Online Master’s in Psychology Programs

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Psychologist Careers & Salaries with a Graduate Degree in Psychology

For those who want to become a psychologist or psychiatrist, a master’s degree brings you one step closer to a doctorate or professional degree which is required to hold such a title. However, a terminal master’s degree can still provide the necessary knowledge and credentials for a number of other mental health careers. Learn more about online master’s degrees in psychology, including top colleges, what to expect in a program and potential career paths after earning the degree.

Advertisement AffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

In crafting this year’s rankings for the best online master’s in psychology programs, we gathered data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the U.S. Department of Education, and published materials from the universities highlighted on the list. The American Psychological Association only accredits doctoral-level programs, so each of the ranked schools below maintains regional accreditation to ensure all learners get a quality education. A list of regional accreditation agencies can be found via the U.S. Department of Education.

See Our Rankings Methodology

Best Online Master’s in Psychology

Best Online Master’s in Psychology


  • METHODOLOGY

    Methodology:

    • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution
    • Offers at least one masters-level program in Psychology
    • At least some portion of coursework may be taken via distance education

    Ranking Metrics:

    • Number of specializations available in Psychology from the institution
    • Availability of internship, work experience, and/or practicum opportunities
    • Delivery method (fully online vs. online-campus hybrid)
    • Availability of academic and/or career counseling services
    • Availability of job placement services for students and graduates
    • Average 3-year student loan default rate
    • Tuition (determined by tuition costs to complete the program for in-state students, not including additional fees)

    PBV* is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or ‘bang for your buck’ – of an online degree.Data Sources

    • Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information. Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017
    • In addition, we use the Department of Education Federal Student Aid office’s (Link: https://www2.ed.gov/offices/OSFAP/defaultmanagement/cdr.html#table) data on 3-Year Student Default Rates. The most recent release date is September.
    • Finally, additional data regarding delivery method and cost information has been verified on the institutions websites as of April.


  1. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Harvard University’s master’s in psychology, offered by the Harvard Extension School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, tops the list of best master’s in psychology programs for good reason. Rather than requiring prospective students to receive admittance to the program via standard application procedures, the school provides a unique alternative. Once deciding they want to pursue this degree, learners enroll in three classes that are required for all new students. After completing the first two, they apply to the program (in the fall, spring, or summer) and admissions panels consider their readiness for the remainder of the program based on performance in the previous months and traditional application materials.

    If accepted, students continue working through the required 12 courses by taking classes online and at the school’s brick-and-mortar location. Of the 32 credits needed to graduate, at least nine must be completed offline. Some of the classes required in this program include research methods and scholarly writing in the social sciences, statistical methods, and introduction to social anthropology. The final three classes for all psychology students include crafting the thesis proposal and master’s thesis parts one and two. When it comes time to write the thesis, students work with a director to conduct original research and write about a topic that ties in with previous professional experience or academic interests. Given the learning focus of this program, many graduates go on to complete a doctoral program and work in areas of research or academia. When they walk across the stage, newly minted graduates receive a master of liberal arts in extension studies, with an emphasis in psychology. Harvard is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

    Harvard Extension School:
    Massachusetts Hall, Cambridge, MA, 2138

    Phone Number: (617) 495-4024

    Email:inquiry@extension.harvard.edu

  2. Divine Mercy University
    Location

    Sterling, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located just outside the nation’s capital in neighboring Arlington, Virginia, Divine Mercy University provides a fully online master’s in psychology via its Institute for the Psychological Sciences. With a focus on instilling Catholic-Christian virtues while educating future mental health professionals, DMU’s curriculum offers an innovative and cutting-edge educational experience. Comprised of 36 credits and completed in two years of full-time study, this program covers topics such as human growth and development across the lifespan, the Catholic-Christian vision of flourishing and evidence-based practice and program evaluation. The final course, a capstone, helps students learn to be transformational leaders within the helping professions. This course is taken in lieu of a thesis.

