Master’s in Psychology

A master’s degree in psychology is a two-year degree that delivers training in research, psychotherapy treatment techniques, core knowledge of human mental development, and psychosocial interaction. The degree can qualify graduates for some kinds of direct independent mental therapy roles as counselors or therapists, or supervised psychological services. It also delivers the toolset needed for many professional, non-clinical psychology roles in both human services and in almost all kinds of private businesses.

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Courses Studied in Psychology Master’s Programs

Careers in Psychology with a Master’s Degree

What To Expect For Your Salary After Earning a Master’s Degree in Psychology

Frequently Asked Questions About Master’s Degrees in Psychology

Master’s programs in psychology are often the overlooked gem in human services educational degrees. While bachelor’s programs in psych can set you up to branch out into almost any human services specialty, and doctoral psych degrees are the path to clinical practice as a licensed psychologist, the role of the master’s degree in psychology is less clearly defined.

But that’s actually a bonus, not a drawback.

The advanced study of psychology is really a study of people. What makes us tick. How we’re motivated. Where our feelings come from. What molds our personality.

There is no industry or field of human endeavor in the world that those factors don’t apply to.

That makes a master’s degree in psychology the Swiss Army knife of human services. You’ll get a lot of the foundational work that goes toward advanced psychological practice, but without the deep clinical skill training and experience required for licensed psychologists. But there are many, many psychological applications that don’t need licenses and don’t involve clinical practice. A master’s program will qualify you for hundreds of different high-paying psychology jobs, while saving you time and money on a degree.

Just as important, in psychology studies the script is flipped between master’s and doctoral programs. In most fields, your doctoral studies will be more flexible and can be focused more directly on your specific areas of interest within the field. In psychology, doctoral studies are almost always aimed at meeting state licensure requirements and preparing graduates for academic or clinical positions. At the master’s level, however, the wide range of applications makes programs more inclined to let you chart your own course.

Psychology Education Requirements by State

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Doctors of philosophy have been awarded in the field of psychology since as far back as 1878, when Harvard issued the first in the United States. It’s not known when exactly or where the first master’s degree in psychology was awarded, but it is clear that the field became highly specialized quite far back. Purdue reports offering a master’s in industrial-organizational psychology in 1939.

The point of the master’s degree historically was to establish common qualifications for professionals who would be qualified to teach in the lower levels of their field. A master’s awarded by any college was recognized by any other college as qualification for instructors in bachelor’s-level programs.

It’s only more recently that master’s degrees have taken on a life as a professional qualification outside of academia. But with the doctorate level of psychology degree already established as the firm qualification for professional clinical practice, it wasn’t immediately clear what kind of standing the master’s alone would have.

Today, with the huge demand for qualified psychologists in all kinds of industries, with dozens of non-clinical specialties, the role of the master’s degree is clear: a solid professional education for specialists without a need to establish independent clinical practice credentials.

William James was the pioneering American psychologist who built the ground-breaking psychology department at Harvard in the late 1800s.

All of that flows from the unique course of study you follow in a master’s degree in psychology program. You can take your training in any direction by picking the right program.

Courses Studied in Psychology Master’s Programs

All psychology master’s programs cover modern psychological theory and the empirical research that supports it. They also cover the essential knowledge of human development that includes building up the cognitive, behavioral, and emotional make-up of a functional human being.

That makes psychological studies a popular pursuit for college students. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that psychology was the fourth most highly awarded degree in the country at the undergraduate level as of 2017.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 27,841 master’s degrees in psychology were awarded in 2018.

The broad applicability of what you learn in master’s degree in psychology programs is one of the reasons they are so popular.

General Studies and Core Courses in a Master’s Degree in Psychology

Master’s programs are only two years in length, and most of them are offered in an in-depth concentration area. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for extras, so your core coursework will usually be general studies of psychological approaches that are fundamental to all branches of the field. Those include:

  • Research Fundamentals and Experimental Design – A master’s degree is your formal introduction to the world of research and experimentation. As part of an evidence-based profession, you need to understand how the underlying research backing treatment and analysis is performed. Courses in research considerations and training in how to design ethical and informative experiments in human subjects is key to developing both your understanding and your own research chops in psychology. Statistical and measurement processes are part of this coursework.
  • Psychopathologies – The history, conceptual perspectives, and diagnosis of psychopathologies is almost always everyone’s favorite part of psych degrees. Abnormal psych might have been what drew you in to the profession in the first place. Here, you’ll go deeper into the various mental issues cataloged in the DSM 5 and the batteries of tests such as the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) that are used to diagnose those disorders.
  • Professional and Ethical Considerations in Psychology – As a profession whose stock in trade is the deepest, darkest parts of the human psyche, you had better believe that ethics gets a strong emphasis in master’s-level psychology programs. You’ll learn your legal and ethical obligations both to clients and to the community, and you will explore the profession of psychology in all its various practice areas.
  • Physiology and Human Lifecycle Development – Psychology is the science of the mind, and the mind is an integral part of the body. Like every other physical feature, it grows, matures, and runs via biological processes that can create mental health issues themselves. So some of the physiology of the brain will get covered in your general studies, together with the patterns of growth and development through the course of a human life that leads to different stages of thought and mental conditioning.
  • Social Psychology – Psychology never really exists in a vacuum. We all reflect the psychological processes of the humans around us, and the ways that our mental processes interact are important to understand in order to assess and treat individuals. Social psychology sifts through theory and research concerning interpersonal perception. You’ll learn about individual and group decision-making processes, how attitudes develop, and how social motivations are dropped on individuals.

Different programs might split these out into a broader range of classes, or offer electives for a deeper dive into any of them. You’ll always find

Specialist Concentrations Fill In Your Master’s in Psychology Studies

Because psychology has such broad applications, there are dozens of highly specialized areas of study that live within it. You can make a complete career out of any of these specialties, absorbing knowledge that someone else in a different part of the field might never even touch on in their own career.

Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology

Specializing in clinical psychology is specializing in direct, in-person treatment of individuals with mental health issues. That means coursework that builds on the base knowledge with in-person assessment and treatment skills. You’ll learn how to interact with patients and develop treatment plans for their conditions. Cultural and social elements of therapy are explored in-depth and you can expect internship and practicum placements in active therapy programs that give you a hands-on experience working with clients. A clinical specialization can prepare you either to advance to a PhD program for full licensure as a practicing clinical psychologist, or, in some states, allow you to earn a psychological associate’s license.

Forensic psychologists are responsible for helping police crack the tough cases as well as exploring the motivations and causes of crime in general.

Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology is a field that brings in absolute piles of interested students each year after they’ve finished binging CSI: Miami. Although there are far more applicants in this hot field than jobs, jobs in forensic psychology with a master’s degree usually do not require licensure. You’ll be prepared for those roles through an in-depth education in the American legal system. That includes not just the popular analysis of criminal activity and culpability, but also understanding social psychology and how to evaluate jury pools and judges. You get there through intensive study of statistical analysis techniques. Research and evaluation are prized in forensics, so you’ll double down on that coursework in these master’s programs.

Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology

Master’s programs in counseling psychology are often used as qualifications for licensure as professional counselors or marriage and family therapists. These degrees are frequently available with their own subset of concentrations, in fields like:

  • Correctional psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Latino counseling
  • LGBTQ counseling
  • Family therapy

All of these programs deliver training in clinical therapeutic skills similar to a degree in clinical psychology. The focus is on hands-on assessment and treatment. You develop skills in working with patients directly and assisting them through various mental health issues. These degrees can also be considered as part of the path to a PhD or PsyD program and full licensure as a practicing psychologist.

Master’s Degree in School Psychology

School psychology is a field where licensure is usually available with only a master’s degree. That means these degrees prepare you for full practice authority working in school systems with preK-12 students. That means they deliver training in assessing kids for the hallmarks of abuse or bullying, briefing you on your legal and ethical obligations with minors, and how to bridge the difficult gap between teachers, kids, parents, and school administrators.

It’s exactly the right specialization if you love kids and want to work to build a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment through psychological principles. At the same time, you’ll be equipped to deal with the hard parts like violence, abuse, and substance abuse that can crash hard into the bright promising future that children have.

While these programs are sometimes offered by psychology departments as an MA or MS in psychology, you can also find them run by the college school of education and offered as a master’s degree in educational psychology.

Master’s Degree in Child Psychology

Closely related to school psychology but aimed more at individual and family work, master’s degrees in child psychology prepare you for advocacy or program development work benefiting children, adolescents, and families.

The coursework in these programs leans heavily on study of lifecycle development and the unique psychological issues rising from cognitive, physical, socioemotional, and gender development. The psychopathology of children is explored and hot-button issues in the field like autism spectrum and attention-deficit hyperactive disorders are studied.

