Best Psychology colleges in the U.S. 2022

Written by Terri Oppenheimer
Expert review by Juli Fraga
Updated by Beth Hering

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, psychology ranked as the sixth most popular undergraduate degree in the United States, with colleges and universities conferring 116,500 degrees during the 2018-2019 academic year – or 6% of the total number of degrees awarded. As mental health conditions continue to rise throughout the country, the need for educated professionals will also continue to grow.

While individuals aspiring to work as psychologists must earn a doctorate and state licensure, many jobs exist for those with bachelor's or master's degrees in psychology. Psychology also represents an expansive field, providing the opportunity for students to focus on general psychology as well as concentrations in areas such as clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, counseling psychology, developmental psychology, educational psychology, forensic psychology, health psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, school psychology, and social psychology, to name a few.

Whether a first-time student or someone considering graduate school, this page provides valuable information on next steps. Keep reading to learn about psychology careers available at every academic level, as well as what to expect from bachelor's, master's, and doctoral psychology programs.

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Best Psychology colleges in the U.S. for 2022

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Northwestern University offers 3 Psychology, General degree programs. It's a very large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a small city. In 2020, 163 Psychology, General students graduated with students earning 139 Bachelor's degrees, 12 Master's degrees, and 12 Doctoral degrees.

Boston College
Chestnut Hill, MA

Boston College offers 2 Psychology, General degree programs. It's a large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a small city. In 2020, 110 Psychology, General students graduated with students earning 109 Bachelor's degrees, and 1 Master's degree.

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Columbia University in the City of New York offers 5 Psychology, General degree programs. It's a very large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large city. In 2020, 7 Psychology, General students graduated with students earning 7 Certificates.

Duke University
Durham, NC

Duke University offers 3 Psychology, General degree programs. It's a large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large city. In 2020, 29 Psychology, General students graduated with students earning 16 Master's degrees, 11 Doctoral degrees, and 2 Bachelor's degrees.

University of Rochester
Rochester, NY

University of Rochester offers 2 Psychology, General degree programs. It's a large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a midsize city. In 2020, 138 Psychology, General students graduated with students earning 133 Bachelor's degrees, and 5 Master's degrees.

Cornell University
Ithaca, NY

Cornell University offers 3 Psychology, General degree programs. It's a very large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a small city. In 2020, 78 Psychology, General students graduated with students earning 78 Bachelor's degrees.

Emory University
Atlanta, GA

Emory University offers 3 Psychology, General degree programs. It's a large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large city. In 2020, 155 Psychology, General students graduated with students earning 132 Bachelor's degrees, 15 Doctoral degrees, and 8 Master's degrees.

University of Virginia-Main Campus offers 3 Psychology, General degree programs. It's a very large, public, four-year university in a small suburb. In 2020, 256 Psychology, General students graduated with students earning 224 Bachelor's degrees, 17 Master's degrees, and 15 Doctoral degrees.

Georgetown University
Washington, DC

Georgetown University offers 3 Psychology, General degree programs. It's a large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large city. In 2020, 99 Psychology, General students graduated with students earning 98 Bachelor's degrees, and 1 Doctoral degree.

University of California-Davis offers 3 Psychology, General degree programs. It's a very large, public, four-year university in a small suburb. In 2020, 23 Psychology, General students graduated with students earning 14 Doctoral degrees, and 9 Master's degrees.

Psychology Degree Overview

Choosing Between a Master’s Degree in Psychology vs. a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology Program

The choice between pursuing a Master’s Degree in Psychology vs. a PhD in Psychology boils down to individual interests and career aspirations. Many students find a MS in Psychology sufficient for the types of jobs they want. Others discover a doctorate necessary for the occupations to which they aspire.

What Is a MS in Psychology?

An MS in Psychology is a graduate degree that prepares recipients for a variety of careers. It also can serve as a building block to entering doctoral studies, and an MS program typically takes about two years to complete. Online MS in Psychology programs sometimes offers accelerated options in which ambitious students can finish in around 18 months.

While coursework varies by institution and personal interests, students in psychology master’s programs often take these classes:

  • Ethics
  • Lifespan development
  • Diversity
  • Statistics
  • Research methodology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Personality
  • Foundations of therapy
  • Family systems theory
  • Abnormal psychology

Some students focus on general psychology. Others gear their master’s program to a specific area. Some niche choices include:

Who Should Get a MS in Psychology?

Students who want to expand their knowledge of psychology beyond the undergraduate level often seek a master’s degree. Some students pursue an MS to become more attractive candidates to schools when they apply to doctoral programs. 

Others enter the workforce after receiving their MS in psychology. They find careers in the following fields:

  • Education
  • Business
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Human resources
  • Advocacy
  • Criminal justice
  • Social services
  • Mental health

What Is a PhD In Psychology?

A PhD in psychology is the highest-level degree within the discipline. Earning it signifies academic excellence and dedication to the field. In addition to mastering psychological theories and concepts, PhD candidates learn how to advance scientific knowledge through their own original research.

Who Should Get a PhD In Psychology?

Obtaining a PhD in psychology is a rigorous process. It involves classwork, passing an oral exam demonstrating competency, and completing a dissertation. Practicums, internships, and teaching experiences may also be part of the program.

Students thinking about entering such a program should possess a strong background in psychology, such as a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree. They also should look closely at their career goals and decide whether a PhD puts them on the right path.

PsyD Vs PhD at a Glance

Individuals wishing to earn a doctorate have another option besides a PhD in Psychology. They may pursue a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology). Selecting which to earn depends on the student’s educational and career interests.

In general, PsyD programs:

  • Focus heavily on applied psychology
  • Take 4-7 years to complete
  • Attract students interested in working as therapists inc community mental health, hospital, and private practice settings

By comparison, PhD programs in psychology:

  • Focus extensively on generating new knowledge through scientific research
  • Take 4-7 years to complete
  • Attract students interested in remaining in academia as professors and researchers, though many do seek licensure and become practicing psychologists

Certificate in Psychology

Master’s in Psychology Certification and Licensure

Many careers in psychology also require a license or certification to practice or obtain a job. It is important to research requirements for your desired career path, and choose a school, program, and speciality that prepare you to meet your career goals. 

