top online psychology masters degrees
Psychologists study and observe various emotional, social, and cognitive behaviors exhibited by individuals and groups in different settings. A bachelor’s degree in psychology is an important first step toward pursuing a career in this richly rewarding field, but a master’s degree is considered the minimum credential for most positions. In many cases, a Ph.D. or doctoral degree will be required as well.
An online master’s degree allows you to earn the credentials you need for most psychology careers in a flexible format that allows you to continue working.
An online master’s in psychology can help you advance your career in psychology and prepare you for doctoral studies. Web-based programs are delivered in a flexible format that ensures you’ll be able to work throughout your master’s program. If you have completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology and wish to continue your education, then you may be a strong candidate for a master’s in psychology online degree program.
Master’s-level psychology programs are designed to build on undergraduate studies. The curriculum combines aspects of neuroscience, medicine, and clinical counseling. Students learn the protocols for diagnosing a range of emotional and mental disorders, along with strategies for treating patients who display symptoms of these disorders. Master’s psychology students often choose a specialization that enables them to focus on a particular subfield; popular concentration options include child psychology, clinical psychology, developmental psychology, and school psychology. In addition to their classwork, most graduate psychology programs require students to complete a certain number of supervised training hours as part of an internship or practicum course. Most master’s-level psychology programs fall into one of two categories: the master of arts, which focuses more on liberal arts, and the master of science, which is more scientific and research-oriented.
Our comprehensive guide will teach you more about what you can do with a master’s degree in psychology and what kind of career opportunities you can pursue upon graduation.
WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN PSYCHOLOGY PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
According to the APA Center on the Workforce, 52.4% of professional psychologists earned a doctoral or professional degree from 2005 to 2013. The remaining 47.6% completed their education with a master’s degree. Depending on your career path, a master’s degree in psychology may be sufficient for beginning your career or serve as a stepping stone toward a doctoral program. In either case, the best online master’s degree in psychology programs are designed to prepare you for the next step. Earning a specialized degree can further boost your career standing in the area of psychology that interests you most.
WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN PSYCHOLOGY PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online master’s degree programs in psychology offer a flexible alternative to traditional classroom-based education. You’ll be able to access course materials, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with your professor any time of day from the comfort of your home computer. The interactive technology also allows you to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, and other portable devices. For added convenience, many programs allow students to fulfill their supervised practicum or internship requirements at facilities located close to their home.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MASTER’S IN PSYCHOLOGY?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most states require clinical and counseling psychologists to earn a doctorate, complete an internship, and log one to two years of supervised professional experience before they can pursue licensure. However, a master’s degree will be sufficient for industrial-organizational psychologists. Master’s-holders in psychology may also find work as assistants for licensed psychologists in clinical, counseling, or research settings. Others graduates pursue careers in counseling, where most professionals are able to obtain licensure with a master’s degree.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER’S IN PSYCHOLOGY PROGRAMS?
Choosing a master’s degree in psychology online program is a very personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational and professional ambitions. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online psychology master’s programs in the United States. If you are considering an online master’s in psychology, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.
A provider of over 40 undergraduate, graduate, non-degree, and certificate distance programs, EKU boasts an online system among the nation’s best. In addition to online study, the university operates branch campuses around Kentucky, providing a wider range of on-campus programs. EKU’s master of science in industrial-organizational psychology trains students to evaluate workplace behavior to increase productivity and performance. This fully online degree emphasizes professional development and consulting skills to improve work environments. This online psychology master’s degree program follows training guidelines set by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). Graduates qualify for positions as directors of HR, compensation and benefits directors, organizational development specialists, and health and safety managers.
Coursework explores performance management, organizational change and development, and quantitative research methods, and requires a practicum in I-O psychology. Students complete courses over eight-week terms in the fall and spring semesters, and six-week terms in the summer. This program follows an asynchronous format. Students complete a total of 36 credit hours. Distance learners can access resources including the Psychology Academic Support System (PASS), which provides free peer tutoring to students attending psychology courses online by specially trained upperclassman. Students communicate with faculty and classmates through chat, email, discussion boards, and forums.
