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Best psychology schools in the midwest in 2021

September 20, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Pros and cons of attending a psychology school in the Midwest

Psychology is one of the most popular degrees you can get — and one of the most versatile. A qualification could see you enter a wide array of roles, from law to business, and human resources. Studying human behavior could put you in a position to help those who are in need, aid law enforcement in solving crimes, or guide decision-makers in big companies towards make astute staffing decisions, based on science.

The Midwest boasts some of the best colleges for psychology in the world, with prestigious schools such as the University of Chicago and Northwestern calling the nation’s breadbasket home. In this guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of studying in the Midwest, and take a look at how a degree in psychology could prepare you for the workplace.

Pros of studying psychology in the Midwest

  • Excellent universities: As of 2019, there are two schools in the Midwest that have made it into the QS Top Universities league table. The University of Chicago comes in at number five, with a higher ranking than Princeton or Yale, while the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor takes the 20th slot of best schools overall in the world. Countless Nobel Prize winners have studied or worked in conjunction with schools in the Midwest, and some of the so-called public Ivy League schools are said to offer an ivy-level education for the cost of a public school. 
  • Community: While the west and east coasts are known for being bustling hubs of industry, the Midwest is famous for a more relaxed, community-focused way of life. The pressures people feel in big cities such as New York or Los Angeles are partly the result of living in such a high-pressure environment, where competition is high and career progress is often the top priority. In the Midwest, people are more focused on each other, so there’s a wonderful sense of community, particularly in smaller towns. 
  • Low crime rates: In comparison with many other areas in the United States, the Midwest has a low crime rate. Crime rates tend to be higher in more densely populated areas, and many of the parts of the central belt and upper east of the U.S. are more sparsely populated. Unlike some of the built-up cities across the nation that are famous for violent crime, you can feel relatively safe and at-ease when studying in the Midwest. 
  • Diverse student population: The US News & World Report places Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois among some of the states that attract the most international students. This can be great news for people who are thinking about coming to America from abroad to study, because it means additional pastoral support measures are likely in place. It can also be a bonus for domestic students who are interested in meeting a wide range of people from different backgrounds.  
  • Cost of living: Missouri and Michigan are ranked among the 10 most affordable states in the U.S., and the entire Midwest is known for being an affordable place to live. Lower rent, affordable utilities, and daily living expenses means you can save up while studying or enjoy a more lavish lifestyle than you’d be able to if you opted to study in a state like New York or California. 

Cons of studying psychology in the Midwest

  • Public transport: If you’re someone who’s used to getting around on foot or using public transport in a place like New York, the Midwest might be a bit of a culture shock. Locals in these states tend to get around by car, so there’s no need for complicated bus or train systems. As such, if you don’t own a car or drive, you might struggle to get around. 
  • Job prospects: While there is a need for psychologists in every city and state, the demand is much lower in places like Kansas or South Dakota. This is partly due to the calmer way of life, but also because some people in these areas might have more old-fashioned value systems, where therapy is seen as only necessary in extreme cases. Data from the Bureau for Labor Statistics shows that demand is lowest in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa. However, it’s important to bear in mind that lots of other psychologists will flock to areas like California and Texas, where there’s a high-demand for therapists. As such, places in the Midwest might not have as much competition when it comes to more prestigious roles.  
  • Weather: Weather in the Midwest can be unpredictable, to say the least. While coastal cities generally don’t experience more than rain, snow, and occasional strong winds — you can expect severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes in some local states. Floods are commonplace and when a big storm hits, you’ll need to hunker down at home and hope your property is structurally sound!

What to expect in a psychology program at a Midwest school

Studying psychology is the pursuit of understanding the human psyche in view of bringing about positive change, either for an individual, group of people with the same issue, or within an organization. As you progress through a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate degree, you’ll gain a deeper insight into the inner workings of the human mind, and how it relates to your chosen specialization. 

There are countless job roles you can take on armed with a psychology degree, with the most lucrative and rewarding careers reserved for those who complete a graduate program. That said, psychology students can still get a decent job with nothing more than a bachelor’s, a curious mind, and a strong work ethic. 