The specific license or certification required varies by state. Make sure to check your desired field’s requirements before you commit to a school or program.  

PsyD Certification and Licensure

Psychologists need a license in order to practice. Exact licensing laws vary by state and type of position, so individuals need to look at the requirements for the location where they wish to work.

Earning a PsyD typically satisfies educational requirements. Licensure also generally requires an internship, either 1-2 years of supervised professional experience or a one-year post-doctoral fellowship, and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

Therapists also need a license. Students should seek specifics from their prospective occupation’s state regulatory board.

Psychology-related occupations often require state licensure. Knowing the specifics for the state in which one hopes to find employment can guide educational and career choices and prevent unwelcome surprises down the line.

Psychologists, for example, typically need to complete the following:

  • A PsyD or a PhD in Psychology
  • An internship
  • A post-doc or 1-year supervised professional experience after the internship
  • A passing score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology 
  • Completion of a dissertation or case study

States usually require all licensed therapists to complete the following:

  • A master’s degree
  • A range of 2,000-4,000 hours of post-degree supervised clinical experience
  • A successful exam score

 

Bachelor's Degree in Psychology

Time to complete: Most programs require students to complete four years of full-time study or six years of part-time study. Some schools also provide accelerated bachelor's degrees in psychology that students can finish in as few as three years.

Required credits: The majority of programs consist of at least 120 credits, though some with specializations may tack on several additional credits.

Sample courses: Introduction to statistical methods and data analysis, foundations of psychology, history and theories of psychology, multicultural issues in psychology, biological bases of behavior, cognitive processes and principles of learning, abnormal psychology, and psychology of gender.

Online availability: Many schools now provide fully online bachelor's in psychology degrees to make learning more accessible to students juggling personal and professional responsibilities outside their education. That said, some programs may require learners to participate in a semester-long internship as part of graduation requirements. Most schools will work with learners to find a suitable internship site near their place of residence.

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A bachelor’s in psychology may be offered as a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS), with larger universities offering both options. Both provide a foundational understanding of psychological theory, cognitive process, mental health conditions and human behaviors, but each has its differences.

A BA in Psychology includes liberal arts programming such as sociology or political science while a BS in Psychology provides more exposure to statistics, mathematics, and clinical research. Both degrees take approximately four years to complete.

What Can I Do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology?

A bachelor’s degree in psychology prepares graduates for a career as a psychologist or in a related field such as 

  • Criminal justice
  • Organizational behavior
  • Career counseling
  • Social work

Because the degree focuses on human behavior, it also provides the understanding needed for careers in any field involving working with people, from advertising and marketing to teaching, human resources, management, or sales.

Bachelor of Psychology Salaries and Career Outlook

A bachelor’s degree in psychology can prepare you for a career as a psychologist or can lead to a job in other related fields. Becoming a psychologist requires additional years of schooling, with a master’s degree required to work in school or industrial settings and a doctoral degree needed to work as a clinical psychologist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects steady job growth of 8% and median annual compensation of $82,180. 

For those who choose a bachelor’s in psychology as a foundation for other career paths, career outlooks are also promising. For example, after earning a master’s degree, you can become a marriage and family therapist. Marriage and family therapists earn a median salary of $51,340 and are projected to see a 16% growth in job outlook.

Similarly, training and development specialists are projected to experience 11% job growth and earn a median salary of $62,700.  

Though projected job growth numbers like those provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are only projections and do not guarantee job growth, many people rely upon the trends that they report on to guide their career decisions.

Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology Career Paths

A bachelor’s degree in psychology provides an invaluable understanding of human behavior and motivations. The degree serves as an excellent educational foundation for almost any career that involves direct contact with a wide range of people and personalities. 

Here are some common careers held by people with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Career Salary Projected Job Growth (2020-2030) About the Position
Human Resources Manager $121,220 9% Almost every industry and organization has a human resources manager. They are responsible for overseeing hiring, training, retention, and firing of employees, as well as ensuring compliance with all regulations and directing employee-related administrative functions such as payroll and benefits. 
Market Research Analyst $65,810 22% Market research analysts review surveys, administer focus groups and study other data-gathering tools to report consumer trends and provide a better understanding of demographics, motivations, and buying habits.
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers $141,490 10% Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers work to create excitement and interest in a product or service. Their duties include collaboration with other departments, creation, and launch of campaigns, and administration.
Survey Researchers $59,870 4% Survey researchers create, conduct, and analyze surveys meant to provide a greater understanding of opinions, beliefs, and behaviors.
Source: BLS

Earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology at an accredited university takes approximately four years. Depending upon the school that you attend and its curriculum, you can expect to take both required general education courses and courses that provide a strong foundation in:

  • The principles of psychology and human behavior
  • scientific inquiry, research, and critical thinking
  • Ethical and social responsibility
  • Professional development
  • Communication

Pros and Cons of a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology 

Selecting a course of study is both exciting and challenging as you want to choose a major that inspires and engages while at the same time offering a clear path for a successful future. 

You can choose from two different types of bachelor degrees in psychology:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (BA) – Liberal arts focus
  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology (BS) – Science focus

Whether you choose a degree that leans more heavily on liberal arts or on the sciences,  majoring in psychology has both advantages and disadvantages. 

Advantages:

The study of psychology guarantees an endless stream of interesting information that can be applied to all types of human interactions and engagement. Students can choose to concentrate in areas as diverse as 

  • Developmental Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • Environmental Psychology

No matter what field you choose for a career, you’ll have a greater understanding of what motivates people and drives their behavior. The required curriculum also familiarizes you with scientific inquiry, research methodology, and statistics. These are skills that are highly valued.

Disadvantages:

If your goal is to work as a psychologist, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology will not get you there, but it’s a start. To become a clinical psychologist, you’ll need to continue your education and earn both a master’s and doctoral degree. However, your bachelor’s in psychology is the foundational building block on which those advanced degrees are built.

