Best Online Psychology Master’s Degree Programs 2021
| Staff Writers
A master’s degree in psychology offers a versatile array of employment possibilities. Graduates find careers in social service agencies, government, business and industry, healthcare, and criminal justice. A master’s also provides the academic foundation for a Ph.D., which most states require for licensure as a clinical or counseling psychologist.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 3% increase in the job growth rate for all psychologists from 2019-29, with variations by specialty and level of education. Positions may expand more quickly for industrial/organizational psychologists and those who work with the elderly and in rehabilitation services, many of whom enter these fields after earning their master’s.
An online master’s in psychology, which takes approximately two years to complete, delivers the same curriculum as traditional campus-based programs. Depending on the program structure, students can access lectures and other course materials at their convenience, and may arrange internships and practicum experiences near their homes or through virtual meetings.
Applying to a Master’s Program in Psychology
Although each college and university establishes its own admissions criteria for graduate study, most institutions offering a master’s in psychology require applicants to hold a bachelor’s in psychology or a related social science field from an accredited institution. Some schools may offer provisional acceptance to candidates without social science undergraduate degrees but usually require them to complete prerequisite courses in areas, such as research methods or statistics before formally admitting them.
Most applications ask for official undergraduate transcripts, a minimum GPA, two to three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement that describes any volunteer or internship experiences related to psychology, along with intended career goals. Some schools require a minimum GRE score, especially if applicants have not earned their bachelor’s in psychology or a related major.
ASU offers an online master's in psychology comprising 36 credits. Students may enroll part or full time, allowing them to graduate in as few as 18 months.
Distance learners take 12 courses in total, each lasting 7.5 weeks. The curriculum covers subjects in abnormal psychology, affective science, and behavior analysis. Many courses focus on research methods and quantitative analysis, and the curriculum takes a heavy statistics and writing approach. Degree-seekers must pass a capstone in general psychology to graduate.
Many graduates of the program go on to earn a doctoral degree in psychology. Others go into rehabilitation services, market research, behavioral health, and public relations.
Admissions requirements for interested individuals include a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of coursework, a statement of purpose, and two recommendation letters. ASU recommends, but does not require, that students submit GRE scores.
The degree comprises 36-48 credits, which students can complete in 18-24 months. The degree covers foundational psychological concepts and explores how clinical psychologists apply those concepts and theories in the workforce. Students learn about mental and emotional disorders, research methods, and counseling methods.
The curriculum comprises five foundation courses, nine core courses, and two elective courses. Pepperdine may wave some foundational course requirements for learners who earned a "B" or above in similar undergraduate classes. Some courses within the curriculum are listed below:
Individual and family treatment of substance abuse
Trauma in diverse populations
Clinical interventions in children and adolescents
Introduction to positive psychology
Industrial organizational psychology
To apply, prospective students submit their official undergraduate transcripts, two recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose.
ULM is a public university of about 9,000 students. Among the distance learning program offerings is an online MA in psychology.
Distance learners can choose a concentration in forensic psychology, general psychology, or psychometrics and must spend one semester on campus.
Potential courses include intelligence testing; psychological assessment; minorities, crime, and criminal justice; and advanced theories of crime and delinquency. Degree-seekers may also complete a thesis if they plan to go on to doctoral study.
Applicants must possess an undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. If they do not meet this threshold, they may still apply with GRE scores. Applicants should also have at least three psychology undergraduate credits.
At Virginia Beach-based Regent University, distance learners may enroll in an online master's of psychology comprising a minimum of 39 credits. Full-time students may complete the program in 1.5 academic years.
Students take 27 credits of required courses and 12 elective credits. Degree-seekers may also tailor their program by choosing one of the following concentrations:
Industrial organizational psychology
Marriage and family
Elective courses, such as concepts of family systems and health psychology, allow students to take a deep dive into their chosen specializations. Graduates of the program can go on to positions as researchers, industrial-organizational psychologists, leadership coaches, and cyberpsychologists, to name a few.