Psychology programs at Midwest schools

Most psychologists choose a specialization once they reach graduate school, with many people opting to study general psychology at undergraduate level. While there are some schools that offer more specific courses to bachelor’s degree students, it’s more likely you’ll hone in on your chosen field once you get to master’s or doctorate level.

Most colleges offer the same courses online for distance learning students as they do to those who attend college. So, whether you’re studying in-person in Ohio or completing your degree online in Iowa, these are some of the specializations you can expect to choose from: 

Educational psychology

Educational psychology relates to the practice of psychology in a school setting, in relation to children, parents, teachers, and the structure of the overall education process. A positive learning environment is essential for creating well-adjusted, successful students who are inspired to learn. In some cases, children don’t engage with school, and this is often a sign of an underlying issue.

In this type of course, you’ll learn about the education system and there’ll be a strong focus on developmental psychology. Analytics, problem solving, and communication are the key skills you’ll need. Coursework topic examples could include: Behavioral disorders in children, psychology of classroom discipline, and research and issues in school psychology.

Health psychology

Preventing illness and injury in humans is an incredibly complex topic, with cognitive, emotional, social, biological, and behavioral factors contributing towards health. Health psychology is the practice of promoting good health among the population, and making improvements to the health care system. In this course, you’ll learn how treatment interventions are developed, implemented, and evaluation.

The aim of the course is to teach you how to contribute to the improvement of the physical and mental health of communities, families, and individuals. Coursework subjects include: Clinical research methods, ethics and professional issues, physiological psychology, and health psychology.

Counseling psychology

Counseling is a general practice within the field of psychology, and you can usually specialize at graduate degree level — although bachelor’s programs are available in this field as well. This discipline involves working with people to help them understand themselves and their motivations, and how their mental health affects day-to-day life. You’ll be expected to understand how to assess clients and help them manage stress, specific mental health disorders, and trauma. 

Some of the topics you might study under this specialization include: Alcohol and other drug abuse, group counseling, multicultural counseling, career counseling, and counseling in community settings. 

Clinical psychology

Clinical psychology is one of the most popular courses as it’s usually seen as the best route to licensure. You’ll learn about how to assess, diagnose, research, and prevent disorders related to emotions and behavior. In this role, you can expect to work with people displaying the most severe symptoms of mental illness, and you should understand the full spectrum of mental health disorders. If you study at master’s level, you’ll be prepared for doctoral studies or a non-clinical career. 

It can take up to seven years to complete a degree in clinical psychology, but you’ll be well-prepared for a lucrative and rewarding career once you’ve completed your studies. Some typical coursework subjects include: Developmental psychology, biopsychology, advanced statistics, introduce to clinical practice, and psychological assessment. 

Organizational psychology

Also known as business psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, and I-O psychology — this discipline is one of the highest-paying and in-demand careers for graduate degree holders in psychology. You’ll assess and interpret dynamics within workplaces and find solutions that benefit the organization and the individual. You could enter this career with a bachelor’s degree, but you’ll reach higher heights if you opt to study at master’s or doctoral degree level.

Some of topics you might study in-depth on this type of degree program include: Advanced industrial psychology, collective bargaining and arbitration, employee selection, and motivation and job attitudes.

Child psychology

A career in child psychology is attractive to many individuals who are interested in studying psychology, and it’s arguably the most important time to catch mental health problems. This field relates to the assessment and treatment of infants, toddlers, children, and young adults.

You’ll learn about the specific needs that children have as they move through age-related milestones and gain an in-depth understanding of the external factors that factor into the mental and emotional health of kids. Some of the subjects you might study include: Adolescent and young adult development, psychopathology in children, psychology and the legal system, and psychotherapy with families.

Midwest psychologist career paths

It might take as long as 10 years to get fully qualified as a clinical psychologist, but the rewards at the end of your studies render it all worthwhile. Not only are you contributing to making society a better place for everyone, you’re also set to earn good money and enjoy healthy long-term job prospects. Read on to find out more about some of the career paths you can go down once you qualify as a psychologist.

