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How to Choose a Graduate Training Program

You should begin by seeking advice from I-O faculty (if there are any) or other faculty members at your undergraduate school. We hope you will also use the SIOP publication Graduate Training Programs in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Related Fields (which is on the SIOP Web site).Each program listed has the name of a person you can contact to get more information. You must contact each program for up-to-date information. We encourage you to consider the issues listed below when deciding between programs. And you may want to refer to the information below when you talk with faculty members about his or her particular program.

Here are Some Potential Criteria and Some Questions You Should ask About I-O Psychology Graduate Programs

Some Standard Criteria for Assessing Graduate Programs

  1. All graduate programs in I-O (distance learning or other) should conform to the Guidelines for Education and Training at the Masters (Doctoral) Level in Industrial-Organizational Psychology (available on the SIOP Web site). This includes requiring coursework in history/systems, biological bases of behavior, learned bases of behavior, social bases of behavior, individual differences, data collection and analysis skills, and core I-O domains. Additional guidelines that should be heeded can be found in the Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology (available from APA). Although these guidelines and principles apply only to clinical/counseling/school programs, they provide a good set of general standards for I-O programs as well.
  2. Look at the ratio of applicants to the number of applicants accepted; the number of applicants accepted to the number of applicants who actually enroll; and the number of faculty to the number of students.
  3. What percentage of students actually complete their degree (i.e., attrition rate)?
  4. What is the average time taken to complete a degree?
  5. What are the GPA and GRE scores of accepted applicants?
  6. What financial aid is available? This includes assistantships, scholarships, teaching opportunities, and so forth.

Some Additional Criteria and Questions

  1. Ask about indicators of post-degree success of graduate students. These might include: positions (e.g., job titles, organizations, etc.) held by students immediately following receipt of degree, as well as 5 years after receipt of degree; starting salaries of degree recipients. (Additional data can be found on the SIOP Web site. See the publication Salary Survey.)
  2. What are Internship/externship requirements? Also, to what extent does the program help you find internship opportunities?
  3. Ask whether or not the curriculum supports national/state/local licensure requirements. This applies to (at least) three separate issues. First, most licensing boards require the license applicant to take certain specific courses during graduate school (i.e., biological psych, ethics, abnormal psych, etc.). Second, most licensing boards have other requirements about actually being in residence at a school. For example, in New Jersey licensure as a psychologist requires that the doctoral degree must be based on at least 40 doctoral credit hours earnedwithin a doctoral program requiring personal attendance at the degree-granting institution. Third, some licensing boards require applicants to have documented practicum experience (hands-on real-world experience that has been closely supervised by a licensed psychologist).
  4. What is the quality of the faculty, broadly defined? This could mean in terms of publications/ research reputation, and so forth, or it could mean in terms of practice, or real-world experience. Some of this can be garnered through rankings. What are recent publications/grants/projects of faculty members? Do faculty have any ties to businesses which would provide students opportunities to acquire knowledge/skills? Are the faculty members actively involved with professional organizations such as SIOP?
  5. What is the breadth of the program? What is covered in terms of content in I-O focused courses? Does the coursework cover the entire spectrum of I-O? Is it just an O (or I) program? What about the scientist-practitioner emphasisis one favored more than the other?
  6. How much opportunity is there for students and faculty to interact? The chair of the APA Accreditation committee suggests that this is a big consideration. Based on evidence from the Open University in England there appears to be a direct relationship between the amount of personal contact (between students & teachers) and student turnover. Is there a mentor/advisor/supervisor system established in the program? How strong is it? What processes are in place to ensure that each student receives personal attention by a specific mentor/advisor/ supervisor? In terms of distance-learning programs, what is the latency of response to requests by students for help/advice/feedback? Do students have the opportunity to work with more than one faculty member (i.e., can they freely switch advisors to better match their interests or is that discouraged)?
  7. What about interaction with other students? Does the program facilitate regular meetings, brownbags, colloquia (or in the case of distance-learning: online chats, bulletin boards, video conferencing, etc.)?
  8. What measures of student satisfaction are there, including the number of formal complaints from students (this is a suggestion from the chair of the APA Accreditation committee)?
  9. What percentage of students participate (that is, make presentations at) professional conferences? Is there financial support for students who make presentations at professional conferences?
  10. Is there a business school available where there are other courses to take (i.e., compensation, strategy, etc.) and other faculty and students to interact with? How much collaboration exists between the business school and the I-O program? How much collaboration exists not only within the psychology department, but among psychology faculty/students of different disciplines (e.g., social, personality, developmental, cognitive, experimental, etc.)?
  11. Specifically for distance-learning programs: Are there discussion-centered courses (i.e., seminars)? If so, how are they conducted?
  12. How do students acquire specific research/practice skills (NOT knowledge)? [Including working as part of a team]
  13. To what extent do students have access to critical university services/resources, such as the library?

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