Master’s Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology

A degree in organizational psychology is your ticket into the world of business and corporate affairs as a psychologist. This is another area where most states do not require a PhD for licensure, allowing you to hit the ground running once you have this degree in hand.

Industrial-organizational psychologists study leadership and social psychology to understand how groups of people work together. Communication and analysis skills give them the tools to promote teamwork, manage transitions, and develop appropriate org structures for different companies, non-profits, and government agencies.

Some I-O degree programs offer additional specialization tracks, developing your skills within specific industries like healthcare or education.

Master’s Degree in Applied Psychology

Applied psychology master’s degrees are distinguished from more general, theoretical psychology studies by an emphasis on practice. They are similar to clinical and educational psychology master’s programs, and can also be used as preparation for a path to a PhD or PsyD. They can also be used as qualification for licensure as a school psychologist or counselor, therapist, or psychology associate in some states.

Like those other programs, applied psychology degrees cover the bases in assessment and treatment skills for direct intervention in mental health crises. You’ll get the kind of practicum and internship placements that let you develop those skills in hands-on practice with real patients, under the supervision of instructors with mountains of applied psychology experience.

Master’s Degree in Sports Psychology

Sports and performance psychology explores the mental elements of high-caliber athletic skills. Everything from boxing to football to Olympic-caliber curling has enormous psychological elements, many of which are only just becoming well-understood. Sports psychologists both study the aspects of peak performance development that exist in the athlete’s mind, as well as designing training and game planning to take advantage of the latest in sports psych theory.

Performance psychology bleeds over into fields outside the world of sports, too, with clientele from neurosurgeons to actors to politicians hoping to better understand how to develop their performance under pressure. Although direct clinical treatment isn’t possible in this field without a PsyD or PhD, many sports psychologists work as coaches or organizational consultants.

What is The Difference Between an MS and an MA in Psychology?

In all of these programs, you will find degrees that are offered as Master’s of Science and others that are listed as Master’s of Arts. So what is the difference, and does it matter to your goals and aspirations?

Answering the last question first, no, there’s not much practical different between an MA and an MS in the field. You’re not going to miss out on that dream job because you are a few letters off in the alphabet.

But there are some distinctions between the two degrees:

  • Master of Arts in Psychology – Arts degrees reflect the traditional liberal arts approach to higher education. That is, they emphasize a broad exposure to social and cultural factors, development of critical thinking skills, and a generalist approach to the field. Students from all background are likely to thrive in MA programs. Discussion and debate are usually encouraged, with studies seen as a mutual exploration of the issues being taught.
  • Master of Science in Psychology – Degrees in the sciences tradition emphasize hard data and research. Coursework may involve more education in the neurological and physical processes affecting mental function, and look to assessment and treatment tools that are grounded in evidence-based results. Science programs may be better preparation for a future path to a PsyD or PhD in psychology.

In those PhD programs that award master’s degrees along the path to a doctorate, you’ll almost always earn a Master of Science in psychology. The doctoral training in a PsyD or PhD is by nature scientific. But many stand-alone master’s programs offer a Master of Arts (MA) in psychology instead.

Your Master’s Thesis Will Be The Centerpiece of Your Master’s Degree in Psychology Program

No matter what specialization you choose, a master’s thesis forms the capstone that cements the skills and knowledge gained in your studies.

A master’s thesis is a scholarly paper running from 40 to 80 pages in length. It can take you most of the last year of your program to complete. You will probably spend much of your first year thinking about it, laying the groundwork, and working out the project with your thesis advisor. It will end up encapsulating not only what you have been taught, but also original research that you design and collect data to support.

The paper is the expression of your ideas and interests in your specialty area. You’ll defend it in front of a thesis committee, who will challenge you and elevate your work until it is publication-quality.

In some programs, a more action-oriented capstone project is offered as an alternative. Rather than a formal paper, you’re expected to design and execute an active solution to some problem or challenge in your field. It’s every bit as intense, but offers a more hands-on approach that is more solution-oriented than research-centric.

Considering Online Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology Programs

Of course, you can find online programs these days in any specialty area, not just clinical studies. Clinical psychology studies might be some of the most challenging parts of psychology to study online, though, since hands-on experience is a big part of that. But if a school can develop an effective online master’s in clinical psychology, you know that just about any discipline in the field can be taught that way.