    Described by the university as a non-therapeutic degree, DMU’s online M.S. in psychology prepares graduates for professional roles in fields related to psychology but does not lead to licensure. Some of the competency outcomes of the program include the ability to find and lead volunteers, crisis intervention, de-escalation and negotiation, and the ability to expertly review research and data produced by other professionals in the field. Learning is divided into five terms per year, with start dates available in January, May and August. Admission is dependent on a bachelor’s degree from a properly accredited college or university (which does not have to be in psychology), GPA of at least 2.75, GRE scores, two letters of recommendation, a resume and a personal statement outlining how the student’s goals align with the goals of the curriculum. To graduate, all learners must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher throughout the program. DMU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

    Institute for Psychological Studiese:
    2001 Jefferson Davis Highway, Suite 511, Arlington, VA, 22202

    Phone Number: (703) 416-1441

    Email:shollman.ips@divinemercy.edu

  3. Ball State University
    Location

    Muncie, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Although Ball State University provides degrees from its home base in Muncie, Indiana, individuals interested in pursuing the master of arts in educational psychology need never visit campus since the program exists fully online. BSU’s program requires students complete 30 credits, 18 of which form the core curriculum and the final 12 are devoted to one of four available specializations. Some of the core topics include advanced educational psychology, child and adolescent development, and human learning and achievement motivation. The four concentrations currently offered online are gifted and talented, human development, statistical and research methods, and neuropsychology. Students who already hold an Indiana teaching license and are following the gifted and talented path can complete what’s known as a high ability license alongside the degree program.

    If studying on a full-time basis and able to take summer classes, students can finish this program in less than a year; those enrolled on a more part-time basis usually need 18 months. BSU’s program appeals to learners from many different walks of life as it can open the doors to numerous professional options. While some graduates use their degrees to help school administrators make informed decisions about appropriately catering to developmental stages, others aspire to move into a Ph.D. program and become child psychologists. Still others decide on further education to pursue research. Online students receive instruction from the same notable faculty that lead classes at the brick-and-mortar campus and BSU is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    Department of Educational Psychology:
    2000 University Ave, Muncie, IN, 47306

    Phone Number: (765) 285-1581

    Email:online@bsu.edu

  4. Colorado State University
    Location

    Aurora, CO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Though based in Fort Collins, students hoping to complete Colorado State University’s master of applied industrial/organizational psychology degree don’t have to visit campus to pursue this fully online program. CSU’s degree helps students learn how to study and categorize workers’ behavior in various business settings in order to maximize productivity and performance. Aside from understanding the psychology behind the decisions workers make, I/O psychologists-in-training gain skills in identifying and retaining top-tier employees, implementing and overseeing leadership development initiatives, handling sensitive and multifaceted issues, and assessing whether workplace programs are effective and efficient.

    CSU’s program comprises 38 credits, with options for completion ranging from two to four years, depending on how much time students devote to the program. Coursework ranges from applied organizational psychology and workforce training/development to succession planning and leadership development. To round out their time at CSU, all students enroll in a two-part capstone comprised of a practicum and skills development course. In addition to participating in a consulting project with a volunteer organization, learners receive virtual support and mentorship from a faculty member during the capstone. Students considering this program must submit GRE General and Psychology Subject Tests to be accepted, but they can take up to nine credits without formally enrolling to get a feel for the program. The department currently consists of four full-time industrial/organizational psychology faculty members. CSU is accredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.

    Department of Psychology:
    102 Administration Building, Fort Collins, CO, 80523-0100

    Phone Number: (970) 491-6363

    Email:LINDA.THORNTON@COLOSTATE.EDU

  5. Texas A & M University-College Station
    Location

    College Station, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    From its College of Education and Human Development, Texas A&M University at College Station offers a master’s in educational psychology with an emphasis in school counseling. Made available completely online, students studying full-time can complete this program in just two years if they take classes in the fall and spring alongside two summer sessions. Courses are offered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats, so learners planning to work while enrolled may want to discuss times when live classes are typically offered to ensure the courses fit within their current schedules. When competing for admission, all applicants must provide an application, evidence of a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, three letters of recommendation, certification as a school counselor, and preferably at least two years of experience teaching in a classroom. Students based in Texas can use the degree to qualify for school counselor certification whereas learners from other states should check with their department of education to learn about certification requirements and whether out-of-state programs are permissible.

