The 19 Best Master’s in Psychology Programs in 2023

July 3, 2023

It’s tempting to say that there has never been a better time to get a Master’s in Psychology. Talking about mental health is getting less taboo every day. There is an ever-increasing demand for therapists. More often than not, psychology master’s programs are the perfect step towards helping your community and individuals in need. There are very good reasons that therapists and psychologists are so widely sought after. The US Surgeon General recently issued an advisory declaring loneliness a new epidemic. The CDC 2023 report on youth declares a mental health epidemic for teenage girls.

Be it your neighbor or Tony Soprano, all kinds of people struggle with their mental health and need support. In other words, pursuing a master’s in psychology is the best way to step up in combating mental health crises. These programs are specially designed to help you specialize in a chosen psychological field, from sports psychology to family therapy to regular old clinical psychology.

Master’s in Counseling Psychology – Career Outlook

Put simply, getting a job in the field of psychology will be highly rewarding. But on top of that, there is an impressive amount of job security in the field. Generally speaking, the number of jobs in psychology is increasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 14% increase in demand for psychology-related jobs through 2026. This means that you’re almost guaranteed a job as soon as you finish your psychology Master’s.

Best of all, there is little risk of AI affecting careers in psychology. (Unless there are any wild AI breakthroughs, of course.) Talk therapy relies on human contact and the judgment and knowledge of an experienced therapist. We asked Chat GBT if it agrees, and it does. Chat GBT stated that it is not equipped to replace “1. Human connection; 2. Context and complexity; 3. Non-verbal cues; 4. Ethical considerations.” Phewf!

If you’re convinced that your calling is helping people feel better–or even if you’re just curious, this article will unpack the reasons for getting a Master’s degree in Psychology. If you’re still thinking about undergraduate programs, it might make sense to start by looking at the best psych colleges. Next, you might want to take a look at what graduate school is, and see if it sounds right for you. In this article, though, we’ll talk about the differences between a Master’s and a PhD. in psychology, according to what you want to do with the degree.

Pros and Cons of Getting a Master’s Degree in Psychology

1) PRO: Statistically speaking, with a Master’s in Psychology, you will earn more than with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. That means salaries ranging from $40-$100,000.

1) CON: But you won’t earn as much as with a Ph.D in Psychology. With a psychology Ph.D. you will likely earn $100,000 and above.

2) PRO: A master’s degree usually takes 1-3 years, and in psychology in particular you can expect 2-4 years of coursework. A doctorate degree in psychology usually takes 5-7 years. Basically, if you’re eager to start working as soon as possible, a Master’s is for you.

2) CON: There is a big catch here. A Master’s degree in psychology will not license you to become a certified clinical psychologist. If you want to be a clinical psychologist, potentially with a couch and dangly earrings and/or a cigar, you must get a Ph.D.

Best Master’s Degrees in Psychology (continued)

3) PRO:  Even if you’re not a clinical psychologist, there is still a wide variety of psychological jobs available to you. You can work in human resources or consumer research, you can work in social services, you can be a school counselor or psychologist (very important!), you can be a marriage counselor, you can work at a nonprofit or in project management, and many, many other things.

3) CON: It’s harder to find distinct psychology Master’s than Ph.D. programs, so you might as well try out the Ph.D and leave with a Master’s if it turns out not to be your jam.

4) PRO: In a Master’s in psychology program, you can specialize in a particular subject, such as sport psychology, and primarily focus on that (more on this later).

5) CON: You won’t get the wide-ranging background and expertise of a Ph.D.

Master’s in Psychology Jobs

1) Counseling psychologist: This branch of psychology is dedicated to helping individuals through specific life challenges, ranging from life events to identity-related issues. Basically, it’s like being a clinical psychologist who specializes in facing the issues at hand instead of approaching from the scientific, cognitive end.

2) School counselor: These figures work in schools to help with academic, behavioral, and social problems a student might face, and are incredibly important in today’s school environment.

3) Career counselor: often working in schools as well, career counselors provide guidance on higher education and vocation.

4) Family or marriage therapists: These therapists counsel families and couples through life challenges, from parent-child conflicts to marital or sexual issues, and everything in between. If this is interesting to you, you may also like Esther Perel’s podcast “Where Do We Begin?” or the TV show “Couples Therapy.”

Best Master’s Degrees in Psychology (continued)

5) Genetic counselors: These counselors are trained to help people navigate genetic issues, from finding out or seeking new information about inherited illness, to genetic testing of children who show signs of a disorder. Also, they’re pretty highly paid.

6) Drugs and Alcohol Treatment Specialist: Another highly important profession, this type of counselor specializes in helping people overcome addiction.

7) Human Resources Manager: Human Resource Managers are in charge of hiring and interviewing new employees, as well as administering company policies and managing employee conflicts.

These are only a few of the incredible careers you can build with a Master’s in Psychology. And most important of all, a Master’s is great preparation for a Ph.D, in case you change your mind and decide you want to go that route.

Best Master’s Degrees in Psychology

There are different types of Master’s available in Psychology. The first thing to consider is whether you want a MA (Master of Art’s) which is more humanistic in approach, or MS (Master’s of Science) which is more research and science-based.

