Can I Afford a Graduate Program in Psychology?

  • Expensive to enroll in most graduate schools of psychology (unless government-based and funded): $40-50,000 (Masters programs), $140,000-200,000 (Doctoral program)
  • The Hidden Cost: time away from work (lost income)
  • Affordable education: PSP ($48,000-60,000 – Masters and Doctoral programs combined) (can work full-time while attending PSP

The issue of affordability actually can be broken down into two questions: (1) how much does the program cost and how do I pay for it? And (2) how do I find the time and energy to work on and complete a graduate program — given everything else happening in my life?

Financial Considerations

Graduate programs in psychology are not inexpensive – especially doctoral level programs that are approved by the American Psychological Association. Most of these doctoral programs will cost more than $160,000. Master Degree programs in Psychology often run at least $20,000 per year, which adds up to $40,00-50,000 for a two to three year program.

There is an additional financial challenge. In many instances, students are required to attend school full-time or at least not continue to work full-time for the first two to three years they are enrolled in the program.  This is particularly a challenge if the student is interested in clinical psychology and obtaining a license to practice as a clinician. A clinical internship is usually required (or at least 1000 hours) and internships often provide no or very small payment to the intern. This loss of income can be considered an additional expense. There are ways around this financial challenge. Find a government-supported (public) university that offers a graduate program in psychology at no cost (for citizens) or very low cost. This is a terrific option—except these programs often have very limited enrollment, are focused on research psychology rather than applied psychology and require attending day-time classes. In many instances, these programs are still quite expensive (especially for students who do not come from the government entity that is funding this program).

Other options include finding and obtaining a scholarship, participating in a work-study programs (working for the institution where you are enrolled) or finding a job (or internship) that pays a salary and is aligned with the degree program (a rare but delightful occurrence). There is one other option which is often engaged: obtaining a student loan that will pay all or part of the tuition. Unfortunately, this means that the graduate faces years of loan repayments—not easy for those graduates who want to provide affordable psychological services.

What about the Professional School of Psychology?

Our graduate school is not inexpensive—but it is far less expensive than most other non-government supported graduate schools. Our students typically pay less than $60,000 for their entire program (depending on whether or not they are entering PSP with a Masters Degree in psychology). How can we provide an education of high quality at this low cost? The answer to this question is actually not complex: we keep costs low. Our lean administrative team is aided by new digital technologies (automatic record keeping, Internet-based communication, etc.) . We hire faculty who gain most of their income from other sources and teach at PSP primarily because they thoroughly enjoy working with our mature and accomplished learners and cherish the intellectual stimulation that comes from the dynamic dialogue inherent in working with learners from throughout the world.

The Professional School of Psychology offers two other financial advantages.  First, most PSP students continue to work full-time while attending school. They don’t have to sacrifice their wages in order to get a graduate degree. Second, when a student signs their contract it is for the entire program: they know exactly how much they will be paying for the program and make monthly payments that are manageable (usually $600-700). There are no tuition increases that were not anticipated when enrolling at PSP. There are no unexpected fees.

In sum, PSP is affordable for most people – yes these monthly payments are not easy to make. But they do enable most prospective students to find their way into the school without taking on a major loan or sacrificing other priorities in their life.

Life Priority Challenges

Most mature men and women who wish to obtain a graduate degree in psychology are people and service-oriented. They care about their own family—as a loving partner, devoted parent—and about their friends, community and other people who are in need of assistance. That’s why they want to become psychologists.

Unfortunately, when considering admissions to a graduate program in psychology, these dedicated women and men often confront a difficult decision regarding life priorities: how much do they have to sacrifice in order to find the time and energy to complete a demanding graduate program? We suspect that this is a major reason why many qualified people throughout the world decide not to enroll in a graduate program. It is not just about money. It is also about personal commitments and deeply-held values.

What about The Professional School of Psychology? It is certainly not the case that we have all of the answers. There are clear trade-offs that our students must face when entering our vary demanding graduate programs. However, we have found ways to make it work. First, we host classes via the Internet that are scheduled at times of day when our students are least likely to have family or work conflicts. It might mean getting up early one morning each week or attending a class after the children have gone to bed. But, it can work. Second, a community of learners is built—our students help each other out by sharing strategies for course preparation, doing a lot of co-teaching and co-tutoring in areas where one student has a lot of wisdom or experience and another student doesn’t. Third, the administrators and faculty at PSP fully understand the challenges being faced. In many cases, they themselves got their degree as a mature learner. We adjust and problem-share with our students—helping our students find ways to adjust to their life challenges (including granting leaves of absence, and tuition moratoria).

So what does all of this mean? What questions should you ask and what do you need to decide?

The typical PSP student is a mature learner, and on average the PSP student is 45 years old. Part of the decision process for any prospective student is how to amortize the cost of the education over the years you have left to work. At the masters or doctoral level, the prospective student should look at the other schools that offer a program that leads to licensure. What is the cost per unit? Can you attend classes in a way that fits with your current lifestyle? How long will it take? What other requirements may that school have (certain undergraduate coursework, a thesis or dissertation at the end of the program)? Are there certain tests that must be passed in order to enter the program, for instance, the GRE? If you are an American citizen, does the school have access to Federal student loan programs? You will see that the term ‘affordable’ can relate to a variety of potential decision factors.

The typical PSP student is a person who cannot justify the significantly higher cost of most other graduate programs in psychology. It is typical for a graduate school offering a program that is equivalent to that offered at PSP to charge more than $150,000 for the full program.  They would argue that their program is not ‘equivalent’ because their program is both accredited and APA-approved. Yet, we are certain that the prospective student will not receive a better education at this other school, so what will you get for the significantly higher tuition? The answer lies in the issue of accreditation and, in the case of this school, approval by the APA.

If you are 25 years old, you may get out of the program and accumulate sufficient supervised professional experience (clinical hours), by the time you are 30. In this case, you may have 40 years to amortize the cost of the education (assuming you work until you are 70). However, if you are 45 years old, you may get out of the program and accumulate sufficient supervised professional experience (clinical hours), by the time you are 50. In this case, you may have 20 years to amortize the cost of the education (assuming you work until you are 70). These are the kinds of rational calculations everyone must ‘perform’ for themselves as part of the decision-making process when considering the meaning of ‘affordable.’

We offer the student an unparalleled educational experience in a collaborative, non-competitive environment, at a reasonable cost. Our programs are oriented to mature working professionals. Are you the kind of person who would benefit by what PSP has to offer?