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Earning your master’s degree in psychology online: Complete guide
An online master’s in psychology can help to prepare you for many different careers, including working as a school counselor. This degree program is also ideal if you plan on pursuing your doctorate in psychology to become a licensed psychologist. Providing an education that explores psychology principles and practices in depth, an online master’s in psychology is an excellent option for a variety of career paths.
Online psychology master’s degree overview
An online master’s in psychology provides a detailed, in-depth education on psychology principles. Offering the flexibility that working professionals need, an online master’s program emphasizes research methods, scientific methods, and specialty areas, like career counseling or forensic psychology. This degree builds on the foundations of a traditional or online bachelor’s degree in psychology, giving students more opportunities to explore niche areas and specializations.
You may choose to pursue a Master of Arts in Psychology (MA) or a Master of Science in Psychology (MS). A remote MA program often has a stronger focus on the liberal arts, while a remote MS program typically focuses more on research and science. Both degrees can prepare you for a career in psychology.
Who is an online psychology master’s degree suited for?
According to the U.S. News & World Report, many careers in psychology require candidates to have at least a master’s degree in the field. Most clinical, counseling and research psychologist roles require candidates to have a doctoral degree.
Earning an online master’s in psychology may be right for you if you want to qualify for a position that requires a master’s, like a school psychologist or industrial-organizational psychologist. Alternatively, if you plan on pursuing your doctorate in psychology, earning your master’s is an essential step and will help to prepare you for your doctoral studies.
Is an online master’s in psych worth it?
Depending on your career goals, an online master’s in psychology can be an excellent investment. With a master’s degree, you could potentially work as a school psychologist or industrial-organizational psychologist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, school psychologists earn a mean annual wage of $81,500, while industrial-organizational psychologists earn a mean annual wage of $139,280.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job opportunities for psychologists should grow by 6.1% through 2032, which is as fast as average job growth.
Are online master’s degrees respected/credible?
When you earn a diploma from an online degree program, you will receive the same type of diploma that a student earns after completing an on-campus degree program. There won’t be any identification on the diploma that you completed an online program, and your employer may never know that you completed your degree online. Keep in mind that online master’s degree programs offer the flexibility that working professionals need to balance their careers with their education, so it’s increasingly common for professionals to complete their master’s degrees online.
Even if your employer should learn that you attended an online program, the U.S. News & World Report notes that employers are becoming increasingly accepting of online degree programs. Your employer might confirm that you’ve earned a degree from an accredited school, which can help to verify that you received a quality education. However, it’s relatively unlikely that your employer would discriminate against you for earning a master’s online.
Traditional vs. online master’s programs in psych
When deciding if a traditional or online master’s program in psychology is right for you, it’s important to understand the key differences between the programs.
Traditional: When you attend a traditional master’s degree program, you need to follow the pacing of the courses. Most traditional master’s degrees take about two years to complete.
Online: Online master’s degrees give you more flexibility in terms of how long you take to complete the program. Many programs are self-paced, so you can take longer than the traditional two-years that is typical of in-person programs. Some schools require you to complete an online master’s degree in five years or less.
Practicum and internship hours
Traditional: In addition to coursework, traditional master’s programs often require students to complete internships or psychology practicums. Students may be required to complete a certain number of supervised hours, but a program often has existing relationships with professionals in the community to assist students in finding internships.
Online: Online students may also be required to complete an internship or practicum hours, but they may need to take a more active role in identifying a professional in their community willing to supervise them.
Traditional: The instructors of traditional master’s degree programs and online programs may vary. At the master’s level, instructors may become mentors who support you throughout your career, so it’s important to choose a program with instructors who are reputable and whose teaching style is a good fit for you.
Online: Before choosing an online program, verify who the instructors are. Online programs may feature instructors who are not physically present at the school. This program design can give you access to instructors you might not otherwise be able to learn from.
Learning psychology remotely
It’s important to be aware of the requirements that you will need to meet to virtually complete your degree.
- Minimum prior education required:
- To enroll in a master’s in psychology, you will need to have completed a bachelor’s degree program. That program doesn’t have to be in psychology, and it’s common for students with an education in a related field to choose a different focus for their master’s program. Many schools will accept a bachelor’s degree from an international college, but you should contact the school with the specifics of your program to confirm.
- Technology required:
- While specific requirements vary by program, most distance learning programs will require you to have a computer or tablet that is less than five years old. You will likely need a webcam, software like Microsoft Office, and a reliable, high-speed internet connection.