The second thing to consider is what kind of concentration you want to take in your Master’s in Psychology. Are you fascinated by the minds of children and adolescents? Try Developmental or Child/Adolescent Psychology. Are you committed to studying and bettering the structure of the workplace? Industrial-Organizational Psych might be your bag.

Lastly, you want to consider if you want to get accredited through school, or if you’re just looking to learn in the field and have an advanced degree in your psych profession.

Here are some of the categories for Psychology Master’s degree programs:

  • MA/MS in Clinical Psychology
  • MA/MS in Counseling Psychology
  • MA/MS in Forensic Psychology (solving crime!)
  • MS in Experimental Psychology
  • MA/MS in School Psychology
  • MA in Industrial-Organizational Psychology
  • MA in Psychology (this is a stepping stone to a PhD.)
  • MS in Applied Behavioral Science

Best Master’s Degrees in Psychology (continued)

So which schools are the absolute top for building this career? Here’s a breakdown of the top schools, by category of study:

Master’s in Clinical Psychology

Note: many MS degrees in Clinical Psych are housed in a doctoral program. It is much harder to find a terminal (standalone) degree in this field.

1) Northwestern University

This top-ranking program is associated with Northwestern Medical Hospital and is one of master’s programs based within an Academic Medical Center. This master’s features 10-hours of lab work, and is primarily academic–meant to prepare you to go into the theoretical study of clinical psychology. Additionally, Northwestern offers online classes.

2) University of Central Florida

This program is designed to be 2 years and offers two tracks: pre-licensure, or non-licensure. In the pre-license track, you can become a licensed mental health counselor (at least in the state of Florida) immediately after. Offers online classes.

3) Boston University

High-speed option alert! This program is not only ranked #37 in the world, but it takes one year and prepares you for a license. Ph.D professors from the department are available for supervising.

4) Columbia University

Columbia’s teacher’s college is well-known, and so it makes sense that their MA in Psychology in Education is particularly popular. It gives academic preparation to apply to Ph.D programs, as well as a grounding in psychology in general.

5) University of Maryland

This Master’s in Professional Studies (MPS) in Clinical Psychological Science offers a great foundation for students who aren’t sure if a doctorate is right for them or not.

Master’s in Counseling Psychology

1) University of Missouri

The Mizzou counseling MA program is ranked #1 in research productivity by the Social Psychology network. Fittingly, this is a highly research-focused program, and gets you on your way towards being a scientist-practitioner.

2) University of Pennsylvania

The UPenn MsEd in Counseling & Mental Health Services has an 8% acceptance rate. It is focused on social justice, diversity, and person-centered counseling. This is a 1-year degree that you get in just 10 courses, although it does not give you a license.

3) Lehigh University

Accreditation alert! After you finish this M.Ed in Counseling & Human Services, you’re all ready to go as a counselor in the state of Pennsylvania! This course is MPCAC credited, and also boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio, a social justice mission, and 100 hours of fieldwork in the curriculum.

Best Master’s Degrees in Psychology (continued)

4) Northeastern University

This Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology allows for a wide range of concentrations. This program also takes an “ecological approach,” which doesn’t mean prescribed forest baths and walks on the beach. Rather, the program takes a rigorous look at individuals as influenced by their environments and societies. Not to mention the fact that this program also comes with accreditation in Massachusetts.

5) New York University

This Master’s of Arts in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness also takes a holistic approach, aiming to understand individuals across cultural contexts, and promote equity and social justice. Graduates will be accredited in New York State! This program also offers electives in counseling special populations (LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, HIV-AIDS positive communities, and people with addiction disorders).

Online Master’s Degrees in Psychology

Get a master’s from your computer chair!

1) Northwestern University

In addition to its other strong psychology programs, Northwestern ALSO has a top-ranked, CACREP-credited online Masters of Arts in Counseling program. There’s a part-time track for working professionals, too. In general, Northwestern is dedicated to supporting people to transition to working as a counselor.

2) Pepperdine University

Widely acclaimed for its psychology studies programs, Pepperdine offers this 18-24 month Master’s of Arts in Psychology program. Highlight: no GRE scores are needed to apply!

3) Adler University

This course is a brilliant mixture of remote and in-person learning. Most of the two-year program is held in asynchronous learning, meaning that it’s totally flexible with your work schedule. Once a year, there are in-person residencies for four days in Chicago. This ensures that you get some face time, cementing new friendships, and feedback.

4) McNeese State University

Another great option for a research-based approach! At McNeese, there are three possible tracks: Applied Behavioral Analysis (a world-renowned program!); Clinical Mental Health Counseling; and Experimental/General Psychology.

Best Master’s in Psychology in Psychology Programs – Final Thoughts

To conclude, there are tons of great programs out there, all with different strengths and offerings. The key to finding the best one is finding the best one for your specific needs.

In other words, the fun doesn’t stop here! If you’re looking for a more specific program, look up the top programs in Forensic Psychology, Child & Adolescent Psychology, Rehabilitation Counseling, Military Psychology, Drug & Alcohol Counseling, and more.