That point has been more than proven over the past couple of years as COVID-19 pushed every college to up their game in online studies. It was made possible by the many, many schools that have been successfully delivering online psychology master’s degrees for years, however.

Online studies are ideal for master’s-level students. Most master’s students are already out in the workforce, sometimes mid-way through excellent careers, and often starting families. That makes for obligations and restrictions on your availability, the kind of limits that can easy keep you from completing traditional classes on a fixed schedule.

Careers in Psychology with a Master’s Degree

With the broad range of roles you will find out in the job market for the skillset you get with a master’s in psychology, there’s almost no limit to the kinds of careers you can build. In fact, the Center for Workforce Studies at the American Psychological Association (APA) says that only about half of all psychologists work in traditional psychology occupations.

Do you have a love for high-tech or social media? User experience teams and marketing research groups are hungry for your talents.

How about business? Human resources departments desperately need experts in workplace psychology and team management. You’ve got all those skills in your back pocket right now.

Or maybe you want to make the world a better place through non-profit or human services work. You’ve got what it takes to put together community health interventions, run homeless services programs, managed healthcare teams, or even work with law enforcement on offender diversion programs. And it’s worth noting that school psychologist licenses may only require a master’s-level education.

In some states it’s also possible to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) with a master’s degree in psychology. Some psychology master’s degrees even qualify you to become an Applied Behavioral Analyst (ABA). It might be helpful to review the differences in counselor vs. therapist vs. psychologistbefore you pick these paths.

The Psychological Associate

One straightforward position in clinical psychology that you can practice with a master’s degree is that of the psychological associate. Not all states define this position, but some do offer licenses in the field.

The APA defines a psychological associate as a master’s-prepared psychologist who may require supervision and have a limited scope of practice compared to fully licensed clinical psychologist.

In general, psychological associates aren’t allowed to present themselves as psychologists. They may have to complete a period of supervised practice and to pass the EPPP, or Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, in order to become licensed in states that regulate the job. And they might have to work under fully licensed clinical psychologists in order to provide treatment in some settings.

There’s no separate category for psychological associate salaries, so you can’t separate them from the other BLS practitioner figures. But you can assume they will usually be in the mid to low range of other psychologists, so between the bottom ten percent, at $46,270, and the median of $82,180 is likely.

All of this is to say, there’s not really any limit to what you can do with a master’s degree in psychology and some imagination. This is especially true in the field of human services, where psychology master’s graduates can play a role in almost any human services organization at various levels.

What To Expect For Your Salary After Earning a Master’s Degree in Psychology

Of course, with such a broad range of career possibilities, there also comes a wide array of possible salaries. You’re looking at a very different take-home pay as a legal administrative specialist for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs versus working as a tutor coordinator, as a pair of recent master’s grads from the same program ended up doing.

But many grad students in psychology will prefer to stay employed directly in the field. And their salaries are tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For 2020, the median salary for psychologists in the United States was $82,180.

That number is averaged out for all psychologists, however. That means it includes school psychologists, industrial-organizational psychologists, forensic psychologists, and many others. Some of those jobs can be had with a master’s degree, but others cannot. BLS offers some breakout data for certain roles:

  • Industrial-organizational psychologists – $96,270
  • Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists – $79,820

Clinical psychology salaries don’t really start popping until you earn a doctoral degree. The simple fact is, you won’t be offering clinical services with only a master’s program under your belt. A master’s can serve as a stepping stone to a PhD in psychology, however, which is your ticket to licensure in every state.

A License To Practice Can Be Crucial to Your Career, But Hard to Understand

Psychologist licensure is a process that almost requires its own doctoral degree to understand. Some of the basic concepts are pretty straightforward. Most states require:

  • A high-level degree
  • Passage of the EPPP (Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology)
  • A set number of post-graduate practice hours

But you get into messy details pretty quickly as you look from state to state. Most states require that the high-level degree you earn is a doctorate. But in others, it’s possible to get some kind of limited-practice license with only a master’s. Some have additional exams you need to take on state laws and regulations.

There are rules about how your hours are counted and when you can take the test and whether or not temporary practice authority is allowed. Some states offer licensure by endorsement if you have a license elsewhere, while others do not.

All of this is just to say, be sure to look carefully at the laws and licensing board rules for psychologists in your state before you start making career plans. Your master’s degree can be worth a lot more or less than you think if you make assumptions!

Licensed clinical psychologists fall into the group of psychologists, all other, in the BLS data, and have a median annual salary of $105,780.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master’s Degrees in Psychology

By now, you probably have more questions than ever about earning a master’s degree in psychology. That’s no problem—we’ve got answers for you!

