Best Psychology Doctoral and Master’s Programs in 2021

Best Psychology Doctoral and Master’s Programs in 2021

Psychology is the scientific student of human behavior and of the mind. Most jobs in the field require an advanced degree like a master’s or a doctorate. Psychology is a diverse discipline, and there are many different graduate degrees available. Some programs act as preparation for further graduate education leading to a Ph.D. Others are called terminal degrees that allow students to enter the job market after receiving their master’s degree.

Employment prospects for psychologists are growing slowly — the field is expected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The growth is offset by salaries in the field of psychology, which are well above average, making it an excellent field of study.

Accredited Online College Programs

Best Doctoral and Master’s in Psychology Degree Programs in 2021

  1. University of Iowa
    Location

    Iowa City, IA

    The Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences at the University of Iowa offers doctorates in fields such as clinical science, health psychology, and social psychology. The department's student centered approach allows graduate students to design an individualized program around their career goals and research interests. With its focus on mental illness and public health, the clinical science program emphasizes research on mental and physical health, behavioral health problems, and the treatment of psychopathology. The program integrates research and training with dissemination through publishing and teaching, and Ph.D. students earn a master's in psychology as part of their training. In addition to APA accreditation, the University of Iowa's program holds accreditation from the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS).

  2. Indiana University
    Location

    Bloomington, IN

    Psychology doctoral students at the University of Indiana earn degrees in seven areas: clinical science, cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, mechanisms of behavior, molecular and systems neuroscience, and social psychology. The research-oriented program emphasizes career preparation for positions such as clinical scientist over practitioner roles, while still providing clinical skills. Doctoral students participate in the department's research efforts, building the skills, scholarly knowledge, and experimentation abilities to understand the brain behavior system. All students admitted to the Ph.D. program benefit from a full funding support guarantee for five years, including a stipend, tuition waiver, and health insurance.

  3. University of Texas
    Location

    Austin, TX

    UT Austin admits candidates with a bachelor's degree into its doctoral program in psychology, and most students earn a master's degree while completing their Ph.D. requirements. The 30-credit master's in clinical psychology degree includes required courses in core content areas, a statistics course, and two thesis courses, building to an empirical thesis. Both clinical and non-clinical tracks emphasize physiology and learning; perception, cognition, and cognitive development; and abnormal, social, developmental, and individual differences. Students on the clinical psychology track complete an internship to gain professional experience, with the time to Ph.D. for clinical students averaging six years, or five years for non-clinical students.

  4. University of North Carolina
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    The Ph.D. program in psychology at UNC includes six subfields in behavioral and integrative neuroscience, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, quantitative psychology, and social psychology. The program's training emphasizes the skills required for careers in research, teaching, and clinical practice. Doctoral students earn a master's in psychology as they complete their Ph.D. requirements. Within clinical psychology, graduate students choose to focus on adults or on children and families, learning through clinically-informed research and evidence-based clinical work. The program holds accreditation from the APA and the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS).

  5. University of Wisconsin
    Location

    Madison, WI

    University of Wisconsin's Department of Psychology is known for providing excellent research and scholarship for over 100 years. Graduate programs in psychology include the PhD in psychology with several specialization options. The department is committed to preparing students for careers in academic training in general psychology and rigorous research within the chosen area of concentration. Consideration for admission is extremely competitive. The program reports an average of 450 applications each year and only admits 25 students. U.S. News and World Report lists University of Wisconsin as having the 9th best psychology graduate school in the country–tied only with MIT and University of Minnesota.

  6. University of Colorado
    Location

    Boulder, CO

    The University of Colorado's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience provides quality research training for its undergraduate and graduate students. The department offers PhD programs in five areas of specialization, including behavioral, psychiatric, and statistical genetics; behavioral neuroscience; clinical psychology; cognitive psychology/cognitive neuroscience; and social psychology. Admission can be selective and highly competitive due to the university's rankings among the top 30 psychology schools in the country. In fact, U.S. News and World Report ranks University of Colorado as having the 30th best graduate psychology school–tied with Penn State, University of Iowa, and University of Oregon.

  7. Ohio State University
    Location

    Columbus, OH

    Ohio State University's Department of Psychology is recognized for its extended history and contribution to research and teaching in the field of psychology. Over fifty faculty and 150 graduate students explore research offerings at this highly ranked public institution. Seven PhD programs are available in psychology, including behavioral neuroscience, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, intellectual and developmental disabilities, quantitative psychology, and social psychology. Students may complete a master's degree as the doctorate is pursued, but a master's thesis based on empirical research must be completed. Ohio State's psychology graduate school is ranked #21 by U.S. News and World Report.

