What Can You Do With a Master’s in Applied Psychology?

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Applied Psychology?
Master's programs in applied psychology will teach you psychological theory, research, and practice, and allow you to zero in on any number of specialty areas when applying to jobs later on. Image from Unsplash
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Katherine Gustafson May 31, 2019

Obsessed with what makes people tick? There's a career for that.

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The use of psychological analysis to help solve crime isn’t just the most intriguing element of murder-y network TV shows. It’s an actual field called forensic psychology, filled with (real, living) people who work to discern the psychological motivation for crimes and assess the mental stability of those who may be behind them.

An interest in this type of psychological sleuthing is just one reason you may decide to pursue a master’s degree in Applied Psychology. It’s a program that trains future psychologists to apply psychological principles and mental health research to various other fields, such as crime, industrial-organizational psychology, and even aviation.

Master’s programs in applied psychology will teach you psychological theory, research, and practice, and allow you to zero in on any number of specialty areas when applying to jobs later on. Since degree training provides practical problem-solving skills and perspectives on how psychology interacts with a variety of other industries, there’s a wealth opportunity for those with this degree to find work outside of traditional healthcare settings, such as in companies, schools, or government offices.

Some background on a Master’s in Applied Psychology degree

Applied psychology is an umbrella category for a large (and we mean large) array of subspecialties, which include positions in urban planning, to healthcare, to heavy industry. The degree program you choose may focus on specific specialties within applied psychology, such as industrial-organization, health psychology, cognitive psychology, or social psychology.

That said, it’s crucial to research your desired program carefully, so you’ll be sure that you’ll have access to your desired area of study once you head back to school.


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Here’s who’s likely to pursue this degree.

A degree in applied psychology is a good fit for those who have an interest in studying how human behavior affects the workings of industries, the most well-known application being how it is judged by the criminal justice system. Many graduate students in applied psychology have a background in social sciences, such as a bachelor’s degree in psychology or sociology. Others may have pursued pre-law or criminal justice as an undergraduate.

What about admissions requirements?

To apply to a Master in Applied Psychology program, applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree and GRE score.

Jobs for Master in Applied Psychology Graduates

Clinical psychologist. Clinical psychologists treat patients for emotional and behavioral problems. In such a role, you may start your own private treatment practice or find work in healthcare institutions, companies, or government agencies.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists can expect a median salary of close to $80,000 — a figure which increasese to over $96,000 in government jobs. The employment market for psychologists is robust, and jobs are likely to increase 14 percent by 2026, which is twice as fast as the average U.S. occupation.

Forensic psychologist: Forensic psychologists bring psychological perspectives to criminal proceedings, creating profiles of perpetrators during criminal investigations, providing expert testimony, evaluating the mental competency of accused defendants, or recommending sentences and placements for those found guilty.

According to PayScale, the average salary for a forensic psychologist is $65,403, with high-earners bringing in more than $100,000 per year. Those with two decades of experience may earn as much as $120,000.

Industrial-organizational psychologist: Industrial-organizational psychologists help companies and organizations understand how their workplace environment affects employees in order to help them improve their culture and work flow. More specifically, industrial-organizational psychologists improve approaches to human resources programs, modifying programs and processes to improve on function and efficiency, and advising on new policies to foster success in the workplace.

PayScale indicates that these types of psychologists make an average of $71,062 per year, but those on the upper end of the range might be pulling in more than $130,000.

Case manager: This field is comprised of social workers who guide those with extreme challenges into more sustainable modes of living that encourage health and well-being. They might work with people recovering from substance abuse disorders, individuals coping with mental illness, or those living in poverty. In this role, you’ll work closely with a team of specialist to create a treatment plan to guide an individual’s progress.

Case managers make an average salary of $39,378, though higher earners in the field might make upwards of $70,000 per year. While a lucrative salary isn’t always exactly in the cards with this career, those who pursue it may do less for money, and more out of the altruistic aspiration to help vulnerable people within their community.

Probation or correctional officer: Through their work, probation or correctional officers ensure that that criminal offenders—whether in custody, on probation, or on parole—aren’t a danger to their community and are on their way to being fully rehabilitated. Day-to-day, the role is tasked with keeping detailed track of treatment plans and ensuring an offender’s progress.

BLS reports that probation and correctional officers make a median annual salary of $53,020, though earnings can go much higher depending on their place of work and level of experience. Those in the top 10 percent of the field earn a median salary of almost $95,000. When considering job prospects, growth for probation and correctional officers is slightly less than average, with the field slated to grow just 6 percent by 2026.

A Master of Science in Applied Psychology opens doors to a wealth of varied and dynamic career paths, from counseling psychology, to industrial organizational psychology, and likely the most well-known field you can pursue with this degree: criminal investigation. No matter which you choose, your degree will set you up to become an expert in the way people think, feel, and behave. And if that’s not the closest thing to mind-reading, we’re not sure what is.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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Categorized as: PsychologyNursing & Healthcare