Earning a master’s degree is a great step to gain expert-level knowledge of your field of interest. It not only widens your horizons, but also gives you the opportunity  to set a solid foundation for your career. And if you’re looking to earn an online masters in psychology,  this article can help you answer the question of which online degree is best for you.. 

Choosing to earn a psychology degree online gives you the flexibility to study from anywhere in the world – all you need is a passion for psychology and a stable internet connection!

As a student, you should consider certain factors before you zero in on an online psychology degree. We’re here to break it down for you. Here’s a lowdown on how to choose an online masters degree in psychology and the various specializations you can pick with it.

Here are a few tips that can help you pick a psychology major that aligns with your future goals:

  1. Explore Your Interests: Psychology is a broad field with various subfields like clinical psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, and more. Consider what aspects of psychology interest you the most and select your areas of study accordingly.
  1. Research Course Offerings: Check out the course offerings of different universities or colleges and examine the curriculum of their psychology programs. It is also wise to check to see  if they have a wide range of courses that cover diverse aspects of psychology or if they have specialized tracks within the major.
  1. Consider Career Goals: Getting clarity on your career goals will help you figure if they align with a psychology major. Determine if you’re interested in pursuing a career in counseling, research, human resources, or other psychology-related fields. 
  1. Explore Research Opportunities: If you like research, investigate whether the psychology department offers research opportunities for graduate students. Online master’s in psychology programs can offer various research opportunities such as collaborative or independent research, thesis projects, research assistantships or even a few virtual research opportunities.
  2. Consider Additional Resources: Look into the facilities and additional resources available to online psychology students. Does the university have well-equipped labs, libraries, or research centers? Are there opportunities for internships, fieldwork, or practical experiences for online students? 

Picking a major is an important decision. This is why you should take your time, do thorough research, and choose a psychology major that resonates with your passions and interests.

Now let’s look at some aspects to consider before you zero in on an online master’s in psychology.

When selecting an online master’s in psychology program, there are several important factors to consider. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind:

  1. Accreditation: Make sure the program and institution is accredited by a recognized accrediting body. If the university is accredited, it ensures that the program meets certain quality standards.
  1. Cost and Financial Aid: It’s important to look at the cost of the program and whether it matches your budget. You must also consider financial aid options like scholarships, grants, or loans that can help offset the cost. Quick note – don’t forget to factor in any additional expenses like textbooks or technology requirements.
  2. Technology and Online Learning Platform: Assess the technology requirements of the program and ensure you have access to the necessary equipment and internet connection. Additionally, feel free to explore the online learning platform to verify that it’s user-friendly and offers the necessary resources for effective learning.
  3. Internship or Practicum Opportunities: It would be a good idea to check if the program offers internship opportunities, practicums, or fieldwork experiences. Practical training is considered crucial in psychology, and having the chance to apply your knowledge and skills in real-world settings can enhance your learning experience and future job prospects.
  4. Alumni Reviews and Career Services: Reach out to the program’s alumni network and career services. A strong network and career support can provide valuable resources for job placements and opportunities for professional development.
  5. Networking Opportunities: Lastly, it is wise to check if the program offers any networking opportunities or connections to professionals in the field. Building a strong professional network can prove to be a valuable asset for your future career.

When selecting a psychology degree online, it’s best to take your time to research different programs, compare them, and make a decision that feels right for you. 

Completing a master’s in psychology opens up a plethora of opportunities for you. Some potential options to consider could be:

Clinical Psychology

With an online master’s in clinical psychology, you can pursue a career as a therapist or counselor. As a student of this course, you may choose either a master of arts degree, which lays a stronger emphasis on a liberal arts curriculum, or a master of science degree, which is more focused on STEM-related topics. Upon earning this degree, you can be employed by hospitals, mental health clinics, community centers, or can start your private practice to  provide therapy to individuals, couples, families, or groups.

Counseling Psychology

Similar to clinical psychology, an online master’s in counseling psychology can lead to a career as a counselor in various settings, including schools, universities, rehabilitation centers, or private practice. As a professional, you would help individuals cope with personal, emotional, or behavioral challenges. It’s important to keep in mind that clients seen by counseling psychologists may or may not have mental health disorders.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Industrial-organizational psychology focuses on applying psychological principles to the workplace. With an online master’s in psychology, you can work in areas such as human resources, organizational development, talent management, or employee training and assessment.

School Psychology

As a school psychologist, you will get to work within educational settings to support students’ academic as well as emotional well-being. With an online master’s in school psychology, you get to pursue a career as a school psychologist, conduct assessments, offer counseling services, and collaborate with educators to enhance students’ educational journey.

Research and Academia

If you’re someone who’s passionate about research, an online master’s in psychology can serve as a stepping stone to a research-oriented career. Once you earn your degree, you can work as a research assistant, research coordinator, or pursue a doctorate to conduct your research or  become a university professor.

Forensic Psychology

This is a unique field that combines psychology and the legal system. With an online master’s in forensic psychology, you get the opportunity to work in areas focusing on criminal profiling, victim advocacy, expert testimony, or rehabilitation programs within correctional facilities.

Health Psychology

As a health psychologist, you get to focus on the interaction between physical health and psychology. These professionals work in healthcare settings, collaborate with medical professionals to support patients’ well-being. They are also responsible for addressing behavioral factors related to health conditions.

Nonprofit and Social Services

There are many nonprofit organizations and social service agencies that can hire you, if you have a background in psychology. With this background, you can address community needs, advocate for social justice, provide support to marginalized populations, or develop and implement intervention programs.

