Best Psychology Master’s Degree Programs Online

Find top-rated accredited online master’s degrees in psychology, explore the many different specialization options, and learn about the many career paths this degree can open the doors to.

The psychology field offers the opportunity to work with individuals, groups, companies, and in other capacities that allow you to help people. Besides the typical counseling careers you might expect from a degree like this, there are other options fields like research and human engineering. Earning a master’s degree in psychology online is a flexible way to make all of these professional options possible, including becoming a licensed professional in the mental health or psychology fields, depending on state-specific requirements.

But before you start applying to programs, you need to figure out how you plan to make use of this degree, what it takes to apply to a psychology master’s program online, how to pay for the degree, and what you can expect from your coursework. The following guide will help you answer those questions and find the best psychology master’s program online.

College Spotlights: Best Online Master’s Degree Programs in Psychology for 2021

Prospective students interested in an online master’s in psychology degree have the benefit of numerous options. To help figure out which programs to apply to, we’ve compiled a list of the best-in-class psychology master’s degree online programs and ranked them in terms of how well they teach students, the value of education they provide, and their accreditation status. This rankings list will come out soon, but until then, we’ve identified three standout schools and programs to get you started on the search.

Fort Hays State University (FHSU)

Fort Hays State University offers many academic programs in the field of psychology. At the master’s level, two of them are offered online. These include the Master of Science (M.S.) in clinical psychology and the online school psychology program.

The M.S. in clinical psychology consists of 62 credits, 15 of which are for practicum and internship academic credit. Most of the other degree requirements can be completed online. However, students must also complete five-day workshops during two summer semesters. Most students can complete their degree in two years, after finishing four semesters of coursework and two semesters of internship. Upon completion, graduates will be eligible for licensure in the state of Kansas.

The online school psychology program is similar to the M.S. in clinical psychology in that most classes can be completed online, although students will need to complete one five-day on-campus workshop. This program offers the M.S. and the education specialist (Ed.S.) academic credentials.

Saint Leo University

The Saint Leo University online master’s in psychology allows students to take advanced courses in psychology on a wide range of subjects and topics. In addition to classes on psychology topics, like social development and psychotherapy, students will also gain research and data analysis skills.

Students must complete 36 credits to earn their degree. Each class consists of no more than 15 students, which maximizes the attention and time faculty can provide. Students will complete their coursework during one eight-week class at a time.

The final academic requirement consists of a capstone project. Students will choose a research topic that interests them, conduct the research, then collect and analyze the data. This project will allow the chance to demonstrate what they’ve learned, including ethics, statistical analysis, and writing skills.

This program does not contain an internship component. Therefore, on its own, it will not prepare students for licensure.

University of Idaho

university-of-idaho-logo

The University of Idaho’s master’s in psychology human factors degree program looks at human motivation and behavior from both a physical and psychological perspective. The curriculum places a strong emphasis on research, with a hybrid of psychology and engineering theories and principles. Potential classes in this degree program may include:

  • Engineering Psychology
  • Sensation and Perception
  • Research Methods
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Ergonomics and Biomechanics

Students can customize their degree in two ways: They can complete a thesis or take a comprehensive exam, or they can focus their research on any number of specializations, such as:

  • Computer security
  • Advanced displays for aviation and process control
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Physiological indicators of stress and workload
  • Sound perception

The curriculum can be completed either on-campus or fully online. However, many students will choose to complete an internship to gain valuable real-world experience. Students often find positions working in the research or engineering fields after they graduate.

Common Qualities of the Best Online Psychology Master’s Programs

The best online master’s in psychology program for one individual may not be the best program for someone else. Yet there are certain similarities that the best programs usually share. When deciding among online master’s degree programs in psychology, it’s a good idea to look for programs that have accreditation.

Accreditation: Proper accreditation ensures that the degree you’ve earned meets certain quality standards. This means it will be recognized by others, including other schools, employers, and financial aid providers. To find out if a school of interest is accredited, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Student Support Services: The best psychology masters programs online offer students programs and experiences to receive the support they need, whether it’s support with learning technology, internships, help with program requirements, or whatever else a student might need. Even though you are attending your program online, you should look for a school that supports its online students as much as it supports their students attending campus programs.

Hands-on Learning and Internships: Any online master’s in psychology program you are considering attending should have a robust internship and hands-on learning component. Students should have the opportunity to participate in active, in-person and live video chat seminars, workshops, demonstrations, and more. Students should also have the chance to take what they’ve learned in class and apply those lessons and experiences to clinical and internship opportunities.

