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Psychology Master's Degree

Master's Degree in Psychology

For those interested in studying the human mind and how its functions affect behavior in an individual or group, a master's degree in psychology can be either a terminal degree or an interim degree on the way to a doctorate in psychology, depending on personal career goals. A variety of concentrations are available based on personal and career interest:

  • General or applied psychology
  • Social and community psychology
  • School psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Media psychology
  • For-profit and nonprofit industrial or organizational psychology
  • Clinical and family counseling
  • Clinical mental health
  • Multicultural counseling

Although some entry level psychology careers require only a four-year bachelor's degree, many prefer or require a master's degree. Depending on whether the program is accelerated, part-time or full-time, degree completion can take between one and three years. A doctorate in psychology can add another five to seven years of study. Some online master's in psychology are offered, although clinical and counseling programs generally require an on-site supervised clinical practice component.

Psychology Master's Programs Admissions Requirements

Master's in psychology programs admissions requirements vary widely by school but generally require a bachelor's degree (B.A.), official transcripts for all college coursework, a GPA between 3.0 and 3.5 depending on how competitive the program is, a personal statement and letters of recommendation, preferably from psychology faculty or work colleagues for those already working in psychology. Although the undergraduate degree does not have to be in psychology, most schools prefer some psychology coursework along with statistics and research methods in psychology, math or the social sciences. Specific concentrations can also have additional prerequisite coursework.

Some schools require aptitude test scores while others do not. Tests generally include the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and/or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT), which are meant to predict graduate school success by measuring critical thinking, analytical writing and verbal and quantitative reasoning skills. Schools may use the test scores as a cutoff to determine which applications they will consider while others use them in conjunction with the student's GPA to make a more subjective determination. Test scores vary widely by school and even program. Most schools also require proficiency in English for non-English speakers as determined by the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

Career Opportunities after Earning a Master's Degree in Psychology

An article on the American Psychological Association website predicts that "doctoral-degree psychologists who work as therapists will face increasing competition from counselors with master's degrees." Many psychology careers require the in-depth education that a master's degree provides without the time commitment required to complete a doctoral degree. However, some clinical and counseling psychologists may be required to practice under the supervision of those with a doctoral degree.

Health care and community and social services occupations are expected to top the charts for industry growth between 2010 and 2020 with increases of 29 percent and 24 percent respectively, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections. Psychology careers, which fall in these high growth industry sectors, are available in federal, state and local social service and government agencies; counseling centers, hospitals and clinics; school and academic settings and nonprofit organizations and foundations. Most psychology-related careers are predicted to have average employment growth through 2020, although some will have significantly brighter outlooks. Industrial/organizational psychologists, school psychologists, marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors are expected to have job growth of more than 25 percent between 2010 and 2020 (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

Post-graduation Salary Information with a Master's Degree in Psychology

Depending on the type of counseling, the industry and geographical location, graduates with a master's degree in psychology can earn between $40,000 and $100,000. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, national mean annual salaries for psychology careers in May 2012 include (bls.gov/oes, 2013):

  • Marriage and family therapists: $49,270
  • Counselors, social workers, healthcare and mental health social workers: $40,920 to $54,870
  • Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors: $56,170
  • Clinical, counseling and school psychologists: $72,220
  • Postsecondary psychology teachers and education administrators: $74,240 to $99,370
  • Industrial-organizational psychologists: $98,800

A 2011 white paper prepared for the State University System of the Florida Board of Governors found that future employers understand the value added by psychology graduates who studied both scientific methods and human differences. The study also showed that employment for those with master's degrees provides greater opportunity to work directly in psychology-related jobs.

Sources:
American Psychiatric Nurses Association, About Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses - http://www.apna.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3292#sthash.nx2Wnq2J.dpbs
American Psychological Association, Psychology job forecast: Partly sunny, Amy Novotney - http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/03/cover-sunny.aspx
Baylor University, Research Psychology - http://www.baylor.edu/psychologyneuroscience/index.php?id=72526
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Community and Social Service Workers - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Community-and-Social-Service/Social-workers.htm#tab-7
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, School and Career Counselors - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Community-and-Social-Service/School-and-career-counselors.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Rehabilitation Counselors - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/rehabilitation-counselors.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2012 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: United States - http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#21-0000
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Projections Overview - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/About/Projections-Overview.htm
Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology, Are There Too Many Psychology Majors, Jane S. Halonen, February 5, 2011 - http://www.cogdop.org/page_attachments/0000/0200/FLA_White_Paper_for_cogop_posting.pdf
George Mason University, MA in Psychology - http://psychology.gmu.edu/programs/la-ma-psyc/application
O*NET Online, Psychology Occupations - http://www.onetonline.org/find/quick?s=psychology
Sacred Heart University, Masters in Applied Psychology - http://www.sacredheart.edu/academics/collegeofartssciences/academicdepartments/psychology/mastersinappliedpsychology/

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