Master’s in Psychology Degree – Everything you need to know in 2024


A master’s degree in psychology is an advanced degree that typically leads on from a bachelor’s degree and usually takes 1-3 years to complete.

This advanced degree dives deep into a specific area of psychology preparing graduates for a specialized career or a doctorate.

These specializations can range from clinical psychology and counseling psychology to areas like industrial-organizational psychologyforensic psychology, and sports psychology.

The typical master’s curriculum in psychology blends both core and elective courses. Students often delve into topics such as research methods, statistics, cognitive psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology, and psychopathology. Beyond the classroom, many master’s programs emphasize hands-on research. As a result, many students are required to complete a master’s thesis, representing original research in a specific psychology area.

When it comes to the professional application of the degree, licensure and certification are crucial considerations. While a master’s degree is often a requisite for specific career paths in psychology, particularly for those aiming to practice as therapists or counselors, it’s essential to note a distinction. Practicing as a clinical psychologist or adopting the title “psychologist” often necessitates a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D. or Psy.D., coupled with the successful completion of licensing exams.

Career-wise, a master’s degree in psychology can open doors to various fields. Beyond traditional therapy or counseling roles, graduates can venture into human resources, research assistance, social services, and more. However, certain positions might necessitate additional certifications or specialized training. For some, the pursuit of a master’s degree in psychology serves as a precursor to further academic endeavors. It’s not uncommon for individuals to view their master’s studies as a stepping stone toward a doctoral degree, be it a research-focused Ph.D. or the more clinically inclined Psy.D.

A master’s degree in psychology is a challenging but rewarding experience. It requires a deep understanding of the fundamentals of psychology, as well as the ability to apply this knowledge to real-world problems. Students who pursue a master’s degree in psychology will gain the skills and knowledge they need to work in a variety of settings, including clinical, counseling, and research. They will also develop a strong foundation in research methods, which will allow them to continue their education at the doctoral level.
Dr. Jennifer Beers, Associate Department Chair at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

MA or MSc?

You can either choose to study a Master of Arts degree in psychology (MA), or a Master of Science in psychology (MSc).

An MA program in psychology often places a greater emphasis on the social and humanistic aspects of psychology, such as the study of culture, society, and social behavior. Coursework may focus on topics such as counseling, therapy, and the application of psychology in social and organizational settings.

An MSc in psychology typically has a stronger emphasis on the scientific and empirical aspects of psychology, such as research methods, statistics, and data analysis. Coursework may focus on topics such as experimental design, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology.

Most master’s programs are designed to give you the chance to dive into specific areas of psychology, so you may find Master’s degree programs such as M.A. or M.S in Social Psychology, or Child Development, or Forensic Psychology. This can give you a chance to hone in on your particular area of interest, and decide upon a course of study that will give you all of the tools you need to be qualified and successful in specific areas of psychology.

Why study a Master’s Degree in Psychology?

A master’s degree in psychology can open up a world of opportunities for students. With this degree, you can work in a variety of settings, such as clinical, counseling, research, and education. You can also pursue a career in business, law, or government. A master’s degree in psychology can also help you develop your critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. These skills are valuable in any career field.
Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., ABPP, Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Career advancement

It opens the door to many jobs in mental and behavioral health (including IO psychologistforensic psychologist and sports psychologist) and whilst the earning potential is lower than those who hold a doctorate, the median annual salary is $80,000+.


A master’s degree is a significant undertaking but many students find they are able to fit their studies around employment meaning they are able to enjoy all the benefits a master’s degree can offer without leaving the world of work for the 2-4 years of studying.


A master’s program will off you the chance to dive deep into the area of psychology which interests you most. This specialization is both intellectually stimulating but will also set you apart from other candidates when it comes to finding a job.

Requirement for a doctoral program

The reality is that many students opt to take a master’s degree simply because it is a requirement for the doctorate program they intend to apply for.

How much does a master’s degree in psychology cost?

The cost of an online master’s is typically $10,000-$30,000

For public universities, in-state students might expect to pay anywhere from $4,000 to $30,000 or more per year for tuition. Out-of-state students at public universities and those attending private universities might see tuition costs ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 or even higher per year.

