Best Online Master’s in Psychology

Earning a master's in psychology can lead to a variety of career opportunities. Here, we list the best online psychology programs available.

April 28, 2022 • 6 Min Read

edited by Lequita Westbrooks

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Master's in Psychology Online

A master's in psychology gives students the education and hands-on training to enter a doctoral program. Graduates can also explore many related professions, such as victim advocate and business consultant. Master's programs may require standardized test scores, recommendation letters, and an interview. Some online master's in psychology programs use an undergraduate GPA cutoff to attract only the best applicants.

Typical master's in psychology classes include advanced statistical methods, multivariate statistics, and graduate research. Most programs also require a thesis. This article offers in-depth information on the degree's benefits, classes, and career opportunities.

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Questions About Psychology

Can you become a psychologist with a master's degree?

Psychologists need a doctorate and supervised experience to earn a license. However, many career paths exist for professionals with only a master's degree.

Does a psychology degree pay well?

Licensed psychologists earn approximately double the median U.S. salary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Professionals in metropolitan areas make significantly more.

What's the highest-paying job in psychology?

Some industrial-organizational (IO) psychologists make more than $250,000 annually. However, many factors affect salary, including geographic location, experience, and job title.

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Why Get a Degree in Psychology?

Degree-seekers and recent graduates can explore many master's in psychology jobs. These career opportunities relate to learners' specializations, such as experimental, forensic, or evolutionary psychology. Some jobs require a doctorate and a license. Career counselors can help students select the right specialization and explore career paths.

Many online master's in psychology programs provide flexibility through an asynchronous curriculum. These programs let students complete assignments when convenient. However, some online programs require an in-person internship. Working degree-seekers should make accommodations before starting an internship.

How Much Does a Psychology Degree Cost?

Master's degrees cost an average of $66,340, according to EducationData.org. This figure includes tuition, textbooks, and typical school fees over 2-3 years. In general, learners attending public, in-state universities pay the most affordable tuition.

Students can explore many ways to save money on a psychology degree. For example, many universities award scholarships and grants. Degree-seekers can also apply for private scholarships or federal grants. Students with financial need qualify for these grants by submitting the FAFSA each year.

Additional Online Student Fees

Online master's in psychology students may pay fees that on-campus learners do not pay. For example, some universities charge online learners technology fees. Degree-seekers pay this fee for each credit, class, or semester. Students should also budget for commuting to an internship or practicum site. Learners in a hybrid program may need to book overnight accommodations to fulfill on-campus requirements.

Students working toward licensure should also research state fees. States' board of licensure websites post the latest fee schedules. However, fees may change with little or no notice.

How Much Do Psychology Majors Make?

Licensed psychologists earn a median $81,040 annually, according to the BLS. The best-paying employers for psychologists include government agencies, hospitals, and ambulatory healthcare services providers.

Graduates with a master's in psychology can pursue many careers, such as marriage and family therapist. Licensed therapists make approximately 25% more than the typical U.S. worker. School and career counselors make less than psychologists but more than marriage and family therapists. Counselors need additional training in education and a teaching license.

Courses in Psychology

An online master's in psychology program requires rigorous coursework in psychology topics and research fundamentals. The latter prepares students to write a thesis or complete a capstone project. Graduates need these research and writing skills to complete a doctoral program dissertation. Many employers also require these skills.

See below for some common classes in a master's in psychology program. Keep in mind that classes vary by program and concentration. These differences impact graduates' career paths. Degree-seekers should compare their prospective schools' offerings and graduation requirements.

