Online Master's Degree Programs in Psychology

Updated October 26, 2022

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Is an Online Master's in Psychology Program For You?

Are you thinking about earning a master's in psychology online? These programs offer convenience and flexibility, allowing you to earn a degree while working. Most psychology positions require an advanced degree, so those with a bachelor's in psychology may need to pursue a master's or doctorate to progress in their field.

Discover online master's programs and choose the best psychology program that best reflects your priorities and learning style.

What Should I Expect from an Online Master's in Psychology Program?

Completing a master's in psychology takes time and effort, but it also gives you deeper knowledge and skills. While an online program doesn't require commuting to classes, you will listen to virtual lectures and build relationships with fellow students and faculty.

You will also need to complete a practicum and an internship for most programs. Check that you can complete this fieldwork requirement locally or that you can travel if needed.

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

Depending on your schedule and other responsibilities, it will take 2-4 years to earn a master's in psychology online. Most programs require 36 credit hours and full-time students typically finish in 24-30 months, depending on the program. Some schools, including some online master's in psychology programs, offer accelerated programs that you can finish in a year.

When planning your online psychology master's degree, be sure to consider practicum and internship requirements, especially if you plan to work while earning your degree.

Featured Online Psychology Master's Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

What Classes Will I Take in an Online Master's Program?

Courses vary due to several factors, including whether you're in a master of arts vs. a master of science program or pursuing a specialization. Most of these differences stem from schools' different elective requirements.

Core courses typically teach students theories and principles of human thought and behavior, how those change through different life phases, and how professionals use that information to assess mental competency. See below for descriptions of three common core courses.

Lifespan Development

Students explore human development through life stages from conception to death. Content covers the normal developmental phases of the physical, mental, emotional, social, and cultural facets of humans, along with topics such as personality development. Learners also assess factors that may impede normal development and their impacts.

Skills Gained: Understanding and assessing developmental milestones from conception to death

Statistics and Research Methodology

Degree-seekers learn concepts of designing and conducting scientific research to test hypotheses. Learners focus on different designs for experimental and non-experimental research, methods for gathering quantitative and qualitative research, and how to interpret findings. Students practice theories and principles by collecting, analyzing, and imaging data to share their findings.

Skills Gained: Research design, information gathering, and analytical thinking

Ethics and Diversity

Students evaluate the evolution of ethics from early models to current ethical codes and how associated factors impact mental health intervention. Degree-seekers also learn how ethics connect to legal regulations that govern mental health and wellness. Students consider the use of ethics when working with diverse people and consider elements such as cultural sensitivity.

Skills Gained: Use of ethical codes and cultural sensitivity

Concentrations Available For an Online Master's Degree in Psychology?

A desire to better understand how people think and behave in specific situations plays a major role in why many students choose psychology concentrations. Pursuing a specialization allows learners to develop useful expertise. See below for common concentrations in psychology master's programs online.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology exemplifies the overlap of the study of psychology and the criminal justice system. Forensic psychologists examine defendants and witnesses, provide their findings to attorneys and judges, and often testify as experts in courtroom trials.

Educational Psychology

Degree-seekers who focus on educational psychology examine why students learn, what motivates them to learn, and how to assist them in the learning process. Educational psychologists research and develop instructional curricula and educational technology for different types of student groups, including gifted learners and students with disabilities.

Sports Psychology

Sports psychologists work with athletes and coaches to maintain mental health and ensure high-level performance. They explore factors including injuries, self-perception, and motivation to assist athletes in pursuing peak mental, emotional, and physical conditions.

School Psychology

School psychologists work with parents, students, and teachers to promote an environment conducive to successful learning. Taking a holistic approach, they focus on factors including family relationships, social interactions, and personal perceptions that can directly impact a student's capacity, desire, and willingness to learn.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat clients with mental and behavioral conditions, diseases, and addictions. They may specialize in treating children, teens, or adults in mental health facilities, schools, and private practice settings.

What's the Difference Between a Traditional and Online Psychology Degree?

Students completing an online master's program in psychology can pursue the same jobs as those earning their degree in person. Online and on-campus programs typically include the same curriculum and degree requirements.

These programs differ only in the delivery format and, in some cases, faculty dedicated to online programs. Degree-seekers should choose an online or traditional program based on their preferences and priorities.

  • Flexibility

    • Online

      Learners who study online can choose the program and delivery format that suits their needs. Online schools offer more flexible program options that allow learners to attend classes while working full time and maintaining personal obligations.

    • Traditional

      Campus programs limit themselves to local and commuter students. Schools establish schedules, though some institutions offer evening or weekend classes to accommodate working students. Degree-seekers who prefer face-to-face interaction with instructors and peers benefit from the traditional learning environment.

  • Access

    • Online

      Students can access course materials and learning resources and communicate with instructors through learning systems such as Blackboard and Desire2Learn. Most libraries operate a virtual database system for distance learners. Some online courses require a short on-campus residency or in-person component.

    • Traditional

      Students use the same virtual tools as online students to access materials and resources and communicate with instructors, but not as extensively. While learners may contact instructors and use facilities in person, their work schedule and availability may conflict with regular office and operating hours.

