Over the course of the past fifteen years there has been a shift within the field of psychology, which has led to an increasing number of master's degree holders providing care to those in need of mental health services. Many colleges and universities are now offering master's degree programs in psychology and counseling to serve as terminal degrees. Most of these programs include a rigorous curriculum, covering the theoretical aspects of the field, extensive training in how to conduct and analyze research, and clinical skills for work with clients. Many such programs will require students to complete an internship or practicum as part of their course of study. A rising number of schools are offering research opportunities that begin during the first year.
Another important curricular requirement at many universities is completion of a thesis. Typically, students pursuing a master of science will conduct a research-based thesis, and those pursuing a master of arts will complete a literature review based thesis. In many cases, students will have the opportunity to present their findings at conferences and student presentations.
Top 10 Master's in Psychology Degrees
- Texas Woman's University - Denton, TX
- Augusta University - Augusta, GA
- CUNY Hunter College - New York, NY
- California State University - Los Angeles, CA
- University of New Orleans - New Orleans, LA
- Columbia University in the City of New York - New York, NY
- Florida Atlantic University - Boca Raton, FL
- Stony Brook University - Stony Brook, NY
- California State University - Long Beach, CA
- CUNY City College - New York, NY
Details about our ranking methodology can be found at end of the article.
Top Master’s Degree Programs in Psychology 2020
1. Texas Woman's University
Although TWU was founded as the Girls Industrial College in 1901, the school has enrolled male students since 1972. TWU comprises five colleges and serves approximately 15,500 undergraduate and graduate students.
TWU offers a master of science in psychological science, which consists of 36 credits. Most students graduate after one year of continuous enrollment. Applicants need an undergraduate degree (preferably in psychology) from an accredited school, a minimum 3.0 GPA on all psychology coursework and for the last 60 undergraduate credits, and a minimum of 18 hours of psychology classes. One of the country's most affordable online psychology degrees, the program also requires the submission of recent GRE scores. Applicants need a score of at least 153 on the quantitative and 150 on the verbal sections.
Texas Woman's University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
2. Augusta University
Augusta University began as the Medical Academy of Georgia in 1828. Today, the university offers more than 160 academic programs across 10 schools and colleges. Augusta enrolls more than 9,200 undergraduate and graduate students.
The university offers a full-time year-round master of science in psychology program. Students can pursue a clinical/counseling, applied experimental, or general experimental track. The clinical/counseling track comprises 60 credits and requires the completion of 600 hours of clinical internship. The curriculum meets the educational requirements for counselor licensure in Georgia. Degree-seekers can pursue a thesis or non-thesis plan of study.
Both experimental tracks require at least 40 credits. However, the general experimental track requires a thesis for completion, while the applied experimental track does not. These programs follow a cohort model of education.
Augusta University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
3. CUNY Hunter College
Hunter College began in 1870 as the Female Normal and High School, the country's first free teacher's college. The school began admitting male students in 1964 and now enrolls more than 20,000 students and offers more than 170 areas of study.
The college offers a master of arts in general psychology that comprises 30 credits and requires the completion of a thesis prior to graduation. Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with at least 12 undergraduate credits in psychology.
The degree allows students to explore and learn about the various aspects of the field. It also allows learners to focus on one of three content areas: applied and evaluative psychology; biopsychology and comparative psychology; and social, cognitive, and developmental psychology.
CUNY Hunter College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
4. California State University Los Angeles
Founded in 1947, Cal State LA enrolls more than 26,000 students and comprises eight academic colleges offering more than 100 certificate, undergraduate, graduate, and pre-professional programs.
The university offers a master of arts in psychology that follows a cohort model of education. The program consists of 31-32 credits and requires applicants to hold a bachelor's degree (preferably in psychology) from an accredited college or university. Applicants with a non-psychology bachelor's degree must enroll in 23 credits of psychology coursework prior to beginning the master's program. Degree-seekers must earn a minimum 3.0 GPA in these courses. The degree requires a thesis.
California State University Los Angeles is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
5. The University of New Orleans
UNO was established in 1958 as the Louisiana State University in New Orleans, the first racially integrated public institution in the South. UNO serves more than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students and comprises eight academic schools and colleges.
The school offers a master of science in applied psychology comprising 40 credits. Students seeking to complete the program as a terminal degree do not need to write a thesis. Instead, they must complete a five-section practicum. UNO also offers a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in applied psychology. Degree-seekers who plan to pursue a Ph.D. can choose from two concentration areas: applied biopsychology or applied developmental psychology.
Learners can participate in several psychology research labs on campus covering topics such as autism brain and language and biological and environmental risk for affective disorders.