Clinical psychologist

If you choose to earn a Psy.D. or Ph.D., and go through the full process of getting licensed as a clinical psychologist, you can expect to earn up to $85,000 in the Midwest. Your role in this job is to help improve the psychological wellbeing of the clients under your care, and make positive changes in the broad field of mental health.

You’ll work with people from all sorts of different backgrounds, age groups, and issues, treating illnesses such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and personality disorders.

Substance abuse counselor

Addiction treatment is one of the fastest growing fields of health care in the U.S. at the moment. Some people think this is due to a spike in mental health problems, although many agree that it’s the result of destigmatizing.

While substance use disorders were once seen as a moral issue, science has proved that it’s the result of a complex mix of social, emotional, and genetic factors. As such, the number of people seeking treatment is rising, and so is the demand for this type of counselor. Pay for this role usually ranges from between $20,000 to $40,000 per year and while some states require licensure, you might be able to get into a career in substance abuse counseling with a master’s degree alone.

School counselor

Working in the field of educational psychology, you have a unique opportunity to help ensure future generations get the best possible start in life. Looking after the mental health of children is incredibly rewarding and lets you earn a good living. As a school counselor, you help teachers understand their students and work better with troubled kids, as well as directly treating children who are having problems at school or home.

Salaries for this role start at around $40,000 per year, and can go up to $60,000 per year and higher.

Sports psychologist

The main of sports psychologists is to help athletes find the perfect balance between pushing themselves physically and mentally without burning out or facing long-term health consequences.

In many instances, you’ll work closely with sports teams to help maximize performance without negatively impacting on the participants. In addition to offering counseling services, you’ll consult with coaches to develop team building and rehabilitation programs. Salaries range from $30,000, up to $70,000 annually.

Human resources personnel

Working in human resources is an excellent choice for individuals who obtain a bachelor’s degree level qualification in psychology, but don’t wish to attend graduate school. As a HR professional, you’ll assist the HR manager in gathering information and implementing strategies and policies throughout an organization.

In this role, your primary goal is to attract and recruit the best applicants for job roles, as well as install and maintain procedures and processes that maximize high performance and retain top talent. This is an entry-level career for bachelor’s degree holders in psychology, and you can expect to earn between $10,000 and $30,000 per year.

Marriage and family therapist

To become a marriage and family therapist, you’ll need to obtain at least a master’s level education and apply for licensure from the board of the state in the Midwest where you decide to work. It’s a highly rewarding job, where your primary function is to help families, couples, and spouses improve interpersonal relationships.

It’s a high-paying job, with an annual salary ranging from around $40,000 to $100,000. In some cases, you’ll work in hospitals or alongside social workers, but family therapists often have their own private practice. 

How to open a private therapist’s office in the Midwest

If you’ve already got your career path determined in your mind, and you can see a private practice in your future, you’ll need to work extra hard. According to the APA, almost half of the practicing psychologists in the U.S. run their own treatment center, and it’s a great way to help a lot of people and make a lot of money. Bear in mind that it’s also a huge responsibility, and you’ll need to invest huge amounts of money, time, and hard work to make it work. 

To start your private practice, follow these steps:

  1. Get a bachelor’s degree, and then specialize in your chosen field at graduate level. 
  2. Most states require you to apply for a license and pass several exams before you can practice as a psychologist. You’ll need to get your license before opening your practice, and many psychologists gain at least a decade of professional experience before embarking on opening their own practice.
  3. When you’re ready to open your practice, you’ll need to apply for a business license. You’ll need your license and a National Provider Identifier — and always carefully check state requirements to avoid legal issues.
  4. Many people who own their own practice opt to study a course in business management, as their responsibilities go far beyond the remit of a psychologist. You’ll need to understand HR, payroll, marketing, maintenance, and accounting, to name just a few essential skills.
  5. Next, you’ll need to focus on insurance, HIPAA compliance, and complex financial matters to ensure your business runs smoothly.
  6. Accessibility is essential, so make sure your practice is free from barriers that might prevent people with disabilities getting access to care.
  7. Use the power of social media and digital marketing to ensure a strong presence online.
  8. Start booking clients! 