Applicants require a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA. Although Regent suggests candidates come from an academic background in counseling, psychology, or a related field, the school considers applicants from other fields, as well.
EWU offers a school psychology master's degree with an education specialist concentration. The program includes weekly synchronous meetings and annual in-person training requirements. The three-day on-campus requirement occurs in the summer, wherein students meet their instructors and fellow learners and participate in certificate trainings. Students may choose the accelerated two-year program or three-year program.
The curriculum requires 107 credits in all. Most courses comprise four credits and cover topics like multi-tiered systems of support, academic assessment for school psychology, and counseling theories and school-based mental health interventions. Degree-seekers take part in a school psychology practicum or supervised work experience in an education setting. They finish the degree with a 15-credit internship.
Applicants should have a bachelor's degree in psychology, education, or a related field and a minimum 3.0 GPA in their last 60 undergraduate credits. Prospective students must also possess at least three years of full-time experience teaching in schools or at least five years of experience in a closely related field.
The program comprises 36 credits, and degree-seekers without an academic background in psychology also take three foundational courses in psychology, statistics, and research methods. More advanced elective courses include sport and society, critical issues in the criminal justice system, and managing difficult conversations at work. A capstone course involves a culminating experience to assess students' overall knowledge of the curriculum.
SNHU runs five terms each year, allowing distance learners to graduate in 1-2 years. The degree prepares graduates to pursue doctoral study, although many graduates go into market research or corporate training and development careers, as well.
Applicants require a bachelor's degree and submit their undergraduate transcripts along with their applications. SNHU does not set a minimum GPA requirement.
The University of Idaho offers an MS in psychology concentrating on the unique study of human factors. This online degree examines why people do the things they do and features a research-heavy curriculum, blending traditional psychology study with engineering.
Required courses include the following:
Sensation and perception
Human factors in engineering design
Ergonomics and biomechanics
Degree-seekers may choose a thesis or non-thesis pathway. The thesis option allows students to carry out their own research and defend it before a faculty committee, whereas the non-thesis students take a comprehensive exam.
Graduates of the program find jobs as human factor engineers and ergonomists, survey researchers, and social science research assistants. Many go on to doctoral study.
To apply, prospective students need an undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Those who do not meet this requirement can still apply by submitting GRE scores.
The applied behavior science degree prepares students for national certification as a board-certified behavior analyst. The degree comprises 58 credits, including five internship courses. Distance learners can complete this entire degree online with the exception of their fieldwork.
Individuals pursuing the counseling psychology degree must complete 60 credits, and the program lasts three years. This program follows a hybrid format, which means students may need to complete on-campus requirements. Additionally, they must participate in off-campus practicum and internship experiences. Upon graduation, counseling psychology graduates may apply for the licensed professional counselor credential.
The general/experimental psychology program requires 39 credits. Degree-seekers on this track must carry out a research-based thesis.
Applicants need an undergraduate degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA and a GRE score of at least 285. Applicants also need three credits of undergraduate statistics courses and 18 credits of undergraduate psychology courses.
Located in North Carolina, FSU allows students to pursue an MA in psychology through online learning. The degree follows a general psychology curriculum, so graduates are not eligible for clinical licensure as counselors or psychologists. However, this degree can help students find jobs in advertising, business, research, education, and social and community services.
The degree comprises 36 credits and covers topics like biological, behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and social development. Degree-seekers also enroll in classes dedicated to carrying out and consuming research, which can help them with jobs in corporate research settings. Distance learners take courses through the learning management system Canva, and each course lasts eight weeks. If students enroll year-round, they can complete their degree in 1.5 years.
Applicants require undergraduate transcripts with a minimum 2.6 GPA along with GRE scores. However, the university has waived the GRE requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based in Boca Raton, Florida, Lynn University offers an online master's in psychology with two different tracks: general psychology or industrial and organizational psychology. The school provides each student with an iPad to optimize their distance learning.
