From providing valuable, in-depth research to helping patients improve their day-to-day lives, psychologists wear many hats. They are valuable resources in schools, clinics, hospitals, government, private practice and are often available wherever the need for psychological services that influence human development and human behavior might arise. In such an important position of care, most therapists and psychologists must achieve a top-notch education to effectively do their jobs. For students looking to further their career in psychology quickly, it is possible to find accredited, affordable, and outstanding master’s programs in Psychology.
Read on to learn more about what to expect from a master’s in psychology, along with the best and cheapest program rankings, which programs provide the most bang for the buck, what a career in psychology entails, and much more.
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.
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Psychology is a very popular career field, so it is not surprising that there are numerous psychology master’s programs to choose from, especially from those offered online. But how do prospective students find the best online master’s in psychology? There is no quick and easy answer to that question, as what is best for one student is not necessarily the best for another. However, there are particular characteristics of the best online program. These factors include – graduation rates, program quality & reputation, tuition fees, teacher to students ratio, and many more. We considered all these created the list of the best online master’s in psychology:
Keeping the financial bottom line manageable is a key component of finding the right online psychology degree. A psychology program is generally quite expensive to pursue, so prospective students need to look for schools that provide great value. Here is a list of some of the most affordable schools for an online master’s in psychology:
A master’s psychology program is an important stepping stone to working in the field of psychology. Online psychology degrees not only provide graduates an opportunity to move into entry-level work in the field, usually under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, but in some cases – such as in industrial-organizational psychology – a master’s degree in psychology is what it takes to get licensed. Additionally, it also serves as a great foundation for continuing into psychology doctoral programs or to conduct research.
Typically, an online master’s degree in psychology deals with the study of psychological theory, human behavior, developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, physiological psychology, and encourages students to develop their research skills and research methods necessary for psychological research. Apart from taking up core courses, students of an online master psychology program are generally expected to take up a capstone project as well.
Specializations in Online Master’s in Psychology
Psychology is a vast field with several branches and specializations. Students of an online masters in psychology will come across some popular specializations, listed below:
Clinical Psychology is a specialty within the science of Psychology that combines science, knowledge, and theory to provide comprehensive healthcare in mental and behavioral sciences. Clinical Psychologists involve themselves in clinical mental health counseling and meet with patients to identify, analyze, and provide solutions to emotional and mental challenges.
Counseling Psychology is the practice of providing health services in Psychology. Counseling Psychology addresses societal, work-related, school-related emotional health challenges that people experience throughout life. Counseling Psychologists help people experience emotional and mental health challenges for the overall betterment of life.
Forensic Psychology is a science in which clinical psychology is applied in forensic settings. Forensic Psychologists use forensic psychology knowledge for legal purposes, data analysis, and criminal justice.
Educational Psychology is a field within psychology that deals with the scientific study of the learning of humans. This field studies the processes of learning and understanding using cognitive and behavioral perspectives and helps school Psychologists understand the intelligence, development, motivation, etc., of humans.
Organizational Psychology is a branch of psychology that deals with the behavior of employees at the workplace. Often overlapping with Industrial Organizational Psychology, this branch studies and uses applied behavior analysis to improve the overall work environment, productivity levels of organizations, and overall satisfaction and safety of employees.
The Sports Psychology field involves the study of human psychology that impacts sports and athletes. This field also looks at the impact exercise and physical activity have on the psychological health of athletes. Professional Sport Psychologists use this science and methods to improve the performance of athletes.
Master in Sports Psychology
Industrial-Organizational Psychology is a branch of Psychology that has considerable overlap with Organizational Psychology with some differences. Industrial-Organizational Psychology deals with the individual workers and their Psychological behavior at the workplace and how it impacts the work environment.
Child Psychology is a very important branch of Psychology that deals with the subconscious and conscious development of children, often covered by cognitive psychology. Child Psychologists study children – how they interact with others in society, and with parents and relatives, to measure their mental health and mental development. This branch tends to overlap with social psychology and school psychology as well.
Master in Child Psychology
This branch of psychology is the study of psychological and behavioral patterns and their impact on psychological health. Chronic illness can cause mental health challenges that affect human behavior, and Health Psychologists help patients deal with such mental and behavioral health issues that might arise from physical health conditions.
Master in Health Psychology
Business Psychology is a branch of psychology that deals with applying science to make employees and business places a better place to work in. Business Psychologists investigate various aspects of businesses, analyze them, and then provide solutions to improve the working life of employees.
Transpersonal Psychology is a field within psychology that deals with Psychology on spiritual aspects of humans. Transpersonal Psychologists use a humanistic approach to provide mental health by focusing on higher meanings of life.
Other examples of specializations and concentrations include Applied Health Science concentration, Social Psychology, School Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Adolescent Development Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and more.
