Psychology Graduate Programs: Master's & PhD
What is a Psychology Graduate Program?
Psychology graduate programs include coursework, research, and sometimes clinical experience in psychology. They may help students pursue career paths related to the human mind and behavior.
Graduate students study Psychology to gain insight into human challenges. They apply what they've learned to new problems and complete projects in an area of interest.
Psychology graduate programs cover the human mind, personality, and behavior. They explore the ways people interact with each other and the world.
One main application for these programs is addressing mental health problems. You may study what abnormal psychology looks like. And, you may learn how to treat patients with conditions like depression or addiction.
written by Shannon Fandler
What Types of Psychology Graduate Programs Are There?
A psychology graduate degree can be earned at the Master’s and doctorate degree levels. At the doctoral level, psychologists often earn either a PhD in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree.
Different Master’s programs in Psychology include the M.S. (Master of Science) and M.A. (Master of Arts) degrees. The M.S. may focus more on scientific research, while the M.A. may apply psychology theory to behavioral and societal issues. You can also find many different concentrations.
Types of Psychology Majors
- Applied Behavior Analysis (explore the use of techniques and psychological concepts to create behavioral changes)
- Clinical Psychology (focuse on treating mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders)
- Developmental Psychology (explore the ways humans learn, mature and adapt through their lifespan)
- Organizational Psychology (learn scientific methods to improve performance and productivity at both the employee and corporate levels)
- Forensic Psychology (gain a better understanding of criminal behavior)
- Counseling Psychology (learn how to assess mental health challenges and plan a treatment approach)
Popular Psychology Graduate Degrees
Psychology degrees are reported by the National Center for Education Statistics under the category of Psychology.
According to the most recent data (2015/16), 34,177 Psychology degrees were awarded to U.S. graduate students. That is up 4% from 2013/14. The majority (81.9%) of these programs were at the Master’s level. This would indicated that a master's degree is the most popular graduate program in psychology.
Do You Need a Graduate Degree in Psychology?
Career paths that require a psychology graduate degree are growing. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that Mental Health Counselor roles will increase 23% by 2026. The same applies to Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors. New jobs may arise from the demand for mental health services among veterans, people with addictions, and others.
You do need a graduate degree in psychology for most career paths in this field. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that most psychologists need to earn a doctorate in Psychology.
The amount of education you’ll need also depends on your state’s licensing laws. For example, Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors in private practice must hold a license. In all states, that means earning a Master’s degree and completing supervised clinical experience.
What Psychology Jobs Can You Get with a Graduate Degree?
Many career paths that need a graduate degree in psychology involve working with patients. You could treat people for mental illness or counsel them to resolve personal challenges. Mental Health Counselors are a good example of this. They address mental health concerns ranging from stress and relationship problems to depression and suicidal thoughts. Clinical and Counseling Psychologists have similar goals but may use different techniques. For instance, Clinical Psychologists often give diagnostic tests and design behavior modification programs.
Other career paths involve research or solving problems by applying principles of psychology. For instance, Industrial-Organizational Psychologists help improve productivity and morale in the workplace. They may help organizational leaders plan policies and training programs that get results.
Annual Mean Wage for Psychology Careers
Annual Mean Wage
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists
Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary
Marriage and Family Therapists
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
Top States for Psychology Employment: Psychologists (All Other)
Annual Mean Wage
|Metro Area||Annual Mean Salary||Employment|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||$119,740||470|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||$112,450||350|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||$110,910||390|
|Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||$107,450||110|
Psychologists who don’t work in healthcare could take part in a variety of industries. Forensic psychologists work within the criminal justice system and apply their knowledge in the courtroom. School psychologists work in educational settings, addressing student behavioral and learning challenges.
Masters in Psychology vs PhD in Psychology?
A Master’s in Psychology is typically the minimum education requirement for many career paths related to Psychology. A Master’s program usually covers an in-depth overview of the field, including research methods.
Ultimately, most psychologists need to earn a PhD or Psy.D. to meet state licensure requirements. A PhD program delves deeper into the field, with an emphasis on research. Expect to take courses in statistics and experimental procedures. Often, doctoral programs help students prepare for a particular branch of psychology. For instance, you could specialize in addictions or health psychology. To graduate, you usually need to pass a comprehensive exam and write an original dissertation.