The University of New Orleans is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
6. Columbia University in the City of New York
Columbia began in 1754 as King's College. It is the oldest university in New York and the fifth oldest in the nation. Seven students comprised the school's first class. Today, Columbia enrolls approximately 33,400 learners and consists of 20 academic schools and colleges.
Columbia offers a master of arts in psychology, from which students can select from several concentrations, including cognition, behavioral neuroscience, sensation and perception, and social and personality psychology. The program requires students to serve as teaching assistants for one semester each year. Degree-seekers must also complete some mandatory classes to support their educational and career objectives.
Columbia University in the City of New York is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
7. Florida Atlantic University
Established in 1962 and built on the site of an abandoned air base, FAU set out to provide higher education options to the residents of the southeast region of the state and Americans everywhere. Today, FAU boasts a population of nearly 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students. One of the country's most affordable colleges, the university offers more than 170 degrees across eight academic colleges.
FAU offers a master of arts degree in psychology that comprises 36 semester hours. The program only accepts full-time applicants. Students typically graduate in 2-3 years. Since the program is mentor-based, admission during any given year depends on the number of faculty members who can directly supervise a new student.
FAU provides fundamental experimental training specifically for students who plan to continue on to a doctoral program in psychology. The school does not currently offer graduate opportunities for counseling or clinical psychology.
Florida Atlantic University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
8. Stony Brook University
Established in 1957, SBU began as a preparatory college for secondary teachers of science and mathematics. The university currently offers more than 350 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs across 11 schools and colleges.
SBU degree-seekers can enroll in a full-time, one-year master of arts in general psychology program that comprises 30 credits. The curriculum includes coursework in graduate statistics, cognitive science, integrative neuroscience, and clinical psychology. Although GRE scores are optional, applicants need a minimum undergraduate 3.25 GPA to be considered for admission. Students must complete an approved program of study with a grade of at least a B in every course to be considered for the master's program.
Stony Brook University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
9. California State University Long Beach
The institution that would become CSULB began in 1949 as the Los Angeles-Orange County State College. From 160 students during its initial year of operation, CSULB now enrolls nearly 37,000 students and comprises eight colleges.
CSULB offers a full-time, two-year master of arts in psychology degree in psychological research that comprises 30 graduate credits. Called MAPR, the degree prepares graduates for doctoral studies or master's-level careers in the field. Students enroll in classes that cover key psychological subjects such as statistical design and analysis; developmental psychology; perception and physiological psychology; and health, behavior, and intervention. MAPR applicants need a bachelor's degree in psychology or at least 24 upper-division units of psychology coursework.
California State University Long Beach is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
10. The City College of New York
CCNY began in 1847 as the Free Academy of the City of New York, a school founded to provide educational opportunities for the children of immigrants and the working class who showed academic promise. Today, CCNY continues to provide a range of academic options for more than 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students across eight professional schools and divisions.
CCNY offers a master's in general psychology that allows learners to follow a thesis or non-thesis course of study. The thesis option requires the completion of 31 credits, while the non-thesis program requires 41 credits. Regardless of which path they choose, students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA throughout their enrollment at CCNY. The curriculum includes coursework in psychometrics, cognition, psychopharmacology, and neuroscience.
The City College of New York is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
11. California State University, Northridge
CSUN began in 1958 as the San Fernando Valley State College, serves nearly 40,000 degree-seekers, and offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees across nine academic colleges.
CSUN offers a master's in psychological science that allows students to pursue an emphasis in clinical research or clinical fieldwork. The clinical research emphasis allows learners to focus on independent research projects and culminates in a master's thesis. Students pursuing the clinical fieldwork option participate in a practicum experience in either the child and adolescent diagnostic assessment clinic or the anxiety and mood disorders clinic. Students who choose this option must pass a comprehensive exam prior to graduation.
California State University, Northridge is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
12. National Louis University
NLU began in 1886 as a training school for kindergarten teachers who then set out to teach the young children of mostly immigrant families. Today, NLU offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees across four academic colleges and enrolls nearly 9,000 students. NLU offers a master of arts in psychology that comprises 36 semester hours.
To help focus their studies and make sure their program supports their educational and career objectives, students can choose from four concentration areas: general psychology, psychological assessment, community psychology, and teaching of psychology. The curriculum includes coursework in theories of personality, advanced social psychology, biological bases of behavior, and psychology of organizational leadership. The program gives enrollees the option of writing a thesis or taking a comprehensive exam as their culminating experience prior to graduation.
National Louis University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
13. Marshall University
Founded in 1837 as Marshall College, Marshall University is one of the first public institutions in West Virginia to provide higher education opportunities to the state's residents. Marshall enrolls more than 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 49 states and 56 countries. Marshall comprises nine academic schools and colleges.
