The field of psychology involves studying the human mind and understanding the reasons why people do the things they do. Many people enter college to earn an undergraduate degree in psychology with the understanding that they’ll be returning to school at least once over the course of their career. Earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology enables graduates to work at the entry level in the field, and helps them find a concentration in the field that suits them best. Returning to earn a master’s degree in psychology helps a student refine their knowledge of their particular area of interest and find better employment options. When asking the question of “is a master’s in psychology worth it?”, the answer is: Yes. Getting a master’s in psychology is worth it as it can lead to earning a Ph.D. and gaining access to rewarding jobs that make the educational effort worthwhile.
Just about everyone wants to make a difference in the world in one way or another. Becoming a psychologist is one way to help everyone from individuals to entire populations live better lives. This may sound altruistic considering the fact that corporations hire psychologists to help them market their products, but a majority of employment options for psychologists are in areas that involve helping people. You might work in a laboratory setting and work on studies that focus on a specific population and a specific issue they face, or you might work in private practice where you help people unpick personal issues in order to get them to engage in their own lives.
Becoming a psychologist requires a lifelong commitment to education and the earning of a doctoral degree in order to find employment. Earning an undergraduate degree in psychology is just the first step towards becoming a psychologist. You’ll need to earn your master’s degree in order to find meaningful employment in the psychology concentration of your choice. Some of the things you need to consider when looking at getting a master’s in psychology is convenience of access to the classes, quality of the education, accreditation, and the value of the degree in terms of being able to find employment in a particular concentration. Other aspects to consider is joining professional associations to help you stay abreast of the latest changes in the field, enhance your knowledge, and have access to support when you need it.
The field of psychology offers a lot in the way of a rewarding career for those who want to understand the human mind and use that knowledge to help better society as a whole. Following is a look at what you can do with a master’s in psychology.
School and Program Accreditation for Master’s in Psychology Degrees
Accreditation is an important credential for a psychology degree program. It ensures that the standard of education you receive is acceptable by employers, the government, licensing bodies, and the public at large. A majority of reputable schools have accreditation for their psychology master’s degree programs, but there are schools that don’t have accreditation at all, or if they do, the accreditation isn’t as valuable.
Accreditation for online psychology master’s degree programs is even more important due to the decentralized nature of earning a degree online. What this means for you as a student who’s looking into the best online schools for psychology master’s is that you have to do your due diligence. Look through the curriculum information on the school’s website and search out the information that shows the program is an accredited master’s in psychology online program. If you’re not sure about the accreditation, or aren’t finding sufficient information, you can search the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
American Psychological Association
The American Psychological Association (APA) is the most well-known accrediting body for psychology programs, but it only provides accreditation for doctoral programs, doctoral internships, and postdoctoral residencies. If you’re intent is to continue your education through the doctorate degree level, you’ll benefit from attending a school that has APA accreditation for its advanced degree programs. The APA also offers accreditation to master’s degree programs that have a doctoral degree track.
Accreditation for master’s degree programs typically falls under regional accreditation. There are six different regional accrediting institutions for master’s in psychology degree programs. They include:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- North Central Association Commission on Accreditation
- Northwest Commission on Higher Education
- Southern Association of Schools and Colleges
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council
The Masters in Psychology And Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC) is another organization that provides accreditation for master’s in psychology programs. Its scope is to provide additional accreditation to psychology master’s degree programs that are located in regionally accredited colleges and universities in the U.S. MPCAC is approved by the Council for Higher Education (CHEA).
The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education
The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) provides accreditation to master’s degree programs that focus on marriage and therapy psychology education.
Many of these organizations provide accreditation for master’s in psychology online, but if you don’t see them listed on a program you’re interested in taking, check for regional accreditation or accreditation from another organization recognized by the Department of Education or Council for Higher Education.
Types of Psychology Master’s Degrees
The field of psychology is wide and varied when it comes to the areas of specialization available to graduate students. Essentially, if someone does something, there’s a reason, and psychology is there to investigate the why’s and how’s of that reason. Psychology is used in business, economics, industrial and manufacturing, public health, criminology, and more. The undergraduate level of psychology prepares you for the basics of working in the field of psychology while the master’s degree allows you to narrow in on the area of psychology that most appeals to you. As an example: You’ve decided you want to work in the area of forensic psychology because it’s adjunct to the field of law and criminology. However, you want to bring work experience to a position that you qualify for after you graduate with your master’s. How do you achieve this? By finding a master’s degree in psychology online that enables you to study and stay employed.