The curriculum comprises 37 credits of coursework, including a one-credit graduate orientation seminar. Foundation courses cover psychological theories and research methods. Concentration courses may include psychobiology or managing human resources, depending on a student's concentration. Degree-seekers must also complete a practicum. Distance learners may take two classes per term and graduate in one year.
Interested individuals may apply if they possess a bachelor's degree; the university does not require students to come from a psychology background. The admission guidelines also recommend that applicants possess a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, although this is not a requirement.
With just over 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students, Union College offers on-campus and online degrees, including a master's in general psychology. This 36-credit degree requires advanced psychology coursework, a capstone course, and an integrative research-based thesis.
Graduate students may pursue similar psychology programs, as well. A 49-credit MA in clinical psychology prepares students for clinical licensure. The degree follows a hybrid format, with graduates working in psychiatric hospitals, prisons, and mental health centers.
An MA in substance abuse comprises 60 credits, and students may complete this degree entirely online. Master's candidates meet Kentucky's licensure criteria to become substance abuse counselors.
Finally, learners can supplement their degrees by pursuing a chemical dependency counselor certificate. This entirely online program requires 21 credits of coursework and prepares students to use their counseling skills to work with patients dependent on chemical substances.
To apply, prospective students need to submit their undergraduate transcripts.
The Ed.S. focuses on school psychology and comprises courses like psychological consultation in schools. In contrast, the MS degree requires more courses related to the science of child and adolescent psychology. MS candidates enroll in courses like developmental psychology and advanced child psychotherapy.
For both programs, degree-seekers must pass comprehensive exams. MS students participate in an observation experience, while Ed.S. candidates create and defend a portfolio. Ed.S. students must also complete an internship. Full-time students can complete either program in one year, although the internship lasts an additional year.
Applicants must have a bachelor's degree in psychology or education and show completion of one statistics course. They also require a minimum 3.0 GPA and GRE scores.
At Fort Lauderdale-based NSU, graduate students may pursue an online master's degree in psychology. The program lets master's candidates choose between a general psychology track or an applied health science concentration.
The full curriculum requires 30 credits. Students take 21 foundational credits and nine credits within their specialty track. Degree-seekers who chose the general track and aim to complete a doctoral program may complete a six-credit master's thesis instead of enrolling in electives.
Individuals working in healthcare usually pursue the applied health science concentration. Courses include psychological aspects of treating diseases, the business of psychology, and interview techniques. Generally speaking, these courses explore the biomedical model for treating disease from a psychological perspective.
To apply, prospective students need a bachelor's degree in psychology, education, behavioral science, social work, or a related field. NSU sets the minimum GPA for admission at 3.0; however, individuals with a lower GPA can still apply if they submit GRE scores.
Students at Concordia can pursue a master's in psychology by completing a 33-credit hybrid program in 24 months.
The degree focuses on research and psychological assessment, with courses both on campus and online. The advanced research in psychology course, for example, occurs on campus, and students can work in close conjunction with faculty members to conduct studies. Other courses — like applied psychopathology and diagnosis — allow students to study psychology theory through distance learning.
MA candidates complete their degree through a capstone experience. Many fulfill this requirement through original thesis research, although degree-seekers can carry out any project that demonstrates their ability to synthesize information and interpret theory into practice.
Graduate students should submit their bachelor's degree transcripts, write an objective statement outlining their professional and academic goals, and submit two recommendation letters. Concordia does not specify a minimum undergraduate GPA.
Located in Dobbs Ferry, New York, Mercy College facilitates a 36-credit MS in psychology online. The degree equips students with research skills and psychology theory, which can prepare them for a doctoral degree. This particular master's program does not prepare students for counseling or psychiatric licensure.
The degree comprises 24 core and 12 elective credits. Students take core courses like pathopsychology and physiological psychology and can choose between a written comprehensive capstone or six elective credits to count as their capstone experience. Mercy also sponsors a 4+1 program for undergraduate psychology students who want to pursue their master's in one year.