  • Interpersonal Skills and Group Therapy

    Licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and other professionals need advanced interpersonal skills. They use these skills to lead individual and group therapy sessions. This class emphasizes how group counseling leads to positive outcomes for patients, such as improving relationships. This class may require an on-campus experiential laboratory.
  • Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy

    This class requires students to examine how a shared set of best practices impact the counseling and psychology fields. Degree-seekers analyze theories' histories, their impacts on patients, and the latest findings. Learners also research how therapeutic relationships impact the recovery process. Learning outcomes include selecting the best treatment strategy when working with patients.
  • Trauma in Diverse Populations

    Aspiring forensic psychologists take trauma in diverse populations or a similar class. The class features coursework on how trauma impacts both criminals and their victims. Class topics include risk factors for crime, protective measures, and trauma's long-term impact. Degree-seekers also analyze how someone's racial, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds impact their reaction to trauma.

How to Become a Psychologist

All practicing psychologists need a doctorate. Some doctoral programs enroll students with a bachelor's in psychology. Those with an undergraduate degree in another subject first earn a master's to learn the field's fundamentals. Degree-seekers select between a Ph.D. and Psy.D. Most Ph.D. graduates work as researchers, while professionals with a Psy.D. treat patients. Workers with either degree gain experience hours and meet other requirements to earn a license.

Psychologists perform different roles, depending on their job title and employer. Typical tasks include designing research studies, working with patients individually or in small groups, and supervising less-senior staff.

Career and Salary Outlook for Psychology Majors

Graduates with a master's in psychology need not earn a doctorate to find a fulfilling career. Many related professions let them apply their knowledge and skills in different ways. The three jobs below pay more than the U.S. median salary. The BLS also projects that each will experience positive growth from 2020-2030. Strong growth equates to more open positions for recent graduates.

Please note that these descriptions introduce only some career responsibilities. Please use the embedded links to learn more about each job.

  • Human Resources Managers

    These managers use their psychology expertise to develop new benefit programs, create staff work schedules, and help employees resolve issues. They work in nearly all industries, including technical services, manufacturing, and government. Some senior positions require a master's degree or many years of work experience.
  • Social and Community Service Managers

    These managers need a bachelor's or master's, depending on the position. They use their analytical and communication skills to develop community outreach programs, write grant proposals, and analyze data. Nearly a third of these professionals work for an individual or family services agency. Other top employers include religious and civic organizations.
  • Marriage and Family Therapists

    These therapists need a master's degree in psychology or counseling. A master's and supervised experience qualifies them for licensure. Typical responsibilities include helping clients overcome problems, referring them to outside resources, and maintaining paperwork. Therapists can stay current with the latest best practices by taking professional development classes.
Salary Potential and Growth Rate
Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2020-2030)
Human Resources Managers $126,230 9%
Social and Community Service Managers $74,000 15%
Marriage and Family Therapists $49,880 16%

Source: BLS

Licensure for Psychology

Licensed psychologists need a doctorate from an accredited university to qualify for a state-issued license. Other requirements vary by state. In California, aspiring psychologists must complete 3,000 supervised experience hours. Candidates may complete up to 1,500 hours during their doctoral program. Doctoral degree-seekers must also pass classes in human sexuality and child abuse reporting.

California residents with 3,000 experience hours sit for two exams: the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and the California Psychology Law and Ethics Examination. Many states use the EPPP and a state-specific law exam for licensure purposes. Candidates then complete Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation background checks.

Candidates who pass a background check pay an initial licensure fee. As of April 2022, California charges $400. Licensed psychologists pay $430 every two years to renew their license. Other renewal requirements include 36 continuing education hours. Psychologists may earn up to 25 hours through online coursework.

Best Online Master's in Psychology 2021

  1. Arizona State University Online
    Location

    Scottsdale, AZ

    The New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at ASU in Scottsdale offers an online master of science in psychology degree. The program examines the societal role of psychologists and explores psychological theory and research. Graduates often pursue doctoral programs or careers in social services, marketing, education, or nonprofits.

    Students may enroll full time or part time and complete the program in 18-72 months. Graduate timelines depend on enrollment pace and prior coursework. ASU's psychology program features various elective areas such as social psychology, health psychology, cognitive psychology, and developmental psychology. Other niche fields include legal psychology, abnormal psychology, behavior analysis, and affective science. The program also requires writing and statistics courses and a capstone project.