    Admitted students follow a course sequence as part of a cohort, with year one topics including multicultural counseling in schools, planning and organizing comprehensive guidance programs, and issues in child and adolescent development. Year two sees learners delving into studies of school counseling group interventions, consultation in special education, and assessment in school settings. During their final fall semester, students complete a counseling practicum in a school setting, while their final spring semester sees them participating in a field practicum in school counseling. No thesis is required. In addition to graduate academic advising and support related to financial services, TAMUCS students can also participate in a range of clubs and organizations. Students in the school counseling program may especially be interested in the educational psychology student organization, the student council for exceptional children, or the student affiliates of school psychology. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredits TAMUCS.

    Department of Educational Psychology:
    JKW Administration Building, Suite 200, College Station, TX, 77843-1248

    Phone Number: (979) 845-1831

    Email:skallina@tamu.edu

  6. Concordia University
    Location

    Mequon, WI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    In addition to operating campuses in Michigan and Wisconsin, Concordia University provides a vibrant online campus for students seeking distance education opportunities. One such program is the master of science in education with a concentration in school or professional counseling. Concordia’s program requires between 45 and 60 credits depending on student outcomes and is usually completed within two or three years of full-time learning. With a focus on making college affordable, the university provides a 25 percent tuition discount for educators at Christian schools and a 24 percent discount for preferred educational partners.

    After completing foundational courses in social/cultural foundations in counseling, models and methods of Christian family counseling, and human development, degree seekers move into core requirements. These include studies in Christian trauma counseling, individual counseling, and consultation strategies within the church. To finish up the degree, learners choose a number of counseling electives and complete two practicum experiences. No thesis is required with this degree. Upon graduation, learners living in Wisconsin qualify for 1) a School Counselor license, 2) a Licensed Professional Counselor – In Training credential, or 3) a Substance Abuse Counselor – In Training credential. Distance learners living in other states should check with their department of education or counseling board of licensure to learn whether Concordia’s program prepares them for similar credentials in their own state. Upon finishing the program, graduates have moved into roles as guidance counselors, counselors, Christian counselors and therapists. Some have also continued on to doctoral programs. To be considered for admission, students need to submit transcripts showing a 3.0 GPA from their undergraduate degree, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a one-page essay on why they want to attend Concordia University. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accredits this school.

    12800 N Lake Shore Dr, Mequon, WI, 53097-2402

    Phone Number: (877) 289-1897

    Email:onlineadmissions@cuw.edu

  7. University of Houston-Victoria
    Location

    Victoria, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Houston’s Victoria campus provides an in-depth master of arts degree in counseling psychology for students preparing to work directly with clients after graduation. Comprising 60 credits, this degree typically takes three years of study if enrolled on a full-time basis and helps students meet requirements for receiving the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential within Texas. With this qualification, UHV graduates find work in settings such as residential treatment centers, psychiatric hospitals, university counseling offices, or mental health agencies – in addition to having the opportunity to operate in private practice. Admission hinges on a graduate admissions index score of 980 or higher, an essay stating why the applicant wants to attend UHV’s program, evidence that the student has already taken courses in abnormal psychology, research, and statistics (and received “C” grades or higher), and an interview with a UHV faculty member.

    Coursework is divided into three sections: core, specialization, and practicum. Core credits take up 21 hours and cover topics such as advanced research methods, theories and issues in psychology, and intellectual assessments. The counseling psychology portion of the degree covers 30 credits and includes studies in vocational psychology and career counseling, group psychotherapy, and professional practices. The final nine hours of the program focus on the counseling psychology practicum. Students must complete 150 practicum hours to meet all requirements, and 50 of those hours must provide direct client contact. To graduate, learners must successfully pass a comprehensive exam. UHV receives accreditation via the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

    School of Arts & Sciences:
    3007 N. Ben Wilson, Victoria, TX, 77901

    Phone Number: (361) 570-4201

    Email:perzc@uhv.edu

  8. University of Northern Colorado
    Location

    Greeley, CO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    From its home base in Greeley (located 50 miles from Denver), the University of Northern Colorado provides an M.A. in educational psychology with a concentration in teaching applications for learners throughout the country. Available fully online, the program offers flexibility while still providing an accelerated format. Degree seekers hoping to move through the program quickly can complete requirements in just one year. Those who prefer a slower pace can take three to four courses per eight-week term and finish in three or four semesters.

