Online Masters in Psychology


MA in Psychology Vs. MS in Psychology

Graduate-level psychology programs offer two, different degree tracks: the Master of Arts (MA) in Psychology and the Master of Science (MS) in Psychology. While there is an overlap in program coursework, each degree has significant differences. Prospective students will need to consider their academic interests and desired career paths to choose the appropriate program.

The MA degree tends to emphasize liberal arts, humanitarian studies, and counseling. This degree benefits students who wish to work in client care, as it focuses on more direct psychological theory, assessment, and intervention.

The MS degree often indicates a stronger focus on behavioral, research, and statistical science. Students pursuing careers in research or academic writing may benefit from this degree.  Coursework may focus on advanced statistics and research methodology.

What Can You Do With a Masters in Psychology?

The American Psychological Association indicates that a master’s degree in psychology can provide numerous opportunities for students entering the workforce. Some of which, we outlined in our guide: "What Can You Do With a Masters in Psychology?".

Many states permit professionals with masters-level degrees to work in clinical, counseling, and school psychology as therapists, counselors, and other mental health clinicians. However, many people utilize their psychology degrees in business industries to work as human resource managers, advertising agents, or market researchers. Furthermore, some professionals work in local, state, or federal government positions as parole officers, social services managers, and employment counselors.

Masters in Psychology Online

Hundreds of universities offer masters in psychology degrees, and it is essential that students research their options to apply for the right program.

Online learning continues to be an emerging trend, with research highlighting that 1 in 4 students have enrolled in an online course. With many students choosing to work or raise families while obtaining their degrees, online learning provides certain flexibility and convenience.

Online school admission requirements vary depending on the institution. Typically, more competitive schools require a minimum grade point average and the submission of GRE scores.

Online school program lengths also vary according to the institution’s requirements and semester credit loads. For a clinical psychology masters degree, students should expect to complete the program within 1-3 years.

The masters in psychology online curriculum typically include coursework in relevant principles including social psychology, lifespan development, research theory and methods, personality, and cognitive psychology. Students may also be required to complete some elective courses.

Application Requirements

Every institution has unique application requirements for enrollment. However, prospective students should expect to provide the following:

ResumeThis resume should highlight paid employment, internships, or volunteering positions in psychology or psychology-related fields.

Personal Essay or Statement: Many schools want to assess a potential candidate’s critical thinking and writing skills. This assignment provides you the opportunity to showcase your passion and dedication to psychology.

Letters of RecommendationSchools may request 2-3 letters of recommendation from past or current employers or professors who can vouch for your work ethic and character.

Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes for graduate programs vary on the type of degree and the institution. Some programs prepare for licensure in specific concentrations, and the coursework provides the foundational curriculum to equip students for their future careers.

Students may learn:

  • Laws and ethics of becoming a clinical practitioner
  • Evidence-based psychotherapy techniques
  • Education about mental disorders and emotional disorders
  • Cross-cultural training about diverse populations
  • Advanced understanding of lifespan human development
  • Research assessment, interpretation, and application

Most programs require the completion of a thesis or equivalent project (comprehensive exam, writing assignment) to demonstrate the successful integration of such learning outcomes.

Student Support For Online Students

Online students require appropriate and unique accommodations to feel supported and succeed in their programs. On traditional campuses, students typically receive services at school directly. However, student support for online students may entail a hybrid of electronic communication that includes phone calls, email, video conferencing, text messaging, and live chats.

Online support varies depending on the institution, but the options may include:

  • Admission and financial aid advising
  • Academic tutoring and advising
  • Ongoing technical support
  • Library services
  • Current networking programs and communities
  • Personal support services (i.e., health and counseling services)
  • Military support for both service and family members
  • Career, internship or clinical placement services
  • Post-graduate alumni support

Live Class Discussions

Many programs require synchronous or live class discussions as part of their curriculum. Synchronous classes refer to interactive discussions that may entail video or audio chatting options. Students meet in a virtual classroom and speak with their professors directly.

Depending on the institution, students may be required to attend these classes. If they cannot participate, they may need to notify the professor in advance.

Nonsynchronous classes, on the other hand, includes coursework without current time restraints. This may involve uploading homework, participating in classroom discussion or message boards, and reviewing course content. While there are deadlines for completion, students can work at their own pace.

Small Class Size

Research in higher education continues to highlight the numerous benefits of small class size on academic performance.

Smaller class sizes are associated with higher individual attention, enhanced participation, and improved communication between the instructor and the students.

In larger classes, instructors tend to emphasize factual knowledge. However, they’re less likely to cultivate communication skills. As a result, students may struggle to feel connected or inspired by the material they learn. This lack of enthusiasm can result in performance problems and inattention.

Doctorate in Psychology

The doctorate in psychology is the highest, academic degree psychology students can receive. In addition to clinical expertise, the doctorate program primarily focuses on preparing students to teach in higher education, conduct psychological research, and publish academic writing.

For specific careers, such as licensed psychologists, the doctorate is a requirement. Other jobs in psychology, however, require ‘terminal degrees,’ which people may obtain at a master’s level. Terminal degrees do not need the doctorate, although some professionals do opt to obtain them.

Prospective doctoral students must assess both their long-term career goals and financial status when considering their academic plans. These programs require time, dedication, financial commitment, and emotional persistence. Thus, students should thoroughly research their higher education options and career prospects before enrolling.

Ph.D. Vs. PsyD Degree

The Ph.D. and PsyD are both doctorate-level degrees. Both programs provide an advanced psychology curriculum, and both programs prepare students to become licensed psychologists.

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) has an intensive focus on statistical analysis and research methods. Students who wish to interpret or conduct their own research or work in higher education teaching often pursue this track. The program tends to take 5-7 years to complete, with students spending their last part of the curriculum focusing and completing their dissertations.

The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is a newer degree that also provides an advanced concentration on clinical knowledge and practical application. Instead of a coursework emphasis on research or statistics, the program prepares students to work with patients or clients directly. The average program takes 4-6 years to complete. Students often have the option to complete a dissertation or an equivalent clinical project.

Psychology Dual Degree Programs

Dual degree programs allow students to receive both a doctorate and a master’s degree within the same program. To achieve these degrees, the institution “double-counts” some of the curriculum’s course credits towards the completion of both degrees.

As a result, even though coursework may be intensive, the overall process takes less time than if the student were to complete each degree separately. However, before applying, it is essential for students to understand the commitment of enrolling in such a program.