    Applicants need a minimum 3.0 graduate GPA from another accredited institution, or a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA for the last 60 credits of a bachelor's program. Enrollees must submit official transcripts, purpose statements, and recommendation letters.

    Arizona State University Online is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  2. Saint Leo University
    Location

    Saint Leo, FL

    A private nonprofit university in Florida, Saint Leo features an online master's in psychology program for students interested in personal development and psychological science. The curriculum explores human behavior through various psychological theories and practices. Saint Leo's program emphasizes problem-solving, ethical decision-making, and sensitivity to diversity. Enrollees also gain practical skills in research, teaching, and data analysis.

    This fully online, 36-credit program admits up to 15 students per cohort and features eight-week courses. Online students often take one course per term. The program includes a specialized capstone project that develops skills in ethical decision-making, writing, and research design and analysis. Graduates can pursue careers in program evaluation, research or data analysis, market and survey research, or management. To qualify for mental health careers such as working as a counselor, students need clinical experience and additional schooling.

    Saint Leo University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. University of Louisiana at Monroe
    Location

    Monroe, LA

    ULM in Monroe, Louisiana, offers a 36-credit online master's in psychology program with concentrations available in psychometrics and forensics. Enrollees who do not opt for a concentration must take 24 elective credits. ULM's online graduate programs follow a traditional semester schedule, plus short, intensive sessions in December, late spring, and summer.

    Psychometrics students take six elective credits plus seven core courses. Core courses include psychopathology, psychological assessment, individual testing, and learning theory. Forensics students also complete six elective credits and core courses in psychopathology and individual testing. Additional core forensics courses include advanced forensic psychology, sociology of law, and counseling in criminal justice.

    Applicants need a 3.0 minimum GPA or two of the following: a 2.75 minimum GPA, a 290 minimum GRE score, or an 800 minimum score of their GPA multiplied by their GRE score. Candidates must also complete undergraduate coursework in neuropsychology, quantitative methods, and research methods.

    University of Louisiana at Monroe is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  4. Lynn University
    Location

    Boca Raton, FL

    A private, nonprofit university based in Boca Raton, Florida, Lynn runs a fully online, accelerated master of science (MS) in psychology program. The MS degree focuses on information literacy, scientific writing, and human behavior. Enrollees can choose from two tracks: general psychology and industrial/organizational psychology. Both programs cultivate skills in research, program evaluation, leadership, and management.

    Full-time students can complete the program online in one year by taking two courses per eight-week term. Coursework runs mostly asynchronously. However, a few synchronous meetings occur with small groups or the instructor. To support an online learning experience, students receive an iPad with various pre-loaded applications.

    Updated annually based on field trends, Lynn's psychology curriculum follows the American Psychological Association's education guidelines. The program includes a psychology practicum, which corresponds to students' specializations, master's theses, and career goals.

    Lynn University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  5. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    The 100% online master's in psychology program at Liberty, a private Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, focuses on applied psychology. Liberty offers two concentrations: developmental psychology and industrial/organizational psychology. Enrollees explore these psychology fields through Liberty's biblical worldview.

    The developmental psychology concentration features coursework in adolescent psychology, intervention and behavioral support, and development psychology and neuropsychology. The industrial/organizational psychology concentration focuses on personnel and performance management, human resource training and development, and organizational behavior development.

    This 36-credit master's in psychology program features eight-week terms. Liberty permits students to transfer up to 50% of their degree credits. Completion timelines for this accelerated program average 18 months. Applicants need a 2.5 minimum GPA and a bachelor's degree from an accredited school.

    Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  6. Indiana Institute of Technology
    Location

    Fort Wayne, IN

    Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Indiana, features a master of science (MS) in psychology degree online for individuals seeking promotion, career change, or preparation for doctoral programs. Indiana Tech's MS program offers solid grounding in psychological research and theory and cultivates practical skills.

