How Long Does It Take To Get a Master’s in Psychology?

How Long Does It Take To Get a Master’s in Psychology?

Key Takeaways

  • It takes two to three years to get a master’s degree in psychology.
  • Earning a master’s degree in psychology online can help students to manage other commitments while pursuing their degree.
  • The length of a master’s program varies based on program prerequisites, specialization, and whether you attend part or full-time or online or on-campus.

According to one report, nearly 30 million adults with psychological conditions don’t receive treatment. Students who plan to get a master’s in psychology can help tackle this problem. However, they often confront one question: how long does it take to get a master’s in psychology? It depends on several factors. Check out our guide to know how many years a master’s in psychology exactly takes.

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How Long Does it Take to Get a Master’s in Psychology: Key Factors to Consider

Often, it takes two to three years to get a master’s in psychology. However, the length of a program can vary based on various factors like program prerequisites, the specialization you pursue, and whether you attend part or full-time or online or on-campus.

Here’s a list of factors students need to consider for master’s degree programs in psychology:

Program Requirements (The Prerequisites)

To get into a master’s program, you typically need an undergraduate degree – though it doesn’t always have to be in psychology. For instance, students can apply with undergraduate degrees in engineering as well. However, most programs prefer applicants with psychology-related courses.

Some schools and colleges may consider your life or work experience for admission if you didn’t finish college. While basic admission requirements are somewhat similar across schools, each program can have its specific criteria.

Generally, you will need to submit your undergraduate GPA, official transcripts, an essay, and letters of recommendation. The GRE is commonly required, some programs skip this test, questioning its ability to predict academic success. Applicants may also give an interview for the program.


No matter whether you take forensic psychology or child psychology programs, you’ll take specific concentrations or specializations with additional credit hours. This will affect the duration of your degree.

When choosing specializations, consider your interests and career goals. In addition, students should take counsel from people working in fields as they can provide valuable insights – something you might not find in career guides.

Program Structure

Another factor that can affect how long your master’s will take is the structure of your program. Some master’s programs offer online and accelerated psychology master options. Online degrees are usually shorter than the ones students pursue at traditional schools.

That’s because online schools let students transfer credits. In fact, 69% of online students want programs that help them graduate quickly. Moreover, schools with accelerated online bachelor’s programs make it easier for students to move on to getting a master’s degree.

Additionally, part-time or full-time enrollment also affects how fast students finish the program. If you’re a full-time student, it takes two years to finish an online master’s degree in psychology. However, if you’re going part-time and managing work or family, you can take anywhere between three and four years.

Research & Dissertation

The culminating research and thesis can also extend the time to complete a master’s. Some applicants may spend more time to complete their thesis due to a complex topic, limited resources, or mentor availability, while others progress quickly.

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What are the different types of psychology concentrations?

Depending on the program, students can choose from various specializations. Although options vary by institution, you can explore some common specializations below:

  • Clinical Psychology: This is a study of people – by experimentation or observation – to promote change. According to one report, one in five US adults live with some kind of mental illness. This complex specialization helps address diverse behavioral, emotional, and mental disorders. The program usually lasts two to three years.
  • Industrial And Organizational Psychology: Also called I/O psychology, it studies how people behave at work. This concentration scientifically explores individual, group, and organizational behavior and applies that knowledge to solve workplace problems. It can last two to four years.
  • Forensic Psychology: This specialization combines the law and the practice of psychology by using industry-leading psychological expertise in the justice system. Students can easily complete the program in two years.
  • School Counseling: A school counseling master’s degree prepares you to collaborate with school staff, addressing students’ learning, development, and mental health. This program also covers working with families and communities. You can complete it within two years.
  • Substance Abuse Counseling: A substance abuse program trains students to offer mental health care with a focus on drug and alcohol addiction. You’ll learn techniques to support recovery and disrupt addiction cycles, and some programs also cover behavioral addictions. It can take two or more years to complete.
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Top Three Colleges For Master’s In Psychology Programs You Should Consider

A psychology master’s can prepare students for rewarding job prospects, advanced degrees, and clinical licensure. Listed below are the three colleges you should consider when searching for the best psychology master’s programs.

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    Median SAT/ACT


    Career Outlook for Psychology degree at University of Maryland, College Park

    Cost of Degree: $17,448
    Expenses: $18,404
    Starting Salary: $67,286
    Salary after 4 years: $80,153
    Cost Recoup Time: 6 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Ranked in the top 50 universities, UMD provides students with both master’s and doctoral clinical psychology programs.

    Their master’s program caters to individuals interested in clinical psychology yet unsure where to start or about pursuing a doctorate.

    • Location: College Park, MD
    • Graduation Rate: 82%
    • Admission Rate: 52%
    • Urbanicity: Suburban
    • School Size: Large
  2. #2

    Boston University

    Boston , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    Median SAT/ACT


    Career Outlook for Psychology degree at Boston University

    Cost of Degree: $61,924
    Expenses: $20,400
    Starting Salary: $55,346
    Salary after 4 years: $67,500
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Boston University has a one-year MA in Psychology degree program where students can specialize in ‘clinical psychology.’

    The rigorous curriculum covers various topics like behavioral medicine, child therapy, social anxiety, and social oppression. Students can also engage in a Directed Study project where they work closely with a faculty member.

    • Location: Boston, MA
    • Graduation Rate: 88%
    • Admission Rate: 19%
    • Urbanicity: City
    • School Size: Large
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  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    Median SAT/ACT


    Career Outlook for Psychology degree at University of Southern California

    Cost of Degree: $64,666
    Expenses: $20,338
    Starting Salary: $64,753
    Salary after 4 years: $78,973
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    With over 30 departments and dozens of research institutes and centers, the Dornsife College Letters, Arts and Sciences at USC offers carefully crafted master’s programs with exciting job opportunities. You can either take in-person classes or online.

    USC’s online “Master’s in Applied Psychology” program helps working professionals advance or change careers in areas where they can merge psychology and business interests.

    • Location: Los Angeles, CA
    • Graduation Rate: 93%
    • Admission Rate: 13%
    • Urbanicity: City
    • School Size: Large
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Is getting a master’s in psychology worth it?

The answer depends on your career goals and love for psychology. Generally, a master’s in psychology is worthwhile. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), it improves job satisfaction and employment prospects.

In addition to that, with a master’s, a student can qualify for more positions, especially those involving direct client contact.

Not to mention, the field offers many exciting career prospects and salary packages. For example, the median salary of a psychologist is $106,420.

Student Submitted Questions About Master’s Degrees in Psychology

What’s the difference between an MS or an MA in psychology?

When choosing between an MS or MA in psychology, there are some differences you need to consider. An MA degree program often leans more toward liberal arts. For instance, it helps you focus on people-oriented, therapeutic aspects of psychology. In contrast, an MS in psychology focuses more on research and the sciences.

Can I do a master’s in psychology online?

Many programs — including psychology and related concentrations — now offer master’s degrees online. If you want a flexible schedule, don’t want to move, or are looking for a more affordable option, an online psychology master’s program might be right.

What can you do with a master’s in psychology?

A master’s in psychology opens up many career options. You can work as a school counselor, marriage and family therapist, mental health counselor, or even become an addiction counselor.


There’s no better time to get a master’s degree in psychology. Not only is the field growing quickly in the US, the demand for mental health professionals is also at an all-time high. If you plan to get a master’s in psychology, it can take anywhere between one and four years and more, depending on your concentration and school.

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