  • Motivation

    • Online

      Online learning requires self-motivation and discipline. Students should take advantage of the many resources available while studying online. Degree-seekers working full time with a family must prioritize activities to meet personal and academic obligations.

    • Traditional

      Completing coursework according to a set schedule makes it easier for some students to practice effective time management. Students lacking self-motivation may benefit from engaging with classmates and instructors in person. Face-to-face interaction may also help deepen some learners' understanding of the curriculum.

Are Online Psychology Master's Programs Cheaper than Traditional Programs?

Many factors affect the cost of an online graduate program, often discounted compared to a traditional program. Tuition and textbooks typically cost the same for on-campus and online students, though some schools offer reduced tuition for online learners. Others offer compound savings for in-state students completing their degrees online. Auxiliary fees account for the biggest cost difference between online and traditional programs.

On-campus learners sometimes incur room-and-board fees. They may also need to budget for transportation, fees for student activities or campus facilities, technology charges, liability insurance fees, and childcare, if applicable.

While online students qualify for exemption from fees for campus-based services, they may incur additional charges in technology fees, academic service fees, and exam-proctoring fees.

How Are Online Psychology Courses Different From Campus-Based Programs?

Online students learn the same course material and earn the same degree as on-campus students. Whether earning a master's in psychology online or on-campus is right for you depends on your specific situation and approach to learning.

Online programs offer flexibility and convenience, so you can work and have other commitments while earning your degree. Students can accelerate their degrees and graduate faster in self-paced online courses than in on-campus programs.

But, online classes can be more difficult to get to know your classmates and faculty. If the online program has asynchronous classes with recorded lectures, some students may find it easier, and some may find it more difficult to ask questions and participate in online discussions.

It may be easier to arrange internships and practicums in an on-campus program where students have access to a local network that can make it easier to find placement. Online students may receive help and guidance arranging practicums, but it may take more research and diligence to find local opportunities if your school is not near you.

Do Online Psychology Master's Programs Require Students to be On-Campus?

Online master's in psychology programs rarely require campus visits, if at all. Many programs meet exclusively online, while others require students to visit the campus for 1-2 weeks at a time.

On-campus students may take course exams on campus, while online students take exams at approved proctoring locations. Some online programs offer on-campus courses, though usually optional for distance learners.

Research-based master's programs in psychology do not require clinical hours because the degree does not prepare graduates to pursue state licensure. Certain specialties require that students complete a practicum, internship, or 100-600 hours of fieldwork.

Students may complete fieldwork hours at professional mental health locations pre-approved by the supervising faculty member or program director. Some programs allow learners to substitute field experience for a capstone project, thesis, or comprehensive exam.

Do Online Students Still Qualify For Financial Aid?

Online and traditional students qualify for the same financial aid. Any student attending an accredited school can submit the FAFSA to receive federal student aid. Online and on-campus students also qualify for applicable state scholarships. Some programs offer tuition discounts to in-state students.

Many schools award graduate students additional financial aid in psychology scholarships or assistantships. Degree-seekers with qualifying undergraduate GPAs and GRE scores can apply for faculty-led research or teaching assistantship. As university employees, graduate assistants work roughly 20 hours per week, their tuition paid, and they receive a small stipend.

What License Do I Need to Practice Psychology?

Most states require psychologists to have a license, including those who practice independently.

The state process usually requires applicants to have a doctoral degree and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).

The EPPP measures a student's knowledge, understanding, and experience in the practice of psychology. Study guides and practice exams, widely available at varying prices, can help candidates prepare. Exam fees differ by state.

Some states license master's-level graduates, but only with verification that the school's curriculum included courses required by the state.

Each state determines its regulations and requirements for psychologist licenses. Some states limit licensure to programs accredited by the American Psychological Association. Others require more supervised training and experience beyond what school programs provide.

Students should contact their state boards for specific requirements. For detailed licensure requirements, visit the Association of State and Provincial Boards.

Careers for Graduates of Online Psychology Programs

Earning a psychology master's degree online can prepare graduates for careers focusing on different populations. During their master's programs, many learners can choose a psychology specialization to prepare them for their desired career path. Readers can access this page to learn more about psychology careers at the master's level.

Rehabilitation Counselors

These professionals help individuals dealing with emotional, physical, developmental, or mental conditions live independently and manage their symptoms. They work with patients to develop treatment plans and consult doctors, psychologists, and therapists.

Average Annual Salary: $44,740

School and Career Counselors

These counselors work with students, helping them develop the social and academic skills they need to succeed in school. Career counselors also focus on preparing students with the tools they need to pursue a particular career, helping them find the right pathway for their goals.

Average Annual Salary: $63,090

Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists

These professionals help clients manage issues within their marriage or other relationships. They often focus on clients going through difficult life changes, including divorce and problems at work.

Average Annual Salary: $59,660

Genetic Counselors

Genetic counselors provide information and support to healthcare providers about individuals and families dealing with inherited genetic conditions. They interview patients to understand their families' medical histories to evaluate the risk for specific genetic disorders.

Average Annual Salary: $86,640

Explore More Psychology Careers

Find an Online Master's Degree in Psychology Near Me

Learners interested in pursuing their online master's in psychology can access the following database to explore options. Users can filter their search based on degree level, location, and campus type, among other factors.

Page Last Reviewed October 10, 2022

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