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Types of Psychology Master's Degrees

If you want to turn your fascination with the brain and behavior into a well-compensated career, you might think about applying to a master's degree program in psychology.

Comparing Psychology Master's Degrees

M.A. or M.S. in Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology students learn to diagnose patients and treat a variety of mental issues like behavioral disorders, substance abuse, depression and anxiety. Clinical psychology master's degrees come in two types, Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.). Degree requirements tend to be similar, however, master of arts degrees tend to have a liberal arts and counseling focus while master's of science degrees require more research-based courses. Applicants should have prior experience (at least a B.A. in psychology). Students take classes in crisis intervention, running group therapy sessions, and clinical assessment. Often students choose to concentrate their degree in one of the following areas: personality disorders, child psychology, behavior therapy, memory and neuropsychology, pathology, or social psychology.

M.A. or M.S. in Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychologist students learn to apply psychological research and practice in the criminal justice system. As a forensic psychologist, you could work with at-risk youth, provide expert testimony in a court case, profile criminals, or assist lawyers as they choose jury members. Forensic psychology programs last 2-3 years and include classes in human nature and crime, psychological profiling, victimology, etc. Some careers in forensic psychology require a PhD. While these special programs may take a bit longer to complete, they prepare students to obtain licenses and kick-start their career without a PhD.

M.A. or M.S. in School Psychology

A master's in school psychology will prepare you to become a licensed school psychologist. School psychologists provide services for students of all ages, from career counseling to disorder diagnosis. Students take courses in cognitive assessment, behavioral disorders in children, and human development. They will also undergo supervised field-work in schools or universities. Most programs last 2-3 years and can be completed in-person or online. While most psychology master's degrees require prior coursework in psychology, school psychology programs generally accept bachelor's degree work in education, sociology, and child development.

M.S. in Experimental Psychology

If you enjoy research and want to advance psychological knowledge for the next generation, you may want to consider experimental psychology. In most cases, a master's degree in experimental psychology is a stepping stone to a PhD. Experimental psychologists work in universities teaching and conducting experiments. Courses depend on a student's research interests but may include cognitive psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology, etc. Graduates can look for research positions or find funded PhD programs to continue their studies.

M.A. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Rather than working with individuals experiencing mental illness or disorders, organizational psychologists apply research in the workplace. By studying for a master's in industrial psychology, you can prepare for a career implementing policy to improve workplace productivity and employee well-being. Students take courses in group dynamics, work motivation, human resource management, and managing conflict in organizations. They can go on to find work for businesses in human resources departments, behavior analysis, talent management, or training. Some work as independent consultants providing research analysis of businesses.

Degree Program Program length Program Requirements Related Careers
Master's of Clinical Psychology 1-2 years *Undergraduate degree in psychology *Substance abuse therapist *Licensed counselor
Master's of Forensic Psychology 2-3 years *Undergraduate degree in psychology *Jury Consultant *Juvenile offender counselor
Master's of School Pyschology 2-3 years *Undergraduate degree *School psychologist *School counselor
Master's of Experimental Psychology2 years *Undergraduate degree *Psychology researcher *Professor
Master's of Industrial-Organizational Psychology 2-3 years *Undergraduate degree *Human resource manager *Consulting organizational psychologist

Getting Into a Master's in Psychology Program

To get into a master's in psychology you will need a bachelor's degree in psychology or a transcript that shows you have successfully completed college-level coursework in psychology. Most programs require at least a 3.0 GPA. You will also need to study for and take the GRE. On your application, you send in your test scores, transcripts, a personal statement about your interests in psychology, and 1-3 letters of recommendation.

Psychology is a field of study that can lead to rewarding and lucrative careers in academia, business consultation, nonprofits, and medicine. Due to the variety of psychology master's degree programs available, you can choose a track best suited to your unique goals and skill-set.