- Number of required credits to complete:
- According to the U.S. News & World Report, master’s degree programs in psychology typically range from 30 to 50 credits. If you choose a dual bachelors and master’s degree program, the credit requirement for your master’s degree program may be reduced.
- How long does it take:
- Online master’s degree programs offer plenty of flexibility when it comes to their pacing and completion time. An accelerated program can be completed in as little as a year. Many programs allow you to take up to five years to complete the degree, meaning you could potentially pause and then resume your studies depending on your schedule.
- Real-world or virtual internships / practicums / volunteering:
- Master’s programs in psychology may require real-world internships, multiple residencies and potentially even a capstone project. Some of these requirements may be completed remotely, but it’s important to confirm whether you will need to be on-campus for any of these requirements, or to present your capstone.
What you can expect from the school as a virtual student
As a virtual student, you will have access to many resources to help you during your education. You will access your classes through a student web portal, many of which give you 24-hour access to study at times that work for your schedule. Your school will provide you with a student dashboard, email and ebooks for your classes. You may also receive discounted or free digital access to publications.
During your online degree program, you’ll receive various forms of support. You will have access to an online resource center, as well as to the school’s IT department for help with any technical issues. Many schools give online students access to their student career center resources, and you’ll be connected to an active online community of staff, students and alumni.
What you’ll study in an online graduate psych program
Your program will cover core topics like psychology ethics, human development and research methods. You will also be able to choose more specialized electives that focus on topics like forensic psychology, consumer psychology and child psychology. Your program may conclude with a capstone project, such as a research project and presentation.
Master-level psychology courses can readily be adapted for online learning. The online courses may involve fewer group discussions than in-person courses, but many lecture and video-based courses are ideal for online learning.
How to choose an online master’s program that’s right for you
When choosing an online master’s program in psychology, start by considering your career goals and what you want to get out of a program. You might look for a program that offers a certain specialization, or that lets you complete the work completely remotely without ever having to travel to campus.
When choosing an online master’s program in psychology, start by considering your career goals and what you want to get out of a program.
Look for a school that is accredited, which helps to confirm that you will receive a quality education. Keep in mind that a doctoral program will require you to have a master’s degree from an accredited school.
It’s also important to consider the program’s graduation and retention rates. Low rates might signal potential issues with a program. If rates are high, chances are you’re looking at a quality program that offers students support and resources, and that invests in students’ success.
Paying for an online master’s in psych
U.S. News & World Report estimates the total tuition cost of an online master’s in psychology to range from $18,000 to $45,000. You don’t have to cover those costs out of pocket, and financial aid such as federal student aid, loans, and grants can help you to pay for your education.
Consider these options:
What can you do with an online master’s in psych?
An online master’s in psychology can prepare you to pursue your doctoral studies in the field before becoming a licensed psychologist. The skills and knowledge that you will gain through a master’s program are helpful in other careers, too, including in marketing, human resources, and public relations.
Popular concentrations you can choose from
Example job titles you may be qualified for
With your master’s degree, you may be able to work as a school psychologist. School psychologists work with students, teachers, parents and other educators to promote student wellness.
Alternatively, you may find employment as an addiction counselor. These counselors may work in mental health centers and community health centers, where they counsel people on issues relating to alcoholism and addiction.
Your master’s degree in psychology can also be helpful if you choose to work as a human resources specialist. Human resources specialists work to recruit, screen and place job candidates.
Keep in mind that the skills you have developed while earning your master’s degree can be applied to many other careers, too. They may be ideal for a career in business leadership, marketing, public relations, career advising and more.
Employment settings this career may take you
Since the skills you develop during your master’s degree can be applied to many potential careers, you might work in various employment settings:
Going beyond the masters-level in psychology
The master’s in psychology is not a terminal degree, meaning if you choose, you can continue on to earn your doctoral degree in psychology or pursue graduate certificates. There are many educational psychology resources and programs that can help you to achieve your career goals, whether you decide to earn your master’s degree or continue on with additional education.
Ready to get started?
If you’re ready to start your master’s degree in psychology, then it’s important to find a program that’s a good fit for your career goals. We have a collection of sponsored schools that offer online degrees to help you get started. You can filter your search results to show online master’s degrees in psychology. Start searching for your online master’s program today.
Published: May 25, 2023