Courses in Bachelor’s in Psychology Programs

Psychology is one of the most popular bachelor’s degrees available, and nearly every accredited college and university has a psychology program available. Though each academic institution has its own focus and curriculum, there are certain core courses that you can expect to take no matter which school you attend. These include:

  • Learning, Memory, and/or Cognition;
  • Sensation, Perception, and/or Biological Bases of Behavior
  • Human Development
  • Clinical, Abnormal, and/or Personality
  • Social Influences on Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
  • Research Measurement, Design, and Methodology

Skills Learned in a Bachelor’s in Psychology Program

Students who choose to major in psychology expect to gain a deeper understanding of human behavior. Students will explore the history of psychology and its major schools of thought, and gain familiarity with research, data collection, and interpretation. 

What you may not anticipate is that your pursuit of this knowledge also teaches essential skills that help you in your personal and professional lives and may even qualify you for higher levels of compensation. These include:

  • Communication skills – In order to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, students demonstrate strong written and oral communication skills, including the ability to summarize research in a clear and concise way.
  • Critical thinking – Psychology requires students to rely on evidence to interpret what they are seeing rather than intuition or anecdotal information. They learn to use tools including statistics, program evaluation, and research design.
  • Problem solving – Students learn a variety of strategies and approaches to problem solving, including establishing practical steps needed to both identify a question and find an answer.
  • Collaboration – While working on research projects, students learn to work effectively in a team by cooperating, sharing responsibilities, and listening and responding appropriately to the ideas of others. They also learn valuable management skills as they work with individuals or with teams, coordinating projects and prioritizing individual and team tasks. 
  • Comfort with technology – Students learn to use various operating systems and programs, including coding protocols and software applications for performing statistical analysis.

Bachelor of Arts vs Bachelor of Science in Psychology

Students seeking a bachelor’s degree in psychology can choose either a BA or BS. Though both provide the same core education, each has a slightly different focus. Some colleges provide students with a choice between the two, while other schools only offer one or the other. 

For those hoping to use their degree in psychology as a launching pad for a non-psychology career, a BA in psychology is probably the best bet. As part of a liberal arts program, the bachelor of arts provides students with an overview of social, clinical, cognitive, and developmental psychology as well as the opportunity to take general electives in the humanities and social sciences.

For those hoping to work as clinical psychologists, therapists or elsewhere in the field of mental health, a bachelor of science provides the same general coursework with a greater emphasis on research and scientific inquiry. Rather than taking courses in the humanities, students design and conduct experiments, participate in laboratories, learn statistics and strengthen their mathematics skills. 

How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s in Psychology?

Generally speaking, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology takes four years to complete, though timelines vary based on whether the coursework is pursued on a part-time or full-time basis, whether you take classes in person or online, whether you select an accelerated program, and whether you have transferable credits.

Bachelor’s in Psychology Specializations

Psychology touches every area of our lives, and as a result there are numerous areas of specializations that students can choose. Some are more oriented towards science and research and others focus on behaviors in different settings. 

Common specializations include:

 

  • Clinical psychology
  • Cognitive and perceptual psychology
  • Counseling psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Environmental psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Industrial/organizational psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • School psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Sports Psychology

Applying to Bachelor’s in Psychology Programs

While exciting, applying to college is time-consuming and can be challenging. The key to making the process as painless as possible is organization. Start by making a list of the documents and supporting information for every program to which you’re applying, and make a note of the deadline for each. 

Many schools have adopted The Common Application, a platform that allows students to complete the application process once and then submit it to multiple colleges and universities without having to duplicate their work.

Admission Requirements for Bachelor’s in Psychology Programs 

Though no two schools are the same, most have similar admission requirements. These are likely to include:

  • Completed application form with associated fees
  • High school transcripts – Most colleges and universities require a minimum GPA for consideration to their program.
  • Standardized test scores – Though a growing number of colleges are dropping this requirement, many still expect students to take either the SAT or the ACT tests, as well as SAT Subject tests. 
  • List of extracurricular activities
  • Personal essay or statement – Many schools offer a prompt or choice of prompts to which you can respond, while others allow you to write on any subject you prefer. 
  • List of awards and achievements
  • Letters of recommendation – These should be written by teachers, coaches, or mentors who can speak to the type of student you are.

Master's Degree in Psychology

Time to complete: The majority of master's degrees in psychology require two years of full-time study, though part-time learners may need up to four years. Accelerated options can be completed in as few as 12 months.

Required credits: Required credits typically range between 30-40, but this can vary based on concentrations. Common options include behavioral, clinical, counseling, developmental, forensic, and industrial-organizational psychology.

Sample courses: While most core degree requirements look similar across schools, concentration-related classes can vary substantially. Some common general psychology courses include principles of neuroscience, learning and cognition, memory and the brain, group dynamics, clinical psychopharmacology, and psychology research methods.

Online availability: Students can routinely find fully online master's in psychology programs thanks to few requiring any in-person components. The expanded availability of distance learning in this field makes it possible for students to expand their searches greatly beyond those in their state or near their homes.

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Earning a master’s degree in psychology is a commitment to advancing both your skills and expertise in psychology while also opening up many career paths and opportunities in the field of psychology. Earning a master’s degree in psychology (MS or MA) is an exciting opportunity to continue your education in an area of psychology you are passionate about and gain critical hands-on experience. 

Psychology could lead to job security, too, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the psychology profession is on track to grow 3% in the next ten years. Depending on your goals and what state you plan to practice in, a master’s degree prepares you for a successful life-long career as a psychologist in many settings. However, note that some states and jurisdictions require a doctorate degree to practice as a clinician, counselor, or a professional in a school setting. 

A master’s degree in psychology provides a robust foundation of knowledge and skills that can launch a successful career of helping others in both the public and private sector. A master’s degree in psychology does not make you a licensed psychologist. To obtain a license, you need to follow the licensing requirements of the state you want to work in. In most cases, licensure does require a master’s degree.

