Master of Psychology Degree Overview

Oct 09, 2019

Master's programs in psychology offer students general coursework in the discipline as well as courses in psychological assessment, while developing skills in research and problem solving.

Essential Information

Psychology master's degree programs offer students the option of focusing their curriculum around a concentration area in psychology, such as psychopathology, developmental psychology, clinical psychology, marriage and family counseling, neuroscience, forensic psychology and abnormal psychology.

Applicants to a master's degree program in psychology are usually required to hold a bachelor's degree. A psychology degree may not be required, but graduate programs typically prefer applicants to have background knowledge and previous coursework in psychology and statistics. Most programs also require students to submit GRE scores.

Master's Degree in Psychology

Master's programs in psychology generally provide scholastic opportunities for students to develop skills in critical thinking, reading psychological research and using American Psychological Association (APA) citation style while writing. Students commonly participate in fieldwork or supervised practicum hours and conduct research for a thesis assignment. These programs can award either a Master of Arts or Master of Science degree and take approximately two years to complete. A master's degree typically doesn't prepare candidates for licensure as psychologists, but graduates can continue their education in a doctoral program.

Courses in perception, motivation theories, neuroscience, and decision making are common. Other topics studied include:

  • Learning principles
  • Personality theories
  • Social behavior
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Cognition and memory
  • Behavior modification

Popular Career Options

A master's degree in psychology does not lead to licensure as a professional psychologist in most fields. However, individuals who obtain this degree can pursue careers in clinical, educational and industrial areas. Graduates may find positions as:

  • Mental health workers
  • Researchers
  • Behavior specialist
  • Industrial-organizational psychologist

Salary and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that school, counseling and clinical psychologists made a median salary of $76,990 per year in 2018. Industrial-organizational psychologists earned a median yearly salary of $97,260 in the same year. Psychologists overall are expected to experience a job growth rate of 14% from 2018 to 2028, according to the BLS, with those holding doctoral degrees anticipated to see the highest prospects.

Continuing Education

Graduates may choose to pursue doctoral work in an area of psychology. There are two paths an individual can choose to pursue: a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D). While both Ph.D and Psy.D programs usually require internships and written dissertations, a Ph.D. program in psychology usually focuses on research in the field, whereas a Psy.D prepares individuals for work in clinical settings.

Students with a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field who would like to pursue advanced studies in psychology should consider applying to a psychology master's program. These programs can act as a means of transition into a Ph.D. or Psy.D. program and a subsequent career as a licensed psychologist.

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