Best Online Master’s in Psychology 2021

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Psychology fosters the understanding and treatment of various mental, emotional, and behavioral issues affecting individuals and relationships. Earning a master’s degree in this versatile discipline can support various career paths in public and private sectors. Graduates with a master’s degree in psychology apply psychological principles effectively in healthcare, criminal justice, human services, and education.

Some psychology master’s graduates choose to pursue doctoral degrees and careers as licensed psychologists. Psychologists earn a median annual salary of $80,370, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs for psychologists are projected to grow as fast as average for all occupations between 2019 and 2029, based on BLS projections. However, the BLS projects jobs in high-demand fields such as school psychology to grow faster than average.

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Master’s programs usually require two years to complete. However, students can finish sooner by enrolling in accelerated programs or transferring credits. Most programs only consider applicants with 2.5-3.0 minimum GPAs and bachelor’s degrees from accredited schools. Read further for more information on online psychology master’s programs, requirements, careers, and resources.

Top 10 Online Master’s in Psychology Programs

Rank School Location
1 Arizona State University Online Scottsdale, AZ
2 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL
3 University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, LA
4 Lynn University Boca Raton, FL
5 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
6 Indiana Institute of Technology Fort Wayne, IN
7 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH
8 Fort Hays State University Hays, KS
9 Pepperdine University Malibu, CA
10 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL

FAQ


  • Does a master's in psychology make you a psychologist?

    The term “psychologist” typically describes a licensed psychologist with a doctoral degree.


  • Is a master of science (MS) in psychology better than a master of arts (MA) in psychology?

    An MS in psychology usually focuses more heavily on research and science, while an MA includes more liberal arts coursework. Students seeking research careers typically opt for an MS. However, both degree paths can prepare students for doctoral study in psychology.


  • How long is a master's in psychology program?

    A master’s degree in psychology typically takes full-time enrollees two years to complete. However, students with transferable graduate coursework or enrollment in accelerated master’s programs may finish sooner.


What Can I Do With a Psychology Degree?

Earning a master’s degree in psychology online can help professionals qualify for higher salaries, promotions, career transitions, or doctoral programs. To obtain counseling or psychologist licensure, candidates typically need a master’s or doctoral degree that includes clinical hours. However, nonclinical online master’s in psychology programs often serve as precursors to clinical psychology or counseling master’s or doctoral programs.

Psychology programs cultivate strong skills in communication, research, analysis, and interpersonal dynamics. These core skills prove useful in various career paths, including teacher, consultant, marketing professional, and manager. Psychology graduates work in diverse contexts such as nonprofit organizations, mental health facilities, schools, and corporations.

Some master’s degree in psychology programs offer corresponding curriculum specializations in areas such as school psychology or industrial-organizational psychology. These specializations can make candidates more competitive for related doctoral programs or jobs.

How Does College Accreditation Work?

What Are the Requirements for a Psychology Program?



To enter psychology master’s programs at regionally accredited institutions, applicants need a bachelor’s degree, a 3.0 minimum GPA from an accredited school, and psychology-related prerequisite courses. Required application materials usually include official transcripts, recommendation letters, personal statements, and sometimes curriculum vitae and GRE/GMAT scores.

Master’s degree in psychology online programs typically entail 30-36 credits. The curriculum usually includes several core courses in general psychology plus electives or concentration-related courses. Most programs include a capstone thesis or project that requires 3-6 credits.

Courses in a Psychology Program



Master’s in psychology program curricula vary considerably based on the school, program, and concentration focus. However, many programs feature core coursework in lifespan/human development, social psychology, and physiological psychology. Some programs offer concentrations such as industrial/organizational psychology, school psychology, and forensic psychology.

Nearly all master’s in psychology programs feature research methods courses and capstone projects. These components build advanced research, analysis, and writing skills. See below for descriptions of these and other courses often found in a psychology master’s degree online.