    Graduates with an MS degree in psychology may work in education, the criminal justice system, health and human services, or business. Aligned with the American Psychological Association's curriculum guidelines, Indiana Tech's program prepares aspiring doctoral students by offering transferable psychology coursework.

    Indiana Tech's 33-credit MS program requires coursework in multicultural psychology, lifespan development, counseling theory, and psychopathology. Enrollees also study biopsychology, social psychology, and psychology-related legal and ethical issues. Skills-focused courses include research methods in psychology, writing in psychology, statistics for behavioral sciences, and a capstone thesis course.

    Prerequisites for non-provisional admission include an accredited bachelor's degree, a 2.5 minimum undergraduate GPA, and two years of significant professional experience.

    Indiana Institute of Technology is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  7. Southern New Hampshire University
    Location

    Manchester, NH

    SNHU's online master of science (MS) in psychology degree emphasizes experiential learning. The program offers curriculum concentrations in child and adolescent developmental psychology, forensic psychology, and industrial organizational psychology.

    Enrollees study cognitive psychology, personality, and social psychology. SNHU emphasizes core skills in research methods, ethical practice, critical thinking, and problem-solving. The MS program does not lead directly to clinical licensure, but the curriculum prepares students well for doctoral study. Prospective students interested in master's-level careers as licensed counselors should pursue SNHU's master's in clinical mental health counseling.

    SNHU allows transfer of up to 12 graduate credits toward the MS in psychology degree. Students lacking a background in psychology must complete foundation courses in psychology, statistics, and research methods. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.

    Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

  8. Fort Hays State University
    Location

    Hays, KS

    FHSU, a public university in Hays, Kansas, provides an online master's in school psychology program. The program serves working students seeking career advancement or transition. Enrollees visit campus for one, five-day residency during a summer semester. The remaining coursework occurs completely online.

    Learners may pursue the 30-credit program full time or part time. Enrollees complete coursework on advanced learning and motivation, appraisal of children, developmental psychology, and advanced child psychopathology. Students also complete courses in school psychology methods, behavior therapy, statistics, and professional ethics. Learners must pass comprehensive exams to graduate. Some degree-seekers complete an additional 36 credits to earn an educational specialist degree.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree in psychology, a 3.0 minimum GPA, 12 credits of prior psychology coursework, and undergraduate coursework in statistics or research methods. Applicants must also submit GRE or MAT scores. Application materials include official transcripts, recommendation letters, and a statement of intent.

    Fort Hays State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  9. Pepperdine University
    Location

    Malibu, CA

    A private research university associated with the Churches of Christ, Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, runs an online master of arts in psychology program. Pepperdine offers advanced and broadscale knowledge of theories, principles, and practices related to psychology and human behavior. The master's in psychology program prepares graduates for diverse career opportunities and for pursuing doctoral study.

    The program requires 36-48 credits and takes 18-24 months to complete. Pepperdine does not require practica or internships. Cohorts begin in fall, winter, spring, and summer each year. Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Pepperdine does not require GRE scores and waives application fees submitted by the priority deadline.


    Pepperdine University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

  10. Nova Southeastern University
    Location

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    The online master of science in psychology degree at NSU in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, provides an applied health science concentration and a general psychology track. The applied health science track serves professionals seeking career expansion in the healthcare industry. The general psychology track often serves students seeking careers in other industries or the public sector. Graduates can pursue doctoral programs and careers in academics, research, or clinical work.

    NSU's 30-credit, 10-course psychology program requires completion of 21 core course credits and nine specialization-track credits. Core courses cover cognitive psychology, behavioral neuroscience, and social psychology. Enrollees also complete courses in research design and quantitative methods.

    The general psychology track explores adult psychopathology, human sexuality, and psychology history and systems. Enrollees may substitute a thesis project for two courses. NSU recommends the thesis option to students planning on doctoral study. Applied health science students take courses in the business of psychology, interviewing techniques, and psychological aspects of treating disease.

    Nova Southeastern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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