Best Online Master’s in Psychology Programs of 2022

Many careers in the psychology field require an advanced degree. These online master's programs can help you further your career while gaining work experience.

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by Stefanie Grodman

Published on April 14, 2022 · Updated on April 26, 2022

Reviewed by Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D.

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Pursuing an online master's in psychology qualifies graduates for various roles unavailable to professionals with only an undergraduate degree. Most psychology master's programs take 2-3 years to complete and allow graduates to pursue public, private, and nonprofit positions.

Prospective students considering this path should review the information provided throughout this guide to make an informed decision. Covered topics include degree types, admission requirements, typical courses, and available jobs after graduation.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Psychology Program?

An online master's in psychology degree offers a great path for people who want to use their skills and interests to help others. Graduates can work with students as a school counselor or provide support as an addiction counselor. They can also contribute to scholarly research as a research assistant.

Most programs comprise 36-60 credits and cover general and specialized topics. Concentrations vary by program, but common options include counseling psychology, clinical psychology, school psychology, and industrial-organizational psychology. Sports and performance psychology is another option.

In addition to classes, many programs include lab components to study scientific aspects of the discipline. Some programs require internships, but students can also participate in voluntary internships if they so choose.

When looking at programs, students should take note of whether a master of arts (MA) or master of science (MS) degree better suits their career goals. An MA is a great fit for learners interested in providing direct services to clients such as counseling services. An MS prepares learners for a future in education and research.

Types of Psychology Degrees

Online psychology master's degrees cover many specializations, helping students hone their knowledge and develop specific skills. For example, students aspiring to provide direct mental health services may pursue clinical psychology specializations. Learners interested in business or organizational behavior may enroll in organizational psychology programs.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology specializations familiarize learners with the biological, behavioral, and emotional aspects of humanity and mental health care. This specialization emphasizes how cultural and diversity factors such as race, ethnicity, gender identity, socioeconomic status, and sexual identity affect each aspect of mental health.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology sits at the crossroads of criminal justice, law, and mental health. This specialization provides the skills needed to understand psychological factors influencing behavior from both perpetrators and survivors. Many graduates can also serve as expert witnesses in court cases and as researchers.

Behavioral Health Psychology

Behavioral health psychology specializations focus on diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. Learners study psychopathology, various behavioral challenges, how people respond to these challenges, and how to provide effective counseling services.

Counseling Psychology

Designed for learners who see themselves working in individual and group counseling settings, this specialization looks at various counseling approaches. Students may work with specific populations, such as those seeking marriage, family, or grief counseling.

School Psychology

School psychology emphasizes creating safe, encouraging spaces where all students can optimally learn. Degree-seekers explore the academic, behavioral, emotional, and social aspects of development to help create effective school policies and learning environments.

Educational Psychology

Unlike school psychology, educational psychology specializations focus on how students process information in a learning environment and inform instructional methods. Courses focus on factors like the processing and absorption of information, memory, and learning styles and disorders. Students also learn about human development across the lifespan.

Organizational Psychology

Also known as occupational psychology, organizational psychology focuses on assessing and improving performance in professional settings. Organizational psychologists conduct interviews and observe business and management operations. They also look for ways to streamline effectiveness and efficiency without compromising employment satisfaction.

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Popular Online Master's in Psychology Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Psychology Program?

Research Methods

In this course, students learn fundamental research design and data analysis methods, including variable selection, sampling, and ethics. They may explore case studies and conduct supervised studies to illustrate key topics.

Counseling Psychology

Learners explore counseling theories, outcomes, ethics, and industry standards. Students reflect on various therapeutic techniques for group and individual counseling and explore how professionals use these techniques in specialized mental healthcare areas, such as addiction treatment.

Foundations of Psychopathology

This course outlines the characteristics and diagnostic criteria of disordered behaviors. Students learn about specialized treatment protocols for patients with pathological behaviors.

