Why earn a master’s degree in counseling or psychology online?
Prepare for a values-based career
Learn the same skills as on-campus students to use in your chosen career setting.
Work with specific populations
Get the training that gives you real-world expertise you need to graduate.
Learn theory and practice
Rigorous coursework focuses on theories as well as evidence-based practices.
Browse online master’s in counseling and psychology programs New
Accredited Master's in Counseling and Psychology
What can you do with a psychology or counseling degree?
Psychology is a broad field where professionals explore the mind, body, and/or behavior to promote meaningful change in people or organizations. A psychology or counseling master’s degree can lead to various career paths and industries, including a career in:
Applied behavior analysis
Individual mental health counseling
Marriage and family counseling
Consulting for organizations
The outcomes of an online psychology or counseling degree vary greatly depending on the type of degree:
Master’s in applied behavior analysis: The principles and techniques gained through a master’s in behavior analysis can lead to work as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) observing behavior, outlining behavior goals, developing and implementing treatment plans, and making adjustments to those plans as necessary to meet client goals.
Master’s in clinical psychology: The skills and hands-on clinical training gained through a master’s in clinical psychology can lead to work as a clinical psychologist or therapist helping individuals work through challenges to improve their wellbeing.
Master’s in marriage and family therapy: The intervention techniques and in-field training gained through a master’s in marriage and family therapy can lead to work as a marriage and family therapist helping couples and families resolve issues to lead fuller, more connected lives.
Master’s in psychology: The skills gained through a Master of Arts in Psychology may be applied in various settings, such as human resources, advertising and market research, business consulting, and more. Graduates of these programs may also be prepared with the necessary credentials to pursue doctoral studies in psychology.
Admission requirements for a master’s in psychology or counseling
Admissions requirements for psychology or counseling master’s programs vary by school. All accredited programs will require you to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. And most programs prefer a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, however, this is not always required.
A statement of purpose with evidence of personal characteristics and goals that align with the psychology or counseling profession are also usually preferred, if not required. Most schools will need you to submit transcripts and letters of recommendation as well.
GRE waivers may be available for certain programs. The best way to learn about the specific requirements for any given program is to request information from the universities you are interested in, or visit their admissions pages to learn more.
Curriculum for psychology and counseling master’s degrees
Your curriculum will vary depending on the graduate degree program you choose. A program worth your time and investment will feature rigorous and engaging class instruction led by accessible and experienced faculty.
All online master’s programs in psychology or counseling should feature courses that discuss essential or foundational topics in the field. These foundational courses could be ones that were covered by a social service bachelor's degree you may already hold. Subjects include general psychology, counseling theories and practices, human behavior, and crisis intervention.
For those pursuing a clinical psychology degree, an essential component of the curriculum will be the practical training or field experience opportunities where you can apply what you are learning in class with real clients. This component is done under the supervision of a licensed clinical therapist or counselor, and it will give you hands-on experience applying theory into practice while developing an understanding on how to best support a client’s needs.
Most programs offer a part-time track that allow you to earn your degree while continuing to work and meet your personal responsibilities. Some programs offer a full-time track, which allows you to earn your degree in less time but will most likely require you to take on a full course load and/or have previous relevant courses completed.
Master of counseling and psychology jobs
Individuals who work in counseling or psychology study cognitive, emotional, and social processes, and they use their findings to help improve processes and behaviors. The following are examples of types of roles professionals with a master’s in counseling or psychology might pursue and the work they do.
Clinical counselors help individuals work through various challenges to achieve desired outcome and improve their wellbeing.
Marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome problems within families and marriages and improve the overall wellbeing of their relationships.
Research analysts or consultants study market conditions and human behavior to examine potential sales and/or increase the sales of a product or service.
What are the highest counseling and psychology salaries?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for psychologists was $81,040 in May 2021, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $133,890.¹
Top industries for psychologists in May 2021 were: government, hospitals, ambulatory health services, and elementary and secondary schools. The median annual wage for industrial-organizational psychologists for May 2021 was $105,310.¹
How long does it take to complete a psychology or counseling program?
One of the benefits of completing a master’s degree online is that you can work at a pace that suits your schedule and learning style. Psychology and counseling programs offer a variety of tracks to fit your needs, including full-time and part-time enrollment options as well as accelerated tracks. Depending on which you choose, it might take anywhere between one to three years to complete the program.
Clinical psychology master’s programs generally take at least two years to complete, as they require both online learning and in-field training.
Find the online program for your psychology or counseling career
To find your program, start by considering what you want to do in the field of psychology. Do you want to do clinical work as counselor or therapist? Do you want to work with a specific population? Or do you prefer to do high-level research and/or work with organizations? Or perhaps you have certain values that you want your future university to embody. Here are a few prompts to help you get started:
My values are ____________.
I want a master’s in counseling/psychology because ____________.
I would love an online master’s program that ______________.
I am looking for clinical placement working with _____________.
I am looking for a university that __________.
Here are a few questions you can either reference while reading online counseling or psychology master’s program information, or you can also ask them directly to a program’s admissions team:
What is the university’s mission?
Does the online master’s curriculum match the curriculum of its on-campus equivalent?
What are the topics covered in the curriculum? Do you offer specializations?
Frequently asked questions
Psychology is a growing field with a wide range of career paths that bring about meaningful outcomes for people or organizations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for psychologists in May 2021 was $81,040.¹ The median annual wage for clinical, counseling, and school psychologist in May 2021 was $79,510.¹ If you feel called toward a career where you can bring about positive change, a master’s in psychology or counseling might be a worthwhile investment.
For those pursuing a clinical degree, most of your master’s can be completed online; however, you will need to complete supervised field training as part of the program. You will discuss emerging topics in psychology and counseling with faculty and classmates during live, online classes, and then apply what you learned in class with clients in or near your own community. Professionals pursuing a master’s in psychology without a clinical component should be able to find a program that is completely online.
While both paths can help professionals gain the education, experience, and credentials that they need to contribute to their community and help others, there are many differences between a Master of Social Work (MSW) and a master’s degree in counseling or psychology. When deciding between a career in social work and psychology, do your research on outcomes for both degrees, consider where your passion lies, and decide how you want to support people or organizations after you graduate.
Psychologists and counselors use techniques such as observation, assessment, and experimentation to develop theories about the beliefs and feelings that influence individuals or organizations. These skills can be applied in a variety of roles and industries such as applied behavior analysis, clinical psychology, consulting, counseling, forensic psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, and human resources.
Pursuing your master’s in counseling or psychology is a substantial investment in your career. Online counseling and psychology programs vary in cost. The best way to learn about tuition for a specific program is to explore their website or request more information from their admissions team.
This will depend on your location, employer, job title, and regulations. Most states require a minimum of a master's degree in social work, psychology, or counseling to work in certain fields. By advancing your studies with a graduate degree, you may open additional career paths for yourself.
¹ Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Psychologists, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm (visited May 16, 2022).