According to the nonprofit organization Mental Health America, more than 44 million adults in the United States experience mental illness in a given year. If that statistic doesn't signify the vital role of mental health professionals in our country, this one should: one in five of those 44 million say that they have a need (like therapy or medication, or both) that is not being met. It’s so severe that the U.S. is experiencing a “mental health crisis," with more Americans than ever before seeking or interested in finding help for mental health concerns. Accordingly, the need for mental health professionals is rising, and psychologists are increasingly in demand.
A 2018 study from the Cohen Veterans Network and the National Council for Behavioral Health reveals that almost six in ten (56 percent) people in the U.S. are looking for or intend to find mental health services to help themselves or someone else. And most Americans (76 percent) believe that mental health and physical health are equally important to their wellbeing. So, what can you do about it?
By getting an advanced degree in psychology, you’ll be at the forefront of a fast-growing and essential field with the tools and skills to help a growing number of Americans who face mental health challenges. If you want to prepare for a career in mental health by studying brain research and the science of wellness, a master of science in psychology program may be the right choice—and come with some added bonuses you just might not know about (until now).
You’ll get prepped for licensure. While a bachelor's degree in psychology may qualify you for roles like career counseling and case management, you’ll need a master's degree to become licensed for most entry-level mental health counseling jobs. And to practice clinical psychology, most states will require that you go on to earn a doctoral degree. Your MS coursework will naturally lead to that next step, helping you become clinically licensed.
Interested in further study? You’re in luck. If you decide to continue your education and obtain a PhD or PsyD, an MS in psychology will give you a strong base of research and experience to build on. You can also add supplemental learning to your master of science degree to move into subsets of psychology that require more specialized knowledge. For example, a forensic psychology specialization can prepare you to work in criminal justice, and a secondary degree in data science can help you enter fields like industrial-organizational psychology and neuropsychology.
Job prospects are really strong. It’s a stimulating time to earn an MS in psychology. U.S. News & World Report placed psychologist at #39 in its 100 Best Jobs ranking, and at #1 in its list of Best Science Jobs. Employment in the field of psychology is growing at a rate of 14 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with an additional 23,000 jobs predicted by 2026. With an MS, you'll be able to find employment as a school psychologist, in psychological science and research, and in mental health centers, social service agencies, and hospitals across the country.
You’ll see a return on your investment. Psychologists earn a median of $77,030 per year, and those in specialized subfields can make more. Take industrial-organizational psychologists, for example, who pull in median salaries of $87,100. Interested in becoming a self-employed as therapists, counselors, or testing administrators? You’ll want to take note that salaries vary widely when working as your own boss.
Speaking of salary, the American Psychological Association cautions master's in psychology candidates against pursuing their degree for "visions of riches" alone. Instead, the APA suggests that students should consider their particular research interests and the flexible career options that will emerge from graduate study.
You’ll be able to choose a work environment that, well, works. You'll be able to find jobs in a large range of institutions after earning your master's, including hospitals, schools, mental health centers, social service agencies, and therapy practices. Depending on your state licensure requirements, you may also be able to go into private practice in areas such as talk therapy or psychological testing, allowing you to set up your own office or join a group of practitioners.
Similarly, MS in psychology graduates who go on to earn a doctorate degree may be able to choose between full-time office work, part-time employment, teaching at the university level, research, clinical practice, shift-work in healthcare institutions, self-employment, or some combination of the above.
Those interests within your interests… Certain aspects of the field of psychology may hold particular interest to you and may inspire you to perform in-depth research. Subspecialties in which you could pursue a career include abnormal psychology, educational psychology, organizational psychology, the psychology of oppression, and the psychology of trauma and PTSD. An MS in Psychology will allow you to target specialized topics within your field and build your career around those topics.
You’ll be able to move to other industries. Psychology is the study of the human mind and behavior, and this can apply to any area of life and work. In the business world, for example, companies use psychological insights — such as theories around the benefits of creativity and the science of motivation—to develop new products, improve employee retention, and streamline operations. An advanced psychology degree will prepare you to leverage your knowledge and carve out surprising career paths in fields you may not have previously considered.
You’ll do a lot of good. Mental health is an essential part of any individual's health and well-being. Psychology is a helping career, and working in the field can bring tremendous satisfaction. As a psychologist, you’ll be able to help those in need of mental health support live full, productive lives, and as a researcher, your work will lead to significant advances and improvements in care.
As Americans’ mental health needs continue to grow, a graduate psychology degree can be your path to a sustainable and satisfying career helping others. Whether you want to go into psychological counseling, education, research, or private practice, and MS in psychology program will give you the skills and experience to meet your career goals. So, now’s the time to think. What’s driving you?
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