The Post-Baccalaureate Program in Psychology & Social Behavior

Our Post-Baccalaureate Program in Psychology and Social Behavior combines psychology coursework with research and/or internship experience. It is designed for people who are interested in a psychology-related graduate program, career development, or a career change, and who could benefit from additional upper-division coursework, research and/or real-life work experience in psychology. Those interested in a Ph.D. or Master’s degree program in a range of areas of psychology (including clinical/counseling psychology, social/personality psychology, developmental psychology, health psychology, psychology & the law, and school psychology) will benefit from the preparation received during our program. The program offers an individualized course of study based on each person’s qualifications and goals.

Benefits of the Program

People seek out our Post-Baccalaureate Program in Psychology and Social Behavior from a variety of backgrounds.  Some of our students have a bachelor's degree in a field other than psychology, whereas other students have a bachelor's degree in psychology.  Regardless of their background, students come to our program for one of two reasons:

1) To acquire knowledge and skills that will help them change careers or advance in their current career. 

2) To prepare for a psychology-related graduate degree (e.g., Ph.D., M.A., Psy.D., M.S.W., M.F.T.) or other relevant graduate degree (e.g., M.D., MPH)

Although completion of our program does not guarantee acceptance into the graduate program or job of your choice, it provides you with the opportunity to acquire a foundation of knowledge, research experience or internship experience, letters of recommendation, and personalized advising needed to make your graduate school or job application more competitive.  Each participant brings a unique background and set of goals to our program.  A faculty advisor will assist you in developing an individualized program of study, including selecting the courses and hands-on experiences needed to help you reach your goals.

Students accepted into the program gain the same departmental privileges extended to all of the students in our department, including the opportunity to interact with our community of faculty, researchers, and graduate students.  You will also be welcome to attend our weekly departmental colloquia and other special events for students.  You will be invited to quarterly "career workshops" (organized specifically for our post-bacc students) in which you will be able to listen to and ask questions of professionals in the community and/or graduate students at local universities; for example, in Fall 2014, we had a panel of professors and researchers who earned their Ph.D. in Social/Personality Psychology, and in Winter 2015, we had a panel of practicing therapists who had their Ph.D. in Clinical or Counseling Psychology.  In addition, you would be given access to the computer lab in our department (which is typically reserved only for graduate and honors students), and you will be given a free $15 print credit per quarter (allowing you to print up to 150 pages per quarter in this computer lab).  Career counseling is also available; UC alum (students who earned their bachelor's degree at any UC) will be enrolled in the UCI Career Center One-Pass program (, and non-UC-alum (students who earned their bachelor's degree somewhere other than a UC) will have access to meetings with a career counselor at the UCI Extension Office.  Finally, our post-bacc students are eligible to apply for conference travel awards (up to $400 reimbursement for travel to a professional conference without giving a presentation, and up to $800 reimbursement for travel to a professional conference at which you give a presentation) and to apply for a GRE (or MCAT) preparation course (up to $1,000 course fee reimbursement).

Student Satisfaction

In June 2016, all 30 students who had participated in the post-bacc program in the 2015-2016 academic year were sent a satisfaction survey; 24 students (80%) completed this survey.  Students were asked to indicate, on a scale of 1 to 7 (where 1 = extremely dissatisfied and 7 = extremely satisfied) how satisfied they were with various components of the post-bacc program (e.g., advising, courses, research experience, etc.) and to provide comments about each component.  Students who completed this survey indicated that they were, on average, very satisfied with all aspects of the program, with an overall average rating of 6.19 out of 7 (range: 5.83 to 6.71).  Students especially praised the personalized advising they received from Dr. Joanne Zinger, the program advisor, giving this aspect of the program a satisfaction rating of 6.71 out of 7 and writing comments such as, "Dr. Zinger has been amazing throughout this entire program! She has been a constant beacon of light for everyone in the post-bacc program and beyond in advising and assisting students in every way imaginable.” In addition, students reported very high levels of satisfaction with their overall experience in the program, giving an “overall experience” rating of 6.63 out of 7 and writing comments such as, “Overall, I've really liked my experiences in this program! It's equipped me with the knowledge, experience, and mentorship that I need to confidently apply to Ph.D programs in Clinical Psychology. I see this program as a great investment for those who are serious about pursuing graduate school in psychology and for those who need a second chance (like me) at becoming a more competitive applicant for graduate school.”  Finally, satisfaction was very high with respect to the preparation that this program has given students to achieve their goals, with a “preparation” satisfaction rating of 6.54 out of 7 and comments such as, “I started out in this program with a goal that seemed nearly impossible to achieve. I wanted to be able to gain admission into competitive PhD programs in psychology, even though I had a very low undergraduate GPA and a Bachelor's degree in an entirely unrelated field. The Post-Bacc Program, by providing me opportunities to immerse myself in research and seek guidance from leaders in the field and caring, supportive faculty and students, has helped me realize my goal. Beyond this, I feel the program has prepared me to contribute and succeed in graduate school by helping me build the foundational skills and academic contacts I will continue to draw on throughout my career.”

