I took a little break from running (don’t worry, I still got in some physical exercise. Like on Monday I concentrated on flexibility and my core) to do some major research for a Master’s degree program. It has not been easy.

I am still in the midst of paying off my college loan. Luckily, the interest rate was a record low (it’s only 1.25%) and my balance is less than $8,000. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not that much compared to other college loan balances some of my other friends may have incurred. My original plan was to pay off that loan before beginning another one. I have a hard time accepting new debt unless it is a necessity. It’s now becoming more of a necessity. I have been out of the workforce for almost three years now (doing the whole stay at home parent thing instead) and I haven’t worked within the psychology field in almost four years. While I don’t think my previous education is now irrelevant, I do feel like it would help me to get back to being a valuable member of society by getting my Master’s degree. For all you, psychology majors out there: you all know that if you want to actually work in a psychology related career, you’ll need more than just a Bachelor’s degree. As much as the thought of doing a thesis gives me cold sweats and a bit of the shakes, I feel like I would impress the heck out of myself in the end. So I’m going to dive in the deep end of a graduate program this year.

The first thing I had to figure out was what degree was right for me. M.A.? M.S.? PsyD.? PhD.? I decided upon a M.A. or M.S. although I would prefer a M.S. I’d be just as happy in either. Why not a doctorate program? I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m not really the research type. This is mostly due to statistical analysis. Not my cup of cocoa. I took a statistics class specifically for psychology in college. I’m confident that my professor was a very intelligent woman, but she just wasn’t a very good teacher. She was very soft-spoken and we used old school projection machines back then (Yikes! I feel old!) that drowned out any useful information that escaped her mouth. My roommate and I left that class feeling more confused than when we went in most days. We found we had to teach ourselves from the book because our professor just didn’t grasp the concept of simplifying textbook terminology. No one did very well in that class. She ended up grading our tests on a curve or making them open book or allowing us to bring an index card in crammed with as many formulas as we could fit. *Students*still*failed* Needless to say, my statistical analysis abilities are less than proficient… at least in my own eyes. Even in a Masters program I’ll probably have to take another statistics class. I’m not looking forward to it. But it’s something I really need to understand and know how and when to use. Dang necessary evils.

So that’s how I decided upon a Masters degree. The tricky part is finding an ONLINE Masters program. The reason I need an online program is because there is a strong possibility of moving around in my family’s future. I do not want to be tied down to a program for two years that will not allow me the flexibility to move without having to worry about which courses will transfer and which ones won’t. Online programs are becoming increasingly popular, but research is still required to make sure it is accredited. I’ve been researching programs for the last two years.

The second issue is that my interest is in a very specific specialization. I would like a program that specializes in military psychology, crisis management and response, or terrorism and security. Don’t worry, those specializations do exist in online Masters programs. That being said, I have narrowed it down to three programs. I have to do a bit more thinking before I narrow it down to two.

I have to put some consideration into cost. The program I am leaning towards the most is a 36-credit hour program that can be completed in less than 2 years. This comes to $37,440 for classes alone. There are other semester fees.  The other is 54-credit hours that can be completed in approximately 1.5 years at the bargain price of $23,585 + fees. I will definitely be applying for scholarships and any aid I can get no matter which program I utilize.

Right now I am in the process of writing my personal statement and checking to see if I need to take the GREs. I’m not a big fan of standardized testing especially after not having studied anything in 4 years. Keeping my fingers crossed this process is painless!