Financial aid for psychology schools in the Midwest 

Every person who attends college is eligible to apply for financial aid, provided they meet certain criteria. In addition to assistance from the state, there are often specific scholarships and grants offered by schools. 

Who’s eligible for financial aid?

There are a number of stipulations if you’re looking to send in your Free Application for Federal Student Aid in the Midwest, including:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • If you’re a male aged between 18 and 25, you must be registered for selective service
  • You’ll need to have a high school diploma or GED 
  • Applicants must be working towards a certificate or degree
  • You must not have any existing federal loans in default status 
  • You academic process must be satisfactory
  • People who have been convicted of a forcible or non-forcible sexual offense might have limited eligibility for aid
  • You must not be convicted of any offense related to the possession or sale of drugs 

How to apply for financial aid in the Midwest

To apply for financial aid, you’ll need to start planning in advance. You can do this by speaking to your college’s financial aid office or your high school’s careers counselors and making sure you have all the necessary information. Another important thing to do is start saving up money for yourself to ensure you’re comfortable and able to afford tuition, books, equipment, accommodation, and the occasional day or night out.

Next, you’ll fill out the FAFSA form, and send it to the colleges of your choice. They’ll use data from this form to determine how much federal financial aid you’re eligible for, and they often use it to work out how much of their own aid to give out to students. Once you get offers back, you can compare costs and offers of aid, and select the best one based on your unique needs. 

When you start school, its financial aid office will apply the funds to the amount you owe, and send the rest for you to spend on costs other than tuition. Don’t forget that satisfactory performance is a requirement for your eligibility for continued support, so work hard, and you’ll get financially rewarded.

Best psychology programs at Midwest schools

University of Chicago

Number one on the list of the best psychology programs in the Midwest has to go to the University of Chicago. This school is ranked in the Times’ top five colleges for higher education and the top ten of the QS Top Universities, where it ranks higher than a number of Ivy League universities. Tuition is upwards of $80,000 per year and the acceptance rate is just 6% — however, the graduation rate is an impressive 94%.

Bachelor’s degree course options are general psychology and counseling psychology. Master’s programs are general psychology, experimental psychology, and counseling psychology. At the doctorate level, you can study the same courses as masters.  

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis is another prestigious school with a high price tag and an exceptional graduation rate of 94%. The acceptance rate is 14% and students have the option to study general psychology and industrial and organizational psychology at bachelor’s degree level, which means you have the opportunity to specialize early. Master’s and doctoral degrees in general psychology are also offered.   

Northwestern University

Northwestern University in Illinois costs more than $75,000 per year before aid and has a wide variety of psychology specializations to choose from, even at bachelor’s level.

Undergraduates can choose from other psychology, general psychology, community psychology, and cognitive psychology, and neurolinguistics. Master’s and doctorates can study clinical psychology, counseling psychology, and clinical psychology, and master’s degrees are also offered in genetic counseling and marriage and family therapy and counseling. The acceptance rate is 9% and the graduation rate is 94%.

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Studying at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor costs significantly less than some of the other schools with a great reputation in the Midwest, coming in at just over $30,000 per year. The acceptance rate is 23% and the graduation rate is a healthy 91% — making this school one of the best value for money on this list.

It also has some diverse course options, including cognitive science, experimental psychology, general psychology, other psychology, and Physiological Psychology and Psychobiology at bachelor’s level. You can take experimental psychology and general psychology at the master’s and doctoral level, with additional options for other psychology and other research and experimental psychology at the doctoral.

Case Western Reserve University

Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, costs just under $70,000 per year before aid and has a great reputation for psychology. You get a bachelor’s degree in cognitive studies and general psychology, a master’s degree in cognitive science, general psychology, and genetic counseling, or a doctorate in general psychology.

The acceptance rate is 27% and the graduation rate is 82%, making it one of the easiest high-profile schools in the Midwest to get into — but still with an excellent rate of graduation.

There are a number of excellent reasons to choose the Midwest as a place to study psychology, including an excellent selection of colleges, low cost of living, laid back lifestyle, and less competition. Whether you choose to work for a company or set up your own practice, you can start off a lucrative, highly-rewarding career in the mental health industry in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, North Dakota, Michigan, Nebraska, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

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