The field of psychology offers diverse opportunities, and while these are just a few examples, you should choose a specialization based on your individual interests, skills, and long-term career goals.

A psychology master’s and a master’s in social work may seem very similar because, in the US, you have the dual degree options of pairing a Master of Social Work with a Master of Laws, Master of Public Health or a Master of Psychology. But there are some key differences between the two courses. Let us break them down for you.

Feature Psychology Master’sMaster’s in Social Work
Focus and ScopeTypically focuses on the study of human behavior, mental processes, and psychological theories. It delves into areas such as research methods, psychological assessment, therapy techniques, and various subfields like clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or industrial-organizational psychology.Professional degree that prepares you for a career in social work. It emphasizes understanding social issues, social justice, and working with individuals, families, and communities to address social problems. It covers topics like social policy, community organizing, case management, advocacy, and therapeutic interventions.
Career PathsWith a psych master’s, you can pursue careers in research, counseling, therapy, teaching, or consulting. Depending on your specialization, you could work in settings like mental health clinics, schools, universities, or private practice.Equips you for various roles in social work, such as working with individuals, families, or groups in fields like healthcare, child welfare, substance abuse, community development, or policy advocacy. With MSW, you can find yourself working in hospitals, social service agencies, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies.
Licensing and CertificationsDepending on the specific area of psychology you choose, you may need to pursue additional licensure or certification to practice as a psychologist. This often involves fulfilling supervised clinical hours, passing exams, and meeting specific requirements set by your state.To practice as a social worker, an MSW is usually the minimum requirement. Depending on the state and your desired role, you might need to obtain a social work license or certification, which involves completing supervised hours and passing an examination.
Research vs. PracticeA psych master’s degree often involves a significant emphasis on research, data analysis, and understanding psychological theories. It prepares you for careers in research or for pursuing a Ph.D. if you’re interested in becoming a psychologist or an academic.While research skills are valuable in social work, an MSW places more emphasis on practical skills, direct client interaction, and intervention techniques. It equips you with the skills needed to work directly with individuals, families, or communities, addressing their unique needs and challenges.

As these are general distinctions that may have some overlap and variations, it’s always a good idea to conduct your own research on the programs you’re interested in or speak with professionals in each field to gain absolute clarity. 

Well, earning an online master’s in psychology may not automatically lead to licensure. Usually, licensure requirements for psychologists include earning a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in psychology, and not just a master’s degree. However, some states or countries may offer licenses for individuals with a master’s degree in psychology. In such scenarios, understand that the scope of practice and requirement can differ from those with doctoral degrees.

In case you wish to pursue a licensure, here’s a general outline of the steps you might need to take:

  1. Complete a Doctoral Degree (If Required): If your goal is to become a licensed psychologist, you’ll most likely need to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) as a mandatory requirement by certain states. Typically, this would involve several years of coursework, research, and a dissertation.
  1. Accumulate Supervised Experience: Certain jurisdictions may require you to gain supervised clinical experience or complete an internship, which involves working under the supervision of a licensed psychologist or other qualified professional. The number of required hours, however, can vary.
  1. Take Licensing Examinations: Most states require you to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which is a standardized exam assessing your knowledge of psychology. According to an article by the American Psychological Association,  all U.S. states and Canadian provinces whose boards are members of The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) – except Quebec and Prince Edward Island – require applicants to pass the EPPP, which is a 225-question multiple-choice test on core areas of psychology, such as assessment and diagnosis, and social and biological bases of behavior. Quebec, however, does require the EPPP for out-of-province candidates.
    It’s good to note that some states may have additional state-specific exams.
  1. Apply for Licensure: After meeting the educational, experiential, and examination requirements, you may apply for licensure with the appropriate licensing board in your state. This process usually involves submitting an application, providing documentation, and paying a fee. The fee amount varies as per state, ranging anywhere from around $100 to a few hundred dollars. It’s important to remember that the fee mentioned here is a general estimate, and the actual costs can differ based on state-specific requirements.

Speaking of online master’s programs, not all programs are specifically designed to meet licensure requirements. Certain programs may focus on academic or research-oriented goals rather than preparing students for clinical practice.

Also, remember that licensure requirements can change over time, so you must stay updated with the current regulations and consult with the licensing board or professionals in your specific area of interest.

Whether you choose to study online or enroll for an in-person program, getting an online master’s in psychology is a wonderful option to gain expert level knowledge in the field of psychology and build a career that can take you places. We hope this comprehensive guide helps you learn the basics of getting started with an online master’s degree in psychology, thereby helping you make an informed decision about your career. 

Psychology not your calling? Feel free to explore our ‘Classroom’ to find useful resources on your areas of interest.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you start an online master's in psychology if you don’t know what specialty you will pursue?

Absolutely! It’s totally okay if you’re not sure about the specialty you want to pursue in psychology when starting your online master’s degree. You’ll have the opportunity to take a variety of courses that cover different specialties. Just remember to keep an open mind and pay attention to what resonates with you, what makes you curious, and what gets you excited. Additionally, you can seek out extracurricular opportunities to gain hands-on experience or volunteer in various settings related to psychology. This gives you a taste of different specialties and can help you make a well-thought out decision.

What are the benefits of earning an online master’s in psychology?

Earning an online master’s in psychology has multiple benefits that make it a viable study option for you. Some key benefits include flexibility of scheduling and pacing your course, the convenience of studying from anywhere, the opportunity to expand your network in the psychology community, and online courses being a cost-effective option.