Best Master’s in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

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People turn to mental health professionals during their darkest times and to manage mental health conditions. Psychologists and counselors possess the power to create healthier, safer societies. If you have a passion for helping others and exploring how the human mind influences wellbeing, it may be worth considering pursuing a career in this field.

Fortunately, now may be an opportune time to enroll in a master's in clinical, counseling, and applied psychology program. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 13,400 new openings for psychologists each year until 2030. According to the organization, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $81,040 in May 2021.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), graduate students spent an average of $19,790 on tuition and fees during the 2019-2020 academic year. Learners can use student loans, federal grants, and scholarships to reduce the cost of their education. Full-time students can complete this graduate school program in about two years.

A master's in clinical, counseling, and applied psychology can prepare learners to pursue a doctorate and then licensure as a psychologist. The curriculum usually covers topics on the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. Throughout their studies, learners discover best practices for observing patients, identifying patterns, and conducting field research.

Keep reading to learn about the best on-campus and online master's in clinical, counseling, and applied psychology.

Our Top Pick

Harvard University - Cambridge, Massachusetts

Why It's #1: Multiple factors contributed to our decision to rank Harvard's clinical psychology program as the top one. The renowned university boasts a high graduation rate of 97%. The private Ivy League school also features a low student-to-faculty ratio of 7-to-1. To keep the degree completion rate high and the class sizes low, Harvard only has a 7% acceptance rate. Currently, 73% of students at Harvard receive financial aid.

Read Our Rankings Methodology

Best Accredited Master's in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1 Best Master’s in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

Harvard University

  • Cambridge, MA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year
In-State | $50,928
Out of State | $50,928

Credits to Graduate
N/A

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System, American Psychological Association

Harvard offers a graduate degree in clinical psychology. The program takes learners about five years to complete and prepares learners for licensure in Massachusetts. The curriculum covers topics like professional ethics and diagnostic interviewing. Learners also discover the social, cognitive, and biological bases of behavior. 

To apply to this Harvard program, applicants must submit an online application form and a $105 fee. The online application form requires aspiring learners to upload their official transcripts. They must also submit three recommendation letters and a statement of purpose. GRE scores are optional starting in fall 2023.

Average Tuition
In-state
$47,730
Out-of-state
$47,730
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
5%
Students Enrolled
31,655
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
#2 Best Master’s in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

Northwestern University

  • Evanston, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Quarter
In-State | $20,020
Out of State | $20,020

Credits to Graduate
17

Program Information
Program Accreditation | American Psychological Association

Northwestern designs its master of arts in clinical psychology program for learners who aren't quite ready to apply to a doctoral program. According to Northwestern, completing the program may increase an applicant's competitiveness for a doctoral program. This program takes five semesters to complete with a curriculum that covers a range of psychology topics. Students learn how child and adult psychology practices vary. Other noteworthy topics include neuropsychology, forensic psychology, and policy.

To gain admittance, applicants must possess an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.2. The application requires an essay that explains why the applicant wants to pursue this degree. Applicants must also submit three recommendation letters. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$56,232
Out-of-state
$56,232
Retention Rate
98%
Admission Rate
9%
Students Enrolled
22,448
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
2% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#3 Best Master’s in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

University of Southern California

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes and Scheduled Classes)

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $2,137
Out of State | $2,137

Credits to Graduate
34

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Students can earn an online master of science in applied psychology from USC. The curriculum blends principles of organizational psychology and consumer psychology. USC designs this unique program for people who want a career that combines psychology and business interests. Graduates can become project managers, diversity and inclusion directors, and research analysts. 

All applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. USC requires an online application form and transcripts. Applicants must also turn in a statement of purpose, resume, and three recommendation letters.