Distance learners can participate in mentorship opportunities with faculty members and may take advantage of Mercy's career development center.
Applicants require a bachelor's degree in psychology, sociology, behavioral science, or education. The admissions committee considers other majors only in special cases. Prospective students must also show completion of an undergraduate statistics course and 12 psychology credits with at least a "B."
At Tiffin University, students can enroll either full or part time in the school's online MS in psychology program. Distance learners can complete the 37-credit program in 1.5 years if enrolled full time and 2.5 years if studying part time.
This degree focuses on scientific and experimental psychology instead of the counseling and clinical components of the field. Therefore, this degree does not lead to licensure but can be used as a stepping-stone to a doctoral degree or research career.
Courses cover topics like statistical procedures, applied theories of personality, and neuropsychology. These courses generally consist of two credits, and students enroll in two terms every semester. Degree-seekers with a two-part capstone course can synthesize their learning with an independent research project.
Prospective students may apply by submitting their undergraduate transcripts and a 300-word essay. The admission requirements do not specify a minimum GPA requirement.
Fort-Wayne based Indiana Tech runs an online MS in psychology for individuals aiming to apply their psychological knowledge to business, mental health and social service agencies, or the criminal justice system. Many students also enroll in this program as a precursor to graduate study in psychology.
Distance learners take 11 three-credit courses. These courses cover psychological theory, such as advanced biopsychology, social psychology, and psychopathology. MS candidates also hone their academic schools through a writing in psychology class and research methods and statistics courses. Upon completing their classes, students must pass a capstone course. This course evaluates students' knowledge with a comprehensive exam.
The curriculum aligns itself with the American Psychological Association's graduate education guidelines, so it's easy to transfer credits to and from this program.
To apply, interested individuals must possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. They should also have at least two years of significant work experience.
Medaille College in Buffalo, New York, offers an MA in psychology that covers areas like evolutionary psychology, the biological bases of human behavior, and psychopathy.
The program requires 36 credits, which students can take online. Distance learners begin the program with an online preparation course. After students finish courses like counseling and cognitive psychology, they can choose either a thesis or internship as their culminating experience. While all didactic courses are three credits, the thesis and internship demand six credits. Graduates of the program often go on to doctoral study.
Degree-seekers may also pursue an optional concentration in sport psychology. The concentration trains individuals who want to become coaches or sports counselors, and students learn about psychological factors in sports performance and rehabilitation.
Individuals can apply by submitting their undergraduate transcripts, a personal and professional goals statement, and two professional references.
The MA in counseling prepares students for the standard marriage and family therapist (MFT) certification or the combined MFT/licensed professional clinical counselor option. This degree equips students with the requirements they need to become licensed counselors in California.
The other two degrees prepare students for doctoral study or to work in teaching or coaching roles. All of these programs follow a four-week course schedule, and degree-seekers can enroll all year round, which can help MA candidates graduate more quickly than a traditional two-year master's degree.
Prospective students may apply if they possess an undergraduate degree, and NU does not specify a minimum GPA. Incoming students can also transfer up to 13.5 units of coursework.
At Palo Alto, degree-seekers can choose between three psychology master's programs online, depending on their career goals: a 47-unit Ph.D. preparation track, 37.5 general psychology option, or a 37.5 forensic psychology concentration.
All of these options include synchronous online classes conducted through video conferencing. Although the program follows a highly structured schedule, students may continue working while pursuing their degree. The two shorter concentrations last 1.5 years for full-time learners, while the Ph.D. prep concentration takes two years to complete. All degree-seekers take similar courses — such as research methods and psychopathology — during their first year. Their paths diverge as the program continues.
For those in the Ph.D. prep track, students must attend a one-week on-campus intensive course during their second year spring break. If they stick with Palo Alto, students can save $6,000 in tuition costs by enrolling in the Ph.D. prep track first.
The university recommends that applicants possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.3 GPA. Prospective students with an undergraduate degree in an area other than psychology may apply but must have previously taken at least one statistics and three psychology college courses.