    Students move through coursework as part of a cohort, giving them plenty of support and encouragement along the way. The program requires 30 credits and starts in the summer each year. Rather than focusing exclusively on theory, UNC’s program emphasizes assignments that allow students to apply their knowledge to real-world problems. Some of the assignments include reviewing and revising lesson plans, creating assessment models, and addressing issues of diversity. Some of the classes offered include educational psychology for teachers, cultural issues in educational psychology, and educational assessment. To graduate, students provide a research proposal, conduct a project, and write a paper about the results. They must also take a comprehensive exam.

    After graduating from UNC, newly minted degree holders have gone on to work as teachers, educational consultants, business trainers, and data professionals measuring and assessing programmatic effectiveness. Admittance to UNC is based on students holding a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, a GPA of at least 3.0 on the last 60 credits, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. UNC does not require GRE scores. Regardless of location or style of learning, all students pay the same rate of tuition per credit. UNC also provides Student Health Insurance Plans (SHIPs) to online students. The Higher Learning Commission provides regional accreditation to UNC.

    Department of Psychology:
    Carter Hall - Rm 4000, Greeley, CO, 80639

    Phone Number: (970) 351-2989

    Email:kevin.pugh@unco.edu

  9. University of Nevada-Las Vegas
    Location

    Las Vegas, NV

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Nevada, Las Vegas serves more than 30,000 students annually, with learners electing to study both at the Paradise campus and online. Individuals seeking a master’s degree in educational psychology have the option to complete a program of study via either format, although they should check the institution’s state compliance listing to ensure they’re eligible for enrollment. UNLV’s program appeals to degree seekers with a variety of interests and goals, ranging from classroom teachers looking to better understand learners and enhance teaching to individuals hoping to do research in the field after completing a doctoral degree. Roles of UNLV graduates include educational assessment coordinator, educational psychologist, human resources education specialist, program evaluator, and research analyst for school districts.

    Admission for UNLV is considered competitive, with most accepted learners having a GPA of 3.0 or higher and scores on the verbal and quantitative parts of the GRE in the 50th percentile or above. In addition to transcripts and exam scores, students also provide three letters of reference, a writing sample, a personal statement on interests and goals, and a completed application. Once accepted, students choose to specialize their studies. Options currently include learning, development, evaluation, instructional design, or quantitative and/or qualitative research methodologies. Examples of general, core coursework include learning and development, research methods and measurement, and descriptive and inferential statistics.

    All told, students take 34 credits and usually finish the program in one-and-a-half to two years if studying on a full-time basis. After completing all required coursework, distance learners choose between completing a thesis or sitting for a comprehensive exam. Students planning to continue into a Ph.D. program typically opt for the first option, while those moving into a classroom or professional setting choose the second. UNLV is accredited via the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

    Department of Educational Psychology & Higher Education:
    4505 S Maryland Pky, Las Vegas, NV, 89154

    Phone Number: (702) 895-3245

    Email:steven.mccafferty@unlv.edu

  10. University of Idaho
    Location

    Moscow, ID

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Because Idaho maintains low population density, the University of Idaho makes it possible for learners wanting to participate in the master of science in psychology with an emphasis in human factors to do so without ever visiting the Moscow location. If learners do want to visit campus, the department maintains modern laboratories at which student research can be conducted. As an added bonus, full-time distance learners pay the same tuition as their in-state counterparts. A unique degree path, the human factors concentration offers a broad look at things like motivation and performance to ensure students have lots of options upon graduation. Some of the classes offered in this innovative program include sensation and perception, human factors in engineering design, ergonomics and biomechanics, and human-computer interaction. Students need 30 credits to graduate. All learners participate in advanced statistics and research methods courses to round out their knowledge.