Learners at Marshall can enroll in a master of arts in psychology comprising 36 graduate credit hours. Students complete a common core of 24 credits in subjects such as advanced or applied developmental psychology, psychometrics, biological bases of behavior, and ethical and legal issues in psychology. Learners can complete the remaining credits in general psychology or clinical psychology. The program offers a thesis option for students who wish to write one. All degree-seekers must pass a comprehensive exam prior to graduation.
Marshall University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
14. Queens College, CUNY
Now enrolling more than 19,000 students, QC opened in 1937 with an initial enrollment of just 400 students. QC offers undergraduate and graduate programs across four academic divisions.
The school's master of arts in general psychology comprises either 30 graduate credits (thesis option) or 36 graduate credits (non-thesis option). Only students with a 3.7 GPA can pursue the thesis option. Learners who do not meet this qualification must take a comprehensive exam as their culminating experience. The program requires all students to enroll in the history of psychology, advanced experimental psychology, and statistical methods.
Applicants are not required to submit GRE scores. However, they need a bachelor's degree in psychology from an accredited institution or must show completion of at least 15 undergraduate psychology courses with a grade of B or higher.
Queens College, CUNY is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
15. California State University Dominguez Hills
CSUDH began as South Bay State College in 1960, comprises six academic colleges, and enrolls nearly 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
The university offers a master of arts in psychology comprising 30 credits. Learners typically take two years of full-time study to complete the program. Students can follow a clinical psychology or health psychology track. Clinical psychology students must complete a minimum of 550 practicum hours in research, teaching, or clinical work.
Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with at least a B average for the last 60 credits of undergraduate enrollment. The program also requires applicants to submit the results of a standard graduate examination such as the GRE or the GMAT.
California State University Dominguez Hills is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
16. California State University, San Bernardino
CSUSB opened in 1962 as a three-building campus with an initial enrollment of 293 students. Today, the university serves almost 20,000 students and consists of six academic colleges.
CSUSB offers a master of arts in psychological sciences that consists of 34-35 graduate credits. The program features a general concentration and a behavioral and cognitive neuroscience concentration. Students must complete a minimum of 25 credits at the university. The curriculum includes coursework in biological psychology, analysis of variance, advanced methods in psychological research, and theories of learning and motivation. Regardless of their concentration area, all enrollees must complete a master's thesis.
California State University, San Bernardino is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
17. University at Buffalo
UB emerged from the 1962 consolidation of a private medical college (founded in 1846) into The State University of New York system. The school comprises 13 academic schools and colleges; offers more than 400 programs of study at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels; and supports a student population of over 31,000.
UB offers a master of arts in general psychology that consists of 30 credit hours and features concentrations in four areas: clinical psychology, behavioral neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and social-personality psychology. Most students take two years to earn the degree.
A mentor-based program, student admission largely depends on the number of faculty members who can take on a new student each academic year. Coursework includes subjects such as attitudes and social cognition, developmental psychopathology, cognitive processes, and psycholinguistics.
University at Buffalo is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
18. University of Houston Clear Lake
Established in 1974, UHCL opened with a 60-member faculty and a student enrollment of 1,069. Today, the university offers more than 90 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs; comprises four colleges; and supports a population of over 9,000 students.
Students at UHCL can pursue a master of science in psychology, which comprises 36 credits for the thesis or special project option, or 39 credits for the internship or comprehensive exam option. The curriculum includes classes in advanced experimental methods and statistics, human growth and development, learning principles, and advanced cognitive and affective psychology. UHCL does not count courses in which students earn a C+ or below toward the master's degree.
University of Houston Clear Lake is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
19. California State University, Fresno
In 1911, Fresno State (then known as Fresno State Normal School), admitted 150 students during its initial year of operation. More than a century later, the university's student population has grown to over 25,000. Fresno State boasts eight schools and colleges that offer more than 100 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs.
Fresno State students can pursue a master of arts in psychology that comprises 30 graduate credits. Learners study developmental psychology, psychobiological bases of behavior, and role and function of research data analysis. Students advance to candidacy only if they receive a grade of A or B in their advanced research design and statistical techniques class, meet the graduate writing requirements, and pass the department's statistical proficiency exam.
California State University, Fresno is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
20. Texas A&M International University
Established in 1970 as a center that provided classes in teacher education and various business disciplines, TAMIU officially became a member of the Texas A&M University System in 1989. TAMIU currently supports a population of nearly 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
The university offers a master of science in psychology that comprises 36 credits and supports both thesis and non-thesis options. Students who choose a non-thesis program must complete a six-credit internship experience. Core coursework for both options includes classes in research design and statistics, cognitive science, human development across the lifespan, and survey of social psychology. The program does not require the submission of scores from a standard graduate entrance exam.