The 60-credit MA in counseling psychology at Golden Gate University prepares students for clinical work in hospitals, private practice, and community mental health agencies. In addition to online coursework, distance learners engage in 300 clinical hours of supervised fieldwork.
The curriculum includes several courses, such as applied psychological research, psychodynamic models of counseling, and the neuroscience of counseling and psychopharmacology. The curriculum does not offer any specializations, although the courses do focus on teaching counseling theories and methods.
Students also complete traineeship placements throughout San Francisco, where the university is located, and the wider Bay Area. The university helps students find traineeship placements that are right for them, including outpatient clinics, psychiatric hospitals, and residential treatment programs.
To apply, prospective students should submit their bachelor's degree transcripts. GGU does not set a minimum undergraduate GPA, but they may require certain applicants to submit GRE or MAT scores to supplement their application. Applicants may also submit an optional personal essay.
Located in Sterling, Virginia, DMU maintains an affiliation with the Catholic church. The school offers an MS in psychology that follows a 36-credit curriculum plan, which students may complete through distance learning.
DMU created this program with the purpose of training transformation leaders who work in case management, ministry programs, psychology education, and market research analysis. The curriculum incorporates the school's Catholic worldview. For example, students enroll in courses like the following:
Helping people flourish: a Catholic-Christian approach to psychology
The Catholic-Christian vision of the person
The Catholic-Christian vision of flourishing: vocations and virtue
Additionally, master's candidates fulfill a capstone course called the transformational leader in helping professions. This course challenges students to synthesize the information they learned throughout their coursework and identify their professional goals.
Applicants require a bachelor's degree with at least a 2.5 GPA. Those with GPAs under 2.75 should also submit GRE scores.
Named after community psychologist Alfred Adler, this university offers programs prioritizing Adler's teachings and research in socially responsible psychology.
The university's online MA in clinical mental health counseling follows an online format, although it does include a few in-person components on the university's Chicago campus. Students take part in five-day residencies for certain courses, including:
Counseling skills and counseling multicultural communities during their first year
Group counseling and treatment and planning intervention during their second year
The full curriculum comprises 62 credits, including core courses, electives, and field training and seminars. Possible elective options include counseling and human sexuality; counseling older adults and families; and mind, body, and meditative practices in counseling. Distance learners may opt to carry out a thesis instead of enrolling in electives.
As part of the field training, degree-seekers enroll in a social justice practicum. This 200-hour internship experience occurs at community outreach sites, where students dedicate 8-10 hours per week.
Interested individuals may apply if they possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do psychologists work?
After completing a traditional or online master’s degree in psychology, graduates find positions in a variety of work environments in the public and private sector. Because of its versatility, a master’s in psychology can lead to rewarding positions in healthcare and substance abuse clinics, schools, child welfare agencies, and marriage and family counseling services. Many psychologists find research and consulting roles in human resources, advertising, sales, and marketing.
What is accreditation and why is it important?
Accreditation from one of the regional accreditation agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation ensures that a school adheres to high standards of academic quality, facilitating the transfer of credits and financial aid eligibility. The American Psychological Association, Commission on Accreditation, the accrediting agency for doctoral programs in psychology, does not accredit undergraduate or master’s programs.
How much do you make with a master's degree in psychology?
Salary ranges for psychologists vary considerably by specialty, degree, and years of experience. The BLS reports the median income for all psychologists as $80,370 with the top 10% of earners making over $132,000 annually. Psychologists receive the highest salaries working in government agencies, hospitals, outpatient healthcare services, and elementary and secondary schools.
What can I do with a master's degree in psychology?
Professionals with a master’s in psychology may provide marriage and family therapy or victim advocacy services. Industrial-organizational psychologists apply their knowledge of group behavior to workplace settings. Those trained in forensic psychology work as counselors in prisons and juvenile centers. Psychologists also work as researchers and consultants in advertising and marketing firms.