Graduate School Preparation

Graduate Pathway

The graduate pathway for psychology majors is either a professional pathway (psychology in practice/applied psychology, law or medicine) or a research pathway (academic/research in psychology). A master’s degree usually requires 2 to 3 years of course work after the bachelor’s degree and a PhD will take 5 to 7 years beyond the bachelor’s. The selection of a master’s or doctorate degree should be based on interest in either practice or research and on commitment level. Read Graduate Degree Options for Psychology Majors for information on different graduate degree pathways. An advanced degree is required for a career as a Counselor, Psychologist, Psychiatrist/Doctor, attorney, and other advanced specializations. In some cases, licensure and/or certification will be required to become a practitioner with your advanced degree.

There are many resources to get you started with preparation for graduate school and you should meet with your academic advisor to discuss your graduate school goals. The resources below will assist you in becoming familiar with the general factors for admission, in learning about the timeline to follow as an undergraduate student, and in preparing your application materials.

Admission Factors

The following are the five general factors for admission to a graduate school program. You should always consult with the specific graduate school program that you are applying to for detailed information on admission factors and requirements.

Undergraduate GPA:

  • Your official transcript will be reviewed by the graduate school program.
  • Generally, the focus is on the last 60 credit hours of your undergraduate degree (Junior & Senior year).
  • Your cumulative GPA should be above 3.0 for master’s degree programs and 3.5 for doctoral programs to be a competitive applicant.

Personal Statement:

  • Your personal statement provides an explanation of career interests and goals.
  • You are able to provide specifics on your academic background and experience.
  • You can address any pre-established questions asked by the graduate school program.
  • You should be honest and speak to distinguishing characteristics and qualifications.


  • Your resume/CV provides an overview of your educational background, professional experience and research/internship experience.
  • You will provide details on your responsibilities and tasks associated with work, research, internship, and/or volunteer positions.
  • You should build your portfolio of experiences based on the focus of the graduate school program you are interested in.
  • Most graduate school programs will accept resumes, but some ask for CVs if they are academic/research focused programs.

Letters of Recommendation:

  • Generally, three letters of recommendation will be requested by graduate school programs.
  • Your writers of your letters of recommendation should be individuals that can speak to your academic background and achievements.
  • Your letters of recommendation should be from professors, internship site supervisors, and/or relevant work supervisors.
  • Your selection of writers will vary based on whether the graduate program is a research or applied-focused graduate program.


  • Most graduate school programs will require that you take the graduate record examination.
  • General test contains three sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. You can retake test.
  • Score scale is 130 to 170 for verbal & quantitative and 0-6 for writing.


Check out the suggested timeline below for when you should complete certain milestones as you are preparing for graduate school.

PSYCH Grad Prep Timeline


Check out the following web and print resources on applying to graduate school, how to write your resume and personal statement, and on preparing for the GRE.

Psychology Resume Example

CV Example

Personal Statement Outline

ASU Writing Center Personal Statement

Personal Statement Examples

Letters of Recommendation Tips


ASU Princeton Review Test Prep

Planning for Graduate School

APA Grad in Psych info

Is a Career in Academia, Research or Practice Right for You?

ASU Graduate Education

Graduate Programs in Arizona

What can you do with a graduate degree in psychology?

Pre-Health Advising

Pre-Law Advising

U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools

Learn Psychology

Additional Resource books available in the Psychology Undergraduate Student Center for review:

  • Applying to Graduate School in Psychology: Advice from Successful Students and Prominent Psychologists
  • APA Graduate Study in Psychology
  • Getting in: A Step-by-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology
  • Peterson’s Graduate Programs in the Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences
  • Peterson’s Graduate Programs in the Biological/Biomedical Sciences & Health Related Medical Professions
  • Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology