Note: If you want to help people with problems (do "counseling"), you are not limited to careers that require graduate degrees in psychology. Psychology-related graduate programs such as education and social work are typically happy to have students who majored in psychology as undergraduates. Too, in my experience, they often have less stringent admission standards than do psychology programs. Thus, if you're like most undergraduates who won't have the necessary GRE scores and GPAs to be admitted to master's or doctoral programs in clinical or counseling psychology, don't despair! You should definitely consider these alternative educational pathways to the counseling "mountaintop."
At the master's and doctoral level, education becomes increasingly specialized. Thus, to do the work you want to do, it's essential to obtain a degree that will prepare you to do so.To ensure that you make the correct decision in this regard, you must be very clear about your career goals at this level. In addition, you need to know for sure that the degree you pursue will prepare you to do what you want. (If you get in the wrong degree program, you can waste time, money, and also end up unprepared to do what you had hoped.)
There are many factors to be considered as you make decisions about your graduate school options. You will probably have to review the information in this section a number of times before it begins to make sense. Nonetheless, your future happiness and income are riding on it, so stick with it. Choose a graduate program on the basis of considerations that are important to you, not others. Just because your faculty mentor has a PhD doesn't mean that you need to get one to be happy or for your mentor to respect you. Get the degree that meets your needs. Choose a program that offers the level of education you want (master's, doctorate), that is compatible with your orientation (scientific, practical; behavioral, cognitive, etc.;), and that offers the coursework and training to prepare you to do what you want to do (individual, family, group therapy; testing; working with adults, children, etc.).
I will provide some general guidelines to help you understand some of the major degree programs and their similarities and differences. Nonetheless, because of the detailed and technical nature of this information and because so much is riding on your making informed decisions, I strongly advise you to work with a faculty member who knows about the various degree options that are relevant to the work in which you're interested. (As you may have learned, some faculty know more than others and some are more willing than others to share what they know; it's a good idea to keep your ears open and to shop around.)
MA, MS, MEd, MSW, PhD, PsyD, EdD: What Does It All Mean?
To understand the various degree options, you need to know some important points about academic degrees. You're probably aware that degrees have different "names" (the technical name for this is degree nomenclature), but you probably don't know what these are or what they can tell you. Just as there are a number of degrees offered at the undergraduate level-e.g., bachelor of arts ( BA) and bachelor of science (BS), there are a number of different types of graduate degrees;