  8. University of California Los Angeles
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    UCLA's Psychology Department offers one of the most prestigious and top-ranked graduate psychology degree programs in the nation. While there is no separate master's in psychology program, students do earn enough credits to satisfy the requirements of a master's degree. The PhD program offers eight areas of emphasis, including clinical psychology, developmental psychology, health psychology, and social psychology. The program offers rigorous scientific training and focuses on research in both academic and applied settings. Admission is highly competitive due to the program's high rankings and reputation. In the most recent edition of Best Colleges and Best Graduate Schools, U.S. News and World Report ranks UCLA as having the 2nd best graduate psychology school in the country–tied only with University of California at Berkeley.

  9. University of Washington
    Location

    Seattle, WA

    University of Washington offers a top-ranked PhD in psychology program that allows students to earn a master's in psychology while pursuing their doctoral degree. The program is mentor-based and designed for students to train under the direction of one or more faculty members whose scholarly interests align with their own. Several sub-disciplines within psychology include behavioral neuroscience, clinical psychology, cognition perception, development, and social and personality. There are also two minors, including diversity and quantitative psychology. University of Washington is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as a best national institution. Also, the graduate psychology school ranks #14 in the nation.

  10. University of Virginia
    Location

    Charlottesville, VA

    Graduate studies in psychology at University of Virginia include PhD programs with seven different areas of specialization. There is no terminal master's degree, but PhD candidates earn enough credits to obtain the master's along the journey toward the PhD. Areas of specialization include clinical, cognitive, community, developmental, neuroscience and behavior, quantitative, and social. Admission to the graduate program includes writing samples, resume, GRE scores in verbal and quantitative, and unofficial transcripts. U.S. News and World Report ranks University of Virginia's graduate psychology school #26 in the nation–tied with Brown University and Indiana University. Also, the institution is nationally ranked and recognized by major publications.


  • Our Methodology, Explained


    Grad School Hub compiles rankings based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics play a significant role in how we source our educational data. After collecting insight for each institution, we organize information into five weighted categories.

    Metric Data Used Percentage
    Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 30%
    Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 10%
    Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 30%
    Program Offerings Number of program options 20%
    Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 10%

    A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible on our Ranking Methodology page.


Answering your questions about psychology graduate programs


  • What are the different master’s degrees in psychology?

    There are many concentrations to choose from when attending graduate school for psychology. First, you’ll have to choose between a Master of Arts (MA) and a Master of Science (MS). After that, you’ll choose from one of many concentrations that include clinical psychology, school psychology, organizational psychology, and more.


  • What are the best graduate programs for psychology?

    There are many excellent programs to choose from when seeking a master’s and a doctorate degree in psychology. When choosing the right program for you, consider factors such as tuition cost, reputation, location, and average years of completion.


  • What can you do with a master’s degree in psychology?

    There are many jobs available to someone with a master’s degree in psychology, other than in a counselor’s office, including hospitals, schools, and government. Keep in mind that many jobs in the field also require a doctoral degree or licensure before you can start working.


  • What GPA do you need to get into grad school for psychology?

    The GPA requirement will vary depending on the school you choose to attend. In general, you’ll need at least a 3.0 GPA to attend a master’s in psychology program. For a more competitive program, expect to need above a 3.5.


What Can I Expect From a Master’s in Psychology?

Pursuing your master’s degree in psychology is an important step in entering the field. Most psychology jobs require an advanced degree, so you’re on the right track. Before you get started, you’ll have to choose what program to attend and whether to seek an M.A. (Master of Arts) or M.S. (Master of Science).

During the program, you’ll study a variety of topics related to psychology. You’ll be required to earn anywhere from 30-36 credits, which typically takes about two years, though it can take longer if you’re attending school part-time. Many jobs in psychology require a doctoral degree, so a master’s degree is often a stepping stone for the next level of schooling.

Why Should I Get a Master’s in Psychology?

Psychology is an important field that can be incredibly fulfilling to work in. The knowledge you gain from this advanced degree can open the door to various benefits, like professional mobility and significant job satisfaction.

Upward Job Outlook
Overall the BLS projects growth in most occupations in which professionals with an advanced psychology degree are employed. Health specialists, counselors, and educational advisers are projected to see the highest job growth. Many of these opportunities will be in settings such as mental health centers, hospitals, and schools.
Opportunity to Make an Impact
When you work as a psychologist or another professional in the psychology field, you often work directly with individuals, helping them to work through some of the more challenging times of their lives. While the journey to become a licensed psychologist and the career itself are both difficult, people often find it worth it because of how rewarding the field is.
Specialization and Certifications
Earning a master’s in psychology is the first step towards finishing a doctorate. Most state licensing boards require a doctorate degree if you’re interested in practicing psychology, but you can still choose other rewarding career paths with a master’s degree. Many professionals who skip a doctorate specialize in educational psychology or organizational psychology and find meaningful work in universities, nonprofits, and private corporations.

What is the difference between a master’s in psychology and a Ph.D. in psychology?