    Once degree seekers complete all required courses, they complete a comprehensive examination focused on basic knowledge, application, and research methods and statistics. Another component of graduation requirements is the thesis. Students create a proposal outlining their proposed methods and research project and recruit three faculty members to serve as their thesis committee. After turning in the final product, degree seekers participate in a two-hour thesis defense to answer questions and explain the choices they made.

    Students hoping to attend UI’s program must have an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field, a GPA of at least 3.0 and a GRE score of at least 1,000 (old scoring system) or 300 (new scoring system). Before learners receive full admittance, they must take and pass an introductory statistics class. Distance students receive in-state tuition rates but pay an additional fee of $35 per credit for technology fees. UI’s offering is housed in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences which provides approximately $1.6 million in scholarships per year. UI receives accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

    Department of Psychology:
    875 Perimeter Drive MS 2282, Moscow, ID, 83844-2282

    Phone Number: (208) 885-4944

    Email:tthorste@uidaho.edu

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Psychology Program

An online master’s program in psychology gives students a more comprehensive set of skills and also offers them an opportunity to gain specialized skills and knowledge to work or conduct research in a particular area. The majority of psych programs require between 30 and 60 credits; however, those seeking a counseling-related degree may be required to complete more than that. Some of the skills gained by completing a master’s in psychology include:

  • A thorough understanding of how brain chemistry contributes to behaviors
  • How to provide direct psychological services to a range of clients
  • An understanding of how things like socioeconomic status, life experiences, family dynamics and cultural expectations affect individual mental health and behaviors
  • How to conduct research and properly analyze the results
  • The ability to communicate effectively with clients, their families and other care providers

Specific course titles will vary by school and program but in general, some of the most common courses cover topics such as:

Methodology and Program Evaluation in Psychology

This course introduces students to the frameworks used in designing and evaluating psychology research. Students also learn how to use cost-effective analysis measures within mental health treatment.

Cognitive and Intellectual Assessment Techniques

Students in this class set out to learn why people behave and think in such different ways. Coursework looks at how to assess individuals as well as how evolutional psychology and neuroscience can be integrated.

Biological Basis of Behavior

This course takes a look at how the nervous system affects behaviors while also examining the psychological processes at play. In addition to reviewing various approaches to understanding behavior, students study things like action, cognition, motivation, perception and behavioral disorders.

Research Methods

Learners receive a full review of the various research methods employed in the discipline during this class. Specific topics include developing research frameworks, conducting experiments, and the necessary writing and presentation skills needed to effectively convey research findings.

Developmental Psychology

This course focuses on the various development stages throughout the lifespan, with specific emphasis on how humans develop biosocial, cognitive and psychosocial competencies. Students also delve into abnormal development and how to accurately diagnose behaviors and issues.

Counseling and Psychotherapy Techniques

After reviewing the many approaches to providing counseling and psychotherapy services to clients, students in this course put their learning into action. Degree seekers engage in counseling role-play in order to hone their skills in listening, analyzing and communicating.

Aside from the core curriculum and electives, all programs require students complete some type of culminating project to cap off their educational journey and gain hands-on experience. Some may also require students to pass a comprehensive examination. Common examples of culminating projects include:

  • PracticumLasting one to three semesters depending on the program, practicums provide a space where students can use what they’ve learned in the classroom about growth and development, human services and assessments to help clients in a real-world, supervised setting. Depending on their interests, students partner with organizations ranging from hospitals or long-term care facilities to substance abuse homes or domestic violence shelters. After finding a site approved by their school, students work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist to gain real-world experience.
  • ThesisA great fit for those planning to work in a research capacity, theses allow students to engage in primary, independent research about a topic within psychology that proves interesting to them. As an example, those interested in cognitive and behavioral therapy (CBT) may explore how this method can be applied to a new area of the field, while others may want to develop a community-sourced research study. Regardless of topic, each student partners with a psychology professor who acts as a mentor and advisor throughout the research and writing process.
  • Capstone ProjectCapstone projects can be used to numerous ends and suit the needs of both future clinicians and researchers. Working alongside a faculty member, those completing capstones use all the skills and knowledge gained in their psychology program to address a timely topic. Examples include writing a literature review about a significant piece of field-specific research, designing an experimental method, preparing a case study or conducting and analyzing independent research.