Theories of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Students learn about cognitive-behavioral theories and applications. Coursework covers how clinicians use this therapy to treat various psychiatric disorders.

Child Development

In this course, learners study social, emotional, moral, and cognitive development. They may explore how environmental factors, such as trauma, relationships, or attachment, impact emotional outcomes in adulthood.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Financial Aid Guide for Graduate Students Scholarships for Psychology Majors The Student's Guide to Financial Aid and the FAFSA

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Psychology Program?

Admission requirements for online master's programs usually do not differ from those of on-campus programs. Some schools require prospective students to supplement their applications with interviews or personal statements. In some cases, online programs cater to part-time working students. As a result, admissions personnel may emphasize applicants' professional experiences more. 

Master's in psychology programs may not require a specific undergraduate major or academic background. However, applicants should have completed multiple psychology courses.

Application

Master's programs require prospective students to fill out applications. This document provides admissions personnel with basic information about applicants' undergraduate backgrounds, work or internship experiences, and extracurricular activities. Most schools accept applications through online platforms like Common App.

Test Scores

An increasing number of graduate programs are becoming test-optional. However, strong standardized test scores can help applicants demonstrate their academic abilities. Often, students can leverage GRE scores above 300 or GMAT scores above 565 to their advantage. However, students should research institution-specific averages to evaluate how they may compare to other applicants.

Letters of Recommendation

Most schools require multiple letters of recommendation. These letters can provide personal accounts of an applicant's character and professional and academic performance. Students should ask for letters of recommendation from professors, supervisors, employers, or other individuals who can attest to their abilities.

Resume and Work Experience

Often, admissions personnel use resumes to assess applicants' passions and career trajectories through their previous work, internship, and community service experiences. Also, while schools rarely require work experience, applicants should detail any experiences in mental healthcare, public health, and social service.

Essays

Most online master's in psychology programs require applicants to submit at least one essay. Writing prompts usually ask applicants how earning a master's degree in psychology will help them advance in their careers. However, prompts vary by institution. Essays often allow applicants to showcase their insights and ambitions.

Official Transcripts

Nearly all master's programs require transcripts from postsecondary institutions that applicants have attended. GPA is often the primary metric that programs use to assess applicants' academic capabilities. Admissions personnel may also take applicants' major, minor, and course history into account. Students may also be able to transfer previously earned credits.

What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Psychology Degree?

Career Outlook

Many psychology careers require professionals to hold at least a master's degree. Depending on their academic concentrations, career interests, and internship experiences, graduates with a master's in psychology can pursue various in-demand careers.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections, the number of social service manager jobs will grow by 15% between 2020 and 2030. During the same period, the BLS projects marriage and family therapist jobs to grow by 16% and addiction counselors to grow by 23%. All of these projections surpass the average national growth rate of 8%.

Although graduates can pursue diverse roles, many positions offer above-average salaries. The BLS reports that in 2020, marriage and family therapists earned a median salary of $51,340 per year. Social service managers earned a median salary of $69,600, and school counselors made a median income of $58,120 annually.

See where a master's in psychology degree can take you.

Learn more about psychology careers

Career Paths

School Counselor

These counselors help elementary, middle, and high school students navigate academic and emotional demands. School counselors may place students in appropriate classes, provide mental health resources, and assure that students receive proper educational and disability services. High school counselors typically guide students through college and career planning processes. These professionals must supplement their master's degrees with state-issued certifications to work in public schools.

Median Annual Salary: $58,120

Marriage and Family Therapist

These individuals help couples and families identify and resolve conflicts, such as those associated with anger management, parenting, addiction, communication, grief, and infidelity. They may mediate dialogue, introduce coping strategies, and help couples communicate more effectively. Individuals must typically hold a state-issued license to practice.

Median Annual Salary: $51,340

Addiction Counselor

These counselors guide people through their recovery from substance misuse and behavioral addictions. They may encourage patients to examine the root causes of their behaviors and triggers for relapse. They may also lead individual and group therapy sessions and provide support throughout the recovery process.

