Your Complete Guide to

Masters in Psychology

Online Masters Degree
on February 7, 2024

Why We Love It

  • Great Potential Salary
  • Growing Field
  • Gratifying Work
  • Interesting Casework

* The Why We Love It section is solely based on the opinion of's Editorial Team. Any salary & growth research or estimates should be referenced further at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics data published at for your specific desired career.

What is a Master’s in Psychology?

The human mind is the greatest puzzle known to man.  Conscious and unconscious phenomena, feelings, thoughts, and behavior are all pieces of the puzzle, and while modern psychology is only about 150 years old, its roots go back to at least the time of the Ancient Greeks, when Aristotle formulated its foundations.

Since then, people have been hooked and obsessed with understanding this ultimate puzzle, and some have made it their life’s work.  For those people, there are master’s in psychology programs.

This field of psychology is extremely fascinating, exploring the human mind. Since the earliest times, from philosophy to this day where clinical research dominates, individuals and societies have been captivated by the workings of the human brain and its various aspects related to consciousness, emotion, and behavior.

A master’s in psychology can refer to several different degrees.  Just as psychology comprises a wide array of topics, there are several different master’s degrees in the broader field of psychology, including both Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees.

All of these degrees, however, can help you to develop the necessary skills to begin a career in the important and fascinating field of psychology, and many career paths could require you to have a master’s degree before you even get started.

Most programs are designed to build on your knowledge in one or more of these major schools of thought:


  • Biological psychology: This is primarily concerned with the biological basis of psychology–the interface of mind and body.
  • Behavioral psychology: One of the main areas of study, this deals with human behavior, from research and observation to modification.
  • Cognitive psychology: Cognition includes the processes underlying mental activity such as reasoning, attention, memory, emotion, and language.
  • Social psychology: This deals with how humans interact with one another, how this influences behavior such as conformity or persuasion, and how people form beliefs, stereotypes, and attitudes.
  • Psychoanalysis: Investigating the mind, forming theories about human behavior, and providing psychotherapy when needed are all crucial aspects of psychology.
  • Existential-humanistic theories: This seeks to view the whole person, not just isolated parts of one’s mind, in an effort to understand concepts such as free will, self-identity, and personal growth.

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What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Psychology?

Well, what do you want to do?

A psychiatrist helps someone overcome their anxiety or depression.  A counselor helps a married couple to identify and address problematic behavior in themselves and their children, leading to a happier family life.

A forensic psychiatrist helps the FBI to profile a serial killer, saving lives.  These are all potential futures for someone with a master’s in psychology, and they could all make the world a better place.

The novel pandemic, coronavirus has led to a lot of emotional and mental distress and frustration for people, owing to many factors including financial and social. This means more demand for the services of psychologists. Moreover, this has also led psychologists to practice online, either on their own or via healthcare-providing sites or applications.

Additionally, with a master’s in psychology, individuals have endless opportunities in various fields such as education, research, and even mental health advocacy – all equally personally and professionally fulfilling.

These are only a few examples.  The possibilities are endless.  You get to choose what you’ll do, and you don’t have to know what that is right now.

A master’s degree in psychology could give you the tools you need to do a wide variety of jobs, so you’re not committing to a career before you even finish your degree.

Best Programs for a Master’s in Psychology

Here’s the best part: We’re going to give you the secrets to finding the best programs for adults, programs that could help you get your master’s in psychology faster and with as few headaches as possible.

We know planning for college can be confusing, and is dedicated to helping you find the right path so that you can complete your master’s degree and start your new career as soon as possible.

Why We Love a Master’s Degree in Psychology

  1. Competitive salary:  Master’s degree holders in psychology-related fields often make more money than their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees. And of course, this is something you should always prioritize given the very unstable global and local economies.
  2. Excellent growth potential:  Psychology is a valuable and growing field with plenty of room for advancement. And this growth is all the more important with inflation and financial instability on the rise. A master’s degree can be a wise investment for your future.
  3. Feeling good about yourself: A master’s in psychology is a great way to give back to the community and help ensure the mental health of others.
  4. Lots of options:  A master’s in psychology could be your gateway to a wide variety of career paths. Graduates with a degree in the field are able to find work as mental health counselors, social workers, researchers, or even organizational psychologists.

Online vs. Traditional Campus

Most people who think about going back to school and getting their master’s in psychology never even get started. Undoubtedly, a master’s degree can accelerate your career like none other, while keeping you on top of new developments, and practices.

