Department of Psychology: School Psychology: Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible for me to enter the PhD program right after finishing my undergraduate degree?

Yes. We do accept students into the PhD program after they have completed their undergraduate degrees. It is important to note that most newly admitted students have completed undergraduate degrees in psychology or a psychology-related field.

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May I pursue my degree on a part-time basis?

Our program is designed for full-time students. Courses are generally offered during the work week (i.e., 9am-5pm M-F). We do not admit part-time students and discourage enrolled students from working full-time.

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Is financial aid available?

Various forms of financial aid are available to students to help offset the costs of graduate school, including teaching and research assistantships, loans, scholarships, awards, and campus employment. Within the Department of Psychology, many students receive multi-year funding through teaching assistantships. The School Psychology Program also tries to fund students via traineeships and research assistantships funded by external sources. Both forms of support include stipends, tuition, and health insurance. Research assistantships are also available in the department, but availability varies depending on which faculty have grants in a particular year. Other forms of financial assistance are available through the University's Office of Financial Aid. These include scholarships, grants, loans, and campus employment. School Psychology students are often successful in winning competitive scholarships and awards. The majority of students seeking financial aid have received some amount of funding, including graduate assistantships, grants, or educational loans from private financial institutions. Faculty consistently work to help students secure financial support.

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Should I apply to the Program if I am only interested in pursuing a master's degree?

No. The School Psychology Program at North Carolina State University offers PhD-level training only. The MS portion is not constructed in a way that allows one to obtain a credential as a school psychologist at the specialist level (i.e., it is not a terminal degree). Importantly, only applicants who express the intent to complete the PhD are considered for admission.

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May I enter the Program at different times during the year?

No. Students are only admitted for matriculation in the fall of each academic year. The program structure is such that if students entered at another time, they would not be in proper sequence for the coordinated coursework and practica. Applications may be submitted at any time, but only those submitted by December 15 of each year are guaranteed review for enrollment in the subsequent academic year.

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I have a graduate degree in Psychology already and I'm not sure I want to earn another one to enter the field of school psychology. Is it possible for me to just take the courses from your program that the state education agency requires for licensure and not enter your degree program?

No. The Program does not offer a non-degree, certification/ licensure-only training track. Although you are welcome to register as a PBS (i.e., post-baccalaureate studies) student and take some courses in the Program's curriculum, under no circumstances will the Program Director endorse your application for certification/licensure without your having first earned a graduate degree from this training program.

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If I have a previous graduate degree, can I apply the credit hours to my degree?

Yes, in most cases. The Program Director tries to recognize prior equivalent graduate coursework when warranted. In general, courses taken within the past eight years and passed with a grade of "B" or better are candidates for transfer. A binding review is completed after a student has been admitted, as decisions are driven by the student's understanding of the match between previous courses and NC State's offerings; the academic advisor's, course instructor's, Psychology Department’s Director of Graduate Programs’, and Program Director's recommendation; and a review of the course syllabus, student products, and other relevant information. When there is a high degree of overlap between the Program's curriculum and the student's prior graduate training, it may be possible to waive about 30 credits. Due to NC State Graduate School requirements, a minimum of 54 credits must be earned at the university for the award of a PhD degree, and all Program graduates in the past 25 years have easily exceeded this minimum. A maximum of 9 credits taken outside a degree program (e.g., as a post-baccalaureate studies student) can be applied to a degree.

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What is the student-to-faculty ratio?

The faculty has a close working relationship with students. Currently, there is a 4:1 ratio between students and faculty.

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What research opportunities are available for students?

The School Psychology Program endorses the scientist-practitioner model. All students are expected to develop research expertise while in the Program through completing a minimum of 9 credits of statstics/research methods, working with their faculty research mentor, and completing a research-based thesis and dissertation. Students receive hands-on research training by working on research teams with their faculty research mentor to complete a variety of student- and faculty-led research projects. Many students author or co-author papers for presentation or publication as part of their work on faculty research teams.

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How long will it take to complete my degree?

Students entering with bachelor's degrees and attending full-time typically complete the Program in 6-7 years. Students who enter with a specialist or 60 credit hour master's degree in school psychology and a data-based thesis usually finish in 3-5 years. It is difficult to be precise because the doctoral dissertation often takes longer than the student expects, and work on it slows down considerably when one is completing the 1500 clock hour predoctoral internship. Because APA-accredited/APPIC-listed internship sites are not located close to NC State, it is frequently difficult to maintain regular contact with one's dissertation advisor while on internship.

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Is the school psychology program APA-accredited?

APA accredits only doctoral training programs, and the NC State School Psychology Program has been APA-accredited since April 10, 1987. The Program also has been approved by the National Association of School Psychologists since 1989.

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Can I be licensed as a school psychologist or psychologist with a degree from the NC State School Psychology Program?

Program graduates are eligible for licensure as school psychologists (Level III) by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Graduates also meet all predoctoral requirements for licensure as a psychologist by the North Carolina Psychology Board. Graduates of the Program are automatically eligible for certification as a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP), following completion of coursework, an approved internship, and receipt of a passing score on the PRAXIS II examination. Licensure requirements for school psychologists and psychologists vary across states. The NCSP credential is accepted by many states for the practice of school psychology. Graduation from an APA-accredited program is also a factor in many states' licensure requirements for the practice of psychology.

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What do you mean "licensure as a school psychologist" and "licensure as a psychologist?" Is there a difference?

