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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
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
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.
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.
Also, a master’s degree is required to pursue a doctorate degree in psychology.
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.
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:
The pros of obtaining a master’s degree in psychology include:
The cons of obtaining a master’s degree in psychology include:
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.
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:
Master’s level degrees are highly associated with research and statistics, and most programs require the completion of a thesis project to graduate.
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:
On average, a master’s degree in psychology program usually takes about 2-3 years to complete. This timeline depends on:
Master’s programs in psychology typically require 60 semester credits depending on area of concentration and program modality.
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
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.
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:
However, many students may choose to complete an in-person program for its networking and social aspects.
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.
Accreditation is critical for any education institute as it certifies that the school and its curriculum meet the appropriate standards and qualifications outlined by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education accreditation.
Choosing a school that is accredited is extremely important as it gives degrees credibility and is valued by employers.
Many programs and departments within a school may have a separate accreditation called programmatic accreditation. This accreditation elevates the credibility of the program and shows that the department has designed a program that meets industry standards.
Programmatic accreditation also ensures that students receive the appropriate training and knowledge to be successful in their given fields.
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 a master’s in psychology degree program typically include:
Deciding to go back to school is not only a big time commitment, but it is also a big financial commitment. Tuition costs can vary depending on the school, program, required units, and projects.
There are many avenues of financial assistance available to help with tuition costs including financial aid, scholarships, grants, internships, work study programs, and corporate reimbursement from your current company.
Tuition costs for a master’s program depend on if the school is private or public and instate vs. out-of-state residence status. Depending on this criteria, one can expect to pay in the range from $10,000-$35,000 to complete a master’s program.
Many scholarship opportunities are available for psychology students. Here are a few avenues to consider.
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:
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.
Yes. A master’s in psychology opens a lot of doors for career advancement and increase in income. It is also a necessary stepping stone for those that want to obtain a doctorate degree in the field of psychology.
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.
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.
University of California-Santa Barbara offers 3 Psychology, Other degree programs. It's a very large, public, four-year university in a midsize suburb. In 2019, 20 Psychology, Other students graduated with students earning 10 Doctoral degrees, 5 Certificates, and 5 Master's degrees.
|School||Average Tuition||Student Teacher Ratio||Enrolled Students|
|Northwestern University Evanston, IL||15 : 1||22,448|
|Duke University Durham, NC||12 : 1||16,686|
|Columbia University in the City of New York New York, NY||19 : 1||31,456|
|University of California-Davis Davis, CA||22 : 1||38,634|
|Binghamton University Vestal, NY||25 : 1||18,124|
|University of California-Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA||24 : 1||26,314|
|University of Denver Denver, CO||17 : 1||12,931|
|University of Maryland-College Park College Park, MD||22 : 1||40,743|
|University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI||12 : 1||48,090|
|Fordham University Bronx, NY||23 : 1||16,972|
|Stony Brook University Stony Brook, NY||28 : 1||26,814|
|University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa, FL||34 : 1||44,246|
|Howard University Washington, DC||13 : 1||9,399|
|University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT||20 : 1||32,852|
|University of California-San Diego La Jolla, CA||28 : 1||38,736|
|Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, IL||16 : 1||6,515|
|University of Rhode Island Kingston, RI||23 : 1||17,465|
|University of California-Riverside Riverside, CA||26 : 1||25,547|
|Kean University Union, NJ||40 : 1||14,309|
|University of Missouri-St Louis Saint Louis, MO||41 : 1||15,988|