Student may transfer up to 12 credits from a previous university. All online students pay the same tuition regardless of state of residence. EKU waives the GRE requirement for students with a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0.
Best Online Master’s in Organizational Psychology Programs
hat Else Can I Expect From an Online Master’s in Psychology Program?
Earning a bachelor’s degree is an important first step towards entry or advancement in many fields, but a master’s in psychology is a minimum requirement for most positions in the field. While most schools offer a general graduate curriculum, specific coursework and requirements vary depending on the history and mission of the program you choose. The information in this section will give you an idea of what you can expect from an online master’s in psychology degree.
CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE MASTER’S DEGREE IN PSYCHOLOGY
|Concentration||Description||Careers This Concentration Prepares For|
|Clinical Psychology||Accredited online clinical psychology master’s programs are the most common in the field and prepare students to use psychological and scientific knowledge to assess, diagnose, and treat patients on an individual basis or through group and family counseling. Graduates usually work in private practices, but some also choose to counsel at community centers or on college campuses.||Couple and family counselor, child psychologist, substance abuse counselor, mental health social worker|
|Forensic Psychology||Forensic psychology students prepare for careers in the legal justice and court systems. They apply psychological principles and scientific techniques as they conduct evaluations, pick witnesses, and provide testimony in legal cases. They also study diversity issues within the United States to help victims in underserved or oppressed populations find justice.||Courtroom adviser, federal law enforcement specialist, criminal behavior analyst|
|Organizational Psychology||Also known as the industrial psychology concentration, this track prepares students to apply psychological theories and practices to work environments in order to improve efficiency among individual employees and groups. Students learn the importance of psychological considerations that are involved in personnel selection, team leadership, and organizational health issues.||Consumer behavior specialist, human resources manager, business consultant|
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER’S DEGREE IN PSYCHOLOGY
Most online psychology master’s programs are offered as either an MA, which focuses on the liberal arts aspects of the field, or as an MS, which is more research-oriented and grounded in the natural sciences. When choosing a program, be sure to select one that best suits your specific career goals. Regardless of which program you choose, each online master’s in psychology should include some fundamental courses. Below are a few examples of general curriculum courses that you can expect to find in any psychology program:
- Lifespan Development: This course provides students with an advanced look at human development from conception through death, with emphasis on biology, social/emotional, and cognitive changes as they relate to counseling and other applied practices. While this topic deals with all branches of psychology, this course is particularly relevant for students who want to work as clinical psychologist or other positions of personal counseling.
- Gerontology (or the Psychology of Aging): The course is designed for students who want to work with aged populations as nursing home psychologists or professional caretakers. Coursework provides an overview of the social and emotional changes that happen to an individual later in life, including intellectual functioning and mental illness. The course also explores ways to assist the elderly through professional treatment and agency referrals or placement.
- Human Neuropsychology: This course explores the causes, consequences, and treatment of brain disorders and diseases and prepares students for a wide variety of careers, including substance abuse counselor or forensic psychologist. Students also learn about the functions of the brain in normal human functioning and exceptional conditions such as brain damage and neuropsychological syndromes in order to help them properly help diagnose and treat these conditions.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN PSYCHOLOGY?
The average master’s in psychology online program has a curriculum of 30 to 36 credit hours. Students can earn their degree in two years or less with full-time enrollment, though many schools will allow up to five years for those who want to enroll part-time. Those who want to pursue a more scientific track may find that their program requires campus visits, usually scheduled during summer sessions far in advance to accommodate work schedules and other obligations. Many online master’s programs also require a capstone project or thesis work, and depending on what a student chooses to accomplish, this may add some time to degree completion.
Some online psychology programs structure their classes based on a cohort model, where students progress through the coursework with the same group of peers in order to build a community of professional relationships. However, most online courses are offered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. When researching online programs, it is good to ask yourself which model, or combination of models, will work best with your own learning process.