But many things can discourage new learners such as entrance hurdles, exams, and application fees. Additionally, it can also become tough for adults with work commitments to make schoolwork around their schedule. For such individuals, it may get nearly impossible to start it.

What if we told you there was a better way?

The good news is that there are now plenty of online psychology programs that come with flexibility and convenience to build your earning schedule around your other commitments that come with being an adult.

With adult-friendly schools, there is really no reason not to go back to school anymore.

What makes a school adult-friendly?  Here are a few key attributes:

  • Adult-friendly schools are totally online.  Online learning is best for busy adults, who have to balance their ongoing education with work, kids, and everything else that comes with being a grownup. Furthermore, with advancements in technology and schools going online thanks to the pandemic, distance and online learning have become favorable options. With an online program, individuals will have the ease to customize their learning schedule around all their various responsibilities that they can’t do away with. It makes life easier, without having to give up on their education.
  • Adult-friendly schools can offer accelerated programs, with ongoing enrollment.  What’s better than getting your master’s in two years?  Getting it in fourteen months.  And with ongoing enrollment, you don’t have to wait until fall or spring to start on your new journey; many schools offer monthly enrollment periods, meaning you can start whenever it works for you.
  • Adult-friendly schools can offer more support than traditional schools. This includes but is not limited to, career services, making it easier for you to begin your new career. With an online school that comes with a variety of support services, the transition from learning to practical life becomes so much easier and ensures initial success. And isn’t that why you’re going back to school, at the end of the day?

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Admissions Requirements for a Master’s in Psychology

So what do you need to go to grad school?  You need to take the GRE or another entrance exam, right?

While that used to be the case, now there’s a better way.

Many adult-friendly schools do not require GRE or entrance exams.  Online programs generally require only a bachelor’s degree (not always in psychology) to get started, and there are no application fees to worry about.  You start when you’re ready.

Master’s in Psychology Curriculum

As mentioned above, a master’s degree in psychology will develop your knowledge in biological psychology, behavioral psychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology, psychoanalysis, and/or existential-humanistic theories.

These areas of knowledge are the basis for our current understanding of the human mind, and they can help you in your career in whatever psychology-related field you pursue.

What Courses Will I Take in My Master’s Program?

Because the human mind is so complex and important to understand, the core curriculum of a master’s program in psychology will include courses that build a foundation of knowledge that can be applied to a variety of psychology-related fields.  Examples include:

  1. Learning and Cognition: This would examine the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge, understanding, and thinking.
  2. Fundamentals of Neuroscience: A working knowledge of the nervous system is important.  Neuroscience combines anatomy, physiology, and molecular and developmental biology with psychology.
  3. Human Memory: This deals with the encoding, storage, and retrieval of information by the brain, and how experiences shape personality.
  4. Group Dynamics: The attitudes and behavioral characteristics of a group are as important as those of the individuals in that group, as are the formation, structure, and processes of those groups.
  5. Psychopharmacology: In today’s world, it is more important than ever for psychologists to have a working understanding of how drugs (both medical and recreational) affect behavior, mood, and thinking.

Specializations and Concentrations 

As mentioned above, “master’s in psychology” can refer to a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) in one of several different specialized fields, including the following:

  • MA or MS in Clinical Psychology: This could help you to teach; testify as an expert witness; or work in research, clinical formulation, or psychotherapy.
  • MA or MS in Counseling Psychology: This degree could be useful in a variety of careers, including counseling, psychotherapy, and rehabilitation.
  • MA or MS in Experimental Psychology: This deals with testing human participants and/or animal subjects in a scientific approach to the mind.
  • MA or MS in Behavior Analysis: Applications of behavior analysis include dementia therapy, classroom instruction, and rehabilitation of brain injury or substance abuse.

You could also find that a different, related degree is a better fit for your career of choice.  Other professional degrees–which may or may not be considered psychology programs, depending on the school–include:

  • Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MMFT): This is designed to teach you about the branch of psychotherapy that can help families and couples in intimate relationships.
  • Master of Social Work (MSW): This could help you work in community organizing, policy analysis, or political advocacy.
  • Master of Science in Counseling (MSC) or Master of Arts in Professional Counseling (MAPC): These degrees have a wide range of applications including group counseling or therapy, social work, and sports psychology.
  • Master of Education (M.Ed): This could prepare you to be a special educator, school psychologist, guidance counselor, or principal.