When considering the type of mental health professional to become, students should review available specializations at prospective colleges to get a fuller sense of the possibilities. The following section highlights just a few of the available specializations at colleges and universities throughout America.

  • Behavioral & Cognitive PsychologyOffering an approach to the field that combines both experimental and clinical therapies, this concentration teaches students how to use the behavioral and cognitive sciences to help clients better their lives. Courses taught in this specialization include cognitive neuroscience, advanced behavioral statistics and sensation and perception.
  • Clinical PsychologyStudents who choose this specialization typically aspire to fill the traditional role that pops into most people’s minds when they learn someone is a mental health professional. In this concentration, students learn how to work with individual populations, including children, the elderly, couples or those with specific psychological disorders to provide treatment plans. Common courses include biological aspects of behavior, psychometrics and social behaviors.
  • Counseling PsychologyThe work of counseling and clinical mental health professionals overlaps in many ways, but a key difference exists. Clinical psychotherapists treat patients dealing with abnormal psychological or mental issues whereas counseling psychotherapists work with clients experiencing normal emotions and reactions to changes experienced across the lifespan. Common coursework in this specialization includes psychology of cognition and emotions, psychology of adulthood and aging, and vocational behavior.
  • GeropsychologyDeveloped for students wanting to work with older populations, geropsychology give students the tools needed to work with clients dealing with the cognitive, emotional, physical and psychological changes that come with aging. Classes included in this specialization range from geropsychological assessments and interventions to adult development and aging.
  • School PsychologyUnlike other psychology specializations, this area is typically offered through a college’s School of Education. In this concentration, students study aspects of human growth and development, creation of preventative programs and intervention strategies with an eye toward supporting students as they make their way through primary, secondary and postsecondary educations. In addition to working with students, school psychotherapists convene with teachers, administrators and family members to determine the best ways to support each student.

According to APA, other specialties to consider include:

  • Clinical Child Psychology
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychology
  • Marriage
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Rehabilitation Psychology

When considering an online master’s degree, prospective psychology students should research differences between online and campus before making their decision. While coursework offered in online and campus-based programs mirror one another, learners interact with the materials – and their peers and professors – differently. While those enrolled in a campus-based program may engage in face-to-face role play when discussing various modes of counseling, students enrolled online either schedule virtual video sessions or they watch prerecorded sessions to get a sense of how to provide services. Campus-based students give in-person presentations of final projects and capstones, while online students may create an interactive slideshow or video to demonstrate their knowledge. Those enrolled at a brick-and-mortar campus typically choose from a list of pre-approved practicum sites based on their interests, while students studying from afar often need find a suitable location within their community and receive approval from the school.

Though online master’s in psychology students need to do extra legwork, they benefit from the ability to set their own schedules, listen to lectures at their own time, converse with peers and professors at times best suited to their needs, avoid the additional costs of transportation, on-campus housing and meal plans, and work from any location in the world with a reliable, high-speed internet connection.

Another thing to consider is the type of practice you wish to pursue. While most of this guide focuses on traditional forms of counseling psychology, some programs offer a more integrative mental health approach, which focuses on more than the neurobiological and clinical perspectives of psychology and incorporates alternative/holistic frameworks and therapies.

Regardless of whether students decide to study virtually or in-person, most master’s in psychology programs take between one and three years of full study – with part-time options offered by most colleges – to move from matriculation to graduation. Depending on the state, and the desired job post graduation, a student will typically need an additional two to three years of licensure work, with supervised clinical hours. The number of supervised clinical hours varies per state, with California having some of the most rigorous licensure rules.

What Can I Do with a Master’s in Psychology Degree?

Online master’s degrees in psychology provide many pathways for graduates, with the majority of positions based in research, academia and client services. Becoming a general psychotherapist might seem like the most obvious route, but the following section highlights a few of the other careers available to those with a master’s degree in psychology.