A master’s degree is an advanced degree that is one level above a bachelor’s degree and usually offers various types of specializations. This type of degree takes anywhere from one to three years to complete. You must generally complete a thesis or capstone project before graduation.

A Ph.D. in psychology is the most advanced degree in any field, including psychology. These degrees take about six years to complete and require students to complete a dissertation. A similar degree is the Psy.D., or Doctor of Psychology. This degree is significantly newer and requires fewer years, and often no dissertation. Depending on the doctoral degree you choose to pursue, you’ll be surprised to find a relevant position in some unusual fields.  

Admissions and Requirements



The admission requirements for graduate school in the field of psychology will depend on the school you choose to attend, but there are a handful of standard requirements. You will most likely be required to submit undergraduate transcripts with a competitive GPA, as well as test scores from either the GRE or GMAT. 

 When it comes to graduate programs, the pool of candidates may be smaller, so schools look at more than simply GRE scores or GPA points too. Consider spending time on your personal statement, if the program requires one, as well as a resume that reflects relevant and recent work applicable to psychology. 

Another thing to consider is showcasing skills from other professions that can transfer over to the psychology program of your choice. For example, if you have marketing experience, highlight your research and data analytics skills. Both skills are great foundations for research assistant work. 

Career and Salary Outlook for Psychology Graduates



According to BLS data, the median annual wage for a psychologist in the United States is $82,180. The highest 10% of earners make more than $137,590. This above-average salary reflects the fact that licensed psychologists are usually required to have an advanced degree. Psychologists working in government and hospital settings tend to be on the higher end of the pay spectrum, while those working in schools are at the lower end of the pay spectrum.

The job outlook for psychologists is generally positive. Employment is expected to grow by about 3% from 2019 to 2029. The greatest increase is likely to occur for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists due to the greater demand for those services in schools and health care centers.

Concentrations in Psychology and Master’s Programs



Psychology is a broad field, and there are many concentrations you can choose from when pursuing your degree. Here are just a few of the most common concentrations:

Behavioral Psychology

This concentration of psychology focuses on the connection between our mind and our behavior. It looks for patterns in human behavior and seeks to determine why humans behave the way they do. 

Clinical Psychology

 In this concentration, you’ll focus on the study and treatment of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. This type of study focuses on hands-on work directly with clients in either a clinic, counseling center, or hospital setting.

Neuropsychology

This concentration studies the connection between someone’s behavior and their nervous system. You’ll study the relationship between injuries and illnesses and their effect on behavior.

Counseling Psychology

This concentration is a type of general practice psychology where you learn to counsel patients on a variety of topics surrounding their mental and emotional health. Professionals in this area often counsel patients through stressful life events and focus on individual well-being.

Quantitative and Measurement Psychology 

This concentration is primarily focused on the data and statistics behind psychology. Students who seek this concentration often go into research-focused careers.

Certifications and Licenses

There are a variety of certifications and licenses available in the field of psychology. Each of these licensures prepares you to work in a different part of the psychology field. Depending on the direction you choose to go, licensure happens either through your state government or through a particular organization, such as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. Which you choose to pursue will depend on the type of work you hope to do.

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)


This license is used in 24 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The LPC is known as a broader term that refers to professionals with counseling and rehabilitation training. Most LPC’s are required to perform most types of counseling, whether they’re directly related to health or not.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)


If you’re interested in providing counseling services to marriage and families, this license can help you narrow your field and meet regularly with clients in private practices. With this title, you will be able to work alongside social workers as well.

Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)


Individuals can pursue this state license, which is used in New Hampshire, Utah, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Like an LPC, a licensed mental health counselor must pursue an advanced degree before providing counseling based mental health therapy.

Scholarships, Grants, and Financial Aid for Psychology Graduate Students



Advanced degrees such as master’s and doctoral degrees can be a significant financial investment. Luckily, there are different types of financial aid to consider when pursuing graduate studies. Here are a few scholarships available to psychology students. 

American Psychological Association of Graduate Students Science Psychological Science Research Grant
Who Can Apply: Graduate students conducting psychological science research studies, with additional funding reserved specifically for diversity-focused research.
Amount: $1,000

Violet and Cyril Franks Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students working on graduate-level scholarly projects that use a psychological perspective to help understand and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
Amount: $1,000

Benton-Meier Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Graduate students studying neuropsychology who have completed their doctoral candidacy and demonstrate research competence and area commitment.
Amount: $2,000

Minority Fellowship Program
Who Can Apply: Promising and postdoctoral students focusing on areas related to ethnic minority behavioral health research can apply for this fellowship.
Amount: Varies

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Erin Gobler

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Erin Gobler is a freelance writer who covers education topics for Best Value Schools, Graduate School Hub, and Criminal Justice Degree Schools, among others. Her work has been published on sites like Fox Business, Rocket Mortgage, and The Balance.

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