Master’s in Psychology Program Length

Most master’s programs in psychology require between 30 and 40 credits to graduate.  Normally, a master’s program in psychology takes anywhere from two to three years to complete.  An accelerated plan, however, could take closer to half that time. The competitive market will not wait for you, hence, it’s better to get done with your degree as quickly as possible.

This is where adult-friendly schools really shine.  They know their students have jobs, kids, and other obligations that make a traditional school schedule unrealistic.  The best adult-friendly schools make the process as convenient as possible, and they could get you into the workforce as fast as possible because they know that’s what adults want.

Choosing the Right University or College Master’s Program

Choosing the right school for you can be exciting, but it can also be a hassle.  Tuition costs, application fees, accreditation, enrollment windows, and entrance exams are just some of the variables to consider.

That’s why we created the Smartplan.  We want to help people go back to school, to make college more accessible and affordable for everyone.

With our Smartplan, we make it easy for you to start on your path towards your master’s in psychology.

Here are just some of the benefits of your Smartplan:

  • No application fees
  • Accredited colleges and universities
  • No entrance exams or testing
  • Faculty and professors who understand adults
  • Discounts and scholarships available
  • Open enrollment dates

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Best Jobs for Those With a Master’s in Psychology

What can you do with a master’s in psychology?  What kind of salary can you expect?

Here are some common careers for master’s in psychology holders, with salary data estimates provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Psychiatrist: This could involve treating adults with mental disorders or illnesses, or focusing on the mental health of children.  You could make anywhere from $75,590 to more than $200,000 per year.
  • Gerontologist: Gerontology is an important science that studies aging and the problems of older people.  You could make anywhere from $39,810 to $115,800 per year.
  • Forensic Psychiatrist: This is someone who works within the legal and prison systems in an effort to monitor, diagnose, and treat mental illness.  You could make anywhere from $70,920 to $187,199 per year.
  • Advertising Agent: Psychology is a very important component in advertising, as it helps companies to identify and cater to customer needs.  You could make anywhere from $61,930 to more than $200,000 per year.
  • Sports Psychologist: Did you know that many teams and individual athletes employ people to help them overcome the mental and/or emotional obstacles that hinder their performance on the field?  You could make anywhere from $39,810 to $80,370 per year.

We’ve compiled some of our favorite careers, but a master’s in psychology does provide you with broad skills to work in a variety of psychology-related jobs, which will likely allow you to draw an excellent salary while helping people with their relationships, mental illnesses, addictions, doubts, or just everyday lives.

The best careers are those that pay well AND let you feel fulfilled by giving something back.  And again, you don’t need to know right now which job you want. Additionally, you can always develop a clientele or make your name in the industry and start practicing privately. These are just some of the possibilities you can choose from.

Cost and Tuition

Cost and tuition vary from school to school, and you’ll want to speak with each of your prospective schools directly.  Fortunately, online schools are generally more affordable than their in-person counterparts.

Adult-friendly colleges understand that you want to save, and they could even help you with financial aid if you’re eligible. With inflation on the rise, for adults on their educational journey, these savings and scholarship opportunities can be extremely helpful in helping achieve career goals without going through financial strain. You’ll definitely want to speak to a few schools, and can help you with that.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Do I need to know what job I want before I start a master’s program?

A: No!  A master’s program could prepare you for a wide variety of careers.  You certainly don’t need to know what job you want today.

Q: Will I make more money with a master’s in psychology?

A: That depends on a variety of factors.  But as you can see above in the “Best Jobs for Those With a Master’s in Psychology” section, your master’s degree could mean excellent earning potential.

Q: How long will I be in school?

A: That could depend on you, your current job, and any other obligations you might have.  A master’s in psychology program could take anywhere from one to three years, but our Smartplan is designed to help you find the right degree for you, so could finish as quickly as possible!


How to save time and money

Our mission is to help you to avoid paying full price for college. We want your Masters in Psychology degree to be affordable and accessible. Here’s how you could save:

Create Your Free SmartPlan

There are many ways to make college affordable and accessible.

That’s why we created a helpful tool called SmartPlan.

It’s free, and helps you find potential ways to save and tons of information about each school you’re considering

Think of it as your “college blueprint”, to help you instantly craft a path to your degree:

  • Which Colleges Match Your Needs
  • Ways You Could Save Time & Money
  • Free Courses You Could Take for Credit
  • Valuable Data and Insights on Each College
  • Detailed Steps You Should Take!

See what’s possible for you and generate a free plan within just a few minutes

Create My SmartPlan

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About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.

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