Degree Types in Online Masters in Psychology Programs
A master’s in psychology is mainly offered in two common types of degree formats – the Master of Arts or MA in Psychology Online and the Master of Science or MS in Psychology Online. The core psychology classes and curricula are vastly similar and may involve psychology research to a fair extent, and a capstone project as well.
Master of Arts in Psychology programs focus on the interdisciplinary arts side of psychology and often provide a stepping stone for doctoral programs.
Master of Science in Psychology programs focus on psychology research methods and the scientific aspects of Psychology, from a more technical approach.
Course work in Online Master’s in Psychology Programs
Students of an online psychology master’s program will take online classes that reflect their advanced educational level. This means that core courses will have an in-depth focus on issues in psychology. Electives, if available in the students’ particular program, will allow them to target issues that deeply concern their future line of work, such as forensic psychology, school psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, and the like. In most cases, students are expected to complete a capstone project towards the end of the program.
Here are some of the common courses students can expect to take during their psychology master’s program:
Biological Basis of Behavior
Research Methods for Graduate Students
Contemporary Issues in Psychology
Advanced Psychological Assessment
Psychology of Death and Dying
This course looks at the mental processes that affect the behavior of individuals, including how much of that behavior is ingrained and how much is learned.
These courses focus on research methods, writing, communication in written and oral contexts, conducting experiments, and proper reporting.
This important course helps ensure master’s students have the skills and knowledge to dive deep into reports and research, as well as the ability to conduct data analysis analyze, and validate psychological data.
Students will look at a variety of issues facing the field today, including ethical and legal considerations, emerging research methods, scholarly discourse, and how the discipline changes over time in a multicultural, global society.
This course teaches how to assess patients and clients with difficult, complex histories, as well as how to create a proper treatment plan and follow-ups for them.
Students will dive into thanatology, understanding how death affects different cultures and how death, dying, funerals, bereavement, and the like contribute to the psychology of individuals at different stages of their lives.
Some of the other core courses in an online master’s in psychology curriculum may include:
Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Psychological Research Methods
Criminal Justice System
Adolescent Development Psychology
Psychological Theory & Research Methods
Applied Behavior Analysis
Psychology and Criminal Justice
It is also important to note that most programs will require hands-on experience as well. Online programs allow students to take classroom courses fully online while requiring them to meet supervised work requirements in an approved setting. This approved setting can be close to their home, even if their college is across the country. Each school has a different process for this, so it is important for master’s students to speak with the fieldwork coordinator for full requirements details before they can enroll.
Almost all master’s programs in psychology require some practicum or internship, even those that are fully online. This practical experience is important, as it prepares students for the rigors of the career they will enter after graduation. It also allows for networking within the field, which can come in handy when it’s time to look for a job.
Psychology master’s students enrolled in the practicum courses can complete their required work at a location that is convenient to them, as long as it has been previously approved by the administrator of the field practicum of their program. This might be in a clinic, hospital, or even assisting a licensed psychologist in private practice. The supervisor will keep track of hours and certain milestones the student meets, and then report that to the practicum administrator so students can receive proper credit.
The first question master’s students should ask about any psychology program is simple: Is the program accredited? Accreditation means that the program or school has been evaluated by an independent accrediting body and found to meet the high standards of a rigorous education. Besides that, accreditation matters when seeking scholarships and financial assistance as well. Furthermore, many employers will only hire those who graduate from accredited programs or online schools.
The most important factor students should make note of, is that only graduates from accredited programs are allowed to sit for the licensing examination, which is required to practice independently in the field. Therefore, a program must be accredited by a competent authority such as the American Psychological Association (APA), and the degree is preferably from a regionally accredited institution.
In most cases, a master’s online program in psychology takes between two and three years to complete. One of the benefits of online learning is that students can often take courses at their own pace and accelerate their learning, which can decrease the time it takes to earn the online master to between 18 and 24 months. This allows master’s students to get into the workforce faster, or if they intend to pursue a doctorate, it gets them started on their new educational journey up to a year earlier.
A master’s program in psychology typically requires completion of a bachelor’s degree and a GPA of 3.0 or more. Additionally, all the usual expectations of a college application, such as academic transcripts from previous schools, an essay, and GRE testing scores (if required), are required. For students whose undergraduate degree does not have any direct relevance to psychology, they may be required to take up prerequisite courses as well.
How to Pay for Online Masters in Psychology Programs
A good master’s psychology program can stack up to hundreds and even thousands of dollars. However, many colleges allow students to pay as they go, which can make budgeting much easier. Online learning also brings with it several financial advantages, such as the lack of a commute and the ability for students to keep working their current job while pursuing higher education, potentially saving them a lot of money. Figuring out how to pay for graduate school is usually at the top of any prospective student’s list of things to consider. Luckily, there are several resources to help students pay for their education.