  • History and Systems of Psychology

    This core course surveys psychology’s history and major systems of thought, which include psychoanalysis, physiological psychology, cognitive psychology, and behaviorism. Enrollees learn about foundational studies that significantly influenced the course of psychological theory and practice. This course provides a general overview and introduction to the discipline, providing context for more specialized coursework.


  • Lifespan Development

    Often surveying the human lifespan chronologically from birth to death, this course emphasizes child development and various influencing factors. Students learn human developmental theories, approaches, and practices for increasing wellbeing at multiple lifespan stages. The course usually examines assessment, intervention, research, and program evaluation related to lifespan development.


  • Social Psychology

    Required in most psychology master’s programs, social psychology provides an overview of the field’s theory and practice. Enrollees learn about social dynamics and factors that influence individual, group, and cultural psychology. Social psychology courses discuss psychological processes involved in culture, interpersonal relationships, and group and intergroup dynamics. This course explores phenomena such as power, aggression, stereotyping, and conformity. Enrollees also study behaviors such as empathy, cooperation, and kindness.


  • Statistical Research Method

    Virtually all master’s in psychology programs require one or more research methods courses. Many programs require a research methods prerequisite and a research course associated with the capstone project. These courses survey social research-related statistical principles and methods, statistical thinking and inference methods, and research design methods and tools. These topics include descriptive statistics, regression, correlation, and significance testing. Enrollees also may learn about covariance and multivariate analysis, multiple regression, two-sample comparisons, and nominal and ordinal data methods.


  • Capstone

    Most master’s in psychology programs require a capstone thesis, project, or examination. Capstone projects allow students to apply and showcase their master’s-level skills and knowledge of psychology. Often a two-part sequence, the capstone may begin by focusing on creating project proposals. Some capstone projects include an internship component or research at a real-world site. The master’s thesis may also involve onsite research. The accompanying capstone courses help students design their research, conduct their analyses, and write their theses.


Professional Organizations for Psychology Students



Professional organizations assist with career advancement and usually support students and practitioners in their designated disciplines. Online master’s in psychology students can use these professional organizations to connect with current trends and opportunities. Professional organizations often provide networking opportunities, continuing education, new research, and discounted memberships and scholarships for students.


  • American Psychological Association Psychology's leading professional organization and publisher of psychology research, the APA generates industry practice standards. The organization also connects members, publishes and disseminates scholarship, and accredits psychology programs. The APA provides continuing education, supplies a writing style guide, and runs the largest psychology conference.

  • Association for Psychological Science An international organization that develops and shares cutting-edge psychology research across disciplines, APS focuses on research, application, and teaching. The organization encourages global networking and collaboration, public engagement, and supportive public policy. APS features six journals and highlights recent research articles.

  • National Association of School Psychologists As a top school psychology professional organization, NASP advocates for increased mental health services access. It also establishes professional practice standards and offers development tools and resources. NASP offerings include current research, practitioner guides, and continuing education. Student members enjoy leadership, mentorship, and networking opportunities.

  • Association for Behavior Analysis International ABAI serves as the leading membership organization for professionals focused on behavior analysis science, theory, teaching, and practice. The organization holds events, publishes journals, facilitates special interest groups, and provides job resources. ABAI maintains regional chapters across the United States and beyond.

Scholarships for Psychology Students

Many college students qualify for scholarships. Professional organizations, private donors, and schools often grant qualifying students scholarships based on financial need, academic merit, field of study, and identity. Some psychology master’s students qualify for scholarships like those described below.

APF Graduate Student Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The APF grants scholarships to graduate students currently studying general psychology at the master’s level, seeking funding for master’s thesis expenses, and planning to pursue doctoral study. Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited psychology program and receive nomination from a Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology-affiliated psychology department.
Amount: $2,000-$5,000

Don Renschler Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Pride Foundation offers this scholarship to LGBTQ+ and ally community members residing in Washington state. Applicants must study mental health at the graduate level and demonstrate financial need. Other requirements include a history of leadership in LGBTQ+ or mental health communities or fields.
Amount: Varies

Top Online Master’s in Psychology Programs 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

    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.

Popular Resources

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