Deciding to take an online master’s of psychology degree program is just the first step. Now you have to decide which concentration in psychology works best for your aptitudes and skills. The top concentrations in psychology master’s degree programs include:
The counseling concentration is considered a general practice and health service provider role for a psychologist. The role requires the understanding of how people function in their daily lives and their relationships at all stages of life. Counseling involves working with an individual to help them with various mental health issues and assist them in a time of crisis. A psychologist who provides counseling also assesses and diagnoses psychological symptoms, determines their severity, then treats the patient and their symptoms.
Social psychology involves the study of social interactions between groups of people in various physical environments and social settings. The purpose of social psychology is to better understand how group dynamics influence people’s actions and decisions within themselves and with others. The information learned from the study of social groups is used to design and evaluate policies, develop conflict resolution techniques, educational programs, and more.
The role of a forensic psychologist is one of studying criminal populations and individuals who are incarcerated. This area of psychology has become popular due to criminal TV shows and movies that revolve around a cast that includes a psychologist who creates personality and behavioral profiles of the criminal that’s being sought. In reality, the role is a broad one in terms of the people that are being interviewed and requires strong clinical skills to provide a thorough profile of someone who’s incarcerated. Clinical psychologists work closely with players in the justice system to determine the mental stability of an incarcerated individual, creates a treatment program, and provides recommendation for the handling of an incarcerated individual.
Clinical psychology involves working with individuals or groups in multiple sectors. You may find yourself working with people in a health service setting, education, research, and anywhere there’s a need for someone with psychology training and skills to help people with their mental health needs. You may find yourself working in a diverse population, or you’ll work with a narrowly focused group to understand the challenges they face. A psychologist who works in a clinical setting has the duty to help their patients understand their issues, how to manage them, and find a path to wellness.
A school psychologist works in elementary, junior high, and high schools and plays an integral part in monitoring the mental health of the student body and individual students. They are ready to intervene when an individual needs help and also intervenes in the school system. The school psychologist also creates and develops programs for positive learning environments, then implements and evaluates them to make changes as needed. Another one of the roles of a school psychologist is to understand how a child’s mind operates and perceives the world, then contextualize the information for the adults working in the school system in order to create a healthy learning environment for children.
Other areas of specialization in the field of psychology include:
- Mental Health
- Marriage and Family Therapy
These specializations represent entirely different psychology degree disciplines. You’ll be able to easily find a concentration that matches your educational goals and the area of psychology you want to gain expertise in. Going the master’s degree in psychology online route adds to the ease with which you can earn your master’s in psychology and gain a strong foothold in your career. In the event you want to return to school and earn your Ph.D. in psychology, make sure that the online master’s of psychology degree program is one that leads to a doctorate degree for ease of transferring your credits.
Certifications and Licenses for Master’s in Psychology
Most states do not require licensure for people who have earned a master’s in psychology degree, but you may not be able to work directly as a psychologist upon graduation in these states. States without licensing requirements for people holding a master’s in psychology take the position that you are not finished with your schooling and expect you to return to school to earn your Ph.D. while gaining work experience. Currently, no states allow people who hold a master’s degree in psychology to work as an independent, but some allow a master’s-level psychologist to work in specific settings. They are:
States for Master’s-Level School Psychologists:
States for Master’s-Level Behavior Analysts
Some states allow master’s-level psychologists to practice under the supervision of a board-certified psychologist. They include:
- New Mexico
- U.S. Virgin Islands
These states title a master’s-level psychologist as a psychological associate. Most of these states require a combination of post-graduate work experience, practicum hours, or a residency from the school you attended in order to apply for a license. In order to get licensure as a psychological associate or a psychologist, you need to sit for the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). All states require you to pass the exam before they will grant you licensure.
States that do not license people with master’s degree in psychology also do not prevent you from working. Employers can hire candidates with a master’s degree in psychology and place them in roles that require you to use your training as a psychologist to help people. This enables you to earn an income and gain experience while planning your return to school to earn your Ph.D.
Careers in Psychology
As previously mentioned, the field of psychology is broad and offers multiple concentrations and specializations underneath its main umbrella. You can find master’s in psychology jobs in just about every professional field that aligns with your specific concentration in psychology. Master’s degree jobs in psychology are also beneficial when it comes to gaining your work experience hours before returning to school to earn your Ph.D. When asking the question of “what can I do with a master’s degree in psychology?”, you’ll find plenty of options when it comes to what can you do with a master’s in psychology. Many states don’t have a licensing requirement for master’s in psychology jobs which allows you to work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Here’s a look at some of the jobs with a master’s in psychology:
- Adjunct Faculty at the university level
- School Psychologist
- Program Director
- Forensic Psychologist
- Community Psychologist
- Behavioral Health Psychologist
One of the major employers of master’s-level psychologists are schools. That includes all levels of education from elementary to university. The federal government is another major employer, but the job titles are not always directly related to psychology. Rather, the jobs available to a master’s-level psychologist are roles that require an applicant to have a background in psychology to perform their work.
