What Are the Different Types of Psychology Master’s Degrees?

Considering an advanced degree in psychology? Learn more about psychology concentrations and career paths to find an option that aligns with your goals.
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Updated on April 22, 2024
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  • Psychology has many subcategories, but virtually all types use research to improve people's lives.
  • A master's degree in psychology is often the first step in narrowing your psychology focus.
  • Most psychology career paths eventually require a doctoral degree to qualify as a licensed psychologist.

Psychology is an in-demand field that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will experience faster-than-average growth in the coming years. This growth is driven in part by the continued destigmatization of mental health concerns, as well as the increased need for clinical and counseling psychologists in social services and hospital settings.

With so many subcategories within psychology, however, it can be daunting to decide which of the various psychology jobs or degrees is right for you.

No matter what psychology program you're considering, earning an advanced degree of some kind is usually necessary to advance in the field. Earning your master's degree may be your first real chance to learn more about what type of psychology career you want to pursue, as well as what kinds of clients you envision yourself helping.

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

A master's in psychology offers aspiring psychologists the chance to narrow their focus based on the industry (like sports) that interests them or the population of clients (like children) they want to help. It may also be a step in your journey to earning a doctorate in psychology, which is required to become a licensed psychologist in every U.S. state.

With a psychology degree, you may also pursue adjacent careers in the social work field — many of which don't require a doctoral degree.

Applied Psychology

If you're interested in using psychological theories to solve real-world problems, an applied psychology degree may be what you're looking for.

Applied psychologists utilize psychology theories and research to help improve people's mental health or improve systems in our world. Someone with an applied psychology degree may work in a social services career related to social work or counseling.

Behavioral Psychology

If you picture yourself working regularly with people to help them manage mental health issues, a behavioral psychology degree may be a good fit.

Behavioral psychologists specialize in working with clients to improve behavioral issues in various settings, including schools. Many behavioral psychologists work as behavior therapists, social workers, substance use counselors, or marriage and family therapists.

Clinical Psychology

A clinical psychology degree may be a good option for you if you envision yourself in a clinical setting counseling patients with mental health disorders like addiction, anxiety, and depression.

Clinical psychologists often work directly with patients who are usually in some sort of distress. This specialization may lead to roles as a substance use psychologist or marriage and family therapist. You may also be interested in becoming a licensed clinical social worker.

Developmental Psychology

If you're interested in studying the effects of aging on the mind, a developmental psychology degree could open intriguing doors for you.

Developmental psychologists often work with children and adolescents to study their growth and help them overcome developmental obstacles. They may also work with older adults study the effects of aging. Many developmental psychologists work in clinical settings as therapists, but they may also find themselves in schools as counselors.

Educational Psychology

People learn in many different ways, and it's up to educational psychologists to study the effects of various teaching methods so they can suggest best practices.

Earning an educational psychology degree can prepare you to improve the educational experiences of people around the world. Many educational psychologists work in schools to help students struggling with their classes or develop programs aimed at gifted learners. Educational psychologists can find work in many school settings, including colleges and universities.

Engineering Psychology

Remember how frustrated you were the last time you tried to open a clamshell package?

Engineer psychologists use psychological theories to address frustrations related to products, the environment, and other systems. The field is quickly growing as companies realize the value of integrating these principles into product design. Engineer psychologists may find work in research and development fields, and there are also opportunities for them to work in healthcare settings and the military.

Forensic Psychology

Psychologists interested in working with or alongside law enforcement and the justice system may want to consider a forensic psychology degree.

Forensic psychologists intersect with many parts of the criminal justice system. Attorneys may hire a forensic psychologist as a jury consultant, and law enforcement agencies often have them work as parole officers or correctional counselors. Some forensic psychologists go on to work in social services as victim advocates.

Sports Psychology

Due to the intense nature of many organized sports, it shouldn't be a surprise that there's a branch of psychology dedicated to supporting athletes.

Sports psychologists often work with teams and individual players to ensure they are in the right mindset to perform their best, no matter the sport. Their work might involve counseling individual athletes or advising coaches on how to get the most out of their players. Many professional sports teams and college athletic programs employ sports psychologists.

Organizational Psychology

There's room for improvement in virtually any workplace, and organizational psychologists work to make those necessary changes.

An organizational psychology degree can set you on a path to use science-backed methods to improve various kinds of workspaces. That could include creating a more productive work environment or improving employee morale. Many organizational psychologists work within a human resources department.

Personality Psychology

If you've ever been interested in what makes people tick, the field of personality psychology may interest you.

Personality psychologists investigate the nature of people's personalities and try to get to the bottom of how that personality came to be. They may also spend time researching personality disorders to aid people. Personality psychologists can find work as substance use, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors or as training and development managers.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed February 23, 2024.

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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