  • Forensic PsychologistDue to the heavy use of scientific methods in criminal justice, most forensic psychologists have at least an M.S. in psychology. Whether working as an independent consultant, a member of the military or as an employee of a social service agency or public safety organization, forensic psychologists use their skills to inform legal proceedings. They evaluate suspects and witnesses and make assessments about motives and truthfulness, testify in court cases, help select juries, organize focus groups and assess data surrounding criminal justice and the legal system.
  • Marriage & Family TherapistAfter completing a master’s in psychology, undertaking supervised clinical work and receiving licensure in their state, marriage and family therapists use their skills to help children and families understand family systems dynamics and learn more effective coping strategies when they are struggling. Some work in private practice, while others take up positions at counseling centers, hospitals, substance abuse organizations or mental health agencies. MFTs provide both individual and couples/group therapy to help clients understand emotions of themselves and their loved ones, create strategies to change behaviors or circumstances and provide references for additional services when necessary.
  • School CounselorThe vast majority of states require school counselors to hold an M.Ed. in school counseling and take part in a practicum before receiving their license or endorsement. If working in an educational setting, some counselors may be required to have classroom experience. These professionals are found at the primary, secondary and postsecondary levels, working for both schools and education-related agencies. Common tasks include working one-to-one with students to understand their interests and abilities, identifying causes of poor behavior, helping students focus on their goals, supporting them in coping with stress and trauma, and conferencing with school staff, teachers, and parents.
  • Survey ResearcherSurvey researchers help corporations, nonprofit organizations and private agencies alike in designing and carrying out surveys about specific topics, collating the data and analyzing the results. Many psychotherapists work in this profession as their skills in data, analytics and human behavior make them excellent fits. These positions typically call for an M.S. in psychology but some advanced roles may need a Ph.D. Licensure isn’t required, but additional certification in specific areas of research methods or survey methodology can help candidates stand out.
  • Industrial-Organizational PsychologistIndividuals hoping to work as I/O psychologists typically need at least an M.S. in psychology to compete for jobs, although fewer states require these types of psychologists to be licensed for employment. I/O psychologists use their skills and knowledge to observe employee behaviors in various workplace settings and then use frameworks and methodologies to improve environments, overall performance, satisfaction and communication between employees and employers.

Even while still in school, professional organizations provide value to students. Many of the associations listed below offer special membership discounts for psych students, alongside access to career advice, job listings, opportunities for networking, information on practicums and admission to annual conferences. After reviewing the organizations highlighted in this section, students should do additional research to see if an association for their specific area of the field exists.

  • American Board of Professional PsychologyABPP works to validate psychotherapists and provide consumer confidence by offering examinations and certifications in specialty areas. Aside form providing endorsements, ABPP is a great resource for learning more about available specializations and accessing up-to-date research.
  • Association of Black PsychologistsABPSI formed in 1968 and continues to fulfill its mission of bringing together black mental health professionals 50 years later. Membership provides access to local chapters, publications, regular programming, job details and the annual national convention.
  • International School Psychology AssociationISPA has served mental health professionals who work at schools across the globe since the early 1970s via worldwide conferences and workshops, cutting edge research on child psychology and development, job postings, reference works and publications.
  • American Psychological AssociationAs the leading organization for mental health professionals in America, the APA counts more than 115,000 students and trained psychologists amongst its ranks. The association provides divisions for different subsets of the field, job listings, publications, research and career information.
  • Society for Industrial and Organizational PsychologyProviding membership for professionals, students and educators, SIOP serves the needs of I/O psychologists through a range of benefits. Some of these currently include publication subscriptions, opportunities for networking, member savings, job listings and an annual conference.
  • State-Specific Psychology AssociationsMany states offer membership organizations for psychologists living and working in the area, with the Massachusetts Psychological Association offering just one example. Benefits include regular events, continuing education credits, student groups, lists of places where practicums can be done and an active listserv.

How Much Money Can I Make with a Master’s in Psychology Degree?

CAREERENTRY-LEVEL SALARY (0-5 YEARS)MID-CAREER (5-10 YEARS)LATE CAREER (10-20+ YEARS)JOB GROWTH, 2016-2026
Forensic Psychologist$60,000$72,000$118,00014%
Marriage & Family Therapist$50,000$55,000$73,00023%
School Counselor$43,000$49,000$63,00013%
Counseling Psychologist$53,000$64,000$72,00014%
Industrial-Organizational Psychologist$61,000$94,000$131,00014%

Many prospective students wonder about the differences between M.S. and M.A. programs. Generally speaking, psychotherapists and psychologists who focus more on the research and scientific aspects of the field and complete a master of science tend to earn more than their peers who pursue a master of arts to hone in on the counseling aspect of the field. Exceptions to this rule exist, so students should do their research to learn about projected salaries for roles that interest them.