CERTIFICATIONS AND LICENSES A MASTER’S IN PSYCHOLOGY PREPARES FOR
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) : Many graduates choose to pursue an LPC title in order to work as a licensed counselor at their own practice or another site, like a mental health facility, a university campus, or a psychiatric hospital. The LPC is granted at the state level and each state has its own set of requirements, such as a certain number of practicum or experience hours.
- Teaching of Psychology Certificate: Earning the TPC is a good way for those who want to pursue a career as a college instructor to boost their overall job prospects. Offered through certain university departments, the TPC is a post-baccalaureate program that gives graduates the chance to learn fundamental teaching skills as well as specific practices related to the field of psychology.
Accreditation for Online Master’s in Psychology Degrees
When searching for an online master’s in psychology program, you should look for national, regional, and field-specific official recognition. National accreditation is the standard and is conferred by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Nonprofit schools are unable to operate without this designation. Regional accreditation is granted by seven national organizations and is more important because it denotes that the college or university meets the specific standards of the state where it operates. Most employers look for regional accreditation when hiring candidates.
The DOE and CHEA oversee national accreditation of colleges and universities in the United States. The DOE is a government institution that works to create and enforce a cohesive set of educational standards, while the CHEA is a non-governmental organization that works towards similar goals. Since the DOE and CHEA works towards similar goals, it is rare to find a school that is accredited by one and not the other. The USDE and CHEA are also responsible for maintaining the credibility of organizations of regional accreditation. To see what colleges and universities have the DOE and CHEA’s stamp of approval, visit their websites.
There are also industry-specific organizations that establish and maintain standards and offer accreditation. Those pursuing a master’s in psychology online should be aware that the American Psychological Association (APA) only gives out its stamp of approval to doctorate programs. Another organization to look for is the Master’s in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC). Although the organization is relatively new, some of the best psychology master’s degrees online operate under its direction.
EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK FOR MASTER OF PSYCHOLOGY GRADUATES
Job Placement: MPsych vs Bachelor of Psychology
Although a bachelor’s degree in psychology will lay the groundwork for a successful career, jobs are limited for candidates who complete their education with an undergraduate psychology program. Bachelor’s-holders may qualify for roles as case managers, technicians, career counselors, and other non-clinical titles. Interestingly, only 25% of individuals with a bachelor’s in psychology go on to pursue careers in this field.
A graduate degree in psychology will help improve your job placement rate and boost your earning potential. A recent report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce notes significant gaps in pay and employment between college graduates with a bachelor’s and those who advance on to a graduate degree program:
|Graduate Type||Unemployment Rate||Median Annual Salary|
|Recent college graduate with degree in psychology||7.3%||$30,000|
|Experienced college graduates with a degree in psychology||5.9%||$48,000|
|Psychology graduate degree-holder||3.2%||$61,000|
Earning a Living
While many top-level psychology jobs will require a doctoral education, you can still pursue certain positions with a master’s degree. Using data from PayScale, the following table includes salary expectations for some of the most common psychology career pathways for master’s graduates.
|Job Title||Median Annual Salary with a Master’s Degree|
|Mental Health Case Manager||$41,000 (M.S.)|
|Licensed Professional Counselor||$47,500 (M.S.); $47,500 (M.S.); $41,600 (M.A.)|
|Licensed Mental Health Counselor||$46,452 (M.S.)|
|Mental Health Therapist||$60,823 (M.A.)|
|Program Director, Healthcare||$55,500 (M.A.)|
As noted above, most students who complete a psychology master’s program eventually pursue a doctoral degree. The BLS notes that the median annual salary for psychologists with a doctorate was 46% higher than the annual salary for psychologists with a master’s. Furthermore, psychologists with a Ph.D. had a miniscule 1.59% unemployment rate in 2013, which was roughly 25% lower than the unemployment rate for doctoral degree-holders in all scientific fields.
Students who complete a master’s in psychology degree program are well on their way to a rewarding career. Job availability will largely depend on their level of academic attainment, as well as degree specialization. Some of the most common career paths for licensed, degree-holding psychologists can be found below.