Median Annual Salary: $47,660

Human Resources Manager

Human resources professionals typically lead human resources teams. They manage the relationship between executive management and employees. Daily tasks typically include recruiting and hiring employees and organizing employee benefits. They also enforce human-centered workplace policies, such as sexual harassment protocols and workers' compensation.

Median Annual Salary: $121,220

Social Service Manager

These professionals organize and lead various social service and advocacy programs. They may meet with community representatives to assess stakeholders' needs, manage volunteer activity, and gather funding. Projects may address specific concerns, such as substance misuse or healthcare access, or assist key populations, such as elderly individuals or veterans.

Median Annual Salary: $69,600

Psychology Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Counseling Careers Child and Adolescent Psychology Careers Addiction and Recovery Careers

Continuing Education

Many master's in psychology graduates choose to continue their education or pursue additional qualifications.

Individuals must hold a state-issued license or credential to practice in many clinical professions. For example, school counselors must also earn a state-issued credential in education, which usually requires internship or practicum experience. Marriage and family therapists must supplement their degree with a 2,000- to 4,000-hour internship or supervised clinical experience to earn licensure.

Many graduates pursue advanced degrees like a doctorate in psychology, a doctorate in family counseling, or a doctorate in school counseling.

How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Psychology Program?

Cost

Students should consider whether the cost of an online master's in psychology program is a realistic investment. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public schools charged an average graduate tuition of $12,410 for the 2019-20 academic year. Private schools charged $26,597 on average for the same year.

Many state schools charge more affordable tuition for in-state learners, and many online schools charge on a per-credit basis. Students can also reduce costs through grants, scholarships, and financial aid packages.

Program Format

Often, students pursuing online master's programs can choose either synchronous or asynchronous formats. Synchronous programs require learners to attend live lectures and follow set deadlines. They often resemble in-person courses structurally. Asynchronous programs are often self-paced. Students rely on resources like recorded lectures and forums to interact with course materials.

Location

Many remote learners enjoy the opportunity to pursue programs without location limitations. However, some online students prefer attending online colleges within commuting distance. These individuals may take advantage of in-state tuition costs or embrace the opportunity to meet with faculty, attend hybrid courses, and participate in on-campus events.

Accreditation

Students should make sure to enroll in accredited programs. Online master's in psychology programs earn accreditation from organizations like the Master's in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council by adhering to academic excellence and instruction quality standards. Accredited programs also demonstrate exceptional faculty, courses, and student resources.

Student Support

The best master's programs offer student support services to help engage remote learners and promote better learning outcomes. Many programs offer remote academic support services, such as online databases or tutoring services. Programs should also help students navigate their career trajectories through mentorship programs, internship opportunities, career counseling, and alumni-specific job boards.

Best Accredited Online Master's in Psychology Programs

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#1 Online College in California

Pepperdine University

School Information
Location Malibu, California
Admission Rate 32%
Graduation Rate 86%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,700
Out of State | $1,700

Credits to Graduate
36-48

Program Information
Regional Accreditation | WASC Senior College and University Commission

Pepperdine's MA in psychology program uses a clinical framework to explore psychological theory and practice. Students learn how to diagnose, prevent, and treat mental and emotional disorders. The program introduces psychotherapy techniques.

Students graduate in 18-24 months. Learners can enroll part-time or full-time. Students with transfer credits may graduate more quickly. Applicants to this master's in psychology program need a bachelor's degree. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.

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#2 Online College in California

Northcentral University

School Information
Location La Jolla, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $856
Out of State | $856

Credits to Graduate
30 

Program Information
Regional Accreditation | WASC Senior College and University Commission

Founded in 1996, NCU delivers all programs online. The MA in psychology program offers a specialization in gender and sexual fluidity. Students complete core courses in areas such as research design and human development and functioning. 