Research and practice make up the two main functions of psychology. Your career goals, areas of interest, and personality type help determine which subsection of psychology is right for you. There are many things to consider when considering a graduate school program including the pros and cons, coursework, what skills you’ll master, and the required time commitment. 

What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Psychology?

The field of psychology contains many different areas and specialties that lead to a wide variety of career options.  

Depending on your passion and area of interest, obtaining a master’s in psychology can lead to careers in the following industries:

  • Human resources
  • Market research
  • Family services
  • Social services
  • Employee training
  • Research
  • Intervention 
  • Data Analyst 
  • Health programs
  • Community college 
  • Court system
  • Mental health
  • Forensic psychology
  • Industrial/organizational psychology

If you choose to earn a master’s in psychology, there are many more subfields you can pursue depending on what you are interested in. 

Master’s in Psychology Salaries and Career Outlook

The area of psychology, industry, and job location help determine your salary. According to the BLS, the median salary of a psychologist in 2019 was $80,370 with jobs in government and healthcare paying the most. 

The career outlook for people holding a master’s in psychology is good with a projected growth of 3% from 2019-2029. However, this projection is not a guarantee of industry growth. 

Psychology Master’s Degree Career Paths

Because the subject of psychology is so diverse, there are many career paths and specialties to choose from. A few popular career paths are highlighted below.

CareerPsychologists
Salary: $80,370
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 3%
About the Position: Psychologists are trained to analyze emotions, thoughts, and behavior and how it affects individuals as well as society as a whole

Career: Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT)
Salary: $49,610
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 22%
About the Position: The demand for therapists is on the rise. MFTs use tools and proven techniques to help couples and individuals work through emotions, behavior, and thoughts to better their lives and relationships.

Career: School and Career Counselors
Salary: $57,040
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 8%
About the Position: School and career counselors help students with social and academic skills that will help them both in and out of the classroom.

Career: Survey Researchers 
Salary: $59,170
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): -4%
About the Position: Survey researchers use their psychology skills to design surveys, do research, and analyze data in many different industries.

Source: BLS

Pros and Cons of Master’s in Psychology Programs

Psychology offers many specialty areas and subfields that you can choose from. To accommodate the diversity of psychology, many colleges and universities design master’s programs to focus on specialized areas in the field. The most popular psychology programs include:

  • Clinical psychology
  • Industrial-organizational psychology
  • Child and adolescent development
  • Counseling psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Experimental psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Behavioral psychology

The pros of obtaining a master’s degree in psychology include:

  • Diversity of career paths
  • Job opportunities available
  • Projected growth of the industry
  • The opportunity to help people
  • Possibility to earn a good income

The cons of obtaining a master’s degree in psychology include:

  • Potential stress
  • Requirement to work odd hours
  • The financial burden of attending school
  • The amount of time it takes to obtain a graduate degree 

While a master’s degree in psychology offers many different types of careers, it may also be necessary to obtain a doctorate degree to achieve your career goals. A doctorate degree opens up even more opportunities to practice clinically, earn a higher income, and become an expert in your field. However, it also requires more time in school and the associated costs. 

Courses in Master’s in Psychology Programs

Psychology program curriculum for the master’s level varies significantly based on what program you specialize in.  

However, there are many general core psychology courses that are usually required for all types of psychology programs. These core classes may include:

  • Learning and Cognition
  • Memory and the Brain
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Bias, Ethics, and Reasoning
  • Group Dynamics
  • Multicultural Psychology and Diversity
  • Principles of Neuroscience
  • Psychological Statistics
  • Graduate Research Methods in Psychology

Master’s level degrees are highly associated with research and statistics, and most programs require the completion of a thesis project to graduate.

Skills Learned in a Master’s in Psychology Program

You develop a number of invaluable skills during the course of a master’s degree program that prepare you for a both a successful career in psychology while preparing you to obtain a doctorate degree (if that is included in your career aspirations). 

The vital skills that you learn during your time in a master’s program can include:

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Computer literacy
  • Information-finding skills
  • Research skills
  • Measurement skills
  • Environmental awareness
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Data analysis

How Long Does it Take to Get a Master’s in Psychology Degree?

On average, a master’s degree in psychology program usually takes about 2-3 years to complete. This timeline depends on:

  • Whether you study online
  • full-time or part-time learning
  • Previous education
  • Your specialization
  • How long it takes to complete your thesis project 

Master’s programs in psychology typically require 60 semester credits depending on area of concentration and program modality.

Master’s in Psychology Degree Specializations

Within the psychology umbrella, there are many specializations and subfields that you can choose to focus on. These subfields all come with different potential careers and outcomes that can open many doors for job opportunities.

Specialization: Clinical Psychology
Description: Clinical psychology is one of the most popular master’s programs in psychology. Students learn how to diagnose and treat people suffering from debilitating mental disorders. This profession typically requires a license and possibly a doctorate degree.
Potential Careers: Clinical psychologists are qualified to work in: Mental health settings, Hospitals, Pediatric medical centers, Private practice.

Specialization: Forensic Psychology
Description: This program prepares students to apply restorative justice principles and make an impact in the criminal justice system focusing on substance abuse, gender, race and class issues, PTSD, and mental health disorders. This degree is not license eligible.
Potential Careers: Forensic psychologists are qualified to work as: Probation or parole officer, Restorative justice advocate, Victim advocate Correctional facilities, Community-based advocacy groups.

