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Veterans: Consider using your GI Bill for a psychology degree

January 30, 2017 (Photo Credit: Staff)
The expansion of the Post-9/11 GI Bill has made it possible for tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to enter the classroom and build new careers. To meet this burgeoning need, universities, colleges and technical schools are creating new educational opportunities for specially geared toward veterans in the fields of science, technology, education and business — and the same is true for psychology.

Although psychology has always been a career option for veterans, universities now recognize the importance of offering specialties in military or veteran psychology as part of master's and doctoral programs.

The most recent venture into this arena is at the University of Denver. Psychologist and Iraq veteran Dr. Jacob Hyde oversees the Sturm Specialty in Military Psychology along with clinical psychologist Dr. Katy Barrs. 

The Sturm program combines military- and veteran-focused clinical and classroom training for graduate students in psychology. In addition to training future psychologists in military culture, evidence-based treatments for PTSD, and the impact of operational environments on psychological functioning, an off-campus clinic provides trainees the opportunity to gain real world clinical experience working with service members, veterans and dependents. 

Other programs are out there as well. 

Adler University in Chicago has a master’s degree dedicated entirely to military psychology. The program consists of 10 courses and is offered entirely online. Faculty are primarily made up of former active-duty military psychologists. Adler also has a military psychology track within its doctoral program in clinical psychology. 

William James College in Massachusetts offers an emphasis in military and veteran psychology within its psychology department. Students studying clinical, counseling, organizational or school psychology are eligible to take courses that focus on military families, trauma and addiction. 

Although they may not offer formal specialty tracks within their programs, at least a dozen other universities and colleges offer courses in military psychology or opportunities to gain important clinical experience working with veterans.

These programs are not open just to veterans. However, I hope veterans consider applying to these programs. I’m a strong believer that the men and women who have worn the uniform are well suited for careers in psychology. In general, veterans think analytically, excel in identifying and solving problems, and possess the desire to help those who are most vulnerable. These are all key skills and attributes that effective psychologists need to possess. 

I’m grateful that our universities and colleges have recognized the importance of teaching future psychologists how to effectively work with and care for our nation’s veterans. These programs will pay dividends for veterans, educational institutions and society for generations to come.

Bret A. Moore, Psy.D., is a board-certified clinical psychologist who served two tours in Iraq. Email him at kevlarforthemind@militarytimes.com. This column is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey specific psychological or medical guidance.
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