Pursuing a PhD in Psychology could be your next move after earning your Master’s. Either program (or both!) could be a step toward your career goals. You could even pursue a dual Master’s/PhD program, where you enter with a Bachelor’s degree and earn your Master’s on the way to achieving your PhD.
Psychology Graduate Degree Guide
Masters in Psychology
PhD in Psychology
Sponsored Degree Example: MA in Psychology
Length of Program: 36 credits, 76 weeks
Length of Program: 6 years
This program focuses on applying psychology principles to human experience. Students explore theories, research methods, and ethics in the field. Coursework also includes developmental, social, and counseling psychology.
This program uses a scientist-practitioner model, with a focus on research and clinical experiences. Choose from concentrations in health psychology, clinical child psychology, and neuropsychology.
No specific program accreditations
Accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA)
What Classes Are Needed for a Psychology Graduate Degree?
Psychology graduate programs cover the scientific foundations of psychology. And, they cover professional applications for that knowledge. You could study developmental psychology and the biological bases of human behavior. You may also take courses in professional practices, ethics, and research methods. And if you pursue a concentration, expect to take in-depth courses in that area.
Courses you could take include:
- History, Systems & Philosophy of Psychology
- Cognitive/Intellectual Assessment
- Drug Addiction
- Life Span Development
- Multicultural and Gender Issues
- Personality Disorders
- Group Dynamics
What Courses Will I Take?
You could take core and concentration courses in psychology, plus electives in areas of interest to you. Common courses include:
- Psychopathology. This course explores disorders in psychology. Expect to study the causes and diagnostic criteria of mental illnesses. You could also learn how to treat these disorders.
- Behavior Analysis. This course covers adaptive and pathological behavior. You could explore factors that influence behavior. And, you could study how behaviors are learned.
- Psychotherapy. A course in Psychotherapy focuses on how to treat mental illness. You’ll study assessment methods, intervention strategies, and how to work with patients.
- Personality Psychology. Many programs offer a course that explores personality. You could study factors that make up a person’s identity and self-concept. These include gender, culture, and environmental influences.
- Research in Psychology. Research is generally an important part of graduate school. Expect to take one or more courses in research methods – like statistical data analysis and hypothesis testing.
What Should I know About Accreditation and Licensure in Psychology?
Earning a graduate degree in psychology from an accredited program might be important, depending on your career goals. For example, you may need to graduate from an APA-accredited program to earn professional licensure in your state.
The American Psychological Association (APA) accredits the following psychology graduate programs:
- Doctoral psychology programs in Clinical Psychology, Counseling Psychology, School Psychology, or combination programs
- Doctoral internships
- Postdoctoral residency programs
APA bases accreditation on factors like the breadth and quality of what students learn. The goal is to make sure what is being taught in your program meets current industry standards.
APA only accredits doctoral-level programs. But, the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC) helps fill the gap. They accredit Master’s programs in counseling and psychology, with a focus on science-based and culturally responsive education.
And if you’re pursuing a counseling psychology program, CACREP should be on your radar. CACREP stands for the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. They accredit Master’s and doctoral programs in counseling.
How Long is Graduate School for Psychology?
That depends on the graduate program and your enrollment status. Doctorate in psychology programs usually take four to six years for full-time students. Psychology master’s programs are usually around two years. However, some take as little as one year.
# of Credits Required
Starts Per Year
Minimum Months to Complete
52 weekly start dates
4 (January, April, July, and October)
How Much Does Graduate School Cost for Psychology?
The average cost of a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. This means you will be able to find programs both more affordable and more expensive than the average.
This visualization shows graduate tuition costs of four institutions with psychology graduate programs as reported by the NCES. We have then compared those costs to the typically most affordable and most expensive college options, also reported by NCES.
Instate/Out Of State Tuition
What are the Costs per Credit for Masters and PhD in Psychology?
Cost per credit varies by college or university. And, state universities may have in-state costs vs. out-of-state costs. Below are a few examples of the cost per credit as reported by these institutions offering graduate psychology programs.
# of Credits Required
Cost Per Credit
Total Tuition Cost
Purdue University Global (sponsored)
60 to 75
$25,200 to $31,500
Grand Canyon University (sponsored)
107 quarter credits
$530 (per semester credit, or 1.5 quarter credits)
Saybrook University (sponsored)
68 to 83
$78,200 to $95,450
Best 264 Graduate Schools for Psychology :
- Offering two quality, competency-based online learning formats: FlexPath & GuidedPath
- Online degrees in business, counseling, education, health administration, human services, information technology, nursing, public health, psychology and social work.