Specialization: School Psychology
Description: School psychologists help to support student learning, and address educational and behavioral issues in the school setting.
Potential Careers: School psychologists are qualified to work in: K-12 school settings, Private companies, Mental health agencies, Independent contractors

Specialization: Child Psychology
Description: Child psychologists help children foster mental wellness, academic success, and health development. To be a licensed child psychologist, you need to obtain a doctorate degree.
Potential Careers: Child psychologists are qualified to work as: Child and family therapist, School counselors, Program developer, School psychologist 

Specialization: Behavioral Psychology
Description: A behavioral psychology master’s program prepares students to apply psychological theories, methods, approaches, and principals to the real world setting.
Potential Careers: Behavioral psychologists are qualified to work as: Marriage and family therapist, Probation officer, Substance abuse counselor, Behavior disorder counselor, Rehabilitation counselor

Specialization: Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Description: This type of psychology program teaches students to apply their skills to the corporate/non-profit/government setting by learning to improve a company’s effectiveness by creating hiring, training, and evaluating systems.
Potential Careers: Organizational psychologists are qualified to work as: Human resource specialist, Trainer, Talent Management specialist, Behavior analyst, Research analyst, Consultant 

Applying to Master’s in Psychology Degree Programs

Admissions requirements for master’s in psychology degree programs depend on the type of school, degree, and program modality desired. A bachelor’s degree, letters of recommendation, GRE score, work experience, and prior grades are a few examples of typical application requirements.

There are many resources available to help you find schools, research financial aid packages, and apply to college programs. 

Admission Requirements for Graduate Psychology Programs

Admission requirements for a master’s in psychology degree program typically include:

 

  • Transcripts (usually a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate studies)
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Essay
  • In-person interview
  • 2-3 Letters of recommendation
  • GRE score
  • Application fee

 

Doctoral Degree in Psychology

Time to complete: The amount of time a student needs to complete a doctorate in psychology depends on the type of degree they pursue. Psy.D. programs, which prepare students for more clinical roles, usually take between four and five years to complete. Ph.D. programs, which prepare learners for academic and research positions, usually take between five and seven years to complete.

Required credits: Required credits for a doctorate degree in psychology will vary based on the type of degree and where a student attends. That said, they can usually expect to take between 70-90 credits before graduating.

Sample courses: Child and adolescent development, adult and older adult development, ethics and professional/legal issues, systems of psychotherapy, diversity in assessment and intervention, history and systems of psychology, adult intervention, cognitive and affective bases of behavior, objective personality assessment, child and adolescent intervention, projective personality assessment, and case conceptualization.

Online availability: Many schools provide online doctorates in psychology, both as a Psy.D. and a Ph.D. That said, it's not uncommon for these programs to include several on-site residencies across the length of the degree. These residencies typically last one week or less and require students to participate in in-depth, on-site learning at the university's campus.

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A PsyD is a doctoral-level degree in the field of psychology. PsyD programs combine classwork and hands-on training to give graduates a strong knowledge base in the discipline while letting them apply what they’ve learned into supervised practice. Students graduate ready to seek licensure as psychologists and therapists. Earning a doctorate in psychology (PsyD) prepares you for a variety of careers in applied psychology. People who pursue this professional degree typically show interest in working directly with others. 

Psychological services have always been valuable, but demand for them has soared since early 2020. More than 40 percent of respondents in a survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported struggling with mental health issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has an unprecedented need for competent, caring counselors and therapists.

What Can I Do with a Psychology Doctorate?

Earning a PsyD opens up doors to employment in a variety of occupations that help people. Some graduates go into private practice as psychologists while others find work at schools, hospitals, mental health facilities, government agencies, and businesses.

PsyD Salaries and Career Outlook

In psychology (and most fields in general), higher education typically translates into higher pay. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a new graduate with a PsyD earns a median yearly income that’s about $15,000 higher than a counterpart graduating with just a master’s degree. 

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that median annual pay for psychologists ranges from a low of $46,270 to a high of more than $137,590. Information collected by Payscale.com notes that some of the highest-paying psychology jobs include:

  • Industrial-organizational psychologist ($79,202): Applying psychology to workplace issues
  • Sports psychologist ($72,257): Helping athletes overcome problems to improve performance
  • Clinical psychologist ($81,384): Helping patients identify and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues

The BLS projects the overall employment of psychologists to grow 3 percent between 2019-2029. Note, however, that projections are not a guarantee of job growth. Various factors can influence what ultimately happens.

PsyD Career Paths

PsyD recipients use their knowledge and skills in a multitude of careers. Some common options include:

Career Salary Projected Job Growth (2020-2030) About the Position
Psychologist $82,180 8% Psychologists interview, observe, and analyze patients in order to identify emotional and behavioral problems.
Marriage and Family Therapist $51,340 16% Therapists help couples and families better understand one another and work through challenging life situations.
Survey Researcher $59,870 4% Survey researchers design questions to gather people’s opinions and preferences. They interpret data collected to help organizations make informed decisions.
Rehabilitation Counselor $37,530 10% Counselors help people with disabilities with issues related to employment and independent living.
Source: BLS

Earning a PsyD

Students graduate from PsyD programs with a strong foundation in psychology and a strong understanding of the importance of observation, testing, and interpreting results. Their knowledge of treatment strategies helps those they work with better understand their behavior and institute changes to improve their lives.

Courses in PsyD Programs

The specific courses someone in a PsyD program takes differs by personal interests and institutional requirements. However, students can anticipate tackling some similar topics in virtually any PsyD program. These include:

  • Lifespan development – This type of class examines different stages of life. Topics might include what is physically and mentally “normal” at various ages, the influence of common life events, and how identity and personality develop over time.
  • Psychological testing and assessment – Students learn about personality assessments and other psychological measurements and how to interpret results.
  • Psychotherapy – Students learn about mental illnesses and emotional difficulties. They build a repertoire of ways to help patients with these conditions through talk therapy and coping strategies.
  • Ethics – What legal and moral codes of conduct exist within applied psychology? 

Skills Learned in a PsyD Program

Students graduate from PsyD programs with a greater understanding of human behavior and mental health. They possess an arsenal of strategies to help those dealing with psychological issues, hone communication skills in order to excel at listening to patients, and convey information to patients. Good observational skills aid in picking up on subtle clues about a client’s thoughts or condition. Graduates also walk away with solid ability to administer and interpret psychological tests.

PsyD vs PhD in Psychology

Students looking to earn a high-level psychology degree have two options: a PsyD (doctor of psychology) or a PhD (doctor of philosophy)

In general, PsyD programs attract individuals interested in pursuing careers in counseling or therapy. Students pursuing a PhD can also seek licensure and go into an applied psychology career. However, psychology PhD programs put a significant emphasis on generating new knowledge through scientific research. Degree-earners often remain in academia as professors and researchers, though businesses and health care organizations may hire them as consultants.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PsyD Degree?

