Getting a Master’s Degree in Psychology

Use the Directory of Master’s Degrees in Psychology

When you’re searching for an online psychology master’s degree program can help you easily find the program that meets your professional and educational goals. You can use the search filters to select schools by geographic location, student population, and type of program, such as online, brick-and-mortar, or hybrid, or you can search for programs by specialization, such as clinical psychology or industrial psychology.

Why Should I Get a Master’s Degree in Psychology?

You should get a master’s degree in psychology if you have a four-year degree in psychology or related field and are seeking to further your education and career opportunities within a 2-3 year timeframe. Most students who complete a psychology master’s degree online go on to be licensed professional counselors and work at mental health institutions, hospitals, and schools or in private practice.

Since licensing is handled at the state level, requirements vary but most states require at least a master’s degree. Most master’s degree in psychology programs can help prepare you for licensing examinations such as the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) as well as the National Certified Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE) and open up several career paths to you.

A master’s degree in psychology can also be a stepping stone to a PhD in psychology, which can open up opportunities to teach at the university level or work in clinical research.

What Types of Master’s Degrees are Available in Psychology?

  • Master of Arts (MA): This degree usually takes two years and a minimum of 30 credits and focuses on the application of psychology to various behavioral, cognitive, and societal issues. Both students with a limited background in psychology and those who hold an undergraduate degree in the field can use the program as a means to clarify their interest in professional psychology or as a first step toward a doctoral program.
  • Master of Science (MS): This degree focuses on the processes that underlie individual human experience and behavior, as well as core knowledge, theories, and research in the field. Typical programs consist of two years and 36 to 48 credit hours. Students interested in working in a community agency, in a healthcare setting, or within the educational or social services system should choose this degree.
  • Master of Social Work (MSW): This specialized psychology degree is designed for students who want to work in community health settings including hospitals and nursing homes. Most programs are two years in length and about 36 credit hours, with additional hours in field work. This degree is a good choice for students interested in pursuing a career in social work or looking to advance their careers.

What Classes Will I Take While Pursuing a Master’s Degree in Psychology?

Students who enroll in an MA, MS, or MSW psychology program will how psychology is applied to the understanding of human behavior and to treating mental and emotional problems.

Accredited master’s-level programs in psychology require core classes like the following:

Psychological Testing

This course teaches students how to conduct a variety of psychological tests in order to properly assess patients. Students will also learn to measure and interpret empirical data.

Ethics in Psychology

This course covers professional and ethical behavior in psychology. Students will also learn how to work with vulnerable populations and the importance of maintaining client records.

Personality Theories

This course teaches personality theory in the context of psychoanalytic, neoanalytic, and cognitive models. Students will also examine the works of Freud, Jung, and Maslow.

Research Methodology

This course focuses on methods for conducting psychological research including cross-sectional studies, meta-analysis, experimentation, and interviews. Students will also learn how to conduct research and experiments ethically as well as how to document findings.

Life-Span Development

This course examines all areas of human development over the stages of a person’s life. Students will also cultural factors of human life such as gender and family roles.

Is an Online Master’s Degree in Psychology a Good Choice?

Most of the courses needed to complete a master’s degree in psychology can be completed online, so attending online psychology classes is a viable option, depending on your career goals. Some programs require supervised clinical or internship hours, so a hybrid format that allows you to complete coursework online and supervised clinical time on campus and in the community is a better choice. It is uncommon for accredited universities to offer fully online programs for psychology fields, especially those that require licensure.

What Careers Can I Pursue After Graduating from Master’s Programs Online?

While most jobs in the field of psychology require licensure, there are some career paths available that don’t. The following list shows current careers in psychology and related fields with the highest job growths:

Mental Health Counselor

  • Projected national job growth: 36%
  • Average Salary: $39,710/year
  • Job description: Mental health counselors diagnose a variety of mental and emotional disorders, teach their clients coping strategies, and help patients to handle emotional obstacles appropriately.
  • Why would I want to do this? Choose this profession if you want to help people overcome emotional or mental struggles including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

School and Career Counselor

  • Projected national job growth: 19%
  • Average Salary: $53,380/year
  • Job description: School and career counselors teach classes on topics such as low self-esteem, suicide, and bullying, help students set academic and personal goals, and assess students’ abilities and interests in order to help them pursue possible career paths.
  • Why would I want to do this? Follow this career opportunity if you are interested in working with secondary and post-secondary students and helping them achieve goals.

Rehabilitation Counselor

  • Projected national job growth: 28%
  • Average Salary: $32,350/year
  • Job description: Rehabilitation counselors provide therapy to help people overcome their emotional disabilities by creating treatment plans and teaching them to live independently.
  • Why would I want to do this? Select a profession as a rehabilitation counselor if you enjoy helping temporarily disabled people resume normal day-to-day activities.

Marriage and Family Therapist

  • Projected national job growth: 37%
  • Average Salary: $45,720/year
  • Job description: A marriage and family therapist uses family-centered strategies to treat adults and children in a family unit and may focus on issues such as addiction and substance abuse.
  • Why would I want to do this? Pursue a career as a marriage and family therapist if you want to help families overcome their emotional or mental struggles.