Student Outcomes

Graduate School.  As of April 2017, 31 of our post-bacc students/alum have have applied to graduate programs.  Twenty-seven of those students (87%) have been accepted to graduate school, and four students (13%) were not accepted this time around.  All four students who were not accepted this time around plan to re-apply in the future, after they have re-taken their GREs and/or obtained additional research and/or clinical experience. So far, our post-bacc students received offers from Clinical Psychology Ph.D. programs (including UC Berkeley, Simon Fraser University, and University of Nebraska - Lincoln), Counseling Psychology Ph.D. programs (including the University of Missouri, SUNY - Buffalo, and University of Kansas), Social Psychology Ph.D. programs (including Cornell, UC Santa Barbara, University of Minnesota, and Arizona State), Developmental Psychology Ph.D. programs (including UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, and North Carolina State), Cognitive Psychology Ph.D. programs (including UT Austin, SUNY - Hunter, and University of New Mexico), and Clinical Psychology Psy.D. programs (including Yeshiva University, University of Indianapolis, Cal Lutheran University, and Alliant University).  In addition, our students have received offers from master's degree programs in Counseling Psychology (including NYU, San Francisco State, University of Kansas, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo), Social Work (including UCLA and Boston College), School Psychology (including Chapman University and Cal State Long Beach), Research-Oriented Psychology (including Cal State Fullerton, Cal State San Marcos, and Cal State Northridge), International Educational Development (at Columbia University), and a dual degree in Social Work and Public Health (at San Diego State).

Employment.  As of April 2017, of the 38 students who have completed or who have otherwise (temporarily or permanently) left the program, 18 former students (47%) are working full-time, paid positions while preparing to apply to or deciding whether to apply tograduate programs (or while waiting for their graduate program to start); among these position include: Lab Manager at USC; Clinical Researcher at Fountain Valley Medical Hospital; Assistant Recruitment Coordinator at the NRC Research  Institute; Marriage & Family Therapist (private practice); Youth Specialist at the CSP Youth Shelter; Community Advocate at REACH (Resource for Education, Advocacy, Communication, and Housing); Mental Health Technicial & Personal Trainer at a recover center; Client Implementation Specialist at a software development company; and Lead Teacher at a private learning center.  In addition, 10 former students (26%) are currently working part-time, paid positions; among these positions include post-bacc alum research assistant at UC Irvine ABA Behavioral Interventionist at ACES and CARD, and Youth Specialist at the Korean-American Counseling Center.  Two former students (5%) are volunteering as a research assistant (e.g., in the lab they worked in as a post-bacc student), one former student (3%) is travelling around Europe, and one former student (3%) is a stay-at-home mom.  Finally, six former students (16%) have already started their graduate program.

Educational Value of the Program

Post-baccalaureate programs are a relatively recent development in psychology, but such programs have been available for decades in other disciplines (e.g., medicine/biology). For example, there are currently over 125 medical post-baccalaureate programs across the United States (Association of American Medical Colleges, 2013), including programs at UC Berkeley and UC Irvine. Recently, the demand for post-baccalaureate programs in psychology has increased, and a number of programs have been created at both public and private institutions across the U.S. The Post-Baccalaureate Program in Psychology and Social Behavior at UC Irvine is designed to fulfill the needs of individuals with a range of educational and career goals and will include courses and training tailored to each student. Our program is designed to help students become stronger applicants for competitive programs in psychology and related fields and benefit individuals seeking career change or advancement. The program may also serve the needs of students seeking additional preparation for graduate programs and careers in medicine.