The cost of obtaining a master’s degree in psychology varies widely based on a number of factors:

  • Type of Institution – Public universities generally have lower tuition rates than private universities. Furthermore, public institutions often have different tuition rates for in-state versus out-of-state residents, with in-state students paying less.
  • Location – Schools in certain metropolitan areas, where the cost of living is higher, might also have higher tuition and associated costs.
  • Program Specialization and Duration – Some specialized programs or those that include clinical training might be more expensive. Additionally, programs that are designed to be completed in a shorter timeframe may have higher annual costs.
  • Funding Opportunities – Some programs offer funding in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, scholarships, or grants. This funding can significantly offset the costs.
  • Additional Costs – Apart from tuition, there are other costs to consider, including books, supplies, fees, housing, transportation, and health insurance.

What are the entry requirements for a Master’s Degree

The entry requirements to study a psychology master’s degree will vary depending on the university or the program. However here are some general requirements:

  1. Bachelor’s degree: most programs require that applicants have a Bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field.
  2. Minimum GPA: a minimum GPA of 3.0
  3. Letters of recommendation: from academic or professional references.
  4. Personal statement: Some Master’s degree programs may require applicants to submit a personal statement or essay outlining their academic and career goals, as well as their qualifications and experience.

What can you specialize in?

There are a wealth of areas and subfields that you could choose to concentrate on for your master’s degree program, here are a few:

  1. Clinical Psychology: focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health disorders
  2. Counseling Psychology:therapeutic interventions and support to individuals dealing with personal, emotional, and mental health concerns.
  3. Behavioral Psychology:Examines the relationships between behavior and environmental factors, emphasizing learning principles and the role of conditioning in shaping behavior.
  4. Forensic Psychology: apply psychological principles to legal and criminal justice settings.
  5. Educational Psychology: Explores learning processes, motivation, and instructional methods to understand and improve educational settings and student outcomes.
  6. Child Psychology: Concentrates on the psychological development, behavior, and mental processes of children from infancy through adolescence.
  7. School Psychology: Integrates psychology and education to assess and address the academic, social, and emotional needs of students within the educational system.
  8. Organizational Psychology: Examines individual and group behavior within workplace settings, focusing on areas such as employee motivation, leadership, job satisfaction, and organizational culture.
  9. Cultural Psychology: examines how cultural values, beliefs, and practices influence human behavior.
  10. Military psychology: application of psychological principles and methods to military settings.
  11. Geropsychology: specialize in in the mental and physical health of older adults.
  12. Cyberpsychology: the study of the psychological aspects of technology e.g. online identity, social media, and gaming addiction.
  13. Social Neuroscience: the study of the neural mechanisms underlying social behavior and mental processes.
  14. Ecopsychology: the study of the relationship between humans and the natural environment.
  15. Transpersonal Psychology: A branch of psychology that explores the spiritual and transcendent aspects of human experience.


See also:

How much can you earn with a Master’s degree

The expected salary for individuals holding a master’s degree in psychology will vary significantly according to their specialization. Below are some of the highest-paying professions within psychology available to those with a master’s qualification.

  1. Sports Psychologist: average annual salary of $72,000. See this guide for more insights.
  2. Industrial-Organizational Psychologist: average annual salary of $112,000. See this guide for more insights
  3. Forensic Psychologist: average annual salary of $60,000. See this guide for more insights.
  4. School Counsellor: The BLS reports that the average annual earnings for this profession are $58,120.
  5. Engineer Psychologist: According to the American Psychological Association, master’s level professionals earn an average of just over $90,000.

What jobs can you do with a Master’s degree?

Here are some jobs (in and out of the psychology field) you can do with a master’s degree in psychology without any further education i.e. a doctorate. For more examples and more details on each see our guide to master’s in psychology jobs.

  1. Mental Health Counselor
  2. School Psychologist
  3. Industrial-Organizational (IO) Psychologist
  4. Forensic Psychologist
  5. Sports Psychologist
  6. Rehabilitation Counselor
  7. Human Resources Specialist
  8. Market Research Analyst
  9. Nonprofit Program Manager
  10. Health Education Specialist
  11. Marriage and Family Therapist

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