What Are The Admission Criteria For Master’s Degrees in Psychology?

Master’s programs are harder to get into than bachelor’s programs. You’ll need that bachelor’s degree in hand, for starters. Although it usually does not have to be in psychology or even a related field, it will probably help your chances if it is. Typical admissions standards at the master’s level in psychology include:

  • Submission of your official bachelor’s transcripts
  • One or more letters of recommendation from professional or academic sources attesting to your work ethic, abilities, and desire to succeed in a psychology program
  • A personal statement or essay giving your own reasons for applying and why you think you will be successful in the field
  • Your CV or professional resume, preferably with some psychology-related job or volunteer work on it
  • Standardized test scores such as those from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), which has a subject matter test in psychology

Every master’s program sets its own specific criteria for test scores and grade point averages, and usually judges your application as a whole… a weak GRE result might be overlooked if you had a sterling undergrad GPA for all four years.

If your paperwork all passes muster, you can still expect to have to sit for an interview with an admission’s committee and be suitably impressive in person (or via remote conferencing) before final acceptance.

How Long is a Master’s Degree in Psychology?

Master’s programs in psychology usually last two or three years, depending on whether or not you pursue them full-time or part-time. Many online psychology master’s degrees offer flexible scheduling and attendance that let you stretch out your studies so you have more time for your other obligations from day-to-day. But that also means it takes more time overall to meet your learning goals.

What Can I Do with a Master’s Degree in General Psychology?

There are a surprising number of applications for general psychology in the workforce today. Sure, you can take that degree and stack it up toward a PsyD or PhD program in the conventional track to becoming a licensed psychologist. But you can also take your new and fundamental knowledge of how people think and put it to use in almost any industry.

Marketers always want to know more about the psychology of customers. You can find yourself helping to design ad campaigns for big-name brands. In high-tech, user experience designers need to understand how people react to app layouts, website features, even certain colors and shapes. You can unlock those mysteries with the power of general psychological knowledge.

Or you can use these degrees to qualify for licensure in therapy or counseling, both of which accept master’s degrees as the terminal level in the profession. You may have to jump through more hoops to get licensed than with a counseling or therapy degree, depending on the state. On the other hand, you will bring a unique level of preparation in scientific approaches to psychological treatment to the game that can set you apart.

Can a Master’s Degree in Psychology Allow Me To Practice Clinical Psychology?

Not by itself. A PhD in psychology is the minimum requirement for practicing clinical psychology. The direct treatment of patients using psychotherapy and other psychological techniques is restricted to licensed psychologists, and every state requires a doctorate for clinical licensure.

But earning a master’s can be used to shorten your path to that PhD. Most psychology PhD programs last about seven years, but they include the coursework required to earn a master’s along the way. In fact, some issue you both a PhD and a master’s degree.

You can shave as much as two years off of some of those programs by earning your master’s in psychology separately. You need to check with the specific schools you plan to attend to see if this is possible, since not all offer the option. But if you don’t have seven years in a row available for school, it’s possible to use a master’s program to break up your path to clinical psychology into more manageable pieces.

What Are Dual Master’s and PsyD Programs in Psychology?

Many, if not most, PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) programs grant you a master’s degree as a part of your doctoral studies. It only makes sense—since you are studying master’s-level subjects along the way, you are doing the same work as you would in a stand-alone master’s program

When people refer to dual programs, though, they usually mean those that offer you some extra specialization in the field as part of your training.

In other words, the master’s part of a dual-degree program offers a unique course of training that the PsyD program by itself wouldn’t deliver. For example, you can find dual programs where you will earn a master’s in sports psychology together with a PsyD in clinical psychology. The PsyD program by itself wouldn’t necessarily give you the same training in the sports psych niche, even though it would have master’s-level coursework. By combining the two, you set yourself up with the expertise in sports and performance psychology plus qualifications to become a clinical psychologist. That’s a formidable combination you can’t get in other ways.

Other dual programs cover non-psych fields, like public health or nursing.

Should I Consider Dual Master’s and PhD Programs in Clinical Psychology?

Dual master’s/PhD programs are essentially the same as dual master’s/PsyD programs. The PhD, or doctor of philosophy degree, is more or less interchangeable with the PsyD in practical terms. A PhD is thought of as being more research and academically-oriented, whereas a PsyD is a more recent degree designed to be better preparation for direct clinical practice. But most licensed clinical psychologists still have PhDs today.