Earning a PsyD degree involves both classwork and practical experience. Finishing the program typically takes 4-6 years (about the same as a PhD in Psychology) and full-time study leads to faster progress than part-time enrollment. You also need to complete a dissertation to earn your PsyD.

Also, students entering with a master’s degree in psychology may possess transferable credit that reduces the number of classes (and time) needed to obtain a PsyD.

PsyD Specializations

The majority of PsyD degrees awarded are in clinical psychology. Recipients frequently go on to careers in clinical psychology or therapy. 

Besides clinical psychology, some places confer PsyD degrees in:

  • Behavioral psychology
  • Counseling psychology
  • School psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Organizational psychology
  • Marriage and family psychology

Within these areas, students sometimes specialize their studies even further and may focus on a certain age group, such as children or senior citizens. Or, they may concentrate on a specific type of situation, such as counseling trauma victims, addicts, or athletes.

Admission Requirements for PsyD Programs

Depending on where a student applies, the prospective school may ask for:

  • An official transcript from undergraduate studies that shows classes taken, GPA, and degree awarded with date
  • Proof of any graduate classes completed, internships, certifications, or licenses
  • A list of places the student has worked, including dates and duties
  • A description of other relevant activities, such as volunteer work or participation in professional associations
  • Scores from the GRE Psychology Test 
  • 2-3 letters of recommendation that support the candidacy
  • Responses to essay prompts
  • A personal statement explaining why the student wants to pursue this degree
  • Interviews with faculty

Applying to Psychology Doctoral Programs

Acceptance into a Doctoral in Psychology program involves applying to individual institutions. Competition for spots can be substantial, so candidates should apply to several schools in order to increase the chances of getting in. 

Some places are more selective than others and may present harder entrance requirements. Someone who has not completed an undergraduate degree in psychology or a sufficient number of psychology courses will likely need to address this gap before seeking admission.

Admissions Requirements for PsyD and PhD Programs

Depending on where a student applies, the prospective school may ask for the following::

  • Official transcripts from past collegiate studies at the undergraduate and graduate level, including classes taken, GPA, and degree(s) awarded with date
  • Proof of any internships, certifications, or licenses
  • A resume of work history, including dates and duties
  • A description of other relevant activities, such as volunteer work or participation in professional associations
  • Scores from the GRE and the GRE Psychology Test
  • 2-3 letters of recommendation that support the candidacy
  • Responses to essay prompts
  • A personal statement explaining why the student wants to pursue this degree
  • Interviews with faculty

Note that some programs look only at candidates who already possess a Master’s Degree in Psychology or a closely related field. Others accept students with a bachelor’s degree into a combined master’s/doctoral program.

What Can I Do with a Degree in Psychology?

What Can I Do with a Master's In Psychology?

Individuals who have earned a Master’s in Psychology find their degree a gateway to various types of jobs dealing with people and what influences their behavior. A sample of possible occupations is listed below.

  • Substance abuse counselor – These counselors work with people experiencing problems with alcohol or drug abuse and addiction. They help individuals understand their situation, cope with stress in healthier ways, and rebuild relationships damaged by substance abuse behavior. The BLS reports that substance abuse counselors earn a median yearly salary of $47,660.
  • Market research analyst – Companies that want a greater understanding of consumer behavior and how to market products to the public hire market research analysts. They utilize their extensive experience to design and interpret research to find answers about how people think. The BLS projects employment of market research analysts to grow an impressive 22% between 2020-2030. In 2020, the median annual salary for the job was $65,810.
  • Training and development specialist – Another career with a strong job outlook is a training and development specialist, which has expected growth of 11% between 2020-2030, according to the BLS. Organizations employ these professionals to improve the skills and knowledge of their workers. Through surveys, interviews, and consultations with employees and management, they figure out what people need to know to do their jobs and the best ways to obtain this information. Per the BLS, the median annual wage for a training and development specialist in 2020 was $62,700.

What Can I Do with a PhD In Psychology?

The expertise obtained from earning a PhD in Psychology opens doors to a variety of careers. Three sample positions include:

  • Professor/researcher – Many PhDs remain in academia. They teach classes at colleges and junior colleges as well as perform research in their area of interest within the field of psychology. The BLS lists the mean annual wage for postsecondary psychology teachers as $85,050.6
  • Clinical Psychologist – Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat a variety of mental, emotional, and behavioral problems. Some specialize in certain areas, such as treating depression or eating disorders. Others work with specific populations, such as children or the elderly. The median yearly salary for a clinical psychologist in 2020 was $79,820 per the BLS.7
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychologist – These professionals apply their knowledge of psychology to the workplace. Companies and governmental organizations hire them to examine issues such as productivity, morale, teamwork, hiring, and organizational development. Their suggestions lead to workplace improvements. The BLS reports the median annual salary for an industrial-organizational psychologist in 2020 as $96,270.7

Earning an Online Psychology Degree

Technology has changed everything in our lives, and education is no exception. Today’s baccalaureate candidates can choose between an in-person college experience complete with dormitory life, cafeteria food, and access to an immense college library, or an online program pursued from the comfort of their own home. Some schools offer students the opportunity to take both online and in-person courses, which may be ideal for bachelor’s in psychology programs that require participation in laboratories or research projects.

Online master’s of psychology programs are becoming more abundant, and many schools allow students to complete the degree on a part-time or full-time basis. The biggest benefits of online learning include:

  • Flexibility and self-paced learning
  • Better time management
  • Improved virtual and communication and collaboration
  • No commute
  • Faster graduation times
  • Ability to work from anywhere

However, many students may choose to complete an in-person program for its networking and social aspects.