Many agencies provide oversight and/or regulation of the practice of psychology, and different agencies regulate the practice of psychology in different settings. For example, a school psychologist employed in a school system may have to meet different requirements than a school psychologist employed in a community mental health center, even if their job duties are identical. Furthermore, the particular agency that regulates the practice of psychology in a particular setting may vary from state to state. In most states, the state education agency regulates psychologists' practice in schools, whereas a different state agency regulates psychologists' practice in non-school settings. In North Carolina, one must be licensed by the North Carolina Department of Instruction to be employed as a school psychologist in a public school district. However, one must be licensed by the North Carolina Psychology Board to practice as a school psychologist in a private setting. North Carolina also has additional standards regarding training in the provision of health services. Psychologists who meet all these standards at the doctoral level are designated as Licensed Psychologists and Certified Health Service Provider Psychologists. Those who plan to practice in schools or other settings as psychologists must take responsibility to understand and prepare for practice requirements in states where they want to practice.

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What career opportunities exist for graduates of the North Carolina State University School Psychology Program?

Historically, most Program graduates have been employed as psychologists in public school settings. A smaller percentage of graduates work in settings such as universities, mental health agencies, hospitals, and private practices. Among the graduates who work in schools, there often is a tendency toward administrative positions such as directing psychological services. Graduates who work in mental health or hospital settings provide various psychological services to children or may be in full or part-time private practice. Often, they play an important liaison role between medical/clinical facilities and the schools. In general, the School Psychology Program aims to place its graduates into leadership positions in the field of school psychology.

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Before I apply, I really need to speak to a faculty member in person about the Program. Can this be arranged?

The Program Director is receptive to a prospective applicant's request  to schedule a 30 minute information interview. However, the interview should be scheduled after the individual has thoroughly reviewed available descriptive material about the Program (such as these FAQs). The intent of the interview is to provide the applicant with information about the Program. Interviews with the Director are not part of the applicant selection process. Individual interviews with other Program faculty are possible but must be arranged directly with them. It is important to note that the Program sponsors its Interview Day in February. For more information about Interview Day, please see the answer to the FAQ titled, "What happens after I submit my application?"

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What information do you consider when I apply to your program?

Admission to the Program is based on several factors. First, to be considered for admission in full graduate standing at North Carolina State University, an applicant minimally must present: (a) a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university as determined by a regional or general accrediting agency, and (b) a "B" average in the undergraduate major or in his/her last graduate degree program. Second, beyond these minimum criteria, program faculty select students for admission based on their extent of prior research experience, perceived fit with faculty member’s research team, appropriateness of professional goals given the focus of the training program (highly important factors); GRE scores, grade point average, quality of writing sample, letters of recommendation, academic reputation of prior institution(s), perceived competence in working with others in a professional setting (moderately important factors); and previous work experience and extracurricular activities (somewhat important factors). Given the competitive nature of the admissions process, it is understandable that individuals having more extensive and elaborate research experiences, stronger fit with a faculty member’s research team, higher test scores, and higher grade point averages are more competitive. Your entire application packet helps the faculty determine whether you will be a successful student, a committed and competent professional, and whether the Program can meet your personal and professional goals.

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When is the deadline for applications?

The deadline for receipt of applications and supporting material is December 15th. It is important that you start the application process sufficiently early to assure that all materials arrive on time. An incomplete application will not be considered, as we make our decisions and offers for admission as soon as possible. Please be sure that persons who write your letters of recommendation are aware of the deadline.

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What happens after I submit my application?

Immediately after the application deadline, the Program faculty begins the process of reviewing all applications. All are given careful consideration to determine which applicants will be invited for interviews. Applicants who appear to be strong matches for the Program are invited to our annual Interview Day. During this day-long event (held in February), applicants have the opportunity to meet with Program faculty, talk candidly with current students, and tour campus facilities and surrounding area. Not coming to Interview Day for a personal interview does not mean that you will be denied admission. Telephone interviews can be arranged for those who cannot visit the campus. After the interviews are completed, offers of admission will be made to the most promising of the applicants, who will be notified in writing as well. In some cases, a student may be put on an alternate list, with a decision on admittance deferred until we receive replies from newly admitted students.

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How competitive is your program?

In a typical year, the NC State School Psychology Program receives 50-60 applications, interviews 12-15 applicants, makes 6-8 offers of admission, and enrolls 3-5 students. Data from a 2006 report to APA's Commission on Accreditation described the following characteristics of the study body: The mean undergraduate GPA for enrolled students was 3.54, and the mean GRE (Verbal + Quantitative) was 1,126. The trend over the past few years has been toward a more competitive applicant pool (e.g., higher test scores, higher GPAs, more extensive and elaborate undergraduate research experiences).

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What happens if I have low test scores or GPA?

In cases where an applicant believes an indicator (e.g., test score, GPA) does not accurately reflect potential for graduate study, we encourage the applicant to provide additional evidence to show that the indicator is invalid. Alternate evidence could include, but is not limited to, scores from other tests (e.g., GRE Psychology subject exam), copies of professional writing, and letters of reference from qualified sources that respond to the concern. We do not use scores or GPAs as strict cutoffs, and are open to evidence suggesting such indicators are inaccurate. We are more likely to be persuaded by evidence, and less likely to be persuaded by explanations in the absence of evidence, when deciding how to interpret standard indicators of performance.