Department of Psychology

Psychology Graduate Program

Offerings

Why a Graduate Degree in Psychology?

A common concern among persons considering graduate study in psychology is, "What will I be able to do after I get my degree?" A master's or specialist degree in psychology provides the necessary preparation for entrance into a wide variety of human service occupations. Recent graduates of Western's psychology programs have entered such diverse careers as executive director of a substance abuse program, school psychologist, clinical director in an outpatient center, and staff therapist in a variety of areas such as treatment of children and families, emergency services, and day treatment for the chronically mentally ill. Career opportunities exist in a wide range of public and private settings. Western's graduates have also found exciting opportunities in personnel work, management consulting, and teaching. For some individuals, the master's or specialist degree serve as an important step toward the doctorate in psychology. Pursuing such a degree allows many students to update their knowledge, sharpen research skills, or examine the depth of their interest in psychology before entering a doctoral program. Clearly, a graduate degree in psychology from Western can be useful to people with a diversity of career goals.

What Does WIU Offer?

The heart of any university is its faculty and students. The psychology department at Western has a full-time faculty of 24 doctoral psychologists from distinguished universities all over the U.S. The faculty in the applied professional programs are active practitioners in their respective specialties. At any given time there are approximately 50 graduate students in the department. The small student-to-faculty ratio allows for much personal contact with faculty and individualized attention to students. Students also work closely with each other, providing another resource for learning. Informal social groups, membership in research labs, and service on department committees offer further opportunities for the student to be actively involved in a broad educational experience.

Next to students and faculty, the curriculum is central to a university. The Department of Psychology has three curricular choices within its two graduate programs. Two of the choices are professionally oriented, one a masters degree in clinical/community mental health, the other a specialist degree in school psychology. The third choice, a masters degree in general experimental psychology, emphasizes breadth of exposure and familiarity with research in psychology. The professionally oriented programs are supported by clinics maintained within the department which serve the University and surrounding communities. These clinics maintain strong linkages with a variety of agencies and schools that allow students to become involved in the application of their developing skills in a number of community settings.

Excellent physical facilities also contribute to the quality of graduate education in psychology at Western. Waggoner Hall, where the Psychology Department is housed, has modern, well equipped laboratories for experimental research, audio and videotaping equipment for clinical training, an extensive library of assessment materials, and several microcomputer labs. Graduate assistants are provided with offices, and there are study lounges available.

Where Do Western's Psychology Graduates Find Employment?

Graduates in Clinical/Community Mental Health have been quite successful in obtaining a variety of positions at competitive salaries in the public and private sectors of the mental health field. More than 90 percent of the option's graduates have secured positions in mental health agencies. Typically, new graduates find positions as counselors in mental health centers. Such positions offer the opportunity to engage in many diverse, professional activities including individual, group, and family counseling, primary prevention programming, community consultation, and program evaluation.

Graduates from the clinical/community option often will enter more specialized career areas within a few years after completion of the degree. Among the professional positions occupied by graduates of the program are case manager, clinical director, executive director, program coordinator for the mentally handicapped, coordinator of youth outreach programs, corrections counselor, and director of after care programs. Graduates from the clinical/community option have found employment nationwide. Former students and agency directors have reported that the pre-degree internship required of all students is a valuable asset when trying to secure a position.

Graduates of the school psychology program, upon completion of the internship, are certified by the State of Illinois as school psychologists and readily find employment in school systems. More than 90 percent of recent graduates are currently functioning as psychologists in school districts in Illinois. The roles and functions of school psychologists are many and varied, including assessment, consultation, educational planning, development and implementation of behavioral strategies, counseling, program development, and research. After working for several years as psychologists, some graduates from the school psychology program have assumed administrative positions. Others have gone into private practice. About 10 percent of the graduates of this program complete doctorates. Several of these individuals are currently functioning as faculty members in school psychology training programs.

One emphasis within the general experimental psychology option is preparation for entrance into doctoral programs in psychology. Approximately 40 percent of graduates from the general option have earned doctorates in various fields of psychology at universities across the U.S. and Canada. Other graduates have pursued career opportunities such as community college teaching, corrections, personnel management, children's services, research, and management consulting. A master's degree in general experimental psychology provides a sound base for moving into a number of career areas.