The specialization examines the factors that influence gender diversity. Students learn how to apply core psychological principles in the specialization. Most students earn the master's in psychology in 18 months. The MA does not prepare enrollees for state licensure. Admission requires a bachelor's degree. NCU does not require GRE scores.

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#3 Online College in Virginia

Divine Mercy University

School Information
Location Sterling, Virginia
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $796
Out of State | $796

Credits to Graduate
33 

Program Information
Regional Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

A Christian school located in Virginia, DMU offers a fully online MS in psychology program. Students explore psychological theory, research, and intervention best practices. The program offers several concentrations, including leadership and marriage and family studies. Learners can customize the program with a self-designed concentration.

The asynchronous master's in psychology program requires one synchronous virtual residency. Students can complete the MS in 16-26 months. Eight-week terms accelerate degree completion. Admission requires a minimum 2.5 GPA, and some applicants must submit GRE scores.

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#4 Online College in California

Palo Alto University

School Information
Location Palo Alto, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $872
Out of State | $872

Credits to Graduate
37.5-47 units

Program Information
Regional Accreditation | WASC Senior College and University Commission

PAU delivers an MS in psychology for working professionals pursuing a career change or career advancement. Students take synchronous evening classes. The program offers tracks in general psychology, forensic psychology, and Ph.D. prep. 

Core courses cover topics including child and adolescent development, psychopathology and psychodiagnosis, and research methods and statistics. The Ph.D. prep track requires a one-week, in-person intensive. 

The online master's in psychology does not qualify graduates to obtain licensure. Applicants need a bachelor's, a minimum 3.3 GPA, and prerequisite psychology coursework. PAU does not require GRE scores. 

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#5 Online College in Virginia

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $565, full-time; $615, part-time
Out of State | $565, full-time; $615, part-time

Credits to Graduate
36 

Program Information
Regional Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

One of the nation's top Christian colleges, Liberty offers an MA in applied psychology online. Degree-seekers learn how to apply psychological theories in various settings. The online master's in psychology program features core courses in cognitive and social psychology. Participants learn how to use research methods and statistics in psychology.

Students choose from specializations in developmental psychology and industrial-organizational psychology. Most enrollees complete the degree in 1.5 years. Students can transfer up to 50% of required credits from an accredited school. Applicants need a bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA.

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#6 Online College in California

Golden Gate University-San Francisco

School Information
Location San Francisco, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 67% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,090
Out of State | $1,090

Credits to Graduate
60 

Program Information
Regional Accreditation | WASC Senior College and University Commission

Located in San Francisco, GGU offers an MA in counseling psychology. Students gain experience in clinical settings. Participants explore topics such as psychopathology, human sexuality, psychological assessment, and evidence-based practice treatment. Enrollees concurrently complete 300 face-to-face clinical hours and a practicum seminar.

The degree qualifies holders to earn licensure as a marriage and family therapist or a licensed professional clinical counselor. Admission to the master's in psychology program requires a bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA.

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#7 Online College in New Hampshire

Southern New Hampshire University

School Information
Location Manchester, New Hampshire
Admission Rate 88%
Graduation Rate 44%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $627
Out of State | $627

Credits to Graduate
36 

Program Information
Regional Accreditation | New England Commission of Higher Education

SNHU offers an MS in psychology with three concentrations. Core coursework gives learners a strong foundation in cognitive psychology, social psychology, and research methods. Learners customize the degree with a concentration in forensic psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, or child and adolescent development psychology.

The degree does not qualify graduates to obtain state licensure. Students can transfer up to 12 credits into the online master's in psychology program. All students pay the same affordable tuition. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and prerequisite psychology coursework. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.

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#8 Online College in Indiana

Indiana Wesleyan University-National & Global

School Information
Location Marion, Indiana
Graduation Rate 38%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $490
Out of State | $490

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Regional Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

Most students earn IWU's MA in psychology in approximately one year. Students take general psychology courses in areas such as lifespan development, theories of personality development, and research methods in psychology. The curriculum shows students how to apply biblical and ethical principles in their career.

