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Alternative Graduate Programs for Psychology Majors

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A master’s degree in psychology, particularly one with a specialized focus that caters to a particular career path, can open the door to a variety of lucrative professional opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a psychologist was $80,370 as of 2019, which is the most recent year that salary information is available for. The BLS also projects a 3% growth rate to occur in this field between 2019 and 2029. 

If you want to get a master’s degree in psychology, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in psychology or another related program first, as a bachelor’s degree is a stepping stone to a more specialized graduate program. If you want to be competitive in the field — or if you wish to run your own practice — a doctoral degree could be necessary to obtain as well. In addition to being personally and financially rewarding, these opportunities accumulate valuable experience for a wide range of other positions.

What master’s programs can I do with a psychology degree?

Here are five of the best master’s degree programs to pursue after acquiring your bachelor’s in psychology:

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Master’s degree programs for psychology degree graduates

Social Work

A Master’s degree in Social Work is needed for a wide range of administrative positions. These include government positions, but there are jobs for someone with a Master’s in social work throughout private industry and the American educational system as well. These are rewarding positions, with ample compensation and a surprising amount of upward mobility. Working in an administrative capacity can also lead to unrelated career opportunities down the road.

Counseling

Counseling is often associated directly with a psychology degree program, but it is normally based on its own, entirely separate program. However, a specialized Master’s in counseling, such as in occupational therapy, family counseling or academic counseling, will open up the doors to a diverse range of industries and positions therein. This is an excellent way to accumulate a broad range of experience, while earning fair wages, and helping those in need; counseling also represents one of the fastest growing career fields in America today.

Criminal Justice

A Bachelor’s degree in psychology can pave the way for several different popular and lucrative career paths into law and criminal justice. These might include the pursuit of a legal degree, but may also involve a criminal justice major. A Master’s in criminal justice can prepare one to serve as a profiler or analyst in a wide range of law enforcement agencies, while a Master’s in forensic science qualifies you to begin working as a forensic psychologist.

Health Sciences

A Master’s degree in health sciences requires a strong understanding of medicine, but a background in psychology is usually sufficient to get started. The primary responsibility of a health sciences professional is to provide administrative support to clinical or research institution, so a strong faculty for communications, organization and data analysis must go hand-in-hand with specialized technical knowledge.

Psychology

This might go without saying, but the impression should not be made that a continuing education in the field of psychology would itself go to waste. Psychology presents ample research and clinical opportunities for developing new strategies to cope with a wide range of problems. Some of these challenges have only been recognized for what they are in recent years. Specialized Master’s degree holders are well on their way to the cutting edge of research and innovation, in finding new and more efficient ways of treating a wide range of psychological conditions.

Many of the most rewarding and professionally satisfying Master’s programs can be found at some of the same institutions which offer some of the most highly accredited Bachelor’s in psychology programs in America today. These include a wide range of reputable, well-recognized institutions offering their Bachelor’s degree programs in psychology on a partly or completely online basis. This makes the acquiring of your undergraduate degree much more convenient and affordable, while simultaneously streamlining the ability to get into a (potentially online) Master’s degree program at the same institution.

Best jobs for psychology bachelor degree graduates

Psychology is one of the most popular undergraduate degrees in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). It offers broad applications and can help you begin your journey in nearly any career field. 

One job option for bachelor’s graduates is substance abuse counseling. The BLS reports you can earn about $46,240 per year as a substance abuse counselor, and the field is expected to grow by about 25% from 2019 to 2029 — which is a much higher rate than the national average.

You can also pursue a business-oriented career as a human resources manager. The average annual salary is  $116,720 according to the BLS. The job has an above average outlook with 6 percent growth from 2019 to 2029.

A loan officer is another potential career for psychology graduates. You can earn an average of $63,270 per year and the career opportunity is expected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Some psychology majors will decide to pursue criminal justice. Police officers make an average of $65,170 per year. The BLS reports a 5 percent growth from 2019 to 2029. 

Another counseling option is to pursue becoming a rehabilitation counselor. You could make $35,950 per year. This field is expected to grow 10 percent from 2019 to 2029.

  • Activities director
  • Business administration
  • Career counselor
  • Case manager
  • Childcare worker
  • Corporate consultant
  • Executive assistant
  • Human resources manager
  • Loan officer
  • Marketing manager
  • Personnel recruiter
  • Police officer
  • Psychiatric technician
  • Rehabilitation specialist
  • Substance abuse counselor

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why get a master’s degree after a bachelor’s in psychology?