Texas A&M International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
21. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Established as the first public university in Wisconsin in 1848, UW-Madison began with an initial enrollment of 17 students. Currently supporting a student population of over 45,000 and comprising 13 schools and colleges, the university offers more than 400 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs.
UW-Madison offers a master of arts in psychology as a step toward a Ph.D. The program consists of 30 credits, at least 16 of which learners must complete at the university. Students earn the master's degree after completing a research paper that they begin during their first year in the program. Only courses for which students receive a grade of B or higher count toward the credit tally required for the degree.
University of Wisconsin-Madison is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
22. New Mexico State University
NMSU resulted from the merger of Las Cruces College (founded 1888) and the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (founded 1890). From an initial enrollment of 35 students, NMSU now boasts over 16,000 students and offers more than 180 programs across six academic colleges at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.
NMSU offers a master of arts in general experimental psychology, which comprises 36 credit hours. Degree-seekers can pursue emphasis areas in engineering, cognitive, or social psychology. Students must complete a first-year project and a research thesis to earn the degree. The curriculum includes coursework in learning theory and methodology, behavioral neuroscience, psycholinguistics, and history and systems of psychology. Most students graduate from the program in 2-3 years. NMSU does not offer a non-thesis option.
New Mexico State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
23. Brigham Young University
Established in 1875, BYU enrolls more than 33,500 students from all 50 states and 103 countries. BYU comprises 13 academic schools and colleges and offers over 300 programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.
BYU students can pursue a master of science in psychology as an embedded program within the Ph.D. in clinical psychology. The master's curriculum comprises a minimum of 36 credits and makes up the first two years of study for the doctoral degree. The program includes coursework in data analysis in psychological research, professional and ethical issues in psychology, psychopathology, and relationships and psychodynamics. Learners must complete a master's thesis before proceeding to doctoral work.
Brigham Young University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
24. The University of Texas Permian Basin
When UTPB was established in 1973, the school only accepted upper-level (juniors and seniors) and graduate students. UTPB became a four-year institution (accepting freshmen and sophomores) in 1991 and now enrolls nearly 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
UTPB offers a master of arts in psychology with concentrations in clinical and experimental psychology. Clinical psychology students can choose to complete a master's project or write a thesis as their culminating experience. Experimental psychology students must write a thesis. The curriculum includes courses in advanced statistics (analysis and variance), ethical and professional issues, lifespan development, and social psychology.
The University of Texas Permian Basin is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
25. California State University, Sacramento
Founded in 1947 as Sacramento State College, Sac State comprises eight academic colleges, enrolls more than 31,000 students, and offers over 150 bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and credential programs.
Sac State offers a master of arts in general psychology that consists of 30 credits. Students must complete required courses in methods in empirical psychology and contemporary statistical methods in psychological research. The curriculum also includes courses in advanced psychopathology, learning and behavior, and theories of personality. Learners can choose to write a thesis or complete a master's project as the culminating experience. Applicants must submit their latest GRE scores.
California State University, Sacramento is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
This ranking list has been created to outline the 25 top master's degree programs in psychology in the United States. In order to be considered, each school must be fully accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. Factors considered:
Overall Cost of Attendance
One of the major factors considered is the average annual graduate tuition. Data was collected from the College Navigator Tool.
Under $12,000 / $12,001 - $15,00/ $15,001 - $18,000 / $18,001 - $21,000:
5 Points / 3 Points / 2 Points / 1 Point
Number of Degree Options or Areas of Specialization
While it may not be imperative in some fields to offer an array of areas of specialization, psychology is not one of those fields. With a vast number of possible specializations and concentrations it is important to graduate psychology students to have the ability to pursue a degree specialized to fit their career goals.
Number of Available Degree Options or Areas of Specialization
2 Degree or Specialization Options / 3 or More Degree or Specialization Options
2 Points / 3 Points
The next consideration was whether or not a school has been granted acknowledgement by a national ranking body. The major source of such national notoriety comes from the US News and World Report and Forbes.
US News and World Report Best National University Ranking / Forbes Best College Ranking: 3 Points
US News and World Report Best Program Ranking, Best Value School Ranking, Top Pubic School Ranking or Most Innovative School Ranking: 2 Points
In order to be included in this ranking list an appropriate ranking body must regionally accredit each college or university. Those schools that have received additional accreditation are rewarded an additional point.
Each Accreditation: 1 Point
Once the points have been tallied the schools are arranged into groups by the amount of points they have earned. In the cases of ties, preference was given to those schools with the lowest tuition rates.
Related Ranking: Top 30 Online Master's Degree Programs in Psychology