I'd Like to Go to Graduate School. Now What?

As an undergraduate psychology professor, I have a lot of students who are interested in pursuing a graduate education. They might wish to become school psychologists, counselors, child psychologists, rehabilitation psychologists, or organizational psychologists. The list of graduate specializations in psychology goes on and on. I'm sure there are a few that I have yet to learn about.

Questions to Consider

Here are some questions I would probably ask you if you told me of your interest in going to graduate school:
  1. Is a graduate degree necessary? To answer this, you will have to look up your dream job description. Maybe look up a few. What are the required qualifications? If a graduate degree is required, be sure to note the level of the degree (PhD? MA?) as well as its specialization. It would be terrible to get through an accredited school psychology program with the hopes of becoming a clinical mental health counselor. 
  2. Which schools offer the degree you need? The next step is to find a handful of practical and ideal programs that you might choose in order to obtain the degree you discovered after answering question one. I am routinely surprised by how few students have taken this step. They say, "I want to be a child psychologist," but they aren't sure which degree they need or which schools offer it. Find 2-3 schools in your state or in the state in which you want to live once you start your career. This is important, because credentials are often state-specific.
  3. Have you reached out to programs or to students or to professionals in your chosen field? There is no reason to go to graduate school without a clear idea of what to expect. How can you best prepare? Which classes should you have taken? How much will it cost? Are there jobs for graduate students? And so on.  
I could probably go on, but anything else I might ask will be irrelevant to the student who has not already answered questions 1-3.

Below is an interview between me and a former student (Sierra) who had completed steps 1-3, and who had already applied to her chosen schools. I have asked her a series of questions to get a feel for all that went into her planning for graduate school. I did so with the intention of providing a resource for students who have graduate school on the brain.