    A bachelor’s in psychology can lead to jobs in many industries or fields, but if you want to work as a licensed counselor or advance in other areas of psychology or social work, you may need a master’s degree to achieve your goals. Having a master’s degree can make you more marketable as an employee no matter what your career path, so if you’re focused on a particular career track or you want to expand your employment options, a master’s degree can be a great way to add more to your resume after getting a degree in psychology.

  • Is it best to get your master’s degree right after finishing your bachelor’s in psychology?

    Yes, it can be. In many cases, you may want to pursue that master’s program immediately after finishing undergraduate. Not only are grad schools competitive, but starting on a master’s program immediately can help expedite the time it takes to build the type of career you want. The sooner you can start applying to programs, the better off you’ll be if grad school is something important for your career plans.

  • How can I decide which master’s program is the right one for me?

    One of the hardest parts of choosing a grad school is deciding which program is the best fit for you. If you don’t have a clear career path in mind, you can narrow down the options by considering the following:

    • Why am I going to grad school? This will help you determine whether this path is right for you and help you narrow down your options to the ones that may fit your goals.
    • What are the course lengths and requirements? If you have a time frame you need to meet, you may want to consider the length of the programs and the requirements to get in. If you have to take more classes to apply or you need to meet other requirements, it could add time to the process.
    • What is the cost vs. benefit? Try to get a good idea of the outcome and whether that fits what you have in mind for your path.
    • How competitive is the program or programs I’m considering? Knowing this information will give you a good idea of whether the programs you’re considering will fit with your ideal timeline. If there’s a long line of people waiting to get accepted, you may want to consider alternatives.

  • What are the requirements for psychology-related master’s degree programs?

    A master’s degree in psychology will usually require a bachelor’s degree in a related field, academic excellence (i.e. a GPA of about 3.0), a few years of study, and a practicum or clinical experience. Some programs also include a licensure or thesis track.

  • How long does it take to earn a master’s degree in psychology or a related field?

    The average time to complete a master’s degree is two years if you’re enrolled in the program on a full-time basis. Some programs with required internships or practicums can take longer. You may also choose a part-time program that can take longer to complete.

  • Is it worth pursuing a master’s in the psychology field?

    According to the BLS, graduates with master’s degrees make an average of $12,000 per year more than graduates with bachelor’s degrees. The earning potential increases even more in the psychology field. Counselors with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of $37,000 per year, while counselors with master’s degrees earn an average of $50,000 per year. The BLS also reports that psychologists with doctoral degrees earn 46% more on average.

Best jobs for psychology master’s degree graduates

Many students choose to pursue a master’s degree in order to achieve a higher salary and specialize their expertise. There are many more jobs in psychology and counseling available at this level compared to bachelor’s degree graduates. Graduate programs for psychology majors can also set up students for a wide variety of other careers. 

Marriage and family therapists make an average of $49,610 per year, according to the BLS. 

There’s an above-average employment opportunity for this career, with a 22% expected growth from 2019 to 2029. 

A master’s degree in psychology can also translate to a career as a school or career counselor. The BLS reports an average annual salary of $57,040 per year with an 8% expected job growth from 2019 to 2029. Master’s graduates can also pursue a job as a social worker. The average annual salary for a social worker is $50,470 per year. From 2019 to 2029, this field is projected to grow by 13%. 

Some students choose to become probation officers after completing a master’s degree. This career can earn an average of $54,290 per year and is expected to grow by about 4% from 2019 to 2029.

If you have a heart for education, psychology master’s students can pursue becoming special education teachers. These specialized educators earn an average of $61,030 per year and the field is expected to grow by about 3% from 2019 to 2029. 

Other potential career paths include:

  • Behavior analyst
  • Child services worker
  • College admissions counselor
  • Counselor aide
  • Court consultant
  • Crisis negotiator
  • Forensic psychologist
  • Healthcare representative
  • Human services worker
  • Juvenile detention officer
  • Legal psychologist
  • Marriage and family therapist
  • Probation officer
  • School counselor 
  • Social worker
  • Special education teacher
  • Sports psychologist
  • Veterans counselor
  • Victim advocate
  • Youth counselor

See also: Top 18 Cheap Online Psychology Degree Programs (Bachelor’s)

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Danika Miller

EDUCATION REPORTER

Danika Miller is a staff education reporter at Best Value Schools. She graduated from Western Washington University with a BA in creative writing. Danika has since specialized in education and finance writing as a reporter at Affordable Colleges Online, The Simple Dollar, Her Campus, CreditCards.com, Reviews.com, and elsewhere.

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Angelica Leicht

SCHOOLS EDITOR

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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