Scholarships are one of the most prized and commonly used forms of financial aid by any postsecondary student. Sometimes called fellowships, scholarships are forms of financial aid that do not need to be paid back. Many of them are sponsored or administered by a variety of sources, including the master’s programs themselves, charitable organizations, and corporations. (Beware of the many Scholarship Scams online)
Like scholarships, grants are financial awards that do not have to be paid back. Sometimes “scholarships” and “grants” are considered interchangeable; the biggest difference, however, is that grants are usually need-based and scholarships are often merit-based. The most popular grant is the Pell Grant, which is offered through federal financial aid.
Some loans are available through the federal financial aid program. These loans might be subsidized (where no interest accrues until six months after graduation) or unsubsidized (where the interest begins to accrue immediately). In some cases, parent loans are available that allow parents to take out a certain amount of money toward their child’s education. And finally, there are private loans through banks and credit unions.
Though these opportunities are most often reserved for students in doctoral programs, earning a fellowship while in a master’s program is a possibility. Fellowships are merit-based and designed to allow a student to pursue their degree full-time, and perhaps engage in research or clinical work as well, without having to worry about financial constraints. These are sometimes offered by the schools themselves, or by professional organizations.
It’s important to remember that to be eligible for many of these sources of funding, students must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA®. Even if master’s students don’t expect to receive any financial aid from the federal government, this form will still help the school when awarding scholarships or grants.
Scholarships for Online Masters in Psychology Students
Scholarships play an important role in paying towards a master’s degree in psychology. Here are a few scholarships for online master’s in psychology students.
American Psychological Association(APA): APA awards several scholarships, grants, and awards to students pursuing psychology education. Master’s degree in psychology students qualify for many of these. The amounts and deadlines vary based on the award and scholarship.
PSI CHI awards and grantsThe International Honor Society in Psychology was founded in 1929 to encourage excellence in scholarship and advance the science of Psychology. PSI CHI administers several scholarships and awards each year that are more than $400,000. Online Psychology students qualify for several of these scholarships and grants.
Online Masters in Psychology No GRE
A degree in psychology, apart from licensure, is a basic necessity to become a practicing Psychologist. This is the main reason why there is a lot of demand for psychology masters programs. But students with a bachelor’s degree who want to pursue their graduate-level studies typically have to go through a GRE test to get admitted into most psychology master’s programs. Although this is a requirement that many universities adhere to, some universities are slowly realizing that the GRE test may or may not accurately measure applicants’ readiness to go through rigorous coursework in graduate programs. This realization is what is leading some of them to offer no GRE programs. Psychology is one of the fields in which many universities are foregoing the GRE requirement. A few examples of universities that are offering Master’s in Psychology No GRE are:
While it is tempting to find out about free online master’s in psychology, it is important to note that there aren’t any accredited online masters degrees in psychology for free. Some educational entities provide tuition-free degrees, but most of them are not accredited, and certainly not APA-accredited. But the good news is that many courses are free and have the same content as master’s in psychology programs. Some of these courses are taken from previous years’ programs, with many of them offered by reputed educational institutions. These courses will not provide a degree or a diploma, but they will certainly get students started in psychology and prepare students for master’s in psychology programs. Here are a few free online courses in psychology at the graduate level:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)- MIT OpenCourseWare
In today’s competitive world, speed is of the essence. This is especially true for Psychology professionals who are looking for quick upward mobility in their careers. Getting an online master’s in psychology is a pathway to that career growth. Unfortunately, most master’s degrees take a few years to complete. Luckily, there are accelerated masters in psychology programs that allow students to graduate faster than usual. These accelerated programs are intense, with a lot of coursework packed in a short amount of time. Here is a list of the accelerated masters in psychology programs:
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)
SNHU offers three master’s in psychology online programs. Though some of the basic courses will be the same across all three degrees – such as those that focus on research and data collection – the concentration courses for each one will allow master’s students to target the areas that will prepare them for a future career. Here’s a brief rundown of the concentrations:
Child and Developmental Psychology students will encounter courses in intervention strategies, cognitive neuropsychology, developmental psychology, and ethical practices in psychology.
Forensic Psychology students will take courses in the intersection of law and psychology, assessment specific to forensic psychology, psychology in the courtroom, criminal justice, and theories of personality.
All master’s programs in psychology require completion of 36 credit hours, which can be completed in as little as 15 months, assuming a student is taking two courses per term.
Angelo State University (ASU)
The Master of Science in Applied Psychology is the only one of four psychology programs at Angelo State University to be offered online. Students can choose from the thesis or non-thesis option; either way, they can expect to complete 36 credit hours for graduation. To help pay for the cost of earning the master’s in psychology program, ASU offers the Carr Academic Graduate Scholarship, for which every enrolled grad student is considered; it is based on merit and the GPA of the bachelor’s degree. Time to finish – less than 2 years.