Why Earn an Online Master’s in Psychology?

A master’s degree in psychology offers a well-rounded education that can prepare students for a variety of positions in many different fields, even those unrelated to psychology. It can also begin the academic training needed to become a counselor, psychologist, or therapist. There are several advantages that come with earning an online master’s degree in psychology.

  1. Convenient Learning

    Many online psychology programs at the master’s level are 100% online. That means no on-campus visits or other in-person requirements are needed to graduate. Students not only have the flexibility to learn from home, but due to the asynchronous nature of most curriculums, they can complete their coursework at their chosen pace as well as at a time of day that’s most convenient for them.

  2. Licensing

    Each state has its own requirements to become a licensed therapist, counselor, or psychologist. In most states, a graduate degree is required. Sometimes it needs to be a doctorate. Sometimes it can be a master’s degree that’s required before a professional can start seeing clients or using certain professional titles.

  3. Specialize

    One of the biggest ways graduate degrees stand out is the opportunity to specialize. The curriculum of a bachelor’s degree focuses on introducing the basic concepts, while the master’s degree allows students to not just learn high-level concepts, but spend time concentrating on an area of specialization.

What You’ll Learn in a Psychology Master’s Program

With so many options and choices available in online master’s degree in psychology programs, the curriculum in one school can vary significantly from that in another school. For example, one program will require a thesis, while another requires a capstone project or comprehensive exam. But there are still many similarities among programs in terms of classes.

Popular Courses

  • Psychology of Personality

    This class will give students a better understanding of the basics of human motivation, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Topics addressed include overviews of various psychological theories, like biological, behavioral, social-cognitive, and psychoanalytic. Students will also learn about assessment methodologies and how culture affects personality.

  • Diversity and Ethics

    This class will use the APA Code of Ethics to create a solid understanding of ethical behavior in psychological research, testing, and treatment. It will also cover the importance of diversity in psychological studies and how personal biases can affect research results and the treatment of clients.

  • Experimental Methods

    Psychology is research-heavy, which requires students to obtain extensive training in how to design, conduct, and analyze studies and experiments. This class covers these concepts, but also teaches students how to collect and interpret data, in addition to effectively conveying findings in scientific reports and articles.

  • Lifespan Development

    The human mind changes over time, both through experiences and biological shifts. This course will examine the human brain over the lifespan and incorporate both classical theories and more recent research findings to explain how the brain changes over time.

  • Thesis

    The thesis is a research project a student designs and carries out under the supervision of a faculty member. The process will take place over the course of the progression through the program. Students may start out learning the basics of thesis research through observation, then discuss potential topics with a faculty advisor. Finally, the student conducts the research, writes a paper, and defends the thesis before graduating.

Popular Specializations for Online Psychology Master’s Degrees

Many master’s programs will have several specializations available that will either provide the requisite academic training necessary to begin a career in psychology or lay the foundational groundwork for additional training, whether at the doctoral level or in real-world practice. Here’s a good overview of the specializations commonly found at the master’s level.

  • Clinical Psychology

    The clinical psychology specialization starts the preparation process to become a licensed clinical psychologist. Depending on the program and state where the student wants to practice, the master’s degree will prepare them to start working with clients or prepare them for a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

    Learn more about earning your clinical psychology master’s online.

  • Counseling Psychology

    One of the more popular specializations, this prepares students to work with clients who have mental health, family, or emotional challenges. The curriculum will include training in crisis intervention, psychological assessment of specific disorders, and trauma management. Students can also focus on a sub-specialty, such as substance abuse, mental health, or family counseling.

    Learn more about earning your master’s in counseling psychology online.

  • Industrial Organizational (I/O) Psychology

    The I/O psychology concentration examines psychological principles and theories that apply to the workplace. Classes will cover talent identification, employee motivation, group dynamics, and human personality. This specialization is perfect for students who wish to work in human resources or another personnel development field.

    Learn more about earning your online master’s in industrial organizational psychology.

  • Forensic Psychology

    Forensic psychology combines psychology and the criminal justice system. By completing this specialization, students will learn the science behind the mind of key figures in the legal setting, such as witnesses and defendants. Classes will address topics like social psychology, human motivation, courtroom psychology, and courtroom procedures.