- 97% of alumni agree FlexPath provided the flexibility they needed to pursue their degree (Alumni Outcomes Survey 2017)
- No application fee for April & June terms
- Some of the nation's most affordable tuition rates, from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
- Qualified students with 2.5 GPA and up may receive up to $20K in grants & scholarships
- Multiple term start dates throughout the year. 24/7 online classroom access
Northcentral UniversityDoctor of Philosophy in Psychology - Gender Diversity Studies PhD in Psychology - Industrial Organizational Psychology Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology - Health Psychology Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology - General Psychology Doctor of Business Administration - Industrial Organizational Psychology Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology - Trauma and Disaster Relief PhD in Business Administration - Industrial Organizational Psychology Master of Arts in Psychology - Gender Diversity Studies Master of Arts in Psychology - General Psychology Master of Science in Child and Adolescent Developmental Psychology
The Chicago School of Professional PsychologyM.A. International Psychology M.A. Psychology M.S. Applied Behavior Analysis M.A. Behavioral Economics M.A. Industrial/Organizational Psychology: ARP Track AND Master of Legal Studies M.S. Clinical Psychopharmacology M.A. Forensic Psychology: Non-Licensure Track AND Master of Legal Studies M.A. Clinical Mental Health Counseling M.A. Industrial & Organizational Psychology: ARP Track M.A. Psychopharmacology
Purdue University GlobalMaster of Science in Psychology MSPY - Industrial/Organizational Psychology Specialization Graduate Certificate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology MSPY - General Psychology Autism Spectrum Disorders Postbaccalaureate Certificate MSPY - Forensic Psychology Applied Behavior Analysis Postbaccalaureate Certificate MSPY - Applied Behavior Analysis Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis
Walden UniversityPhD in Forensic Psychology - Criminal Justice PsyD in Behavioral Health Leadership - Teaching Psychology PhD in Clinical Psychology - General PsyD in Behavioral Health Leadership - Public Health PhD in Forensic Psychology - General PsyD in Behavioral Health Leadership - International PsyD in Behavioral Health Leadership - Industrial & Organizational Psychology PsyD in Behavioral Health Leadership - Healthcare Management PsyD in Behavioral Health Leadership - General PhD in Psychology - Related MS Entry - Educational Psychology
Southern New Hampshire UniversityMS Psychology w/conc in Child & Developmental Psychology MS Psychology MS Psychology w/conc in Industrial & Organizational Psychology MS Psychology w/conc in Forensic Psychology
Keiser UniversityOrganizational Psychology, MS Psychology, MS
Regent UniversityPh.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies M.S. in Psychology
Grand Canyon UniversityPh.D. in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Cognition and Instruction Ph.D. in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Industrial and Organizational Psychology Ph.D. in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance Psychology Ph.D. in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Integrating Technology, Learning, and Psychology M.S. in Psychology: General Psychology M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors M.S. in Psychology: Industrial & Organizational Psychology M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Geropsychology M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Health Psychology
Liberty University OnlineMA: Applied Psychology: Developmental Psychology Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology: Industrial/Organizational Psychology Master of Science in Criminal Justice: Forensic Psychology MA: Applied Psychology: Industrial Organizational Psychology MA: Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Baker CollegeIndustrial/Organizational Psychology - MSIOP
Canisius CollegeOnline MS in Community and School Health (MSCSH)
Capella UniversityMS - Sport Psychology MS - Applied Behavior Analysis MS - Psychology MS - Clinical Counseling MS - Industrial/Organizational Psychology PhD - Advanced Studies in Human Behavior PhD - Developmental Psychology MS - Child and Adolescent Development MS - Forensic Psychology MS - Applied Research
Bradley UniversityMaster of Arts in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC)
Nova Southeastern UniversityExperimental Psychology, M.S.
William James CollegeCouples and Family Therapy Emphasis, Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA Forensic and Correctional Counseling Emphasis in MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Organizational Psychology, MA MA in Applied Behavior Analysis Leadership Psychology, PsyD Clinical Psychology PsyD