Ball State University
A degree in Quantitative Psychology prepares graduates to focus on data-related situations and research. This Master of Science degree requires 33 credits and takes about two years to complete. Two concentrations are offered: quantitative and mixed methods. The degree in Educational Psychology takes students on a journey that prepares them to work with individuals and groups in the realm of education. This Master of Arts program requires 30 credits, which can be completed in 18 months or less. Specializations are available in neuropsychology, applied behavior analysis, or human development. Also available are custom specializations that allow students to focus strongly on what matters most to them.
Grand Canyon University
The online offerings of Grand Canyon University are robust, so much so that numerous programs focus on counseling and psychology topics. The Master of Science in Psychology program offers seven concentrations, including those in forensic, general, health, human factors, and geropsychology. In most cases, the program requires 36 credits divided into 8-week courses. Students can transfer up to 12 credits, thus bringing their time in the classroom down to less than one year.
University of North Texas
The University of North Texas offers more than 20 online master’s programs, and three of them are related to psychology. A full-time student can complete their master’s studies in as little as 15 months. Here are the three options:
• MS in Rehabilitation Counseling: This program requires 48 credit hours, of which nine of those are dedicated to over 700 hours of fieldwork. Students can expect to graduate within two years.
Careers & Salaries for Online Masters in Psychology Graduates
Though most psychologists need a doctoral degree to become licensed to practice, it certainly does not mean that those who graduate from the online psychology master’s programs cannot work in the field. Master’s degree graduates can pursue careers in research and clinical and counseling settings, while under the supervision of a licensed psychologist; they can work as industrial-organizational psychologists, or school counselors as well. It is also not unusual for psychology master’s degree graduates to work as teachers, whether in high schools or the postsecondary setting. Some of these positions are growing very quickly; for instance, marriage and family therapists have a job outlook of 23 percent growth from 2016 to 2026, while school counseling and rehabilitation counseling positions are expected to grow by 13 percent.
What can graduates expect from these positions? Here’s a quick rundown:
Marriage andfamily therapists
improve the quality of work-life by applying psychological concepts to solve problems. They might tackle workplace productivity, management, working styles, or boosting morale. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median pay for these professionals was $112,690 in May 2020.
work with children and their families to assist with well-being, a strong home life, and issues with education, learning disabilities, bullying, and more. They also work closely with teachers in handling a variety of issues. The annual median pay for school psychologists was $89,290 in May 2020.
help those who suffer from mental, emotional, physical, or developmental disabilities to go on to live rich, full, and independent lives. They might choose to specialize in certain areas, such as dealing with those who have developmental disabilities, addictions, or mental health issues. Rehabilitation counselors earned an annual median pay of $37,530, in 2020.
Licenses & Certifications for Online Masters in Psychology Students
Psychology graduates can immensely benefit from certain certifications and licenses. Some of the licenses are mandatory if they want to practice psychology. Apart from a degree from an accredited institution, having certifications convey the depth of knowledge in the Psychology field. Almost all reputed professionals in the field of psychology have certifications and licenses. Here are some certifications that psychology professionals undergo:
The American Board of Professional Psychology currently offers 15 specialty certifications in the field. Though these certifications are not required to become a psychologist and work in the field, some employers may require them. Again, most certifications require a doctoral degree, but students of a master’s in psychology program can be aware of the various certifications available, and choose electives that will help prepare them for studying that specialty in the doctoral program.
State Licenses for Psychologists
All states require the licensure of psychologists before they can engage in independent practice. Some states also require a license before a person can call themselves a “psychologist.” In most states, licensure requires a doctoral degree, completing an internship, and performing one or two years of supervised work. Those who hold a master’s degree are not usually eligible for licensure but are eligible to work in several areas of psychology while under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. More information on licensure is available through the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
Resources for Online Masters in Psychology Students
Getting a psychology master’s degree online will certainly help students with upward mobility in their careers. But it is essential to note that psychology is a vast field with so many specializations and branches, and is ever-changing. With that backdrop, masters in psychology students should keep in touch with all the happenings in the world of psychology, along with networking with other professionals, keeping abreast with the latest in mental health, and learning about professional ethics. There are many associations, organizations, and exhibitions that help psychology bachelor’s degree students, as well as master’s or doctoral degree students, to stay in touch with the industry, provide valuable networking opportunities with peers, open up career opportunities, and more. Here are a few such organizations that are extremely important for psychology degree students.
For those looking for more information on a psychology degree, the following in-depth resources should be of ample use:
APA Accredited Programs – Read about what American Psychological Association (APA) Accreditation is, why it matters, and what schools offer APA-Accredited programs.
Top Clinical Psychology Programs – These programs focus on clinical psychology and prepare students for the rigors of furthering their studies into a doctoral program.
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