from program to program, notes Susan Zlotlow, PhD, director of APA's Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation.

Here is a primer on the basic models. Note that all but bench-science programs are subject to APA accreditation because they feature at least some practice-related content.


BENCH SCIENCE

Features: Apprenticeship model, lab-based. "The main emphasis is on acquiring research skills by doing research rather than learning by extensive coursework," notes Roberta Klatzky, PhD, professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. It is common for students in these programs to get a postdoc before applying for academic positions, she notes, and for students to receive full grant funding for their training.

Umbrella organization: Because these programs fall outside accreditation parameters and therefore don't need to meet accreditation standards, their prestige is noted in ways such as peer review, National Science Foundation ranking and amount of grant funding.

Good job fits: Academia, applied research.


CLINICAL SCIENCE

Features: In these programs, "Research training and involvement get more emphasis than practice," says Zlotlow. The programs may differ from bench-science models in that they generally focus exclusively on clinical issues, and from science-practitioner programs in that they place relatively greater weight on research, she notes.

Umbrella organization: The Academy of Psychological Clinical Science

Good job fits: Academia or any other setting where you can conduct clinical research, including hospitals, government agencies and naturalistic settings.


SCIENTIST-PRACTITIONER

Features: Expectation that you'll be competent both in research and practice; the mix varies somewhat from program to program.

Umbrella organization: Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology (CUDCP)

Good job fits: Scientist-practitioner students land jobs in the full range of psychology job sectors. Just one example of the degree's versatility: Of the most recent graduates from the University of Alabama's scientist-practitioner program who are now working, approximately one-third went into academia, one-third into public-service sectors like the Veterans Administration, and one-third into private practice, notes the program's director, Beverly Thorn, PhD.


Scholar-practitioner, practitioner-scholar and local clinical scientist models

Umbrella group: National Council of Schools of Professional Psychology (NCSPP)

Features: The scholar-practitioner and practitioner-scholar models highlight practice issues in training and use scholarly and research literature to inform practice, explains Roger L. Peterson, PhD, who chairs the practitioner-scholar program at Antioch New England. Different programs within these models may emphasize research to a greater or lesser degree, and most require an applied dissertation. Meanwhile, a new concept within these models, the local clinical scientist, explains how such programs are scientifically based, even if students don't publish traditional academic research, Peterson notes. While graduate programs rarely call themselves local clinical scientist programs, he adds, internship sites are increasingly using this nomenclature to describe themselves.

Good job fits: Practice jobs in traditional and-if you get extra training-nontraditional areas such as business consulting and forensic work; academic positions, particularly in PsyD programs that aren't affiliated with universities; program evaluation.

-T. DeAngelis