5 Best Master’s Degrees in Psychology in 2021

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Updated June 28, 2021

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Want to explore the human mind? Want to help people better understand themselves and their world, then check out our list of the 5 Best Master's in Psychology. 

Human beings are complicated social animals, and the field of psychology which has developed over the last century aims to help in our understanding of the various dynamics that make up individual and social life. Though psychology and degrees in psychology are usually associated with counseling, there are actually numerous career paths open to those who are interested in the inner-workings of individuals and social groups. People trained in psychology work with athletes, serve in religious institutions, hospitals, and schools, as well as businesses either as salaried workers in Human Resources or as consultants looking at the social psychology of a given institution.

And there may be no better time than now to consider a career in psychology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs connected to the field are expected to grow by almost double the rate as the average workforce. Marriage and Family therapist positions are expected to outpace even that – at 23 percent, which is well above the median rate of 8 percent. And if you are especially interested in understanding the psychology of an organization, you can become an industrial or organizational psychologist, an occupation that is also expected to grow at a faster rate than the average.

As one might expect, these jobs generally pay better than the median wage, sometimes up to four or five times as much. For instance, industrial psychologists have an average annual wage of $109,030. That is a number that is significantly higher than the average wage of all occupations, which is in the mid- to upper- $30,000. So, if you are considering moving further into a career in counseling or another psychology-related field, or you are exploring and thinking about something new where you can help people to better understand themselves and the human environments in which they live, then check out our list of the 5 Best Master's in Psychology for 2021.

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These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online graduate degree programs. Figuring out where to apply? Consider one of these online Master’s or PhD programs.

The 5 Best Psychology Masters Programs in 2021

  1. University of California, Los Angeles

    Los Angeles, CA



    A public research university, the University of California, Los Angeles offers over 330 undergraduate and graduate programs and has an annual student enrollment of over 30,000 students. The College of Letters and Sciences houses the Department of Psychology which offers a Master of Arts in Psychology as part of their Ph.D. program in Psychology. The program requires 36 credits of graduate coursework and all students are also required to work as teaching assistants in first-year courses at UCLA.

    Students can take classes in a variety of areas, including neuroscience, cognitive science and psychology, physiology and psychology, and social psychology, as well as the numerous quantitative and research areas that are central to the discipline. The degree is typically one year in length, after which time students are expected to matriculate into the doctoral program. UCLA and the DP oversee the Psychology Clinic which is a training clinic for students from a variety of programs. The PC offers students an opportunity to put theory to work and provides a much-needed service to the larger community as they charge a very low fee for their services. This is just one of the many benefits that will come from studying at the top-rated clinical psychology program in the country.

  2. University of Wisconsin

    Madison, WI



    A public land-grant institution, University of Wisconsin is a large research university located in Madison, Wisconsin's capital city. The Department of Educational Psychology offers a Master of Science in Educational Psychology. The program is unique in that it offers different tracks that students can choose between, and some tracks have more requirements than others. Tracks include human development, learning sciences, quantitative methods, and school psychology. The HD and QM degrees are 33 credits, while the LS is 36. The SP track is the largest at 55.

    In each track, there are required courses, but examples of classes include Child Development, Adolescent Development, or Introduction to the Design of Educational Experiments. After taking the required courses, students then have the option to take electives that will deepen and shape the overall trajectory of their degree. Students are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA to remain in good standing in the program. UW offers many additional benefits as an institution, including great recreational, entertainment, and special interest groups to get involved with. Students are also encouraged to take advantage of the numerous professional development opportunities provided by the Graduate School at UW so that they can hone their skills and be prepared for the work world upon graduation.

  3. Harvard University

    Cambridge, MA



    The venerable Harvard University is located in Cambridge, MA. Harvard is an Ivy League private research university with a student body of around 22,000. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the US, having been founded in 1650, over a century before the US came into existence. The Harvard Extension School offers a Master of Liberal Arts in Psychology. The program consists of 12 courses three of which are required to be taken on campus, the others can either be taken online or on campus. This program is unique as students do not have to go through an extensive application process. Rather, they are required to take three courses in which students must pass with a 3.0 GPA or higher. If they do so, they can then apply for the program.

    Courses are taught in a 15-week semester format, and students can take classes like The Psychology of Trauma and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Stress, Coping, and Resilience, and Personality Psychology. The program includes a thesis track which brings a student into one-on-one contact with a thesis director. Students in this track get to work in depth on a research project of their choice and gain valuable insight and skill in research.

  4. Stanford University

    Stanford, CA



    Stanford University is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the world. SU is a private research university and the Department of Psychology offers a Master of Arts in Psychology. The program is not a terminal degree but requires that students apply to one of the doctoral programs at SU. This can include law students, medical students, or other doctoral programs. 45 credits worth of psychology courses at the graduate level are required and students must complete a First Year Project. The FYP is a written report of first-year research which should look like a peer-reviewed article.

    Students are required to submit their proposal for the FYP at the end of the Autumn Quarter and turn in the document by June 1. This component ensures that students are not only taking courses, but also pursuing research on their own with self-direction and faculty input. In terms of coursework, students are required to take five core courses which include classes like Social Psychology, Affective Science, and Foundations of Cognition, among others. Research areas in the DP include affective science, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, neuroscience, and social psychology.

  5. University of Maryland

    College Park, MD



    A public research university located in College Park, MD, the University of Maryland is the largest university in the greater Washington, DC area with an annual enrollment of over 41,000 students. The Department of Psychology offers a Master of Professional Studies in Industrial/Organizational Psychology which focuses on evidence-based practices and decision-making in organizational management. The program deals with topics like the analysis and handling of databases, motivational methods, employment and talent development, and managing organizational change. The program is 30 credits and is designed to be completed within 15 months.

    The instructional design includes seminar experiences, online lectures, and traditional face-to-face classroom lectures. Each class runs for 12 weeks. Courses include Selection and Classification Issues in Organizations, Advanced Analytical Thinking: Statistical Methods, and Performance Management, Compensation, and Benefits, among many others. Students also have the opportunity to work in a real organization to apply what they have been learning through a practicum course. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA. The program emphasizes rigorous training so that graduates can apply principles and methods they have learned in the classroom to real-world settings immediately.

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