A master's of science degree in psychology prepares students to pursue degrees in clinical psychology or continue their studies with a doctoral degree like a PhD or a PsyD.
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Katherine Gustafson
Contributor

March 10, 2021

The mental health crisis is real—and so are the job prospects.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental health in the U.S. has reached a “crisis" point, with 20 percent of American adults experiencing mental illness each year. Given the total number of adult U.S. citizens in 2017, it adds up a population of roughly 50 million people who are affected by mental health conditions. Crazy? Yes, but in a different kind of way.

Those numbers may part of the reason why attitudes towards mental health have changed so drastically in the last few decades and evolved to include a perspective that sees mental and emotional well-being as a powerfully important factor for living a full and functional life. These days, studies show that slightly more than three-quarters of Americans believe that mental health plays as an important role in our well-being as physical health.

With the dissolving stigma around addressing mental health issues and the growing need for care, psychology is becoming an increasingly promising career path. So much, that U.S. News & World Report listed psychologist at #39 in its 100 Best Jobs ranking and even gave it the #1 spot in its list of Best Science Jobs.

So, how can you land a job in this field? By getting a Master of Science in Psychology, you'll receive a diverse education that dives deep into the intricacies of human behavior—and helps guide you to decide on your specific line of work. But that's just scratching the surface.

What is an MS in Psychology?

A master's of science degree in psychology prepares students to pursue degrees in clinical psychology or continue their studies with a doctoral degree like a PhD or a PsyD. Graduate programs in the field can train students to enter careers as clinical psychologists, social workers, industrial-organizational psychologists, or school psychologists. They may be able to work in forensic psychology, counseling psychology, or social psychology.

Coursework for master's degrees in psychology covers all aspects of psychological science, as well as some neuroscience, statistics, and research skills. These programs typically take two years, but some can be completed in as little as 18 months, and many programs may be done entirely online.

Who gets this degree?

This degree is a good option for students with an undergraduate background in social sciences, particularly psychology, but also sociology, anthropology, or economics. Those who are intrigued by human behavior and have an interest in helping others with psychological challenges in a clinical setting are good candidates to pursue this degree. The degree program provides hands-on experience and exposure to research methods.

What do I need to know about admissions requirements?

Master’s in psychology programs require applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree and GRE scores. Most programs do not require specific undergraduate courses for admission.

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

Those with an MS in Psychology can choose from a variety of career paths in clinical psychology, school psychology, human development, social work, and other aspects of the healthcare field. When it comes to job options with this degree, you've got lots of 'em. Here are ust a few.

Clinical or research psychologist

With a master’s degree in psychology, you'll be equipped to study cognitive functioning and behavior to treat individuals with problematic psychological issues—like depression, paranoia, and mania—in clinical settings including healthcare institutions, companies, government agencies. You'll also have the option to find work in private practice.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychologists earn a median salary of $79,010, with those employed by government earning top median salaries of $96,410. Meanwhile, job prospects are good, as employment for psychologists is set to rise by 14 percent by 2026, which is twice as fast a rate as U.S. occupations on average.

School counselor

Psychologists who choose to work with children in school settings can find a satisfying career as a school counselor. This role makes for an important member of the educational team, helping students develop their academic and social skills, address problem behaviors and manage relationships, and prepare for higher education.

According to BLS, school counselors pull in a median salary of $56,310, but pay can go much higher with experience; the top 10% of the field has a median salary of $94,690. As for the career prospects, the job outlook for school counselors is solid. The profession is expected to grow 13% by 2026.

Social worker

An MS in Psychology prepares graduates to pursue social work careers, since work in this field is heavily related to psychological care. Like clinical psychologists, these tireless professionals diagnose and address mental and emotional problems. They also work with individuals to overcome societal problems such as substance abuse disorders, homelessness, or unemployment.

Social workers make a median salary of $49,470 per year, with those employed by hospitals making the most, at a median of $60,100. Social work jobs growing much faster than the average U.S. occupation; they are expected to increase 16 percent by 2026.

__Wellness coach __

An MS in Psychology positions graduates to advise others on wellness topics such as mental health, stress management, work-life balance, and relationships. A lucrative option in this career path is to go into private practice with your own wellness coaching business, though you can also find employment in this field in a variety of companies and institutions.

Wellness coaches make about $18 an hour, on average, though this can be supplemented by bonuses, profit-sharing, and commissions. Operating independently as a wellness coach in your own private business will likely allow you to earn much more.

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, or mental health counselor

These counselors help those suffering from various mention health and behavioral problems, such as alcoholism, substance dependency, and eating disorders. Commonly working in mental health centers, community health centers, as well as prisons, they offer treatment services and support to help these vulnerable individuals get back on their feet and pursue healthy, stable lives.

The median salary for these counselors is $44,630, with those employed in government service making the most at a median of $51,690. With the increasing need in this area comes a similar jump in demand; jobs in this field are growing quickly and are slated to grow a whopping 23 percent by 2026.

Is a master's in psychology for you?

Given the job prospects and comfortable earnings that can be expected with a graduate degree in psychology, it certainly makes for a program to consider. And with more Americans than ever seeking out psychological care, there's never been a better time to get consider a challenging, inspiring, and exhilarating career in mental health.

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