Clinical Psychologist: Clinical psychologists observe, diagnose, and treat patients suffering from a range of emotional and mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, behavioral disorders, and addictions. They often work alongside other psychologists and medical professionals to discuss patient history and determine how to best administer therapy.
Neuropsychologist: Neuropsychologists study the way that mental health disorders, emotions, social interactions, and other factors affect brain activity. They often work with patients who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, or are experiencing mental decline due to factors like age or developmental disability.
School Psychologist: Found at all academic levels, school psychologists work with students who are living with mental health disorders or interpersonal problems. They often conduct tests on their patients, and may meet with parents, teachers, and other individuals who are invested in their clients’ welfare.
Forensic Psychologist: Forensic psychologists apply their training to areas of criminal justice, such as crime scene investigations or legal proceedings. They study evidence to determine criminal motives, evaluate accused criminals and defendants for mental acuity, and often have the final say as to whether or not a person is fit to stand trial.
|Job Title||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years)||Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 years)||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)|
Making professional connections and learning about different psychological approaches is crucial to your career success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for professional psychologists. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.
- American Psychological Association: The nation’s leading organization for professional psychologists, the APA today boasts more than 117,000 members. The website features a vast online library, a job board, continuing education opportunities, and a Psychology Help Center with links to blogs and articles about various psych-related topics. The APA also serves as the official accreditation agency for collegiate psychology programs.
- American Board of Professional Psychology: Established in 1947, the ABPP oversees the standards and criteria used to certify and license practicing psychologists. The board awards certification to qualifying applicants in 15 different niche areas, including clinical psychology, couple and family psychology, and school psychology.
- National Alliance of Professional Psychology Providers: NAPPP is dedicated to promoting professional psychology through academic research and public advocacy. Members receive discounted electronic health records and reduced malpractice insurance, along with free continuing education courses, training tools, and job leads.
Financing Your Online Master’s in Psychology
Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.
- Best Online Master’s in Psychology Degrees 2017
Rank School Location 1 Harvard University Cambridge, MA 2 University of Georgia Athens, GA 3 Touro University Worldwide Los Alamitos, CA 4 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL 5 Adler Graduate School Richfield, MN 6 Adler University Chicago, IL 7 William James College Newton, MA 8 The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Knoxville, TN 9 Carlos Albizu University-Miami Miami, FL 10 University of Houston-Victoria Victoria, TX 11 University of Northern Colorado Greeley, CO 12 Fielding Graduate University Santa Barbara, CA 13 Ball State University Muncie, IN 14 Institute for the Psychological Sciences Arlington, VA 15 University of North Texas Denton, TX 16 LeTourneau University Longview, TX 17 Sacred Heart University Fairfield, CT 18 University of Memphis Memphis, TN 19 Palo Alto University Palo Alto, CA 20 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 21 Fort Hays State University Hays, KS 22 University of Idaho Moscow, ID 23 University of Nevada-Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV 24 Medaille College Buffalo, NY 25 National University La Jolla, CA
- Best Online Master’s in Psychology Degrees 2016
Rank School Location 1 University of Wisconsin – Madison Madison, WI 2 University of Georgia Athens, GA 3 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 4 The University of Tennessee – Knoxville Knoxville, TN 5 Marist College Poughkeepsie, NY 6 Colorado State University – Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO 7 Sacred Heart University Fairfield, CT 8 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL 9 University of North Texas Denton, TX 10 CUNY School of Professional Studies New York, NY 11 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND 12 University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL 13 Medaille College Buffalo, NY 14 University of Northern Colorado Greeley, CO 15 Eastern Michigan University MI 16 Touro University Worldwide Los Alamitos, CA 17 University of Idaho Moscow, ID 18 University of Houston-Victoria Victoria, TX 19 University of Hartford West Hartford, CT 20 LeTourneau University Longview, TX 21 Saint Cloud State University Saint Cloud, MN 22 Mercy College Dobbs Ferry, NY 23 Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Edinboro, PA 24 Tiffin University Tiffin, OH 25 Fort Hays State University Hays, KS