Strengthening Graduate School Applications. The demand for masters-level and doctoral-level psychology professionals is expected to grow 22% from 2010 to 2020 in the United States, which is faster than the anticipated growth for the average occupation (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014). Competition for psychology-related graduate programs is high, and many college graduates who apply are not accepted. For example, only 14% of applicants applying to social/personality psychology graduate programs and only 21% of applicants applying to clinical psychology graduate programs were admitted in the 2011-2012 academic year (American Psychological Association, 2013). In a nationwide survey of psychology graduate programs, admissions directors indicated that having taken psychology courses, having research experience, having psychology-oriented work or internship experience, and having strong letters of recommendation were all important factors in admissions decisions (American Psychological Association, 2013). Students in the Post-Baccalaureate Program in Psychology and Social Behavior will have the opportunity to strengthen their graduate school applications by taking lower and upper-division psychology courses, working with faculty and graduate students in research laboratories, and/or gaining psychology-oriented internship experience through the Social Ecology Field Study program. By getting to know faculty through participation in courses, research labs, field study, and department activities (such as departmental colloquia and faculty-student "meet and greet" events), students in this program will also have the opportunity to develop the relationships with faculty that are necessary for strong letters of recommendation. Our post-baccalaureate students will meet regularly with a faculty advisor who will work with each student individually to develop a program of courses, internship, and/or lab experiences designed to meet his or her goals. Thus, our program will help students become stronger applicants for competitive programs in psychology and related fields.

Career Change or Advancement. The Post-Baccalaureate Program in Psychology & Social Behavior  is also designed to benefit individuals who are seeking a career change or advancement in a career that values psychology-related knowledge and skills (especially those whose undergraduate degree is not in psychology).  For example, the professions of social/human service assistant, mental health counselor, and child care worker are expected to grow 20-36% from 2010 to 2020 (faster than the average for all occupations; Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014), and these positions require a background in psychology. The pre-clinical and developmental psychology areas in our department offer a number of courses that would be relevant to careers in these professions, including Child Development; Child in the Family, School, and Community; Child Clinical Psychology; and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In addition, Field Study internships are available in both mental health settings (e.g., Healthy Relationships California) and childcare settings (e.g., Boys and Girls Club). Furthermore, a number of careers require the ability to conduct statistical analyses, design research projects, and conduct program evaluation (e.g., evaluation manager, research assistant, market research analyst). The research methods and statistics courses in our department - both lower division (e.g., Research Design, Statistics) and upper-division (e.g., Advanced Research Methods, Applied Statistics for Psychology) - as well as experience working directly with faculty and graduate students in a research lab - would provide students with the skills and training needed to enter or advance in research-related positions.  Finally, our department is home to several expert faculty in the field of Psychology and Law. We offer several courses (e.g., Forensic Psychology, Juvenile Delinquency), research labs (e.g., the Development, Delinquency, and Disorder lab and the Eyewitness Memory lab), and field study internships (e.g., OC Associate Defender Homicide Unit and LA County Sherriff's Department Gang Diversion Team) that would be of interest to individuals wishing to enter or advance in careers related to the intersection of psychology and law, such as probation officer or addiction specialist/substance abuse counselor.

Psychology training for students applying to medical school. In 2015, the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) will be revised to include a section that focuses on "psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior" (Hong, 2012). This section will make up one-fourth of a student's total MCAT score, whereas previously, this score was derived solely from sections related to biological sciences, physical sciences, and verbal comprehension. The new emphasis on psychological concepts will likely cause some students who are interested in medical school to seek out additional training in psychology after completing their bachelor's degree in biology or a related field. Students who were unable to take psychology courses as an undergraduate (e.g., because of the demanding course schedule of the biology major) and/or students who did poorly on the psychology section of the MCAT on their first attempt may be able to improve their score on the psychology portion of the MCAT by taking lower-division and upper-division psychology courses as part of our Post-Baccalaureate Program in Psychology and Social Behavior. Similarly, given the acknowledgement by the Institute of Medicine (2004) that psychology is an important component to a complete medical education and a career in the medical field, some students with a bachelor's degree in biology or related fields may simply wish to gain a deeper understanding of the field of psychology prior to entering medical school in order to better prepare for a career as a physician, especially if the student is considering a specialization in psychiatry. Two specialty areas in our department should particularly appeal to people preparing for medical school - our health psychology area (which offers such courses as Behavioral Medicine and Introduction to Biopsychology) and our pre-clinical area (which offer such courses as Clinical Neuroscience and Developmental Psychopathology).