Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions that are frequently asked of the program, with their associated answers.
You will receive a certificate from the School of Professional Studies stating that you have completed the requirements of the Postbaccalaureate Psychology Program. However, you should not focus on certificate requirements: they are a guideline and organizing framework. Much more important is to acquire the knowledge, research experience, and recommendations necessary to take you on to your next course of study. About half of the students enrolled in the program opt to complete the full program and earn the certificate. Other students feel they are prepared to apply to graduate school without completing the certificate and elect not to complete the full program.Your advisor will help you to develop a program with your goals in mind, whether or not you elect to complete the full program.
Psychology postbacs have gone on to Ph.D and MA programs in Clinical or Counseling Psychology, Psy.D programs, Ph.D programs in Social, Experimental or Biological Psychology, Education programs, Social Work (MSW) programs, and a scattering of others (e.g., Law and Psychology, Urban Studies).
How long you take to complete the program depends partly on how much time you have to commit to study and research, and partly on how large a change you are making from a previous field.
Most people are making a major change of field; starting the program in September, they simply will not have the credentials (knowledge, research experience, recommendations) that they need to apply that same December to a Ph.D or Psy.D program. Practically, it will take two years to obtain the credentials, apply, and be accepted, and so it makes sense to plan a worthwhile mix of work, research and study for two years. This allows you time to take a variety of courses, which will focus future studies, and time also to build important relationships with peers, faculty, and graduate students. You can also take time to savor the experience!
The exceptions are people who are making smaller changes (e.g., from teaching to school psychology, from architecture to environmental psychology, etc.) or those who choose to go on to masters rather than doctoral programs. Since the admissions to masters programs is generally less competitive, one can apply a year earlier.
Jobs and family demands prevent some people from devoting full time to the program. Studying part-time, one can take longer than two years. Experience shows, however, that strong involvement in the program, and especially in research, is important. If you take two courses per term, make use of summer offerings, and devote substantial time and intellectual effort to research activities, you should be ready to apply to a doctoral program during your third term. If you take just one course per term, and devote time and effort to research, it will probably require an extra year
In the Fall, the Postbac Program hosts and Open House for Postbacs and undergraduates who are interested in getting involved in research labs. At that event, graduate students from each of the labs come and describe their work and what they are looking for in research assistants. Following presentrations, graduate students are available to meet with interested prospective research assistants. The postbac students have a reputation for being extremely good research assistants and are typically sought out by graduate students. Contact information for graduate students and labs looking for research assistants will be provided.
Prior to the open house, or if you will not be able to attend, you can read about the research being done by the professors in the Research section of this site and determine whose research you're most interested in. In looking into professors' lab sites, you can get contact information for the person in charge of recruitment for the lab (often a lab manager). Contact that person to find out about research assistant opportunities in that lab.
You can transfer up to 3 courses (9 points) from your undergraduate institution. The course must have been taken within the last 5 years, and you must have gotten a B- or better in it. Additionally, it must be a comparable course to one offered at Columbia and have gotten the approval from the program advisor.