So your choices for dual PhD/master’s programs are similar to those for PsyD/master’s, and can be used for the same purpose: to develop additional expertise in a particular field that the master’s offers and that you would not otherwise get in your PhD studies.

It’s a heavy helping of dual expertise, but it comes with a high cost in time and study commitments, so you’ll have to think carefully about your lifestyle and goals to decide if this is the right choice for you.

What is The Cost of Master’s Degree in Psychology?

Here we go! Yes, there is no question, college is expensive in the United States today. And a master’s program, although it’s only two years, averages nearly $39,000 in tuition, fees, and related expenses according to 2019 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Averages don’t mean a lot to your bank account, however. Every school has its own rate and fee structure. Public institutions tend to be more affordable than average, charging $12,171 per year for graduate students. Private schools double that cost, coming in at $25,929 annually. Yet you might prefer a private school based on reputation and quality of education, since that pedigree can more than pay for itself once you hit the job market.

A study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce on return on investment in education found that private schools tend to dominate the total returns at 20, 30, and 40 years after graduation. So if you’re patient, high tuition rates should be no obstacle.

What is The Best Way to Pay For a Master’s Degree in Psychology?

Of course, a fat bank account 40 years down the road doesn’t help you keep tuition checks from bouncing today. You have to find some way get your education funded first.

Your best bet is using money you don’t have to pay back. If you don’t have some rich uncle cutting checks for you, then chances are you qualify for tuition grants from the Federal government, such as those from the Pell Grant program, or for any number of scholarships directly from schools or through other organizations.

Federal tuition assistance primarily relies on your financial status and that of your family. Scholarships can have many different criteria, everything from the subject you plan to study to your ethnic background to where you live. College financial aid offices can help you filter down the ones you will qualify for.

Can I Have My Student Loans Forgiven After Earning a Master’s Degree in Psychology?

The bad news about loans is that someday you are going to have to pay them back. Although they often come with very favorable repayment plans and interest rates, it is still an unwelcome deduction to your paycheck every month. That can keep your take-home pay from reaching its potential for a lot of years.

Unless, that is, you qualify for a loan forgiveness program through a state or federal government agency.

Two of these that psychology master’s grads might qualify for are the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the National Health Service Corps Substance Use Disorder or Rural Community programs. If you are working for a qualify government or non-profit agency, or in a suitable field or location, you could have all your remaining federal student loan debt written off completely!

What Kind of Accreditation Should a Master’s Program in Psychology Have?

Psychology master’s programs fall into a kind of hole in the accreditation universe. The APA, or American Psychological Association, is the recognized specialty accreditor for psychology programs in the United States. But they only accredit doctoral-level programs.

The minimum you can look for at the master’s level, then, is a standard regional or national accreditation for the school overall, by an accreditor recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. These are so common you probably don’t even have to worry about it assuming you’re not going to class in a suburban strip mall somewhere or beneath an underpass out of the back of some guy’s van.

There is a relatively new specialty accrediting agency called MPCAC (Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council) that was founded in 2011 to try to fill that gap. They offer accreditation to both counseling and psychology programs at the master’s level. They are not yet widely recognized but many be worth keeping an eye on.

What Are Behavioral Psychology Master’s Programs?

Every master’s level program in psychology is going to cover behaviorism to some extent. As one of the major theories underlying both analysis and treatment of mental health issues today, not to mention a key part of the evolution of psychological thought, behaviorist training is common. As the only proven treatment for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), it’s a type of practice that is in high demand today.

But a master’s in psychology with a concentration in behavioral analysis takes that training much further. You’ll learn how to use behavioral concepts to develop evidence-backed assessment and intervention skills to deal with all types of psychological disorders.

Some of these behavioral psychology masters programs include Association for Behavioral Analysis International (ABAI) Verified Course Sequences, a key part of establishing eligibility to take the Behavioral Analysis Certification Board’s BCBA examination. Since that exam is a component of becoming licensed as an applied behavior analyst in most states, those are important qualifications. It’s one more career direction that a master’s program in psychology can support.


May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job growth figures for Psychologists represents national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.

Tuition data provided by College Scorecard and the National Center for Education Statistics, services of the U.S. Department of Education, using data collected for the 2019 school year. NCES loan and scholarship data comes from an April 2017 report published by the Department of Education.

Data Accessed July 2021.