What Can You Do With a Masters in Psychology?

Updated December 13, 2022 · 3 Min Read

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Wondering what can you do with a master’s in psychology? A master’s degree in psychology typically prepares people to enter counseling professions and pass state licensure requirements. It also opens up a wide range of career options that aren’t available with just a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Both the salary benefits and the added career paths can be top-notch if you acquire this type of degree. For example, the median pay for a mental health counselor was about $46,240 per year in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

Meanwhile, school and career counselors made about $57,040 per year in 2019, while rehabilitation counselors made an average of $35,950 per year, and all other counselors made, on average, about $50,800 per year. However, graduates with this type of degree aren’t limited to just counseling positions. They may also find employment in any field where there is a need for understanding human behavior, like human resources. 

If you have a passion for helping people in need and are interested in the human psyche, this degree may be a good fit. Here’s what you can do with a master’s in psychology and how it can benefit your career. 

What is a Master’s in Psychology?

A master’s degree deepens your understanding of human behavior. It includes courses like developmental psychology, personality theory, learning, biological basis of behavior, psychopharmacology, research design and methods, testing and assessment, clinical and counseling psychology, and applied social psychology. Master’s programs in psychology tend to take about two years in total to complete.  

Some master’s programs in psychology are aimed at training counselors, and may offer you a specific focus, like drug rehabilitation or family support. These types of programs also often help students amass clinical hours. Other programs focus on research design and analysis in this field.  

These programs may also include thesis and nonthesis components. Master’s psychology programs that are aimed at research will often train students in advanced research methodology. Research programs may require you to take courses in experimental and applied psychology, data analysis, family mental health, and ethics.  

Each school and program will have different admissions requirements, so it’s important to review these fully to decide which are a good fit for you. That said, it’s common for programs to require a bachelor’s degree, transcripts, GRE scores, a minimum GPA of about 3.0 in your undergrad courses, and undergraduate work relating to the field.   

What You Can Do With a Master’s in Psychology?

Many people pursue a master’s in psychology because they want to become counselors or therapists. Some will go on to get a doctorate of psychology after their master’s degree. Look at each program carefully to make sure it has an emphasis on counseling and mental health if this is your goal.  

What you can do with a master’s in psychology isn’t limited to counseling. Some graduates go on to work in more general fields that can make use of their understanding of human behavior, like social services, family services, healthcare, education, human resources, market research, or a wide variety of nonprofit organizations, as a few examples. Other students will go into psychological research after graduation.    

Is a Master’s Degree in Psychology Worth It? 

Whether this degree is worth it depends on your short- and long-term goals. If you want to pursue the top-earning positions as a licensed psychologist, you may need to obtain a doctoral degree to qualify. That said, many counselors and therapists have master’s degrees, according to the BLS, and earn somewhere between $35,000 to $46,000 per year on average. Psychologists in general make about $80,370 per year on average.  

Research positions in this field will often require a Ph.D, so more schooling will likely be needed if your end goal is to go the research route. That said, there are some research positions that only require a master’s degree in this field.     

Aside from the more traditional counseling and research routes, some people elect to get a master’s in psychology because they want to understand more about human behavior. They then use that knowledge to go work in fields that may pay more. For instance, human resources managers made $116,720 per year on average. Market research analysts made a bit more than therapists at $63,790 per year on average in 2019.    

Typical Jobs and Career Paths with a Master’s in Psychology 

What can you do with a master’s in psychology? According to the American Psychological Association, graduates with a master’s degree in psychology have a few interesting options. In some cases, licensed psychologists will need to obtain a Ph.D. That said, some states allow for a licensed practice at the master’s level, or allow for those who are licensed master’s degree holders to practice in a subfield specialty, like school psychology.  

Another field that may be open to you with a master’s degree is industrial or organizational psychology. This job applies psychological principles to work behavior in organizations. Industrial or organizational psychologists might provide consulting services, work in human resources, or even help in school settings. The median pay for these jobs for those with between 15 and 19 years of experience was about $125,000 per year as of 2019.

Those who want to go into research and academic positions with a master’s in social psychology might also find luck working at community colleges, which often only require a master’s degree. Or, some graduates go on to work in forensic psychology, using psychological principles to help the criminal justice system.    

Should I Get a Master’s Degree in Psychology?  

It might be worth it to consider a master’s in psychology as part of a long-term plan that starts with getting a bachelor’s degree in psychology. People generally get a master’s degree in psychology for a few reasons. It could be that they are passionate about learning how and why people operate the way they do. It is also not uncommon to study this field because you want to go into research or help people overcome personal struggles. 

Or, if you want to go on to get a Ph.D in psychology to become a conventionally licensed psychologist (often required for opening your own practice) or work in top research positions, you may also consider getting a master’s a step along the way to a Ph.D.  

Plus, some people may opt to use the insights into human behavior that they gain in this program in a business organizational or educational setting. Any and all of these different career goals or aspirations are acceptable reasons to enter a master’s in psychology program.

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