New! M.S. in Psychological Science - FAQs

Section 1

Graduate Program

1. What is the advantage of pursuing a Master’s degree rather than applying straight to Ph.D. programs?


  • Students pursuing a doctorate DO NOT need a Master’s degree for admission to doctoral programs.  Doctoral programs accept applications from students with only Bachelor’s level training as well as from students who already have a master’s degree. Additionally, many doctoral programs grant their enrollees a master's degree as students progress in the program, often after they pass their qualifying exams. However, students should consider several factors when deciding whether to earn a master’s degree before continuing on to doctoral study.
  • Better Preparation: With two years of graduate study under their belt, students who earn master’s degrees before applying to doctoral programs can feel far better prepared for graduate study than they were as undergraduates. Master’s study doesn’t make students experts in their field, but it trains them in the conventions of academic writing specific to the discipline, gives them opportunities to publish articles and exposes them to theoretical and methodological approaches and subfields not covered in college.
  • Better Chances for Admission: Because students who earn master’s degrees are better prepared for doctoral study than those who only have bachelor’s degrees, some doctoral programs may be more likely to admit them. Their generally stronger writing samples and personal statements, letters of recommendation from graduate faculty and demonstrated dedication to graduate study make them attractive candidates. Many students also retake the Graduate Record Examination while earning their master’s degree, and their additional education can lead to higher scores, especially on the GRE subject tests. To find out whether a specific program prefers master’s degrees for its applicants, students can ask a department administrator what percentage of the incoming doctoral class holds master’s degrees.
  • Informed Decision-Making: Master’s programs can help students decide both whether and where they want to pursue doctoral study. While some students thrive on the intensive nature of graduate study, which requires long hours and the ability to self-motivate, others find that they don’t want to spend an additional five years to earn their doctorate. Students can also use the time in a master’s program to gain a clearer sense of whether a doctorate will appreciably increase their earning potential and employment prospects in their field. Finally, students may learn more about which professors are leaders in their chosen subfield, and they can consider applying to study with those faculty members for their doctoral research.
  • Cost of a Master’s Degree: One important consideration when deciding whether to pursue a master’s degree before a doctorate is the cost of each degree. Doctoral students in the United States are typically funded by their program; they work as research or teaching assistants in return for a small stipend, tuition coverage and, sometimes, health insurance. In contrast, master’s programs rarely fund their students, who usually take out student loans to finance their study. Students who are certain that they want to earn a doctorate may thus benefit financially from applying directly to doctoral programs upon completing their bachelor’s degree.

2. Can I apply to both Master’s programs and Ph.D. programs?

Yes!  The competition for Ph.D. programs in psychology is very stiff.  Nationally, only 9% of those applying for a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, for example, are offered admission to any program.  Therefore, some students apply to both levels of training in the hope that if they do not receive admission offers for a Ph.D. program, they can seek their Master’s in the hopes of becoming more competitive for Ph.D. level study.

3. Can I receive financial aid for my tuition and fees in the Master’s program?

The Master’s program is a self-funded program with limited options available for financial aid through the university.  For more information about financial aid options at UIUC, please contact our financial aid office at  It should be noted that on-campus employment opportunities that are available as assistantships for Ph.D. level students, are NOT available for Master’s level students.  Other types of on-campus work opportunities are possible. 

4. Can I request a faculty member with whom I would want to work during my Master’s study?

Yes!  Although it is not guaranteed that the requested faculty member will be taking students for the year of admission to the program, all requests will be taken into consideration for lab placement.  If the requested faculty member is not available, your research interests will be the next level of consideration for lab placement. 

Return to main M.S. in Psychological Science page

Please contact for additional information.

This web page is only for informational purposes. Official program requirements should be obtained from the Graduate Admissions Office, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, 603 East Daniel Street, Champaign, Illinois 61820.

Section 2



Graduate Spotlight

Katherine WoodKatherine Wood

Congratulations to Katherine Wood! She's been awarded an NSF fellowship for her research she describes below. Katherine is a Graduate Student in the VCHP program area working with Dan Simons. Research Summary: We don't perceive everything that passes before our eyes. Often this means that irrelevant information doesn't occupy limited cognitive resources, but sometimes these failures of awareness blind us to important aspects of our environment. My research focuses on these failures of awareness, particularly on the information that gets filtered out. What kinds of objects are we most likely to miss? When are we most vulnerable to these failures of awareness? How do changes to the task or environment affect this filtering? Better understanding of how we filter information from our environment can potentially help us understand demanding real-world tasks, such as driving.

Graduate Information

New E-mail Address

The Graduate Studies Office e-mail address is now Please note: messages sent to our previous address - may not have been received. We apologize for the inconvenience.