Online Master’s Degree in Psychology

An online master’s degree in psychology provides students and professionals with the opportunity to delve deeper into the psychology field than they can with an undergraduate degree. It allows them to specialize in a particular area of psychology ? such as child development, sports psychology, chemical dependency, or marriage counseling ? that may have sparked their interest before. Unlike undergraduate programs, graduate-level psychology programs are more hands-on, research-oriented, and specialized through elective courses or areas of concentration. Students who hope to become licensed psychologists will need to earn a master’s degree in psychology and likely continue their education into the doctoral level.

A master’s in psychology program typically involves two to three years of graduate work in the areas of research and the scientific method, core psychological sciences, and applied skills. Many of these programs require the completion of a research-based thesis based on a research study or critical literature review. Applying the knowledge obtained from graduate-level coursework, students must formulate a research proposal, analyze collected data, and present the results in a paper for scholarly publication. Some master’s programs also require students to participate in a practicum experience through which they can learn and apply clinical skills under supervision.

Common Courses in Master’s Programs

  • Research Methods in Psychology
    Students will examine various methods of psychological research, will gather and analyze data in a variety of settings, and will apply the methods to their own research. Students will study both quantitative and qualitative research methods, when to use either or both methods, and the implications of conducting research.
  • Social Psychology
    Social psychology studies the interaction between people and the environment, technology, and society, and theories involving the attitudes and behaviors individuals and groups develop based on such interactions. Students will examine social beliefs, motivations, and judgments, and how others shape perceptions, thoughts, and emotions.
  • Psychopathology
    In psychopathology courses, students will study diagnosis, assessment, prognosis, and treatment of mental disorders in order to develop practical clinical skills. Students will examine which symptoms correlate with which disorders and diseases, create plans for clinical observation and assessment, and evaluate the impact of relevant psychological trends and technologies in treatment.

Career Options for Master’s Degree Holders

Master’s degree programs in psychology are designed to prepare students for a career in a specialty area or further study at the doctoral level. For example, students are prepared for careers in psychology working as assistants or clinicians in research, counseling, or clinical settings. However, for many master’s degree holders, career advancement is limited as they are less likely to obtain professional independence in the field. Therefore, many students go on to earn a doctoral degree to fulfill state licensure requirements and obtain more advanced positions within the field of psychology. Even though a master’s degree is not required for admission into a doctoral program, many doctoral programs allow students to earn their master’s degree in psychology while progressing toward a doctorate.

In order to become a licensed psychologist, professionals must hold a doctoral degree in psychology. With a master’s in psychology, professionals can become a licensed psychological associate, which requires supervision and acceptable grades on psychology exams, or a licensed specialist in school psychology, which also requires certain scores on school psychology exams. Students who do not wish to seek a doctoral degree in psychology could seek careers as human resource managers, market researchers, advertising and marketing associates, project coordinators, family services workers, community college instructors, social service managers, employee trainers, research assistants, data analysts, or organizational consultants.

Earnings for students who hold an online graduate degree in psychology will vary by field, licensure, and experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rehabilitation counselors, who are licensed master’s degree holders who help people overcome mental, emotional, or social disabilities, are expected to see a 28% increase in employment potential between 2010 and 2020. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists will see a 37% increase in employment potential; and school and career counselors can expect 19% growth in employment potential. General psychologists and those with doctoral-level specializations are expected to experience 22% growth. Salaries for professionals with a Master of Arts in psychology range from just under $30,000 to nearly $95,000 depending upon field; for professionals with a Master of Science in psychology, salaries range from just under $30,000 to more than $80,000.