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Master's Degrees in Psychology

Written by Sara Walters



By enrolling in a master's in psychology program, learners gain specialized knowledge in a particular area of psychology.

For this reason, many prospective psychologists choose a master's as their terminal degree. However, aspiring clinical psychologists should pursue a doctoral degree in psychology. Consider the factors below 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.
  • Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Psychology Programs

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

    A master's in psychology prepares students for certain psychology careers, including clinical and school counseling roles in many states. However, graduates also excel in other fields and roles, including human resources, social services, project management, and market research. Graduates often go on to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology.

    How long does it take to earn a master's degree in psychology?

    The length of a psychology master's program depends on many factors, including program requirements, specialization options, and whether the program requires a thesis. Enrolling part time can also lengthen a program. Some schools offer accelerated or online options that can shorten the overall time to completion.

    What are the requirements for a master's degree in psychology?

    Requirements vary by program. Many master's programs in psychology require 30-40 credits. Generally, students may select a concentration such as clinical, social, or organizational psychology. Some programs require a formal thesis project, while others culminate in a portfolio or comprehensive exam.

    Is a master's in psychology worth it?

    Yes. Earning a master’s degree in psychology not only prepares you for more advanced careers in the field, but may also lead to a higher salary. Master's programs in psychology also prepare you for doctoral studies, which can lead to a professional, independent career as a mental health clinician.

    What types of master's degrees in psychology are available?

    Students should be aware of the differences between a master of science (MS) or a master of arts (MA) in psychology. An MS degree will emphasize the sciences more, with more courses in biology and chemistry, while an MA degree emphasizes the liberal arts. Both degrees adequately prepare students for careers and doctoral studies in psychology.

    What Are The Psychology Grad School Admission Requirements?

    • Minimum Education Level:
      Bachelor's degree

    • Transcripts:
      Undergraduate, often with 3.0 minimum GPA

    • Recommendations:
      1-3 letters

    • Writing Sample:
      Personal statement of intent, previous research papers

    • Standardized Tests:
      GRE

    • Additional Required Materials:
      Immunization records, health insurance

    How Can I Guarantee My Acceptance Into a Master’s Degree in Psychology Program?

    • Volunteering and participating in fellowships allow learners to gain valuable experience and rise above other applicants. Many master's in psychology students learn so much from their hands-on experiences in volunteer and practicum roles that it shapes their career path.
    • Master's degree in psychology students can begin to affiliate themselves with professional organizations in their field of interest.
    • Aspiring psychology professionals can subscribe to relevant psychological journals and join academic associations to grow professionally.
    • Many graduate master's in psychology students have reported a positive experience working with a mentor. Learners benefit from timely and relevant feedback about their career goals, performance, and opportunities.

    What Should I Expect in a Master's in Psychology Program?

    Degree Completion Specifics

    • Number of Required Credits
      30-90
    • Typical Length of Program
      2 years
    • Culminating Experience Project/Paper/Exam
      Yes
    • Practicums/Internships
      Yes

    Core Concepts

    Theoretical Psychology

    Students enter master's in psychology programs from a variety of disciplines. Almost every master's-level curriculum dedicates time to reviewing the history and core tenets of psychology.

    Developmental Psychology

    This broad topic explores social, organizational, health, and abnormal psychology to provide unified assessment, recognition, and treatment methods.

    Ethics and Psychology

    Learners explore the statutory challenges that sometimes arise in, or in the absence of, mental health care, as well as ethical practices and mandated reporting responsibilities.

    Research

    Psychology is the study of the mind (as opposed to psychiatry, which focuses more on treatment). For this reason, research concepts are necessary to understand.

    Communication

    Written communication is an essential part of patient care. Students must learn and adhere strictly to the American Psychological Association style guide.

    Concentrations

    Psychopharmacology

    Students interested in clinical psychology may want to consider this field, which is 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

    Courses focus on the perception, motivation, and market research methodology behind the science of consumer marketing, perfect for industrial/occupational psychology students.

    Forensic Psychology

    This field requires psychologists who know how to assess the motivations, desires, and pathologies of victims and criminals.

    Military Psychology

    Focused on the psychology behind military life, this concentration focuses on stress and anger management techniques, as well as grief and leadership strategies.

    School Psychology

    This concentration focuses on helping young people realize their goals and develop effective and productive habits and life skills.

    Engineering Psychologists

    Students use their specialized research and analysis skills to explore perception, attentional processes, and motor skills.

    What Kinds of Psychology Careers Can I Pursue With a Master's Degree in Psychology?

    Upon graduating with a master's in psychology degree, individuals can explore a variety of clinical positions. Some students may go on to teach in community colleges. Others apply to a psychology graduate school, where they gain the skills and experience to practice clinical psychology.

    After completing a master's degree in psychology, individuals can work in a variety of roles, including those below. Read on to browse possible job titles and salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

    Career Options for Master’s Degree in Psychology Holders

    Rehabilitation Counselors

    Average Annual Salary: $35,630

    School and Career Counselors

    Average Annual Salary: $56,310

    Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists

    Average Annual Salary: $50,090

    Genetic Counselors

    Average Annual Salary: $80,370

    What Job Settings Do Master's Degree in Psychology Holders Work In?

    Master's in psychology programs give students a wide, valuable skill set, making them ideal candidates for careers in various industries. Psychologists often work in independent practices, schools, government facilities, and hospitals.

    According to the BLS, California, New York, and Texas employ the most clinical, counseling, and school psychologists. These professionals earn the highest average wages in California, Oregon, and New Jersey. They most frequently work in elementary and secondary schools, and within the offices of other healthcare providers.

    For industrial psychology, Virginia and Massachusetts employ the most professionals and offer the highest average salary. These psychologists most commonly work in scientific research and other development services.

    All other psychologists, and those practicing more generally, earn the most in California, Maryland, and Kansas. General psychologists most often work for the government, in the offices of other providers, and at colleges and universities.

    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

    • PhDDegree Page

      Typical Duration
      4 - 7 years
      Median Annual Wage
      $84,000
      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
      Learn More

    Find a Master’s in Psychology Program Near Me

    Use our program database to help find the right master's in psychology program. All schools in the database are accredited, which means they have been reviewed by nationally recognized organizations to ensure they meet quality standards. Attending an accredited school guarantees you receive a quality education and that you are qualified for a doctoral program, if that is your ultimate goal.

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