The goal of enrolling in a master’s degree in psychology program is to become highly specialized in a particular area of psychology.
For this reason, many prospective psychologists choose to make this academic pursuit their terminal degree. Those students interested in a clinical psychology role, however, should expect to continue on to a doctoral degree in psychology. Below, we’ve listed some factors to consider when deciding if a master’s degree in psychology is right for you.
Pros | Cons
The Master's Degree in Psychology is More Moderate in Length
For motivated students, a master's in psychology program can take anywhere from two to four years to complete. While this is a more significant time commitment, many master's degree in psychology students are prepared for this after completing their undergraduate.
- Some students are able to earn their BS and master's degree in psychology in psychology concurrently; high earnings with less time commitment than Ph.D.
- Lower earning power than PhD in psychology graduates; less time to refine expertise in an academic setting
You Can Enter the Workforce with Tangible Skills
Most master's degree in psychology candidates work as assistants, volunteers or interns while in school, all of which give them an opportunity to pay for school. Master's in psychology students are guaranteed to obtain practical experience by working in their field of interest.
- Some nonprofits rely heavily on the support of master's in psychology students, meaning that for qualified applicants there is no shortage of experiential opportunities.
- Requires the ability to balance both work and school
It's More Flexible Than a Ph.D.
Master's degree in psychology students may find that their conventional learning experiences become more flexible. Every master's in psychology and doctoral student is required to complete hands-on learning experiences in order to graduate, in addition to cumulative graduation projects. Some colleges understand this can be difficult for working professionals, and may be inclined to offer flexible scheduling.
- Weekend, evening, hybrid and online courses are surfacing more and more commonly in graduate-level psychology curriculums.
- Some master's degree in psychology programs have very rigid and clearly defined expectations. Many universities recommend students do not work at all in sustainable, wage-earning employment, saving their time and energy for studies and practicums; while others expect students to make themselves available during full-time, day-schedule courses.
It Makes You More Specialized
Perhaps the most exciting part about pursuing a master's in psychology is the chance to dig into the area of psychology that interests you most. Substance abuse, sports psychology, family/marriage counseling and social work are all fields in which master's in psychology students can choose to major, minor or double major.
- These specialties often come with the opportunity to gain licensures and certifications that will help master's in psychology students further separate themselves from their peers and other up-and-coming professionals. Learning stays fresh and engaging, while at the same time allowing for enough repetition to build confidence and familiarity with concepts.
- Earning a master's degree in psychology takes time, patience and practice, and graduate-level students can sometimes be intimidated by the fact almost all of the material they are presented with is brand new and highly in-depth.
Source: National Science Foundation/Division of Science Resources Statistics, Compiled April 2009
Scholarships and Fellowships
As students work toward their master's degree in psychology, many find more fellowship and psychology scholarships opportunities become available. Organizations for psychologists offer comprehensive resources for identifying and securing financial aid to ease the financial burden of earning a master's in psychology degree. In addition to federal assistance, school-funded aid, state/local organizations and fraternities, students can seek out fellowships and scholarship programs from private organizations.
- Fellowships in particular can offer students the chance to make contacts in their specialty or area of interest that can be extremely valuable after graduation. Teaching and assistantships can help students earn income while also taking part in clinical research.
What are the admissions requirements for a master's degree in psychology program?
- Minimum Education Level
- Bachelor's degree
- Undergraduate, often with 3.0 minimum GPA
- 1-3 letters
- Writing Sample
- Personal statement of intent, previous research papers
- Standardized Tests
- Additional Required Materials
- Immunization records, health insurance
How Can I Guarantee My Acceptance Into a Master's Degree in Psychology Program?
- Volunteering opportunities and fellowships are a fantastic way to both gain valuable experience and to rise above other master’s degree in psychology applicants. As an added bonus, many master’s in psychology students learn so much from their hands-on experiences in volunteer and practicum roles that it shapes the direction of their careers for the better.
- Master’s degree in psychology students can also begin to affiliate themselves with professional organizations most pertinent to their field of interest.
- Subscribing to relevant psychological journals and joining academic associations can be another way to open doors and grow as a professional.
- Graduate master’s in psychology students have reported that identifying, approaching and working closely with a mentor can be invaluable in terms of receiving timely and relevant feedback about their career goals, performance and opportunities.
Degree Completion Specifics
- Number of Required Credits
- Typical Length of Program
- 2 years
- Culminating Experience Project/Paper/Exam
- Theoretical Psychology
- Students come to master's in psychology programs from a variety of disciplines, and so almost every master's level curriculum dedicates time to reviewing the history and core tenets of psychology.
- Developmental Psychology
- This broad topic, covered in a wide array of subjects, explores social, organizational, health and abnormal psychology in an effort to provide unified assessment, recognition and treatment methods.
- Ethics and Psychology
- Lessons in ethics and legal psychology explore the statutory challenges that sometimes arise because of, or in the absence of, mental health care, as well as ethical practices and mandated reporting responsibilities.
- Psychology, by definition, is the study of the mind (as opposed to psychiatry, which focuses more on treatment). For this reason, research is a frequently visited and revisited topic.
- Written communication is an essential part of patient care. Students are expected to learn and adhere strictly to the American Psychological Association (APA) style guide.
- Students with an interest in clinical psychology may want to consider the possibility of studying this field, also known as sensation and perceptual psychology.
- Learning, Cognition and Child Psychology
- Those interested in working with children might wish to explore this topic.
- Consumer Psychology
- These courses focus on the perception, motivation and market research methodology behind the science of consumer marketing, perfect for an industrial/occupational psychology student.
- Forensic Psychology
- This field requires psychologists who are skilled in assessing the motivations, desires and pathologies of victims and criminals, a wonderful opportunity to use psychology in the field of justice.
- Military Psychology
- Focused on the psychology behind military life, these professionals specialize in stress and anger management techniques and grief and leadership strategies.
- School Psychology
- Certification and licensure awaits graduates of this major, which focuses on helping young men and women realize their goals and develop effective and productive habits and life skills.
- Engineering Psychologists
- Using their specialized research and analysis skills, these students will explore perception, attentional processes and motor skills.
Upon graduating with a master’s in psychology degree, a number of clinical positions will become available. Some students may find they are interested in teaching at the community college level; others will make plans to apply to a psychology graduate school, where they will gain the skills and experience necessary to practice clinical psychology as an independent.
Here are some of the roles graduates assume after completing their master’s degree in psychology program (all salary data sources from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook).
Career Options for Master's Degree in Psychology Holders
- Average Annual Salary
School and Career Counselors
- Average Annual Salary
Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists
- Average Annual Salary
- Average Annual Salary
Source: American Psychological Association Center for Workforce Studies, Compiled 2009.
What Do Higher Education and Career Advancement Opportunities Look Like After a Master's in Psychology?
Other Wages and Careers in Psychology by Degree Level
- Typical Duration
- 4 - 7 years
- Median Annual Wage
- Sample Careers
- Clinical Psychologist
- Counseling Psychologist
- Research Psychologist
- Learning Disabilities Specialist
- University Clinical Psychologist
- School Psychologist
- Forensic Psychologists
- Human Factors/Industrial-Organizational Psychologists
- Criminal Psychologist
Our program database was designed to make finding the right master’s in psychology program easier. All schools in the database are accredited. This means they have been reviewed by nationally recognized organizations to ensure they meet quality standards. Attending an accredited school guarantees you will receive a good education, and you will be qualified for a doctoral program, if that is your ultimate goal.