  • Social Psychology

    This concentration examines the behaviors of individuals and groups by focusing on the feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and cultures of the individuals and group. The goal of this specialization is to not just gain an increased understanding of how people think and interact, but also what changes can be made to improve society as a whole.

What You Can Do with a Master’s Degree in Psychology

While most counseling and clinical psychologist positions will not be available to those with a master’s degree, there are many careers in psychology and therapy available. Some positions require the statistical and analytics training that comes with obtaining a master’s degree in psychology. All these positions can be found in private industry or practice, pay well, and often require an online master’s degree in psychology.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

These specialized psychologists take the theories and concepts of human psychology and apply them to the workplace. Industrial-organizational psychologists often work with companies and their human resource departments to improve the productivity and happiness of workers. An online master’s in psychology is needed to provide this type of advice to leaders of organizations.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$51,080 $92,880 $197,700

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors work with individuals and groups to help them cope with mental health issues. These issues can include depression, grief, stress, and relationship concerns, among others. To become a mental health counselor, a master’s degree in mental health counseling or psychology is typically required.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$29,520 $46,240 $76,080

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Family Therapist

The role of a family therapist is to help families deal with their relationship issues. This will involve having clients talk about their problems, helping them work through challenges, and referring them to other mental health professionals if necessary. Because helping clients can involve methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy, graduate training that comes with completing an online master’s degree in psychology is extremely helpful.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$32,070 $49,610 $87,700

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Survey Researcher

Survey researchers focus on designing and conducting surveys. They collect and analyze data and assess the effectiveness of their surveys. Having a solid understanding of statistics, probabilities, and carrying out research studies is imperative to succeed as a survey researcher. Much of the curriculum in a psychology master’s degree online program will teach these skills.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$32,150 $59,170 $108,860

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Market Research Analyst

Market research analysts examine markets to determine the feasibility of successfully selling a product or service in those markets. They often help companies understand their customers, including how they think, what they want, and what motivates them. Given the psychological component to this work, an online master’s degree in psychology is very helpful.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$34,350 $63,790 $122,630

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Costs and Financial Aid for Online Master’s Degrees in Psychology

The online master’s in psychology can be helpful for opening doors in the field of psychology, but it requires a notable amount of time, effort, and most importantly, money. To pay for this degree, most students will need financial assistance. Sources of financial aid include fellowships, scholarships, grants, student loans, work study, and even employer tuition assistance. To learn more about the financial aid possibilities to help you attend a psychology master’s program online, see our financial aid page.

How Affordable Your Online Master’s in Psychology Could Be

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Total Tuition Cost

Arizona State University

36

$720 (est)

$25,920

Purdue University Global

60 – 75

$420

$25,200 – $31,500

Liberty University

36

$565 (full-time) and $615 (part-time)

$20,340 (full-time) and $22,140 (part-time)

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Psychology Master’s Degrees

Some programs will prepare students to become licensed psychologists or licensed psychotherapists, but it depends on state requirements and the program’s curriculum. If the program leads to licensure, it will typically contain in-person field work or internship requirements. As a result, these master’s in psychology programs cannot be completed fully online.

Another key point is that licensure at the master’s level does not lead to licensure as a clinical psychologist. Instead, it may be what some states call “Master’s Level Psychologists.” A doctoral degree (plus several years of training and passage of an exam) is required to become a full-fledged psychologist.

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in psychology?

Each program will establish its own admission requirements based on internal academic philosophies and the expectations required of students. However, psychology masters programs online will usually require applicants to submit the following:

  • Official transcripts showing completion of bachelor’s degree with a minimum undergraduate GPA.
  • Letter of intent or personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Application
  • Application fee
  • Curriculum vitae or resume

Some programs may also require applicants to submit GRE test scores, a writing sample, or have a prior bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field.

How long will it take to finish my master’s in psychology online?

The time it takes can vary widely. Many online master’s in psychology programs will consist of 30 to 60 credits, depending on the area of focus. Flexible learning options allow students to take courses on a full-time or part-time basis. While some full-time students can finish their degree in about a year, most students will take roughly two years.

Can I earn a master’s in psychology completely online or do I need to visit campus?

Some online master’s degree in psychology programs are fully online, allowing students to complete their program with no campus visits or field experiences required. Programs that offer the opportunity to focus on a sub-specialty in psychology, like clinical psychology, may have supervised internship or practicum curriculum requirements that must be completed in-person.