Enrollees specialize in life coaching and positive psychology or industrial-organizational psychology. The master's in psychology program culminates with a capstone project. Applicants need a bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA.

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#9 Online College in Indiana

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

School Information
Location West Lafayette, Indiana
Graduation Rate 27%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $420
Out of State | $420

Credits to Graduate
60-75 

Program Information
Program Accreditation | National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission

Purdue Global's MS in psychology offers five concentrations. Students explore theories and research in general psychology. The program emphasizes the practical application of psychology concepts. The applied behavior analysis and addictions concentrations meet the educational requirements for certification. Some concentrations require a practicum that online students can complete in their community.

The program culminates with a thesis or exam. Full-time students complete the online master's in psychology in 1.5-2.5 years. Admission requires a bachelor's degree. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.

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#10 Online College in Florida

Nova Southeastern University

School Information
Location Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Admission Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 58%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $840
Out of State | $840

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Regional Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

The MS in general psychology is a nonclinical program. Students complete the MS online with no campus requirements. The 30-credit degree does not require a background in psychology. The curriculum examines concepts such as behavioral neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and social psychology. 

Students can choose a general psychology track and complete a thesis in lieu of two courses. NSU designed the applied health science track for healthcare professionals. The degree provides the prerequisites for doctoral study. Admission to this master's in psychology requires a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of the bachelor's. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Psychology Programs

Is a master's in psychology worth it? true

In many cases, professionals must hold a master's degree to access more mental healthcare and social service jobs or assume leadership positions in these fields. Many people who want to help others use this degree to pursue fulfilling careers and find it worth the investment.

From a financial standpoint, mental healthcare and social service roles that do not require a graduate degree tend to pay less. Social and human service assistants, for example, only earned a median salary of $35,960 per year in 2020. A master's degree often enables graduates to qualify for more well-paying careers.

What can I do with a master's in psychology? true

Many students pursue psychology careers because they wish to apply their interest in human thinking and behavior to help others. Graduates with a master's in psychology can work in clinical roles like school counselor, marriage and family therapist, or mental health counselor. They can also become addiction counselors.

Other graduates may apply their psychology background to leadership roles as human resources managers or social and community service managers. At some institutions, people with a master's in psychology can teach in their field as postsecondary educators.

Are psychology graduates in demand? true

Many psychology careers are in high demand. BLS data projects that between 2020 and 2030, the number of jobs for school counselors will grow by 11%. The BLS also projects social service manager roles will grow by 15%, exceeding the average 8% growth rate for all U.S. careers.

During the same period, the BLS projects marriage and family therapist roles to grow by 16% and addiction counselors to grow by 23%. The latter projection accounts for 75,100 additional counselors within the decade.

How much money can I make with a master's in psychology?

A master's in psychology qualifies professionals to work in positions that offer above-average pay. For example, in 2020, addiction counselors earned a median annual salary of $47,660, while those employed by government organizations earned $54,070.

In the same year, school counselors earned a median of $58,120, while those employed by

elementary and secondary schools earned $64,960. Marriage and family therapists earned a median annual salary of $51,340, while those employed by state government organizations earned $78,450. In addition, social service managers earned a median of $69,600 per year.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in psychology?

Some psychology careers pay very well, particularly within certain niches and settings. For example, social service managers who work for religious or grantmaking organizations earned a median of $72,860 in 2020. These managers who worked for local government agencies earned $87,720.

Postsecondary teachers earned median salaries of $80,560 in 2020, although educators who teach psychology earned $78,180. Human resources managers earned median incomes of $121,220 in the same year. Professionals who worked for scientific and technical service organizations earned $138,030.

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Find out how to become a psychiatric social worker. Learn more about educational requirements and salary expectations. Organizational psychology has become increasingly important in the workplace. Learn about the career options available to students majoring in this field. Is a psychology degree worth it? Explore potential career opportunities for psychology degrees and the benefits of continuing your education in the field.

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