If you’re pursuing a master’s degree in psychology, you may have been asked the following question: “What can you do with a master’s in psychology?” It may even be a question you’ve asked yourself. After all, that answer isn’t always common knowledge among those outside of the field of psychology.
It’s important to know that a master’s in psychology can open up a world of career opportunities that would otherwise not be available. This type of degree also provides you with a solid foundation to improve the lives of others. And, although there are more than 3.5 million people in the United States who have bachelor’s degrees in psychology, only about 13% of the 3.5 million also have a master’s degree in the field — which means a master’s degree in psychology can help set you apart from the crowd.
It can also lead to a pretty solid job and salary outlook, too. As of 2020, the median annual wage for psychologists, including those with master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology, was about $82,180 per year. Plus, the psychology profession, which can be practiced with a master’s degree in some states, is projected to grow by about 3% through 2029. And that is just one example of the career path you can take with a master’s degree in psychology.
What Is a Master’s in Psychology?
A master’s degree in psychology is typically a one- to two-year graduate program designed for those who intend to further their career by pursuing employment in the psychology profession. For some, that may mean going on to pursue a doctorate after graduation. For others, that may mean jumping into one of the many other careers you can pursue with a master’s in psychology.
When pursuing a master’s in psychology, you will generally have two options of degree types to choose from: a Master of Arts (M.A.) and a Master of Science (M.S.). The option that works best for you depends on your intended career focus. If your focus is on analytical analysis and research, an M.A. may be the best choice. If your focus is on behavioral science, an M.S. may be right for you.
In a graduate psychology degree program, you should expect to build heavily upon the fundamentals of psychology that you learned in your undergraduate program. While the course you take will vary based on the program you enroll in, in general, you can expect to take courses in psychopathology, social psychology, multicultural counseling, research methods, forensic psychology, and theories of counseling and psychotherapy. You will also learn how to take the theory and techniques you’ve learned and apply that information to real-world situations.
The Benefits of Getting a Master’s Degree in Psychology
For starters, a master’s degree may be required in order to work in certain roles within the psychology field. For example, most states require you to have at least a master’s degree in this field to become a licensed psychologist or to work directly with clients. If your goal is to do this, the main benefit of earning a master’s degree is that this type of degree allows you to work in your chosen career path.
Plus, earning a master’s in psychology can help to open up more lucrative careers in this field. In general, the highest paying psychology careers are typically reserved for those with a doctorate. That said, master’s in psychology jobs are plentiful, and include career paths like counseling, education, human resources, family services, social services, law enforcement, and even more non-traditional psychology careers, like project management and marketing.
In addition to opening up a new array of career options, getting a master’s in psychology is often a requirement prior to pursuing a doctorate.
Who Should Pursue a Master’s in Psychology?
The master’s in psychology is a program designed for students who have an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field and also want to expand their career opportunities into areas that require a graduate degree. This could be counseling or another profession that requires licensing and a master’s degree in the field.
If you fit that description and want to open up more specialized career opportunities, you should consider pursuing this graduate degree. Others who should strongly consider a master’s in psychology are those who eventually want to pursue a doctorate in psychology.
Where Can I Work With a Master’s Degree in Psychology?
What can I do with a master’s in psychology? While you may think you are limited to just one career trajectory with this degree, the reality is that there is a wide range of answers to that question. Some schools are now offering terminal programs that allow you to be a practicing psychologist with only a master’s degree in the field if you work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. However, since the option is limited to certain states, it’s important to understand where else you can work with a master’s in psychology.
Career options with a master’s degree in this field include:
- Schools (secondary and post-secondary)
- Federal, state, and local government agencies
- Treatment centers (public and private practice)
- Healthcare facilities
- Organizations (profit and non-profit)
And, as mentioned, you may also be able to work as a practicing psychologist, though the licensing rules will vary from state to state. If working as a psychologist with a master’s degree is your goal, you should check into the licensing requirements for your state to make sure you can comply with them. Otherwise, you may need to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology to work as a licensed psychologist.
Job and Salary Opportunities With a Master’s Degree in Psychology
Master’s in psychology jobs are available in nearly every industry. Some of the most common jobs with an MA in psychology include:
|Job||Average salary range||Job duties|
|School counselor||$58,120||Help students develop academic and social skills.|
|Human resource manager||$121,220||Plan and direct the administrative/personnel functions of an organization.|
|Family therapist||$51,340||Help families manage and overcome problems.|
|Social Service manager||$69,600||Coordinate and manage programs, organizations and events that support well-being.|
|Mental health counselor||$47,660||Advise and treat people who suffer from mental problems.|
For those who intend to pursue a doctoral degree after getting a master’s in psychology, some potential career options include:
- Clinical psychologist
- Forensic psychologist
- School psychologist
- Industrial-organizational psychologist
What Employers Look For in a Psychologist
While it is possible to become a licensed psychologist with only a master’s degree, many psychologist positions will require a doctoral degree for employment. Nearly all psychologist jobs will also require you to be licensed through the state’s licensing board.
Employers may also want to see how many clients you worked with during your internship and understand the types of issues you treated them for. You may be asked for any relevant certifications through the American Board of Professional Psychology or other approved certification boards.
In addition to education and credentials, employers often seek psychologists who demonstrate excellent interpersonal relationship skills, team-building skills, adaptability, desire to learn, and more.
Tips for Making Yourself Marketable in This Field
As the need for psychology-related careers grows, the competition for these careers will also grow. Luckily, there are some things to do to increase your marketability in the psychology profession. These include:
- Earning a doctorate or showing employers you are pursuing one
- Seeking a specialized certification in your field of study through an approved certification board
- Demonstrating steller ethics by collecting letters of recommendation from previous employers or professors
- Demonstrating that you are well-rounded in all aspects in addition to psychology, like technology, research, critical thinking, and self-management
- Staying current on research related to your field of study
Angelica Leicht is the schools editor at Best Value Schools who oversees our college rankings, school profiles, and other higher education coverage. She previously served as an education reporter at Kearney Hub, and an editor at the Dallas Observer and Houston Press. Her writing has appeared in Affordable Colleges Online, Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and elsewhere.
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