Master’s in psychology jobs are plentiful, and it’s easy to find jobs with a master’s in psychology for every concentration. The fact that you can’t get licensed as a psychologist with a master’s degree is not a barrier to entry for master’s degree in psychology jobs. If you’re concerned about your ability to find master’s degree in psychology jobs, you should consult with a faculty member in the psychology department or your school’s career placement department to learn more about your options for master’s degree jobs in psychology.
Average Salary for a Master’s in Psychology
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average master’s in psychology was $82,180 per year. This amount represents the median pay for people who hold a master’s in psychology. Psychologists who have an undergraduate degree tend to earn less due to the fact the field expects people to hold a master’s degree at the very least. Those who have a Ph.D. in psychology stand to earn the most. The average salary for a master’s degree in psychology may be lower due to the fact that a Ph.D. is expected of most people seeking employment in their chosen area of study for psychology.
Employment in the area of psychology is expected to grow 3% between 2019 – 2029 which is as fast as the average growth in employment for the same period. In 2019, there were 192,300 jobs for individuals who have earned a master’s in psychology, and the field is expected to add another 5,700 positions through 2029.
The average master’s in psychology salary is ultimately dependent on geographical location and your particular concentration in the field of psychology. Urban areas tend to have higher pay and a larger client base while less-populated areas of the country are going to pay less. The average starting salary for a master’s in psychology ultimately depends on where you live and work, your chosen concentration in psychology, and the current demand for people with your skills in psychology. Someone who lives in New Jersey and works as a clinical psychologist can expect to earn $106,160 as their average master’s in psychology salary while someone who lives in West Virginia can expect to earn about $60,000 as a salary for a master’s in psychology.
Professional Organizations for Psychologists
Joining a professional organization for psychologists allows you to gain access to support for your career and personal well-being. Associations and organizations for psychologists are places where you can learn about the latest news in the field of psychology as well as your own, find resources for continuing education credits, look for jobs and get a feel for the current state of the psychology job market, and network with others who also work in your particular concentration. Organizations also provide resources for self-care and what you can do to get relief when the work is draining. There are organizations that support psychologists from diverse backgrounds and provide support that comes from a shared point of view. Here’s a look at the major organizations in psychology:
American Psychological Association
The American Psychological Association (APA) is the most well-known and respected association for psychologists. It has a mission to “promote the advancement, communication, and application of psychological science to benefit society and improve lives”. The benefits of joining are many and include features such as being listed in the APA’s psychologist locator to help potential clients find you, five free continuing education credits every year, discounts on APA conferences and meetings, public speaking training, and the latest information and news in the psychology field.
National Association of School Psychologists
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) represents over 25,000 school psychologists, graduate students, and related professionals in the U.S. and internationally. The mission of the association is to ensure that youth get the support they need for mental health, learning, and behavior to thrive in school. It supports professionals by providing guidance on various psychological and social issues that students face.
American Counseling Association
The American Counseling Association (ACA) has a vision to provide quality professional counseling to all who need mental health services to live a better life. It accepts members who work in the field of counseling patients regardless of their degree and their chosen specialty. The goal of the ACA is to “promote the professional development of counselors, advocate for the profession, and ensure ethical, culturally-inclusive practices that protect those using counseling services.”
Mental Health America
Mental Health America (MHA) is a community-based nonprofit that’s dedicated to helping those living with mental illness and their needs, and promoting overall mental wellness for all. Its founder, Clifford W. Beers, founded the association in 1909 after witnessing and experiencing horrible abuse during his stays in public and private mental institutions. The association has a mission of “promoting mental health and preventing mental illness through advocacy, education, research and services.” MHA has a national office and over 200 affiliates and associates located throughout the U.S.
The Association for Behavior Analysis International
The Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) focuses on providing information and support for members who are interested in the science, application, philosophy, and teaching of behavior analysis. It sponsors events that focus on the science of behavior analysis, provides continuing education opportunities, has job placement services, publishes scholarly journals, and supports the dissemination of behavioral analysis around the world.