Average Tuition
In-state
$57,256
Out-of-state
$57,256
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
11%
Students Enrolled
48,321
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#4 Best Master’s in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

New York University

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus or Hybrid | Scheduled Classes or Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $2,074
Out of State | $2,074

Credits to Graduate
36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | American Psychological Association

Students who complete NYU's master of arts in clinical psychology program learn about various areas of the field. The core curriculum covers topics like the physiological basis of behavior and theories of personality. To personalize their studies, learners get to choose from a list of electives. A few noteworthy ones include health psychology, the biological basis of abnormal behavior, and the psychology of violence. 

To gain admittance to this NYU program, aspiring learners must complete the application form. This application form requires academic transcripts and test scores. Applicants must also turn in letters of recommendation, a resume, a statement of purpose, and an application fee.

Average Tuition
In-state
$50,684
Out-of-state
$50,684
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
52,885
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#5 Best Master’s in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

Northeastern University

  • Boston, MA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $1,752
Out of State | $1,752

Credits to Graduate
60-63

Program Information
Program Accreditation | National Association of School Psychologists, American Psychological Association

Learners can earn a master of science in counseling psychology from Northeastern in 2-3 years.. The program covers topics like health psychology and how gender, culture, and politics influence the field. The curriculum places extra emphasis on child psychology. And students discover the importance of early intervention. 

The program's application requires recommendation letters, transcripts, and exam scores. Aspiring students submit all of these materials electronically.

Average Tuition
In-state
$52,420
Out-of-state
$52,420
Retention Rate
99%
Admission Rate
18%
Students Enrolled
22,207
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

#6 Best Master’s in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

Boston University

  • Boston, MA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year
In-State | $61,050
Out of State | $61,050

Credits to Graduate
32

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

BU's master of arts in psychology program covers topics like developmental science and research design. The school designs this program for people with no background in psychology. The program requires learners to write an empirical research report that a faculty member supervises.

To gain admittance to BU, learners must complete an undergraduate program. This undergraduate program must cover humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. If BU rejects a prospective applicant twice, they must get permission from the director of graduate studies to apply again.

Average Tuition
In-state
$54,720
Out-of-state
$54,720
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
19%
Students Enrolled
33,720
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
#7 Best Master’s in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Campus

On Campus or Hybrid | Self-Paced Classes and Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Semester
In-State | $5,545
Out of State | $5,545

Credits to Graduate
36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Baruch College offers learners the opportunity to earn a master of science in industrial and organizational psychology. This program focuses on human behavior in the workplace. Students learn how to apply psychological theories to the business world. Learners discover how to use statistical analysis for business decisions. Students have the option to choose from six electives in topics ranging from managerial development to motivation. 

This program application requires prospective students to submit official transcripts, a personal essay, and a resume. Currently, the school waives the GRE requirement.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,930
Out-of-state
$14,880
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
43%
Students Enrolled
18,679
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
7% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#8 Best Master’s in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

Lehigh University

  • Bethlehem, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Hybrid | Self-Paced Classes and Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $590
Out of State | $590

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | American Psychological Association, Master's in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council

Lehigh offers a counseling psychology program for graduate students. This program places an emphasis on multiculturalism and social justice in the psychology field. The curriculum highlights scientifically-based preventative therapeutic approaches. Lehigh designs the program specifically for aspiring international school and agency counselors. The program's hybrid model leads to both a certificate and a master's degree. 

This school requires prospective students to possess a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 2.75 to gain admittance. Alternatively, they should have a 3.0 GPA in their last two semesters of study.

Average Tuition
In-state
$54,790
Out-of-state
$54,790
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
32%
Students Enrolled
6,953
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#9 Best Master’s in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

University of Rochester

  • Rochester, NY
  • 4 years
  • Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $1,890
Out of State | $1,890

Credits to Graduate
90

Program Information
Program Accreditation | American Psychological Association

Rochester's clinical psychology program takes four years to complete. The courses prepare learners to work in ​​academics, research, or professional practice. The curriculum focuses on developmental and social psychology and neuroscience. Learners explore the cognitive bases of behavior.

