Is an Online Master's in Psychology Program For You?
Many psychology positions require applicants to possess advanced degrees. Professionals with a bachelor's degree in psychology may need to pursue a master's degree or doctorate to progress in their field. Disciplined and self-motivated individuals who want to advance in the field can consider completing a master's in psychology online.
Learners can explore multiple online master's programs in psychology, allowing them to choose the option that best reflects their priorities and learning style.
What Should I Expect from an Online Master's in Psychology Program?
How Long Does it Take to Get a Master's Degree in Psychology?
Most online master's in psychology programs require 36 credits and take about two years to complete. The more specialized or tailored the program or the more hours for field work or research required, the longer students take to earn their degree. Depending on the program or track, learners earn either a master of arts degree, which employs a liberal arts-focused curriculum, or a master of science degree, which emphasizes STEM-related topics.
Most online master's in psychology programs require 36 credits and take about two years to complete.
Online psychology master's programs generally offer only full-time options, but some part-time options may exist. Schools that value interpersonal engagement use a cohort model, meaning students move through online courses as a group. Degree-seekers otherwise complete program courses individually and at their own pace.
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What Classes Will I Take in an Online Master's Program?
Courses vary due to several factors, including whether a program yields a master of arts or a master of science, and whether learners pursue 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.
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
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
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 peoples 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.
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 curriculum and educational technology for different types of student groups, including gifted learners and students with disabilities.
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 their pursuit of peak mental, emotional, and physical condition.
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 psychologists diagnose and treat clients with mental deficiencies and behavioral disorders, diseases, and addictions. They may specialize in the treatment of children, teens, or adults in settings including mental health facilities, schools, and private practice.
What's the Difference Between a Traditional and Online Psychology Degree?
Students completing an online master's degree in psychology qualify for the same employment opportunities as those with a traditional master's degree. Online and on-campus programs typically include the same curriculum and degree requirements. They 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.
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 set 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.
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.
Online: Online learning requires self-motivation and discipline. Students should take advantage of the many resources available to them while studying online. Degree-seekers who work full time with a family must prioritize activities to meet both 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 degree 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 and traditional classes offer the same course content, but differ in their delivery method.
Online learners must supply their own computer and internet access. Online classes typically last 6-7 weeks, condensing course content and, thus, shortening completion time of the degree. Classes may run asynchronously, which allows students to move at their own pace, or synchronously, which requires learners to meet with instructors and classmates online at set times. Some classes follow a hybrid format, providing both asynchronous and synchronous learning.
Traditional campus-based courses convene in a classroom on pre-scheduled days and times. Mandatory attendance often factors into a student's overall grade. Classes usually follow a 15-week semester system, with classes meeting 2-3 times a week, or a 10-week quarter system with classes meeting daily. Both allow a longer period than online courses for students to absorb course content and complete assignments. Learners still use technology, but can access it on campus if unavailable at home.
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. In-state students may take course exams on campus while out-of-state 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 field work. Students may complete these 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. The applications and deadlines for FAFSA and student loans apply to all learners. Both types of 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 the form of special scholarships or assistantships. Degree-seekers with qualifying undergraduate GPA and GRE scores can apply for a faculty-led research or teaching assistantship. As a university employee, graduate assistants work roughly 20 hours per week, their tuition paid, and they receive a small stipend.
Visit our psychology scholarships page to find out more information.
What License Do I Need to Practice Psychology?
Most online master's in psychology programs do not prepare students for state licensure because graduates at this level do not require licensure to practice psychology. However, learners who specialize in certain concentrations need a license to practice.
The licensure process by state but usually requires a doctoral degree and passing 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 psychology licensees. Some states license master's-level graduates, but only with verification that the school's curriculum included courses required by the state. 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's psychology board for state 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 a variety of specialized career opportunities focusing on different population areas. During their master's programs, many learners can focus on specialization opportunities to prepare them for their desired career path. Readers can access this page to learn more about psychology career opportunities at the master's level.
These professionals help individuals dealing with emotional, physical, developmental, or mental disabilities live independently and manage the effects of their disabilities. They work with patients to develop treatment plans and consult with doctors, psychologists, and therapists.
Average Annual Salary: $35,630
These counselors work with students, helping them develop the social and academic skills they need to achieve success 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: $56,310
These professionals help their clients manage issues within their marriage or other relationships. They often focus on clients going through difficult changes in their lives, including divorce and problems at work.
Average Annual Salary: $50,090
Responsible for providing information and support to healthcare providers about individuals and families dealing with inherited genetic conditions, genetic counselors interview patients to understand their individual family and medical histories to evaluate the risk for specific genetic disorders.
Average Annual Salary: $80,370
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.