What Can I Do with a Master's Degree in Psychology?
A master’s degree in psychology can either serve as a stepping stone toward your doctoral, or it can be a terminal degree in a specific area of application. Indeed, there are also numerous other career paths for students who earn a master’s degree in psychology. Mastering in psychology, when combined with a discipline such as education or healthcare administration, can provide a starting point for a wide range of careers in school counseling, substance abuse treatment, special education, and much more.
As a psychology master, you’ll study human development, cognition, and behavior. You’ll learn skills like counseling, behavioral therapy, and clinical treatment for mental health disorders. Students who plan to ultimately become practicing clinical psychologists will be required to earn their doctoral degree in psychology from a program that is accredited by The APA Commission on Accreditation, and subsequently qualify for and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).
Just getting started in the field? Check out our look at the psychology major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in psychology.
If you’re ready to earn your graduate degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Psychology.
Or read on to find out what you can expect as a psychology master.
Why get a master’s degree in psychology?
One of the best reasons to earn a master’s degree in psychology is because it can significantly enhance your opportunities for leadership and advancement in a wide range of professional settings. Combining your master’s degree in psychology with a concentration in education, for instance, can qualify you to work as a school counselor. Combining this advanced study with a focus in industrial/organizational psychology may qualify you to lead a corporate human resources department.
And by advancing your own knowledge and education in the field, you could contribute to the wide array of groundbreaking discoveries that continue to enhance our understanding of the mind, as well as human behavior, culture, and society. To wit, top influencers in the field today are breaking new ground in Positive Psychology, the psychology of decision making, the computational theory of mind, and much more.
Learn more about these and other top influencers in the psychology field today!
How can I qualify to get a master’s degree in psychology?
Some programs may require you to complete a Graduate Record Examination (GRE). If the GRE is needed, your program may require a general exam in addition to a GRE specific to the subject of psychology. Some programs may require you to meet a certain scoring threshold while others may merely require that you complete the exam. These requirements will vary from one psychology master’s program to the next.
For testing tips, check out our Guide to the GRE.
If no GRE is required, the primary requirement for gaining eligibility into a psychology master’s program is completion of a bachelor’s degree from a properly accredited undergraduate school. While programmatic accreditation is not specifically required in this field, most regionally-accredited graduate schools will require that your bachelor’s degree be granted by a regionally-accredited college or university.
Some colleges may offer bundled bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, where you could earn your advanced degree in one continuous five-year program. This option could save you time and money if you already know that you’ll be pursuing your advanced degree. However, the accelerated pace of such a program may make this a challenging way to earn both degrees. Find out if your school offers this bundling option and ask about eligibility requirements. But be sure you’re up to the added challenge!
For any additional questions about eligibility, refer to your intended program and learn more about application requirements and any additional requirements such as work experience, academic performance thresholds, and referrals.
If you’re still working on building your qualifications, check out our look at the psychology major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in psychology.
What kinds of psychology degrees are there?
Professional opportunities in the psychology profession are directly connected to your academic credentials. Your career goals will determine how far you go in your psychology education. An undergraduate degree can provide you with a grounding that can apply in an array of work settings, but you would only be able to practice psychology in a clinical setting with the acquisition of an advanced degree, as well as proper licensing.
- Master’s in Psychology: A master’s degree in psychology can typically be earned over a period of two years. This advanced degree can significantly improve your access to leadership roles and areas of specialization both within and beyond the field of psychology. You may combine your psychology masters with a focus on childhood education in order to work as a school counselor; or with a study of organizational behavior in order to work as a human resources manager; or you could study psychology alongside demographic studies and become a market researcher.
- Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)/PhD in Psychology: In order to conduct clinical research or become a practicing clinical psychologist, you will need to earn this terminal degree. Typically a four to eight year engagement, you have two primary options at the doctoral level. The PhD in Psychology is essentially a research degree and will qualify you both to lead research and teach at the postsecondary level. If you wish to become a practicing psychologist in a clinical setting, you would need to earn your Doctor of Psychology (PsyD).
How do I become a licensed psychologist?
To become a practicing clinical psychologist, you must earn your Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) from a doctoral program accredited by the APA Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA), or alternately, an ASPPB- or National Register-designated doctoral program. You would also need to sit for and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) in your state. Qualifying to sit for this examination requires you to have accrued a set number of clinical and/or supervised field hours. The number of required hours may differ from state to state.
What’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?
A psychologist is a Doctor of Psychology, specializing in mental health treatment. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with a concentration in the treatment of mental health. Becoming a psychiatrist requires the same extensive course of education pursued by medical doctors. This course of education will typically take up to 10-11 years for completion, including medical school, several years of clinical medical training, and several additional years of clinical mental health training.
What are some popular psychology specializations?
The specialization you choose will depend on the setting where you hope to apply your training. Whether you’re interested in working in a mental health facility, a public school system, or a major corporation, there is a psychology specialization that can help advance the relevant skills and knowledge.
Notable specializations include:
- Clinical Psychology
- Community Psychology
- Counseling Psychology
- School Psychology
- Educational Psychology
- Environmental Psychology
- Family Psychology
- Applied Psychology
- Forensic Psychology
What courses will I take as a psychology master?
Your specialization will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a psychology major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as Research Methods in Psychology and Statistics in Psychology. But you’ll also have a chance to shape your advanced degree program around your professional goals and personal interests.
Common psychology courses include:
- Clinical Psychopharmacology
- Learning and Cognition
- Organizational-Industrial Behavior
- Educational Psychology
- Applied Behavior Analysis
- Child and Adolescent Development
- Ethics in Psychology
- Theories of Behaviorism
- Abnormal Psychology
- Forensics Psychology
Is a master’s degree in psychology worth it?
Psychology is a specialized profession. Advanced degrees and other credentials will have a direct impact on how much you can earn. For those at the top of the field, these earnings are well above the average for all professions. For instance, the Bureau of Labor of Statistics indicates that the 2019 median pay for psychologists—those who have earned a PhD in psychology—was $80,370.
However, opportunities for high pay also abound for those with a master’s degree in psychology and a concentration in a specific area such as education or organizational psychology. For instance, postsecondary psychology teachers saw a median pay of $76,620 in 2019, while Industrial-Organizational Psychologists saw a median pay of $97,260. These salaries far exceed the national average for all jobs, which falls just under $40,000 per year. Moreover, with roughly half of all psychology professionals holding a master’s in psychology, this advanced degree could put you in a greater position to compete for career opportunities.
What are the top jobs with a master’s in psychology degree?
Depending on your degree level, a psychology major can lead to a wide range of career opportunities. You’ll need to earn a doctoral degree in order to practice as a clinical psychologist, as well as a medical degree to become a practicing psychiatrist. However, a master’s degree in psychology can help you hone in on an area of concentration such as education, forensics, or mental health counseling, and consequently, create a pathway to a wide range of career prospects, including these top jobs:
- Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists
- Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary
- Marriage and Family Therapists
- Psychiatric Technicians and Aides
- Mental Health Counselors
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
Curious how far you could go with a master’s degree in psychology? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!***
Now that you know how to earn a masters in psychology, check out The Most Influential Schools in Psychology:
Check out the full list here and get started on your path to an advanced psychology degree.