Best Graduate Degrees for Psychology Majors

Jun 01, 2020

As an undergraduate major, psychology is a wide-ranging discipline. Many students find that to pursue clinical or research careers in psychology requires a graduate degree. There are several options for graduate study. Various degrees, as well as career choices for each, are considered.

Master of Social Work

Some psychology graduates will wish to undertake a graduate degree with a wide range of program outcomes. The Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) is a degree option that might be considered.

Program Information

The M.S.W. degree provides students with knowledge concerning a range of social issues. The degree can typically be completed in two years of full-time study. Common courses include diversity/social justice, human behavior, and social work research. Field placements to gain experience are a critical component of M.S.W. programs. Application requirements vary, but candidates may be required to present transcripts, recommendations, and case studies, or take part in an interview.

Career Options

Licensed clinical social workers, or LCSWs, provide therapy, advocacy, and referral services. They may work for a clinical agency or have a private practice. Their median salary is $57,753*. Medical social workers provide support to patients related to emotional and financial barriers that impact their ability to access medical care. They coordinate hospital discharge plans and consult with physicians regarding social barriers. Their median wage is $54,060*.

Master's in Counseling

Many students seek a bachelor's in psychology because of an interest in providing counseling services. They might want to seek a Master's in Counseling.

Program Information

Master's in counseling degree programs are designed to train practitioners in the counseling skills needed to work in direct practice settings, including community mental health agencies and schools. Courses include counseling methods, group counseling, and substance abuse counseling. A practicum and internship help students develop counseling skills. Common application requirements include transcripts, letters of recommendation, and participation in a group interview.

Career Options

Graduates of a master's program in counseling may seek to become a licensed professional counselor, or LPC. LPCs provide individual or group counseling regarding a range of mental health concerns at a clinical agency or in private practice. The median LPC salary is $48,075*. School counselors work with students concerning academic, social or personal concerns that affect their ability to access their education; they also provide support regarding college and career choices. School counselors had a median salary of $57,040**.

Master of Education in Behavior Analysis

Some individuals with a degree in psychology may be interested in behavioral health. In that case, the Master of Education in Behavior Analysis is a great option.

Program Information

Opportunities continue to grow for working with children with special needs, and this degree provides candidates with concrete skills for such students. This M.Ed. can typically be completed in two years, full-time. Courses include child development, functional behavioral assessment, and ethics. Applicants should possess a bachelor's degree and provide references with a goal statement.

Career Options

A common career choice for those with this degree is that of a board certified behavior analyst, or BCBA. These professionals determine behavioral goals and develop strategies towards meeting them. The median salary for a BCBA is $60,691*. Some professionals may wish to move to management positions within behavioral health and become a behavioral health director. They ensure that behavioral health facilities follow all applicable regulations and provide outstanding clinical care. The median wage for these directors is $84,669*.

Master's in Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Some students may be interested in the application of psychology to the workplace. For these students, a master's in industrial/organizational psychology could be an option to consider.

Program Information

Industrial/organizational psychology programs focus upon tools regarding human behavior within the workplace. Common courses include measurement theory, cross-cultural psychology, and workforce training/development. Programs can typically be completed in two to four years, and applicants should plan to submit transcripts, resumes, and GRE scores.

Career Options

The I/O psychologist focuses on employee productivity in the workplace. They may achieve this result by designing training programs, administering surveys, or advising management on hiring decisions. The median salary of industrial/organizational psychologists was $92,880**. Human resources managers oversee company initiatives regarding employees, including hiring, compensation, and recruitment. They ensure that all human resources activities are in line with federal guidelines. The median compensation was $116,720**.

Doctor of Psychology

Some psychology majors may wish to enhance their education with a doctoral program focused on clinical training. They could then enter practice as a psychologist.

Program Information

The Doctor of Psychology, or Psy.D., is a doctoral level program that focuses on clinical training. Some possible courses include psychopharmacology, cognitive assessment, and group interventions. The Psy.D. can typically be completed in three to five years of full-time study plus a year of internship. Applicants may provide transcripts, essays, recommendation letters, and GRE results.

Career Options

Many graduates of Psy.D. programs will elect to practice as a clinical psychologist. These professionals diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. The median salary for clinical psychologists was $78,200**.

Ph.D. in Psychology

Some graduates with a bachelor's degree in psychology may be interested in research or teaching. They might want to earn a Ph.D. in psychology.

Program Information

A Ph.D. in psychology is designed for students interested in research or academia; however a clinical license may still be pursued. Courses may vary based on specialization, but may include instrumental conditioning, physiology of learning, and developmental psychobiology. Dissertations and oral examinations are part of the Ph.D. in psychology, and most candidates will complete the degree in five to six years. To apply to a Ph.D. program, expect to submit GRE scores, transcripts, and sample academic papers.

Career Options

Many Ph.D graduates will pursue a career as a professor. These teachers instruct students in their discipline and conduct research on various areas of interest. The median salary for a professor in psychology was $76,620**.

Psychology majors have a wide range of options for post-graduate study depending on the length of time they wish to commit and their particular career interests. Each of these graduate degrees can provide an entryway into a stimulating career.

Sources: (2020)*, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019)**

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