Students have options on how to go about earning a PsyD. Some choose on-campus studies because they enjoy the social aspect of physically meeting for class or prefer a rigid course structure. Others enjoy the flexibility provided by online studies. Working professionals and individuals with familial commitments often find this route convenient because they can tailor studies around other obligations. Projects, labs, and clinical hours are vital components of PsyD programs. Thus, both online and on-campus students should be prepared to spend some of their time gaining hands-on experience at a variety of locations.

How Long do Online Courses Take to Complete?

Those unsure about attending college in person will find many online options for pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Programs require 120 credit hours, so it is fair to assume that any program, online or not, will take roughly four years to complete. Some classes are offered live via Blackboard, Canvas, or a similar platform that allows students to interact directly with a teacher and other students, while others may be offered asynchronously, allowing students to access pre-recorded classes at their convenience. In most cases, even fully online programs have some in-person requirements to allow students to collaborate with their peers and participate in laboratories.

On average, an online master’s degree in psychology usually takes about two years to complete. However, this timeline is dependent on if you study full-time or part-time, as well as previous education completed. Master’s degree programs in psychology typically require about 36 credits depending on your area of concentration and program modality. Accelerated programs are also available that allow you to complete the program in as little as one year, but are faced-paced and rigorous. 

Online course length depends on the individual school’s set-up and the pace a given student chooses. PsyD programs typically take 4-6 years to complete. Online courses often suit both students who want to progress at a quick rate as well as those who prefer from some extra time to complete classes. For instance, online programs may follow a quarter system of 10-week increments. During this period, a student could elect to take one course or two.

 

 

Psychology Career and Salary Overview

Professionals with psychology degrees are trained in working with the human mind, from researching illnesses to understanding human interaction. They love to help people, but where does that lead them exactly? Does everyone who gets a bachelor’s degree in psychology have to become the next Sigmund Freud? The truth is, there are many careers options for people who hold psychology degrees, and we’ve put together a list of a few of them to help you examine your options.  

  • Social Work Careers Social workers are dedicated to helping those who suffer from mental illness. They are employed in hospitals, schools, and many other public institutions. One of the best ways to pursue a career in social work is to earn a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. You’ll learn to analyze human behavior and study how people interact, which is necessary for this career. Keep in mind that you may also need to get a Maser’s in social work depending on the state you plan to work in. 

  • Marriage and Family Therapist Careers As countless reality shows and sitcoms will show you, family life is not easy. But in the real world, problems can’t be solved by voiceovers and Dr. Phil. Marriage and family therapists are the true heroes in this cause, and a path toward this career can start with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. These therapists must work with families to understand what is driving them apart and help to solve their problems. You’ll learn this level of analysis through psychology degree proram. Your education path doesn’t end with this Bachelor’s degree, though – you also need to earn a Master’s degree in counseling services in addition to being licensed by the state. 

  • School Counselor Careers School counselors are the professionals trusted with helping kids in school, in everything from problems with classmates to issues at home. A Bachelor’s degree in psychology can point you toward a career as a school counselor because you need to now how to work with people and analyze human behavior and interaction. After the Bachelor’s degree, it is also necessary to earn a Master’s degree in counseling services as with most of these careers. Thank you,

  • Correctional Treatment Specialist Careers Convicted offenders require aide with their problems so that once they are released, they can become productive members of society. Correctional treatment specialists are in charge of helping incarcerated or recently released individuals reform their behavior, and a Bachelor’s degree in psychology wioll provide the training you’ll need to be successful. Experience is also key to this kind of career, so be sure to find relevant opportunities in your educational path. 

Bachelor’s in Psychology Career Resources

It is never too soon to begin thinking about your career, especially if you are passionate about working in psychology or a related field. Here are several organizations you can contact about internships, volunteer opportunities, mentorships, and other career resources:

  • The Association for Psychological Science – This international organization is dedicated to advancing scientific psychology. Several of its members offer official mentoring programs 
  • The American Psychological Association – The leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, the APA offers several mentoring programs.
  • Learn Psychology – This organization is dedicated to providing psychology students with the resources they need to pursue their dreams of working in the field of mental health. The organization provides referrals to many internship opportunities.
  • Society for Personality and Social Psychology – This organization offers a compilation of nonacademic internships available to those studying psychology.
  • Association for Behavioral Analysis International – This international organization provides resources for those interested in the philosophy, science, application, and teaching of behavior analysis. 

Master’s in Psychology Career Resources

Professional organizations are a great way to stay up-to-date on current psychology trends as well as a place to seek networking and educational opportunities. Here are a few options:

Master’s in Psychology Career Paths

Psychology degrees can lead to a range of careers. Some popular career options include the following.

Market Research Analyst

Salary: $65,810

Career Outlook: +22% (2020-2030)

Job Responsibilities: Using their understanding of consumer behavior, market research analysts work with companies to determine how well a particular product or service will sell. They design and conduct surveys, polls, and questionnaires to solicit opinions and data that can better help them understand and forecast marketing and sales behaviors. They gather all of this information and present it to their clients in easily understandable formats such as graphs and tables.

Required Education: Bachelor's degree

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Salary: $47,660

Career Outlook: +23% (2020-2030)

Job Responsibilities: Whether working in nonprofit or governmental settings, these counselors work with those suffering from addictions, mental health disorders, behavioral issues, and other challenges to help them recover from their issues or find ways of modifying behaviors. In addition to evaluating each client and developing individualized treatment plans, these professionals help clients track their progress, connect them with helpful resources and services, and work with family and friends to educate them about the disorders.

Required Education: Bachelor's degree

Marriage and Family Therapists

Salary: $51,340

Career Outlook: +16% (2020-2030)

Job Responsibilities: As their name suggests, marriage and family therapists work with couples, families, and others in relationships to help them manage issues and sort out problems. They may provide group or one-to-one counseling based on individual needs. In addition to helping clients work through their emotions and reactions to situations and changes, they also guide them through the process of making decisions about how to proceed. Some may also connect their clients to other community-based resources, including support groups.