As seen in the job growth column populated with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, regardless of degree type, jobs for psychotherapists and mental health professionals are predicted to grow significantly in the coming decade. Reasons for this growth include aging populations that are living longer, greater awareness of mental health issues and people turning to mental health professionals for support, an increase of veterans suffering from PTSD and other conflict-related traumas, and more access to mental and emotional health resources. The BLS expects the highest concentration of jobs to be found in hospitals, mental health centers, schools and social service agencies.

Some individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology question whether they need to complete a master’s degree. The quick answer – it depends on the career they aspire to. If an individual wants to directly use their psychology degree within the field, they will need at least a master’s degree to move beyond an entry-level role. If their goal is to use their psychology skills and knowledge in a related field, a bachelor’s degree may be all they need.

In addition to types of careers, it’s also important to consider compensation. For comparison, the following table takes a look at a few common jobs that undergraduate psychology graduates are qualified for.

CAREERMEDIAN SALARYJOB GROWTH, 2016-2026
Psychiatric Technician or Aide$29,3306%
Market Research Analyst$63,23023%
Social and Community Service Manager$64,10018%

Online Master’s in Psychology Program Accreditation

Many students hear the term “accreditation” used in reference to colleges and universities, but may not be well-versed in its nuances when picking an institution. For a school to receive accreditation, it must go through a peer-review process in which representatives of the accrediting body visit the school, observe classes, speak to stakeholders and ascertain whether the school adequately prepares students for life after college. Regional accreditation is considered the best type of status as the process for receiving it is extremely thorough. Students who don’t attend regionally accredited schools will likely have trouble receiving federal financial aid, transferring schools, receiving licensure and even finding a job, so it’s well worth it to find a properly accredited institution.

The other type of accreditation is programmatic, meaning discipline-specific accrediting agencies review individual departments and/or programs to ensure coursework meets requirements for the field. Within psychology, the accrediting agencies to know are the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS); however, these bodies only accredit doctoral level programs. Bachelor’s and master’s students should aim for regional accreditation. When in doubt, review the database of accredited postsecondary institutions, provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Psychology Degree

When figuring out whether to complete a master’s in psychology degree, the question must be considered from multiple angles. One of the most important factors for many students is money, and for good reason. According to Peterson’s, annual graduate tuition for public and private institutions ranges between $30,000 to $40,000 and doesn’t cover additional expenses such as transportation, housing (for campus-based students), books and supplies.

Fortunately, numerous options exist to help students lessen the cost of college and avoid substantial student loan debt. Some places to find money include:

Federal Financial Aid

The first thing students should do when considering financial assistance is fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Learners can find more in-depth information about this process by checking out ACO’s various financial aid guides via the College Learning & Resource Center.

Departmental Scholarships

Many psychology departments provide discipline-specific scholarships for graduate students working towards a master’s in psychology. As an example, check out Missouri State University’s departmental scholarship page to get a sense of what to look for.

Discipline-Specific Scholarships

In addition to funding provided via colleges and universities, many public, private and nonprofit organizations offer discipline-specific scholarships to psychology students at the graduate level. The American Psychological Association is a good place to start when looking for this type of financial assistance.

Assistantships/Research Support

In exchange for working as a teacher’s assistant during the school year, lots of colleges offer tuition remissions to help cut costs. Other programs provide research/travel stipends for students completing a thesis. As just one example, review the options provided at Ohio University to get a sense of what these look like.

Your current job

Thanks to the flexibility of online master’s in psychology programs, many students find it possible to juggle both their academic and professional responsibilities. By keeping their jobs and paychecks, students can actively offset costs while still in school. And if you work at a psychology-related organization, you may even be able to receive tuition assistance. Talk to your human resources department to find out.

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