Prospective students must pay a $40 application fee and submit a resume, three recommendation letters, and a personal statement. The school now waives the GRE requirement. Aspiring students have the option to turn in a writing sample.

Average Tuition
In-state
$55,040
Out-of-state
$55,040
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
30%
Students Enrolled
12,233
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
7% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#10 Best Master’s in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • Madison, WI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year
In-State | $12,220
Out of State | $25,548

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UW offers a master of science in counseling. Throughout their studies, students in the program learn how to conduct individual and group counseling sessions and consultations. The coursework highlights ethics, multiculturalism, and social justice through a psychology lens. Program participants also complete a supervised practicum. 

The school temporarily suspends the GRE requirement. Applicants must turn in three recommendation letters. UW only admits applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above in their last 60 credits.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,273
Out-of-state
$36,333
Retention Rate
95%
Admission Rate
54%
Students Enrolled
44,257
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Popular Online Master's in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

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

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Master's in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 615 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Must offer a master's degree program in the given subject.
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (60%) and affordability (40%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

BestColleges' Ranking Factors

Frequently Asked Questions About Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology Programs

Is a master's in clinical, counseling, and applied psychology worth it?

Each professional has different standards for job satisfaction. For some clinical psychologists, salary is the most important factor. According to the BLS, clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earned a mean annual wage of $87,450 in May 2021.

For other psychologists, enjoying their day-to-day tasks makes this career feel worth it. These professionals get the chance to make a positive, lasting impact on the lives of others. They possess the knowledge to diagnose disorders and design treatment plans.

Additionally, the job outlook may make this degree worth earning. The BLS projects the need for psychologists to increase by 8% between 2020 and 2030.

What can I do with a master's in clinical, counseling, and applied psychology?

A master's in clinical, counseling, and applied psychology may open many doors for graduates. After completing their studies and clinical experience, most graduates pursue jobs as psychologists. They work in various settings like schools, hospitals, and clinics.

The BLS notes that 27% of psychologists are self-employed. Private-practice psychologists may hire other professionals to assist them in client and administrative work. These people who work in private practice set their own hours. Other psychologists may work nights and weekends to accommodate client schedules.

What continuing education is available for clinical, counseling, and applied psychology graduates?

Most states require clinical psychologists to hold a doctorate in psychology. Aspiring psychologists must pursue their doctorate at an accredited school. However, a psychologist's education is not over after they earn this terminal degree. Most states require these professionals to complete continuing education for licensure renewal. Professional organizations typically offer these continuing education opportunities.

The American Psychological Association offers continuing education. Professionals can choose from topics like addiction, aging, gender and sexuality, and health disparities. Many continuing education courses take place online. However, some employers may coordinate in-person continuing education opportunities.

How much money can I make with a master's in clinical, counseling, and applied psychology?

The earning potential for clinical psychologists varies depending on your location, years of experience, and employer type. However, data accessed in July 2022 from Payscale shows people with a master's in clinical psychology earn an average of $58,000.

Most states require professionals to possess a doctorate to practice independently as a psychologist. However, psychologists who work in school settings may only need a master's degree. According to the BLS, psychologists who work in schools earned a mean annual wage of $74,930 in May 2021.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in clinical, counseling, and applied psychology?

With just a master's in clinical counseling and applied psychology, professionals can pursue many different jobs. Some schools hire clinical psychologists with just a master's degree, for example. According to Payscale data from July 2022, school psychologists earn an average of $64,440.

Most states require a doctorate for licensure, so the highest-paying jobs in this field require a doctorate. According to the BLS, industrial-organizational psychologists earn the most, with a median income of $105,310 as of May 2021. These professionals use psychological principles to improve the quality of life for employees in work settings. Clinical psychologists that work for the federal or local government rank as the second-highest earners. These professionals earned a median income of $103,850 during the same period.

Feature Image: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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