Required Education: Master's degree

Psychologists

Salary: $82,180

Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)

Job Responsibilities: Psychologists work in a variety of settings and perform many different tasks. Those on the clinical side typically work directly with patients, providing services that can include both talk therapy and pharmaceutical therapy. Those working in the research side conduct scientific studies on behaviors to better understand how humans think and why they think certain things. They also conduct observations and interviews to better understand brain disorders resulting in behavioral, emotional, organizational, and/or psychological issues. Some psychologists go the academic route, educating the next generation of practitioners.

Required Education: Doctoral degree

PsyD Career Resources

People enrolled in a PsyD program may find the following organizations helpful to their education and career:

Psychology FAQ

  • Is a psychology degree worth it?

    • Yes. A master’s in psychology opens a lot of doors for career advancement and an increase in income. It is also a necessary stepping stone for those that want to obtain a doctorate degree in the field of psychology. Psychology degrees can definitely be worth it to students who want to work in this arena. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for psychologists are projected to grow by 8% between 2020-2030.

  • What is the best degree to get in psychology?

    • No one can work as a psychologist without earning a doctorate degree and state licensure, but plenty of jobs can be found for those with bachelor's or master's degrees in psychology.

  • Is psychology a 4-year degree?

    • A bachelor's degree in psychology typically requires students to commit to four years of full-time study to earn their diploma.

  • What can you do with a bachelor's degree in psychology?

    • Graduates of a bachelor's degree in psychology can find work as psychiatric/psychological technicians, market research analysts, and other non-clinical roles focused on human behavior.

  • What can you do with a bachelor’s in psychology?

    • A bachelor’s degree in psychology allows students to be successful in non-related fields such as human resources, marketing, or any field involving human engagement and behavior. It also prepares students interested in a career as a psychology professional to pursue the advanced degrees necessary for licensure.

  • Is a BA in psychology worth it?

    • Individuals who graduate with a BA in psychology are well prepared for positions involving any type of engagement with the public, and particularly for those requiring a depth of understanding of human behavior. They also graduate with extensive research and critical thinking skills that are highly valued by employers.

  • What’s the difference between a BA in psychology and a BS in psychology?

    • While both degrees provide the same foundational lessons, students enrolled in BA programs are required to take general education courses in the humanities, while those in BS programs focus more heavily on statistics, mathematics, and science-oriented classes.

  • How much can I make with a bachelor’s in psychology degree?

    • A bachelor’s in psychology degree prepares you for a wide range of career choices, and your earnings potential is only limited by your personal goals. Many people who graduate with this degree earn well over $115,000 per year, while others earn starting salaries of about $50,000.

  • What can I do with a master’s in psychology?

    • Psychology is a diverse field with an abundance of career opportunities for those holding a master’s degree including counseling, school psychology, law enforcement, social work, legal and public policy, veteran counseling, etc.
  • Is a master’s in psychology hard?

    • Obtaining a master’s degree is challenging and time-consuming and students can expect to work hard. The hard work is rewarding and the skills and knowledge you obtain will last a lifetime. 

  • Can you be a psychologist with a master’s?

    • You can pursue a career as a therapist or counselor with a master’s degree. However, in order to become a licensed psychologist, you need to obtain a doctorate degree.

  • Is a PsyD or PhD better? Is a PsyD a doctor?

    • Someone possessing a PsyD is not a medical doctor. Rather, a PsyD is a Doctor of Psychology. In recognition of the expertise obtained from completing this rigorous course of study, holders of a PsyD are entitled to use the title “Doctor” if they so choose.

  • Is a PsyD or PhD better?

    • One isn’t better than the other, just different. Thus, the answer depends on individual interests and career aspirations. PhD programs focus heavily on research and often lead to working in an academic setting or in consulting. PsyD studies concentrate on applied aspects of psychology. Graduates generally work directly with patients.

  • What’s the difference between a PsyD and PhD?

    • Both are respected degrees in psychology. Students interested in providing psychological services often pursue a PsyD (doctor of psychology). Individuals looking to generate new knowledge through scientific research or who want to teach psychology at the post-secondary level frequently choose a PhD (doctor of philosophy) program. Both programs can prepare students to become licensed psychologists.

  • Is a PsyD easier than PhD?

    • Both degrees take a significant amount of time and commitment to complete. PsyD programs run 4-6 years, while PhD studies generally take 5-7. Completing an internship or other type of hands-on experience is a vital part of both. Likewise, both programs culminate in a doctoral project or dissertation. Whether one is “easier” than the other depends on the individual institution’s requirements and on what students themselves find difficult.
  • Is a PhD in Psychology a doctor?

    • Someone possessing a PhD is not a medical doctor. A PhD is a doctor of philosophy. In recognition of the expertise obtained from completing this rigorous course of study, holders of a PhD are entitled to use the title “Doctor” if they so choose.

  • Is a MS or PhD in Psychology better?

    • One isn’t better than the other, just different. Which degree to pursue depends on individual interests and career aspirations. Aspiring therapists and counselors often choose a master’s program. Those wishing to become licensed psychologists must complete a doctoral program. Also, PhD programs focus heavily on research and often lead to working in an academic setting or consulting.

  • What careers can I have with a psychology graduate degree?

    • Some career options for people who earn a graduate degree in psychology include marriage and family therapist, mental health counselor, substance abuse counselor, counseling psychologist, researcher, and psychology professor.

  • Can a PhD write prescriptions?

    • A person holding a PhD in psychology is not a medical doctor and usually cannot write prescriptions. A few states do allow psychologists with training in psychopharmacology to prescribe a limited number of psychiatric medications. The majority of prescriptions, however, are written out by psychiatrists since they are MDs.

List of all Psychology colleges in the U.S.

School Average Tuition Student Teacher Ratio Enrolled Students
Northwestern University Logo Northwestern University Evanston, IL
5/5
15 : 1 22,603
Boston College Logo Boston College Chestnut Hill, MA
5/5
17 : 1 14,934
Columbia University in the City of New York Logo Columbia University in the City of New York New York, NY
5/5
19 : 1 30,135
Duke University Logo Duke University Durham, NC
5/5
11 : 1 16,172
University of Rochester Logo University of Rochester Rochester, NY
5/5
15 : 1 11,741

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