Choosing a Master’s Degree Program in Psychology

Psychology graduates with an interest in applying to higher-paying jobs, managing a social services program, assuming an administrative role, or conducting research in the future often pursue a master's degree in psychology. Since psychologists need an advanced degree to practice, choosing a master's degree program is also the first step towards eventually treating their own roster of patients and clients.

Graduates with a master's in psychology also go on to become corporate psychological assistants or counselors, provide some mental health services (under the direct supervision of a licensed psychologist), and work as research assistants at universities or government agencies.

Education Prerequisites

Before entering a master's degree program in psychology, a prospective student must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and meet minimum GPA requirements. Most schools require a minimum score on the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations). Some schools require applicants to take the GRE Psychology Subject Test. While some schools require students to major in psychology as an undergraduate, it is not always a necessary prerequisite to enter a master's degree program. Schools also require a personal statement from applicants, which outlines previous experience and career goals.

Programs to Consider

Program Coursework

It typically takes at least two years as a full-time graduate student to complete a master's degree program in psychology, which includes coursework that touches upon theories on human behavior; intervention techniques; patient assessment; and methods in research. Students generally take core psychology classes in addition to a select set of electives in a psychology specialty, such as family psychology.

Typical course topics found in a psychology degree program include:

  • Professional and research ethics
  • Statistical analysis
  • Social psychology
  • Child psychology
  • Personality disorders
  • Industrial and organizational psychology
  • Experimental methods
  • Developmental psychology
  • Behavior therapy

To earn a master's degree in psychology, students must also complete an original project for a master's thesis, as well as finish a predetermined number of hours regarding practical experience in a medical setting, such as a clinic. Students also enter internships to gain experience in the field, as well as assist with faculty-driven research projects.

Factors to Consider

One of the decisions a student makes before choosing an advanced degree program in psychology is the kind of master's degree he or she would like to earn. A Master of Arts (M.A.) in Psychology indicates that a student completed coursework with more of a focus on the liberal arts, while a Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology tends to place a stronger emphasis on research and the sciences. The M.S. degree is also geared towards satisfying those who aspire to become psychologists and therapists.

Students may also want to target a master's degree in a specific area of psychology, such as forensics, clinical psychology, social psychology, or child development.

Other factors to consider when choosing a master's degree program in psychology include:

  • Tuition costs and financial aid availability
  • Required courses to earn a degree
  • Schedule flexibility, including online options
  • Future career goals
  • Your desire to earn a doctorate degree
  • Availability in specialty degrees

Options for Continuing Education

For graduates with an interest in practicing in other areas of psychology as an independent professional, or who wish to teach on the college or university level, earning a Doctorate of Psychology is the next option in continuing education. Professionals may also spend time assisting a psychologist or professor with research to gain experience before applying to a doctorate degree program. Graduates will also need to take steps to meet licensure requirements that psychologists are expected to complete.

To learn more about the master's degree programs in psychology available to students choosing to pursue advanced studies in the field, consider the following options: